Choosing a new dog can be a confusing process, especially if faced with a number of litters or when trying to pick one puppy from a litter of gorgeous faces. The following checklist may help you make your decision.
Do your research.
If you’ve chosen a particular breed (or cross-breed), make it your job to find out about any health problems common to these dogs. In some cases, the parents can be screened for these disorders, so only dogs that pass are bred. A puppy from a screened parent can’t be guaranteed to be disease-free, but has a much better chance of being so.
Know your terms
Is the dog purebred? This means that the parents of the dog for sale are both of the same breed. Pedigreed dogs have a purebred history that is registered with a state or national organisation and documented with “papers”, and the parents may have had special medical checks before they were bred to reduce the risk of inherited disease.
Meet the parents
At the very least, meeting the pup’s mother is a good idea, and both parents if possible. Temperament and personality is heritable so the parents can give you an idea of what those little balls of fluff are likely to grow into. Meeting the parents also will give you an idea of your puppy’s adult size.
Even within one litter, the personalities of the puppies can be quite different. Are you looking for a busy, livewire friend? Perhaps that puppy that pushes its way to the front of the litter may be for you. Or you may prefer a quieter, laid-back companion. A pup that is friendly but plays gently may be a better choice. It’s best to avoid the extremes – a very dominant puppy that bosses its littermates around may be a handful to train, while that reserved puppy avoiding play may be very shy or even unwell.
Is the puppy healthy?
Only a veterinary examination can rule out congenital problems, but there are some guidelines to follow before making your choice. Check the puppy’s eyes. They should be clear and bright, not watery or red. The coat should be fluffy or glossy and clean, without bare patches or sores. Puppies are ideally plump and not too skinny. A healthy puppy is playful, active and alert.
How old are the puppies?
It’s generally agreed that puppies should not be sold or rehomed before eight weeks of age. This allows plenty of time for the puppies to be weaned from their mother and to develop good social skills.
Where do the puppies live?
Puppies start to be socialised and learn from their environment at about three weeks of age. The more human contact during this critical time, the better pets they become. Are the mother and her puppies kept inside or outside, and what sort of interactions and experiences have they had?
Have the puppies had a health check by a veterinarian? A vaccination certificate (if the puppies are 6 weeks of age or older) can document this. Have they been wormed? Puppies should be wormed every two weeks until 12 weeks of age, then less frequently. Have they been treated for fleas? This is not essential, but it helps to know if the puppy has been treated and how long it lasts.
Has the puppy been microchipped?
Current laws require puppies sold in New South Wales, and those sold in Victoria by a Domestic Animal Business, to be registered by a microchip implant. Microchip requirements change from time to time, so you should always check with your local authorities before buying a puppy. But even if microchips aren’t compulsory, a microchip is a bonus, because it helps to ensure that if your dog is ever lost, he can be quickly reunited with you. If a pet has a microchip implant, the previous owner must authorise the transfer of the dog’s ownership.
All that remains now is for you to select your future friend!