18 March 2017
Getting a new Puppy?
Exciting times! A new puppy in the family brings so much pleasure and joy and having a dog as part of our family for the next 14 years or so will enrich our lives in so many ways!. There is lots to think about before you decide on getting a new puppy and then plenty to think about and organise before you bring puppy home! And once home - have you got your training plan in place?
Choosing a puppy
It is so important to ensure you choose a breed to suit your lifestyle. Always ask what was this breed originally bred for? A working breed is great for more active families who can offer plenty of physical and mental stimulation - including ongoing training; a less active breed bred specifically as a companion pet may suit less active homes. And there is plenty in between to choose from! Things to consider are size, activity level, training requirements, breed 'drives' - if you are considering a guarding breed such as a German Shepherd for example - are you experienced with dog guarding behaviours and do you know how to channel these? If you are considering a working breed such as a Working Cocker Spaniel - are you able to channel their natural hunting drive, for example? The Kennel Club web site offers useful information on most breeds to give you an idea of what might suit your family. In addition there are lots of 'fashionable' cross breeds that are popular too and it is good to bear in mind you may get a cross that can look like and / or behave like either one of it's parents - or be a mix of both - there is no guarantee as to size or breed personality so it is good to bear this in mind too and be prepared! Ensure you have spent some time with the breed of your choice and speak to people with similar lifestyles to your own and ask questions about pros & cons of your potentional breed choice. In other words - be prepared.
Choosing A Breeder
Once you have chosen your breed - it is very important to choose a responsible or reputable breeder. The Kennel Club website has useful information to follow when choosing a breeder. To summarise here though:
- Ask lots of questions - no question is silly and any good breeder will answer all questions put to them
- Visit more than once if time / distance allows
- Ensure you see the puppy with at least the dam (and sire as well if possible) and siblings at first viewing. Are they all happy healthy lively looking puppies? Are their living arrangements clean and comfortable with enrichment toys and activities?
- Are the puppies home reared and socialised from birth 'under foot' IE in a family / home environment? A puppy that is already used to daily household noises and smells will help puppy be confident in his new home environment. The more a puppy has been exposed to in his first few weeks in a positive way the easier he will find his new home to settle into.
- Ask about dams and puppies worming and weaning programme. Dam should be wormed before breeding and throughout her pregnancy from around day 45 daily up to 2 days post-birth and pups should be wormed usually from week 2 and periodically then at 5 & 8 weeks before leaving for their new home (speak to your preferred vet beforehand too if you have any health related questions before purchasing). What age were the puppies weaned and what diet are they on now? Are they on good quality food? A good breeder will be able to explain fully all details to you about their puppies rearing.
- If you have decided on a KC registered puppy - ask to see the dam and sire's pedigree certificate. Do not purchase or leave with your new puppy without relevant KC paperwork - speak to the KC who will be more than helpful in advising what you should have sight of - often you will get free 5 weeks insurance provided by the KC once puppies are registered. There is no reason for a promise of 'puppies to be registered in the future' - if you are buying a KC registered puppy then it should be registered before you purchase / leave with the puppy and you should have evidence of that. What are the sire / dam's Kennel Club registered names? What is your puppy's KC registered name?
- The Kennel Club website advises on the recommended health screens for each breed. Many breeds have their own breed specific genetic weaknesses - ensure you know what these are for your chosen breed and that both parents are dna health screened: where both parents are screened 'clear' of known hereditary conditions - then all pups will be hereditary clear. If one parent is tested 'clear', and the other is a 'carrier' then there is a possibility your pup is a 'carrier' - which should not be a concern if you are not planning on breeding yourself as it means your pup carries one copy of a defective gene - it takes 2 of these genes to match for the pup to be affected by the disease. If both parents are tested 'carrier' of a disease then there is a chance that your pup may be 'affected' IE inherits a defective gene from both parents. If the parents of your puppy have been dna health screened you can be certain that at least you are choosing a puppy where the breeder has done the best possible for those pups. This of course does not guarantee that any puppy will not develop other genetic mutations or become ill but it does allow knowledge of the status of some commonly known diseases for the breed and you know your breeder has been responsible.
- If you are choosing a non KC registered puppy ensure that you understand about both parent's health and history - some cross breed breeders are offering evidence of at least dna screening for disease that affects both breeds so for example a Cockerpoo may have parents who have both been screened for PRA - an heriditary progressive eye disorder (common to many breeds). If getting a puppy from a resuce the rescue centre should be able to answer all your questions and address all concerns about health and puppy care.
- Be aware of Puppy Farming and other unscrupulous breeding practises. Puppy Farmers have all kinds of outlets for 'disposing' of their poorly bred and reared puppies - often stories sound convincing and you may 'feel sorry' for the puppy but if you buy from these kinds of breeders / sellers you are making room for one more puppy farmed puppy to be offloaded. The bitches are kept in dreadful conditions bred from like battery hens and puppies bred and reared like this are often in poor health - commonly with gastro-intestinal problems (to name but one issue) that means your new puppy once home will not be what you anticipated - chronic bowel conditions. skin conditions, vet visits and ££££££ spent on trying to get your puppy through serious illness - in some cases puppies don't survive their first week. Early illness can impact in many ways not least normal socialisation plans to help your puppy to become a well rounded adult of the future. Walk away if in doubt. Please read up on puppy farming and the kinds of things to look out for and questions to ask breeders.
- Puppies by law now cannot leave their littermates before 8 weeks old
- All puppies should be microchipped by law - speak to your breeder or vet
So you have thought carefully about the breed for you, you have found a good breeder of healthy puppies now the fun begins!
- Prepare well before bringing pup home: Sleeping Arrangements - crate training is useful in so many ways and when done correctly and sensitively a safe haven for puppy to enjoy his own den; Diet - are you keeping puppy on breeder food or have you decided on an alternative? Careful gradual transition from old food to new once puppy has had a couple of weeks to settle in is essential so as not to upset his sensitive digestive system; Training - starts from Day 1! Do you have the tools in your toolbox? Have you considered a positive reinforcment puppy socialisation class? Vet - if your puppy has already had his 1st vaccination at the breeders then you will need to ensure puppy has the full course - and ensure breeder vet and your vet use the same vaccinations otherwise you will need to start again! Also speak to your vet about continuing with puppy's worming programme. Socialisation - be ready to give your puppy as many positive social experiences as you can from day 1 - remember he has just left the security of his littermates no-one speaks his language and it is a big scary world - so careful introductions to new things every day. If puppy is scared of something do not force an experience on him - try again later with encouragement and rewards for offering more confident behaviours
- Teething - do you know about the teething process? What does puppy need to get through these stages? How does teething affect his behaviour?
- Positive Reinforcement - when puppy offers something we like - such as a 'sit' - even on Day 1 we can smile, praise and reward - this will reinforce this behaviour and start to set you up for your puppy foundation training straight away! Play is a great reward and a great way for puppy to learn too - the best way to bond with your puppy!
- Development Stages - do you know the critical development stages for puppy? What she is exposed to at various stages of her development and how we shape her behaviour from Day 1 can be the difference between a polite well socialised dog who is a pleasure to take out and one who may need extra work to undo 'bad habits' allowed to set in, often inadvertently! It is therefore important that any puppy carers you may use understand about puppy development - both physical and emotional - to ensure unwanted behaviours or emotional states do not manifest once your puppy matures.
- Commincating with your new puppy - Remember he does not understand our world or speak our language he is a dog and does dog things! Just think if you were lifted up and put onto an alien planet where everyone behaves differently to you and does not speak English. How on earth would you know what is acceptable or not in that culture? How about if someone from that alien planet took time to understand how you learned? And began to show you in kind ways what is ok? Positive Reinforcement Training works on the premise that if we ignore the bad and reward the good - then puppy will more likely repeat the behaviours that get reward. Being fearful of punishment does not teach a puppy anything - other than to be fearful. Learn his language - dogs after all try so hard to understand ours! It is so rewarding when a puppy starts to offer behaviours we want - she chooses to just because she has learned this gets her what she wants! No quick fixes but consistency and patience will get long term happy results!
- Finally, I always advise as a positive reinforcement trainer, training first and foremost as part of everyday puppy life from Day One. Having fun with your new puppy (especially if you have children) needs to be tempered with her learning process - and ability! Puppies have brains like a sponge and brain growth is up to 80% full adult size by the time puppy is 3/4 months old. The more positive learning she does between Birth and up to 4 months is setting fabulous foundations for your dog of the future!
Enjoy your new puppy! You can contact me via this web site or visit www.harrogatedogtraining.co.uk and learn about my training services.
ChrissyGet in touch