Buying a Dog or Looking to Adopt? Things to consider
The spring season represents birth, vitality and new beginnings. This leads many of us to consider bringing a new puppy into our lives. While some will think the springtime is an apt time to welcome a little fluffy in your life – much more needs to be taken into consideration prior to picking up your new bundle of joy – from where you find your future furry friend to how you intend to create the best possible life for your newest family member. Remember when buying a dog, a pet is for life, not just for Easter, Christmas or any other special occasion!
Where to begin when buying a dog or considering adoption…
So, you’ve decided you want a new puppy? Your first consideration should be picking a breed suited to you and whether your lifestyle and schedule can allow for a pretty big disruption. If you’re active, outdoorsy and able to walk long distances at least once a day then an energetic dog is for you. Active dogs such as Border Collies, Retrievers, Huskies and Spaniels have been bred as working dogs for many years so will certainly need an outlet for their boundless energy. If you prefer the horizontal life, a dog that requires a minimal amount of exercise is probably better suited. Breeds such as English Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu’s and Chow Chow’s are commonly associated with being inactive and a little slothful.
In recent years, flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers have become increasingly popular yet many owners are not aware of the potential lifelong implications caused by selective breeding. Flat-faced breeds are more likely to have breathing difficulties, eye issues and skin conditions. However, if your heart is set on a particular breed, please do plenty of research into responsible breeders – ask friends, family or your vets to see if they have any recommendations. It’s important to see for yourself if the puppy’s parents are visibly well and content. This will at least give some indication as to whether the puppy will be possibly affected in the future.
Despite doing your research and picking a breed that perfectly suits you, it’s important to remember that it’s all fun and games when they’re playful, cute puppies but they will grow, will most definitely make some noise and will most probably incur a few bills along the way. Welcoming a new dog, regardless of whether they’re rescued or bought, is a rewarding but challenging experience and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also, it should be taken into consideration that circumstances may change; could a baby, new job or house affect them, or what if the dog requires lifelong treatment or medication? As a responsible pet owner, you will have to accommodate these factors.
Shelter vs breeder
So now you’ve hopefully come to a) the conclusion that you can or cannot welcome a new pet into your home and b) what type would be best suited to you. Now, your next decision is whether you go to a shelter or a reputable breeder. An option worth considering is going to your local rescue home or shelter – this would usually be if you wanted an adult dog rather than a puppy. Research suggests that over 130,000 dogs come into UK rehoming charities each year, many of which will make loving family pets. All of these dogs will have been vet checked, vaccinated and microchipped, and will be a lot cheaper than buying a pedigree puppy! Plus, for owners who do not have the time to socialise and train a new puppy, getting an adult dog from a rescue home can be an ideal option.
Buying from a dog breeder
If you’re going to take the route of buying a puppy from a breeder, please, research, research and research some more! You may have the very best intentions to buy from a reputable breeder, however, unprofessional breeders selling poor quality animals is an ongoing problem, both in certain areas of the country and also with imported puppies.
Dog Breeder Regulations
Fortunately, the Animal Welfare Act (2006) was reassessed in 2018 and the legislation around the breeding and selling of puppies for profit was tightened. From the 1st October 2018, anyone who breeds and sells three or more litters within any twelve-month period and anyone who breeds and sells dogs for commercial gain is classed as a business and needs a license. Even if the dog is classed as a pet, the owner will need a licence if they are profiting from selling puppies. As part of the updated legislation, breeders must keep full records of any dogs they keep or sell including:
- The dog’s full name
- A record of who supplied or sold you the dog (or if you bred them yourself)
- The sex of the dog
- The dog’s age
- Information on the dog’s veterinary records and any veterinary treatment they have undergone
- The dog’s date of birth – or if you did not breed the dog yourself, the date that you became the keeper of the dog
- The date on which the dog was sold by you to a new buyer
- If relevant, the date of the dog’s death. Records should be retained for at least six years
Dog breeding questions
It is advisable that you ask to see the breeder’s licence, as well as plenty of questions about the mother and puppies. Then visit them in their usual environment more than once. A good breeder will want to know that their puppies are going to a good home, so expect some questions too. They may ask about your lifestyle and family dynamic to make sure that you’re a suitable owner.
Here are some questions that you should ask when visiting a puppy breeder:
- How old are the puppies? They should be at least 8 weeks old before they leave their mum.
- Are the puppies weaned?
- Can you see the puppies with its mother? Reputable breeders will always allow you to do this. She may be a little protective of her pups but she should have a calm temperament and seem comfortable around the breeder.
- Have the puppies been checked by a vet, microchipped, vaccinated and wormed? Puppies should be vaccinated at around 8 weeks of age and again at 10-12 weeks. All puppies are born with worms. The breeder should start the wormer treatment at 2 to 3 weeks of age.
- What does the puppy look like? Check that they are bright and active, their eyes and ears are clear and no signs of tummy upsets.
If you have suspicions about the breeder, you have the option to report them to the police or RSPCA. While you may think that you’ll be saving a puppy by buying them but that money might continue to support a potentially illegal practice.
Therefore, when it comes to having a new dog in the family, weigh up whether you have the time to bring up a new puppy, bought from a reputable breeder, or whether you might prefer an older dog from one of your local rescue or rehoming centres.
This ‘Buying a Dog or Looking to Adopt’ post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!