The kennel club is working hard to raise awareness about buying puppies by holding it’s National Puppy Awareness Week (PAW) from 7th to 14th September 2013. It aims to make sure that puppies live healthy, happy lives with suitable owners. The Kennel Club wants to educate potential puppy owners in the hope that they will buy puppies from reputable breeders or rescue centres and not from puppy farms. Puppies from puppy farms are bred with no regard for their health and well-being and are kept in appalling, unsanitary conditions.
Kennel Club research from 2013
Commenting that the nation is “sleepwalking into a dog welfare and consumer crisis”, the Kennel Club warns that owners are the ones left paying the price, either with long-term veterinary treatment or with their pet’s early death.
- As many as one in three people may have unknowingly bought from a puppy farm. This is because puppies were sourced on-line, on social media, in pet shops or through newspaper ads, which are often used by puppy farmers for advertising their stock.
- One in five puppies that have been bought on-line or in pet shops need long-term veterinary care or die before six months old.
- Breeders who are producing fashionable cross-breeds such as Cockerpoos (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle) and Labradoodles (Labrador X Poodle), are most likely to flout responsible breeding.
- There has been an overall increase by more than 10% in puppies being bought from outlets that are commonly used by puppy farmers in the past year.
Before buying a puppy do your homework and ask yourself
- Can you afford to look after a puppy, purchase pet insurance and pay the vets bills? – Research has shown that a dog can cost approximately £12000 or more in it’s lifetime. It is unfair to expect animal charities to cover your vets bills if you can’t afford to look after a puppy.
- Do you have enough time to devote to your puppy? – It will need quality time for exercise, training and socialisation every day of it’s life.
- Who will look after your puppy when you are on holiday or if you get sick? Kennels and dog sitters are expensive, costing around £8.00-£20.00 per day.
- What breed of dog you are looking for and is it right for your lifestyle? If you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle then active breeds such as Huskies, Collies and Labradors may not be the right choice for you. If you have children at home careful research should be done into your breed of choice.
- Do you want a pedigree dog with papers or just a certain breed or cross breed or ‘designer breed’? If you are thinking of buying a ‘designer dog breed’, remember that they often come with a hefty price tag despite just being crossbreeds. The aim of these breeders is often to get a cute looking dog with no regard for the fact that they may be breeding hereditory problems or bad traits from both parent lines into the puppies. Labradoodles for example, are often bought by people because they’ve been told that the breed does not shed fur and so are great for allergy sufferers. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing for sure if the puppy will not shed much fur (like a Poodle), or will shed a great deal of fur (like a Labrador).
When buying a puppy
- Do your research, ask around to find good breeders by visiting the kennel club or breed forums on the internet
- Try to visit several breeders so that you can pick the best puppy for you.
- Always visit the breeders home to meet the litter.
- See the mother with her litter.
- Handle the puppies if they are over 4 weeks old (wash your hands first)
- Check that the puppies and mother are looking healthy, lively and happy
- Handle the mother so you can get an idea of her temperament and a good idea of how big the puppy will grow. It is not always possible, but if you get the opportunity you should meet the father too).
- Ask about how the puppies will be socialised and what experiences they will have had before they come home to you (will they have seen lots of people, travelled in a car, experienced household noises such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner).
- Ask about the type of food the puppies will be weaned on and where you can get it from.
- Ask whether the parents have been routinely vaccinated, flea treated and wormed. A puppy with un-vaccinated parents or a heavy parasite burden is much more likely to be susceptible to illness.
- Don’t become overwhelmed by the cuteness of the puppies in the first litter you visit! If things don’t feel 100% right to you walk away, the right puppy is always worth waiting for.
- Be prepared to wait for the right puppy and never buy out of sympathy.
For pedigree puppies
- Ask about any genetic/hereditary problems in the breed and what tests have been done to ensure that the parents don’t have these. A good breeder will have no problems discussing these issues with you and will have had the appropriate tests done on the parents.
- Expect to pay more for a well bred puppy, whose parents have had and passed all the relevant tests for their breed. At least you will know that your puppy is less at risk of certain breed related problems and hereditary illnesses.
- Ask around to find out how much you should be paying for a puppy with a good pedigree. As a general rule you get what you pay for so if that price tag seems too good to be true it probably is!
- You will need to obtain a pedigree certificate and a contract of sale when you take your new pet home with you. If a puppy does not come with kennel club papers you should not be paying top price for it.
You should expect to be asked lots of questions about your home and lifestyle from the dog breeder. This shows that they care about where the puppy are going and how you will look after it.
A good breeder will also ask you to spend time with adult dogs of the same breed and chat to other owners so that you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for! This is particularly important if you have chosen one of the less common breeds.
Puppies from rescue centres
If you get your puppy from a rescue centre the above requests and questions may not apply. Often puppies have been abandoned so the staff may not know any background history, and may only be able to give an educated guess at the breed and likely temperament. Most of the larger rescue centres do a great job of matching puppies to owners and often perform behavioural assessments on puppies, so don’t be put off by the lack of history here.
Avoid falling into the ‘puppy farm’ trap
- Never buy from any breeder that has more than two breeds of dogs with puppies at any one time. With this many animals they cannot possibly cater to every puppy’s individual requirements, socialisation and habituation needs.
- Always buy puppies that have been raised in a household environment rather than a shed or barn. Outdoor puppies will not have been used to much human contact or common household noises and events, which can make them fearful and nervous and can lead to behavioural problems.
- Always see the mother interacting with the puppies – if you cant see the mother with the puppies how do you know the dog they are showing you is the mother of that litter?
- Never accept excuses about the mother being out for a walk or sick – if you don’t see the mother how do you know that she has a good temperament?
- Never let the breeder bring the puppy to you – if they offer this how will you know anything about the environment they have grown up in or the temperament of the parents?
- Don’t buy puppies from pet shops or garden centres – these puppies are usually from puppy farms and you will have no idea about their history, temperament or if their parents suffered from any genetic disease or conditions.
If you travel to look at some puppies and you suspect that it is a puppy farm, please do not buy a puppy out of sympathy. Any purchase will only encourage these people to carry on breeding. You should contact the RSPCA if you feel that the adult dogs or puppies are being neglected at all.
At Castle Vets in Reading we offer clinics so that you can get the best advice from one of our veterinary nurses on where to look for a puppy, what breeds might be suitable for you and what costs may be involved in keeping a puppy. We are also happy to discuss this over the phone. Please contact us for an appointment or if you would like advice on any aspect of pet care.