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Tips on choosing a puppy

Having spent much time researching your breed of choice to ensure that it will be compatible with your personality and lifestyle, how do you select your puppy from the litter?

If you have chosen to purchase your puppy from a reputable and knowledgeable breeder he or she should be able to assist you in your choice. It is wise to make clear to the breeder what you want and expect of your dog. For example, do you have ambitions to show? Do you want nothing other than a companion? Do you want to work your dog with guns or livestock? Do you want to compete in dog sports such as obedience, agility, field trials, etc.? While the whole litter will have received exactly the same care and attention your breeder’s experience may enable him/her to suggest that a particular pup may have the potential to do well in the area that interests you. Some breeders will also temperament test their litters which can assist them to better match puppies with owners.

Bear in mind that you may not be permitted to pick from the whole litter. Many breeders have waiting lists for puppies so it could very well be that some of the litter already have homes waiting for them. However, it is good to see the litter together and to observe the manner in which they interact with each other.

You should be able to meet the dam. When you meet her observe her temperament. If she shows any sign of aggression, fear, or hostility, then give her litter a wide berth. A good breeder will not necessarily have their own stud, but, in many cases, will travel a considerable distance in order to breed their bitch to the dog best suited to her. However, the sire’s name, location, and health test results should be available to you. If the breeder does own the stud you should be able to meet him and ensure that he is also of good temperament.

When you meet the puppies you should look for the following:

  • The puppies should have bright eyes.
  • There should be no discharge from the eyes or from the nose.
  • The nose may not be cold and wet but it should not appear dried out or crusty.
  • The ears should look, and smell, clean.
  • The breath should smell of nothing other than ‘puppy’.
  • The bottom should be clean with no sign of diarrhoea or discharge from the genitalia.
  • The skin should be clean - no sores, dandruff, or parasites.
  • Check for hernias - the pup should have no odd lumps or bumps in the abdominal area.
  • Testicles can sometimes take a while to drop, so no need for immediate panic if you cannot feel them.
  • Puppies can be very unco-ordinated, but there should be no sign of lameness.
  • It can take time for some breeds to grow into their ears, feet, and skin, so no need to worry if the puppies appear a little out of proportion in some areas.
  • Do not be alarmed if the pups have ‘knobbly knees’ this is quite normal.
  • The immediate surroundings of the puppies should look and smell clean.
In a litter there are likely to be bold, shy, and middling pups. Their demeanour and behaviour can be affected by the time of day. For instance, they may have been recently fed and may appear untypically lethargic. When viewing the puppies do try not to let your heart rule your head. Do not choose the smallest, shyest, saddest looking puppy because you feel sorry for him/her. Be aware that the boldest, most out-going and feisty pup could well be a bit of a handful.
Please do not purchase a puppy from a pet shop. Not only is a shop environment detrimental to the physical and psychological well-being of a pup, but they are frequently outlets for the produce of puppy farms. Go to a good breeder who breeds for the betterment of the breed and whose dogs enjoy the best of care and love.

Here are some questions you might want to ask a Breeder...

As a prospective puppy buyer, it is important that you purchase from a reputable breeder. The following questions are suggested as a guideline for determining whether or not you can be confident that the litter in which you are interested has been bred by someone who is ethical and who has the future of the breed as his/her main goal.

Good breeders will frequently provide the answers to many of these questions during the course of normal converation as they will be proud of their bitch, the selected sire, and the expected litter or puppies on the ground. They will also have no objections to answering specific queries as your questions will indicate that you are considering your purchase carefully.

1) Are both the dam and the sire registered with the Kennel Club? If the breed that you are interested in is recognised by the Kennel Club then both parents should be registered.

2) Will all the pups be registered with the Kennel Club? Again, if it is a recognised breed, and both dam and sire are registered, the breeder should register the litter.

3) How old is the bitch? The age of the dam may vary according to the breed, but the general rule is that a bitch is not bred prior to her 3rd season and not bred after 7 years of age.

4) How many litters has the bitch had? Good breeders will rarely take more than three litters from a bitch.

5) Are both the dam and the sire of good temperament? It is not good practice to breed from dogs which are aggressive, nervous, or have any other negative temperament issues.

6) Why did you decide to breed this bitch? Reputable breeders breed with the betterment of the breed foremost in mind. They hope that the litter will produce puppies of even better quality than the parents.

7) What health tests have the dam and the sire had, and are the official test results available for me to see? Many dogs suffer breed-specific health problems which can be tested for prior to breeding. The test results should be available to you.

8 ) Do you own the sire? A lot of breeders will not own the sire, preferring to travel with their bitch to the stud most suited to her. If the sire is owned by the breeder you should be able to meet him and assess his temperament, and view his pedigree & registration documents. If the sire is not breeder-owned then you should be able to see his photograph, copies of his pedigree and registration, and be informed of his owner’s name and address.

9) Is the sire proven? Breeders will usually select a proven sire, that is, an experienced dog known to pass on desirable qualities to his offspring.

10) Do you have a contract to be signed at the time of purchase of the pup? Some breeders require purchasers to sign a contact covering various things such as health of the pup, neutering, future disposal of the dog. It is necessary be quite clear on exactly what the contract comprises and the obligations of both parties.

11) Where are the puppies being raised? It is very beneficial to the puppies to be raised in a home environment. They will have early socialisation with people and become accustomed to household noises.

12) Have the puppies been vaccinated and wormed? The puppies should have been wormed and you should be given a vaccination certificate when you take the puppy home.

13) Will the pups be placed on Full or Limited Register? Breeders frequently place their puppies on the Limited register, which means that they cannot be shown and should not be bred from. If a dog is used for breeding whilst on Limited Registration, then the resulting puppies cannot be registered with the Kennel Club. Only the breeder can lift the endorsements.

14) If, for any reason, I cannot keep the dog will you take it back? A good breeder will take back any dog that he/she has been responsible for producing no matter the age of the dog or any problems that it might have.

15) May I contact you in the future if I have any worries or problems? A good breeder will be willing to advise you throughout the life of the dog. Even if there are no problems many breeders like their puppy buyers to stay in contact.

16) At what age do you let the pups go to their new homes? This will vary according to breed. Generally puppies are placed at around 8 weeks. Some toy breeds are kept longer, but puppies should not be placed prior to 7 weeks.

17) Do you have a waiting list of prospective homes? It is a good sign if there are people waiting for puppies from a particular breeder and/or a particular mating.

Here are some questions a Breeder might ask you...

A conscientious breeder wants to place his/her puppies in the very best homes possible. When enquiring to purchase a pup these are some of the questions that a good breeder may ask you.

1) Have you had dogs before? If so, what happened to them?

2) Have you had this breed before? If not, what has made you decide that this breed is right for you?

Please do not purchase a puppy from a pet shop. Not only is a shop environment detrimental to the physical and psychological well-being of a pup, but they are frequently outlets for the produce of puppy farms.

3) Have you spent time with adults of this breed? Are you familiar with the exercise requirements, cost of feeding, grooming requirements, veterinary expenses, etc. of this breed?

4) Do you have dogs now? If so, of what breed, sex, age?

5) Do you want a dog or a bitch? Why do you want that particular sex?

6) For what purpose do you want this dog? Show/pet/breeding/work, etc.?

7) Do you intend to take the dog to training classes?

8 ) How long will the dog be left alone?

9) What will you do with the dog when you are out?

10) Where will the dog live - inside or outside?

11) Where will the dog sleep?

12) Do you intend to have the dog spayed/castrated?

13) Where do you live - city/suburb/rural etc.?

14) Do you rent or own your property? If renting do you have the landlord’s permission to keep a dog on the premises?

15) Are you in a stable relationship? If so, are you both equally committed to owning a dog?

16) Do you have children? If so, of what age?

17) What sort of fencing do you have?

18 ) What is the size of your secure outside exercise area?

19) Would you be happy for me, or my representative, to carry out a homecheck?

20) Do you have a regular veterinarian? If so, would you give consent for me to contact him/her?

21) Would you agree to the dog being returned to me, at any age, if for any reason you are unable to keep it?

Also see: How to tell the difference between good and bad dog breeders!

This article was written by Dogwebber Shadowboxer.

Your comments and views:
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 49,483
Female  Diamond Supporter 
14-04-2005, 10:35 PM
Invaluable advice as usual Shadowboxer and very comprehensive.
I would advise anyone going to choose a puppy to print this information out and take it with them I certainly will!!
Thank you!
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Dogsey Veteran
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 12,204
05-05-2005, 10:03 AM
What a excellent article shadowboxer, im am going to pick up my new puppy in 2 weeks and your article has given me lots to think about!

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Lucky Star
Dogsey Veteran
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 20,145
02-08-2005, 02:23 PM
Excelent article. A must-read for the prospective puppy owner.
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Dogsey Veteran
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 7,856
30-12-2005, 10:36 AM
I used this article when choosing my puppy, it helped me be more confident about what I was entering into and calmer when I went to see the breeder.

Great article! :grin:
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New Member!
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 11
17-03-2017, 12:59 AM
Oh, great post! You've shared an interesting article. :)
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