Choosing the perfect puppy

Avoiding Puppy Pitfalls! 

There is lots of information now available about puppy socialisation and finding a good breeder. However, I find that many prospective owners are usually ruled by their hearts as soon as they see the litter. It is difficult to resist a puppy once seen, be it because it is cute or perhaps because one feels sorry for it if it is being kept in bad conditions. As a dog will usually be living with its o

wners for between ten to fifteen years, it is vital that background research is done, before viewing the

 puppies. In addition to picking the right breed and being aware of the socialisation and habituation process, I would always recommend the following.

Pre-visit information

Puppies are big business and there are some unscrupulous people selling puppies, often under false pretences. These puppies may have been bred on puppy farms, be it in the UK or even in Eastern Europe, and transported many miles, often very traumatised, to be sold by a puppy dealer.

However, there are some wonderful puppies available from people who are not professional breeders but have allowed their family bitch to have a litter. Before you go to see the puppies, speak to the breeder, ideally by talking to them on the phone. Ask the breeder where the puppies are being reared. If you want a family pet then the best puppies are those reared in a family home with children and other pets. Ensure that you are able to go and visit where the puppies have been bred. If the breeder suggests delivering the puppy to you, is not answering your questions, or not giving you the answers that you are expecting to hear, look for a puppy elsewhere.

Meet The Parents

Ask the breeder about the parents and their temperament and state that you, at the very least, want to meet the mother with the puppies when you come to view the litter. Ideally see both of the parents, but this is not always possible if the father lives a long distance away. If the breeder states that the mother will not be there as she has died, or is at the vet as she is unwell, or is on holiday with a relative, then be very wary. These can be excuses given by puppy ‘dealers’ as the mother is not present at all.  If the mother is not present or you have any doubts about the breeder then do not go and see the puppies.

When viewing the puppies ensure that you personally interact with the mother and father and other dogs bred from the same line. Do not just look at them from a distance and rely on the breeder saying that the parents are ‘lovely’. Be aware of how they are behaving. Are the mother and father friendly or do they seem nervous? Some behaviour traits can be passed down the breeding line so avoid buying a puppy from a litter if the parents are nervous. Puppies also learn behaviour from watching their mother. Is she behaving in a calm and friendly manner with and around the puppies? If you are not totally happy with the behaviour of the mother, or father, look for a puppy elsewhere.

Cleanliness or Friendliness?

Some years ago I saw a client with a very fearful German Shepherd puppy. They were first time dog owners, so this breed had not been the ideal choice for them. The clients explained how they had visited two breeders.

At the first breeder, the house was crowded with a dozen adult dogs, including the mother and father, and the litter was in the lounge. All the puppies came rushing over to greet them as they arrived and the environment was described as chaotic. They did not buy a puppy from this breeder as they felt that the house was untidy and dirty.

At the second breeder, the father was not present and the mother had been put behind a gate for their arrival. The litter was in an outdoor kennel. As they walked out to view the puppies the mother lunged at them aggressively and they were told that she was being protective of the puppies. They never met the mother properly. My clients liked the look of one puppy, because of her markings. The kennels were clean, so they bought the puppy. On further questioning they admitted that the puppy was very nervous and had not approached them but stayed at the back of the kennel.

As we talked about the situation, they realised that they had bought the wrong puppy. Their puppy was nervous, they had not properly met the mother and, what they had seen of her suggested she was aggressive. The first puppies they had seen had been very friendly and confident, as had all the dogs in the house. Cleanliness of a breeder’s home or kennels is important as you do not want to obtain an unhealthy puppy, but should not be the most important factor in your decision.

Friendliness and a steady temperament of the parents ……and the puppies, is the most important thing of all. If you have any doubts, don’t buy……...there will always be other puppies to choose from. 

Inga MacKellar, Full member of the APBC