Welcoming a puppy into your family is, of course, a wonderful thing and should really enhance everybody’s (including the pup’s) life. But, adopting or buying a puppy also requires you to take on the huge responsibility of raising and educating a socially acceptable companion animal.
Where to get your puppy
I will always advocate adopting a puppy from a rescue centre. Taking on a puppy which has already been let down by people is a fantastic thing to do. It is also the ethical way to bring a companion animal into your family, Far too many dogs are being bred in the UK and then abandoned. This irresponsible over-breeding puts a huge strain on the rescue centres who bear the brunt of caring for these unwanted youngsters.
If you choose to buy a puppy from a private breeder make sure you a getting value for your generally thousands of pounds and they are putting time and effort into the puppies. A good breeder won’t waste a pup’s first eight weeks simply by leaving the litter to educate themselves without guidance. I’d be wary of buying a puppy from a breeder who has put no effort into the pups education and development. Typically they have just allowed the puppies to educate themselves unguided for their first 8 weeks or so.
There are many things the breeder could be exposing the puppies to which will help build a foundation from which their socialisation can be built on.
For instance, if I was spending thousands on a puppy I would expect the pup:
- to be toileting on paper or pads (or even a disinfected outside area),
- to be able to sit on command,
- to be comfortable wearing a collar,
- to be exposed to different sound effect cds,
- to have experienced many differing types of flooring (tiles, carpets, lino, wood, laminate etc),
- to be comfortable with all house hold implement (hoovers, washing machines etc)
- (most importantly) to have been regularly (a few times a day ideally) carried outside and positively or neutrally exposed to people/dogs/traffic/animals/general noises/areas/circumstances etc
(see my socialisation page for details!).
The puppies shouldn’t have had to compete for food (all fed from one bowl), if there are five pups there should be at least six bowls!
Their interaction with each other should be based in exploring and learning as opposed to only play fighting with each other. Play fighting is important but needs to part of a balanced array of interactions. There certainly shouldn’t be any signs of fearful reactions at this age.
Taking a puppy home at eight to ten weeks should mean you continue the important socialisation work the good breeder has already begun.
I would also expect to be able to meet and spend some time with the mother of the pups, preferably the father too if possible, and would want to find the mother a calm, friendly, socially skilled dog that walks well on lead.
It is always sensible to look into breeds and what their individual requirements and expected behavioural traits typically are, just don’t expect this to be a guarantee. Fundamentally you are bringing a dog into your house first and the breed is a secondary consideration.
Essentially, every dog regardless of breed, will require at least an hours structured exercise every day as a minimum, they will need to be trained to a basic level as a minimum and will need to be socially acceptable in all scenarios.
Something important to consider though is the expected exercise level the breed will require, for instance in pedigree dogs, a working breed line is likely to require double the exercise its show breed line equivalent would need.
Dogs from working stock have seemingly boundless energy so expecting a Weinarama, Springer Spaniel or Collie to be content with a short walk every day with probably result in behavioural disaster and huge stress for everybody involved, especially the dog!
When choosing a breed your research should reveal the behavioural traits that particular dog is likely show. For instance, if a guarding breed is left to develop unguided then it is very likely they will begin to show guarding behaviours; growling, barking, snarling, lunging, being possessive, nipping and potentially eventually biting.
You then need to consider if you have the skills and knowledge to ensure these traits don’t impact negatively on everybody’s life, or ideally, aren’t encouraged and developed at all. If you don’t have such skills and knowledge researching and finding a trainer or behaviourist who will help and guide you should be done before you purchase a pup.
Any dog is capable of producing any type of behaviour but by researching the breed this will give you a strong idea of what to expect and look out for.
As a parental figure your primary goal is for your pup to grow into a dog who is calm, friendly and sociable with good manners. If raised correctly a herding dog will have no need to chase, a guarding breed will have no need to be defensive and an alert dog will have no need to bark!
The most essential factor when raising any puppy of any background or breed is socialisation.