Pet Care

Getting a new dog or puppy

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Why is it important to buy from a good source?

Getting a puppy or dog from a responsible source both maximises your chance of getting a happy, healthy dog and prevents you from inadvertently funding the illegal puppy trade.

There were a staggering 8.9 million pet dogs in the UK last year and that number is ever rising! Hopefully if you are considering getting a new dog or puppy this will give you all the information you will need about where best to get them from and how to spot warning signs of illegal puppy trade.

Does your lifestyle suit a dog?

This may seem like a strange question, but in 2018 alone the RSPCA rescued or collected more than 102,900 animals! Things you should consider before getting a dog:

  • Have you got the finances to support a dog? The PDSA estimates that the cost of owning a dog is £70-105 per month. Most people underestimate this cost but if you want to provide the best life for your dog, this is the cost.
  • Do you work all day?If the dog will be alone all day most days, that isn’t the best life. They love companionship and although doggy daycare is an option, if you work long hours maybe a dog isn’t for you.
  • Do you have the time and energy to walk them? All dogs need exercise, with no exceptions. Some breeds need more than others, so maybe have this in mind when you choose a breed. Without enough exercise the excess energy will build up and may show as behavioural issues. At least once if not twice a day is recommended and for older dogs, shorter but more frequent walks are advised.

  • Picking a breed

    Before going to a breeder you need to have picked a specific breed. But how to pick? We would suggest going to your vet. But some quick tips on picking a dog breed:

  • Pick one that suits your home and exercise abilities - research is key! If you have a small house then probably a smaller dog would be more appropriate. Breeds like spaniels or collies, for example, need lots of exercise, so if you are unable to put in that time commitment then it is best to go for a breed that needs less exercise.
  • Flat faced dogs - the flatter the face, the more breathing problems they will have. If you are determined to have one of these dogs then you need to look for a dog or puppy with the longest snout possible. Some breeders now are aiming to lengthen the snouts, so maybe try and find one of these breeders to get a puppy from.

  • Breeders

    If you are considering getting a puppy, usually the best bet will be to go to a breeder. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as easy as that! Even with new laws in place the “puppy farm” trade is still in action and often takes advantage of unsuspecting people, leaving them with puppies that are sick, poorly developed or traumatised. The next few sections will outline what you want to find in a breeder and how to avoid the puppy trade to get a happy, healthy puppy.

    Good breeders

    There are many good breeders out there. These will be licenced if this is their main income. The puppies will stay with the mother and siblings until about 8 weeks of age. Most of these breeders will also have the puppies microchipped, vet checked and had their first vaccination done.

    Bad breeders - the puppy trade

    These come in a couple of forms - the “puppy farms” we all hear of, where the mothers are kept in very poor conditions, have litters back to back and the puppies are taken away very early. These puppies are often poorly developed and have long term illnesses.

    The other more recent form is puppies brought over from abroad and sold at a house which is a front for the business. These puppies are taken away from their mother too early and are shipped to the UK. Not only does this often leave them with behavioural issues they also may be carrying exotic diseases and be a risk to other dogs.

    How can you differentiate between a good and bad breeder

    Firstly ask questions on the phone - ask if you can come and see the puppy before buying, ask if they will have all their vaccinations and microchip before you pick them up. If anything seems a little off, or if they do not want you to come to the home, look for another breeder.

    When you go for a visit - are the mother and siblings there? If not this is a massive warning flag! If it is a lone puppy or no mother then walk away. It is not “rescuing” the puppy to take it anyway, it is just funding them to continue to illegally trade.

    Finally ask for recommendations! Your vet especially will know of good breeders that they may be able to recommend, but any personal recommendation can go a long way.

    Getting a dog from abroad

    Rescuing a dog from abroad is becoming an increasingly popular idea. However, there are tens of thousands of dogs in UK rescue centres that need a loving home. If you get a dog from abroad, you do not know what you are getting. There are less regulations on puppy breeding and there are many diseases that we do not have in the UK that you could be importing. So, you could end up having a dog with a lifelong illness or behavioural issues. We would recommend, if you wish to rescue a dog, to go to a UK rescue centre.

    Rescue shelters

    It is very rewarding to give a dog or puppy a second chance at a family. Especially if they have had a hard start in life. Be aware that these dogs can have behavioural issues relating to past trauma, but with patience and a stable home most of the time these can be managed. If you are thinking of getting a new dog this is a very good option as the centres are overrun with dogs looking for new homes.

    Be careful, though, to find a reputable shelter or charity. Some “rehoming centres” are in fact fronts for the illegal dog trade (see above). Seek the recommendation of your vet, or go with a large national charity.