A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. We’d hope that this was a mantra that didn’t need wheeling out every year at around this time but, unfortunately, it does. Shockingly, the illegal puppy trade skyrockets at this time of year. So how do you buy a puppy responsibly in the UK?
Think carefully about timing
Your little one may be desperate for a puppy for Christmas, but you as the adult need to give careful thought as to your motives and timing.
Puppies, by their very nature, need a huge amount of care and attention, particularly in their earliest days. Christmas in families is hectic and involves a great deal of life being ‘out of routine’. This isn’t a conducive time for devoting lots of attention to your new addition.
At any time of year, you need to be sure that you can commit the time your puppy will need in the early days, such as they will need someone around most of the day for many weeks with a concentrated effort on training. They also require a significant upfront cost.
Doggie daycare, such as the WAG Club, can help you with daily care needs if you work or have other commitments. Our dedicated puppy room is ideal for the frolicking fun lovers who suddenly need a nap.
However, fundamentally, you do need to be sure that you have the resources to commit to the dog. You’ll need to have plenty of time for walking the dog as it grows and take responsibility for training it. It’s particularly important that the individual family member who will likely take on the most responsibility is the one who is the most fully on board with the idea of getting a dog.
Think carefully about the breed
If you are sure that the timing is right for getting a puppy, then you should next think about which breed best suits your household.
Dogs were bred to undertake different roles and this is now reflected in their behaviour and character traits. The result is that different breeds suit different lifestyles and homes. However, you’re also likely to discover there are a great number of incorrect stereotypes when it comes to different breeds. For example, greyhounds are cuddlers, not great hikers.
Think about the age of the dog
Don’t automatically consider a puppy as they require a huge amount of hard work in the early days. There are plenty of older dogs looking to be rehomed and who may be much more suited to your needs. They are most likely have been trained and socialised by the rescue, which makes the integration with you family a lot easier.
Charities such as the Blue Cross can give you advice on rehoming a dog.
Where to get a puppy from
If you are sure the time is right, and you definitely want a puppy, then still don’t rule out rescue centres. Often, pregnant bitches, and even litters of puppies, find themselves abandoned at rescue centres. This can therefore be a good starting place. You may have to wait a little while, but it’s an option definitely worth considering.
If you are selecting a puppy from a breeder then you need to be sure they are a reputable breeder and not in fact a puppy farm.
How to identify a puppy farm
Puppy farms are high volume breeders who are more concerned with profit than the health and wellbeing of the mother dogs and their puppies. They can be tricky to spot, especially for the uninitiated would-be dog owner, because the breeders can be very skilled at hiding the murkier side of their business.
Under the new UK law, breeders who produce more than five litters a year are considered to be running a business, and should be licensed and certified by the council. You can ask to see their documentation.
You need to look out for:
- Puppy sellers who frequently offer pedigree pups but without offering certification or paperwork. Do look for Kennel Club registration, but also do some digging and don’t just accept that as read.
- Lots of different buildings on site, with bustling activity around you. If it feels more like a kennel than a breeder, then this is a warning sign. However, do also be aware that puppy farmers also use intermediary houses to give an illusion of being responsible breeders. Do the mother and her litter appear used to their surroundings?
- There are lots of different breeds available from one seller. Reputable breeders typically specialise on one breed. You should be able to ask a large number of breed-specific questions and get informative and accurate answers.
- The seller can quickly find you a different puppy or litter if you express unhappiness with the one you came to view. This is particularly concerning if you are being shown puppies without their mum or their littermates.
- A seller who doesn’t question you too. A conscientious breeder will ask you questions about your household to ensure they are happy with where the puppy will be going.
- A poor relationship between the mother dog and the breeder. The mother should have a good bond with the breeder, which should be evidenced. Make sure you see the puppy with their mother and their littermates.
- The age at which they are prepared to separate the puppy from the mother. A puppy should not be removed before 8 weeks old. Try to see the puppy several times before you actually bring it home.
- Request health certificates. You should be able to see health certificates for each of the puppy’s parents. You can see here any hereditary conditions.
Once you are sure you are working with a reputable breeder, you can then work together to ensure your puppy comes home at the right time and with the right support.
Bringing your puppy home
When it is time to bring your new puppy home, it’s an exciting time but you will also need to be organised. Devote the early weeks of your pup’s new life to their wellbeing, care and training, then you both will be bonded to have an unbreakable and unconditionally loving relationship.
If you need help meeting their need for supervision and input throughout their first year, then book them in for doggy daycare, by calling our Muswell Hill Branch on 020 8365 2226 or our West Hampstead branch on 020 7435 4111.
The WAG Club specialises in puppy socialisation to ensure your pup grows up to be a well-socialised and well-mannered dog.