There are 215 different officially-recognised doggie breeds, and there's bound to be one that suits your family, personality and lifestyle perfectly. But before you start looking for a puppy to buy, you need to carry out a few essential checks to make sure the dog is legal, well cared for, socialised and healthy.
There are many cases of false medical reports, with puppies ending up either blind or with organ failure before they reach adulthood. So how do you make sure you get a healthy, happy little dog without built-in medical problems? Here's some sensible advice.
1. All pedigree dogs fall into one of 7 categories, seven 'breed groups'. Every breed has its own unique set of characteristics, needs, likes and dislikes. Choose a breed that suits your way of life, home and circumstances
2. Inherited diseases like GPRA (generalised progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease that causes blindness) are a risk with pedigree and cross-breed puppies. DNA tests for diseases in purebred dogs are available for some common medical conditions, and there's a number of special veterinary screening schemes that dog breeders can use. Before you decide on a puppy, ask the breeder what they've done to test and check for diseases like GPRA. You can find out about any breed-specific health issues online, or by asking your vet
3. Pick a reputable breeder. The best way is word of mouth, so ask fellow dog owners and your vet for recommendations.
4. A good breeder will follow strict breeding guidelines, test puppies for health issues, check the puppy in situ with its mum to see how it behaves and answer any questions you might have, openly and freely. The best breeders also provide information about training and socialisation, and will be there for you in case you need them, throughout the dog's life
5. Responsible breeders give you a host of handy information without being asked, including background on socialisation details, diet, exercise, jabs and immunisation, feeding, worming and more, plus recommendations for the on-going socialisation and training you need to do at home.
6. A good breeder will also give you a pedigree document with the puppy's ancestry, plus copies of its mum and dads' health certificates, and they'll let you know which vaccinations the puppy has and which he or she still needs. Ideally you'll find out which breed the grandparents fall into, and be shown the hereditary disease list if there is one
7. It makes a lot of sense to get any medical tests repeated by an independent vet as a second opinion, to be certain your puppy really is in the best of health
8. It's important to see the puppy interacting with its mum, because it lets you check the mother and baby's temperament and personality. But always ask to handle the puppy as well as looking at it
9. You might want a crossbred puppy, bred privately at home. If your home is noisy and lively, try to buy a puppy from a similar environment. If your home is quiet and chilled, or you also have cats, the same goes. Then you're most likely to get a dog that fits in with your family's way of life, a dog that'll fit in with your lifestyle
10. Crossbred puppies often come with a combination of traits from each parent. If you don't know what breeds were crossed to create the puppy you're thinking of buying, ask the owner or breeder
11. If your puppy isn't from a breeder or comes from a rescue centre, they might not have had all the early advantages a properly-raised puppy gets, like early socialisation. Not to worry, dogs are clever and love learning new things. Start the socialisation process as soon as you get home and he or she should soon catch up
12. Buy pet insurance straight away, as soon as things are confirmed and you know the puppy's yours
Follow these guidelines and you stand the best chance of getting a loving, healthy, lively puppy that'll fit right into your home and join in with the family from the offset.
What's your advice?
If you've taken on a puppy, what's your best piece of advice for new owners? Follow us on Facebook and join the conversation (www.facebook.com/poochandcompany).
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