Adding a puppy to your family is a serious consideration. We all know this. We all know of the Dogs Trust mantra - "A Dog's for Life, Not just for Christmas".
But, sadly so many people end up with really difficult decisions about whether to keep or rehome their new puppy either after a few weeks or a few months. Please do take care you don't end up in "The Puppy Trap". Please don't join the many many families who end up having to rehome puppies because e.g.: a new job means that there's no time for the dog; or the other dog can't cope; or it can't cope with the new baby. There is of course much that can help each of these situations, but a little bit of extra thought before you dive in can maybe help to reduce the risk of potential emotional and financial turmoil.
There are two sides to the puppy question.
First, carefully thinking about where to get your puppy from, and whether indeed, you should get a puppy or a rescue dog.
Second, if the now adult dog, or the puppy that you get is causing you emotional illness, then what should you do? Sadly, as a behaviourist, I come across so many situations where individuals and family's lives have become very stressful. Most often this takes the form of emotional stress, and sometimes heartbreaking decisions need to be made.
No one wants to end up in this position - where they feel fully responsible for the animal in their care but are having huge personal struggles.
To avoid this happening to you, please answer these simple questions:
Do you really have time in your life for a puppy (or rehomed dog right now)?
• Nearly half of these puppies, who haven’t been seen before buying first, fall sick.
• One in five of these puppies cost £500 - £1000 in vet bills in the first 6 months.
• Over one third of people who ended up with a sick puppy bought this way, experienced financial and emotional problems.
• Over one third of these puppies were spur of the moment decisions.
• And these poorly bred puppies are far more likely to suffer from behavioural issues.
Puppies brought up in byres or unkempt outdoor kennels will be difficult to house train and may well have socialisation problems. Is this puppy in a clean, healthy and happy environment?
Have you seen the mother and the father? It's quite normal not see the father. But how do you know that he's well behaved and healthy? If you can please do your research and go and visit him separately, or at least make some inquiries. Behavioural characteristic are inherited. Anxious or hyper-active parents are highly likely to produce similar characteristics in a puppy. Just because he or she is a Crufts Champion does not guarantee you a healthy, happy puppy (with respectful apologies of course to the good breeders out there).
Have you selected a reputable breeder? There are several organisations and web sites who may proclaim to accredit breeders. Please don't trust these outright. We may think that dogs with excellent pedigrees will produce excellent offspring. Sadly, this is not necessarily the case. Whilst many are great, I'm sure, there are some who do have health or behavioural problems.
Don't accept a puppy from anyone who agrees to meet you mid-way, or similar. It's crucially important that you see the home it's been bred in. Have you seen the puppy's home?
Here are some excellent resources to use to help you be most likely to lead to happiness with your puppy.
Here's a quick puppy check -
How much does a puppy cost? An easy to use calculator on how much it costs to keep a pet
What to do and what not to do - The Kennel Club's Guide on the dos and don'ts of getting a puppy
A Guide to getting a good puppy - RSPCA Guide to knowing what to look for when buying a puppy
The parents are important, best to do some research - A discussion on the role of genetics in dog breeding and behaviour, from Dr Jen
A study on why dogs from puppy farms have poorer personalities, Dr Catherine Douglas, Newcastle University
And if you're still not sure about genes, have a look and listen here, Jane Arden's musings on Dog Behaviours and Genetics (Facebook) ... A view from the landrover
What to ask when buying your puppy - The Dogs Trust list of questions to ask when getting a puppy
And finally, if you have carefully chosen your puppy, please ask your breeder to sign up to The Puppy Socialisation Plan and then sign up and follow this yourself.
If you know of any other excellent resources to add to this list, please email me.