Puppies are irresistible to most; they are cute, fluffy, adorable bundles of joy that make even the toughest people swoon. Shocking new research from the Kennel Club’s Puppy Awareness Week survey 2018 has shown us that our instant gratification culture is putting puppies at risk, with one in three puppies bought online experiencing illness or death in their first year, as too many people buy puppies impulsively and get duped by rogue breeders.

Image: Carolyn Sheridan

With everything being available at the click of a button, research showed that more than one million puppies are brought before they’ve even been seen in person by the buyer, with half a million of these being online deliveries. Unscrupulous breeders, such as puppy farmers, are taking advantage of people who are unsure where to get a puppy from and who are easily hooked by a cute photo, in order to churn out unhealthy and unloved dogs that end up with health and behavioural issues.

Unfortunately, making the wrong decision at the beginning can mean that you become unable to look after that puppy for life, a leading reason why so many dogs end up in rescue, or worse.

Choosing a puppy involves making lots of decisions. Not only is every breed different, with their own needs in terms of exercise, training and grooming, but all puppies require a lifetime of love, care and attention so it is critical that you get everything right from the very beginning.

The first question to ask yourself is: Am I ready for dog ownership? Puppies may look cute and cuddly but they grow into full sized dogs, with full sized needs and you will be the person that our dog will rely on. Puppies themselves bring their own set of challenges – for all the pleasure they will bring you, they will not come into your life ready trained, so before you buy, ask yourself:

  • Am I prepared to accept the mess that a puppy or dog will create around the house and to clear up after him/her?
  • Will I spend time training him/her, to ensure I fulfill my duties as a responsible dog owner?
  • Can I afford to care for him/her, insure them and to pay for veterinary care?
  • Will I give him the amount of exercise that he/she needs, every day?
  • Will I have the time to love and care for a new dog? As pack animals they do not like to be left on their own and need a routine that they can rely on.

If you can answer yes to all of the questions above then you are ready to start the process of finding the right dog for your lifestyle.

CHOOSING A PEDIGREE

Purebred dogs make up around 75 percent of the nine million strong dog population in the UK and there are lots of reasons why they are so popular.

There are 222 pedigree dog breeds to choose from and you can meet most of them – and the people who know all about  them – at the Kennel Club’s Discover Dogs event, taking place at  ExCeL London on 20-21st October 2018. So much choice can be overwhelming, but each breed has been split into one of seven groups – working, pastoral, gundog, toy, utility, hound and terrier – each of which were developed for different functions and which share similar characteristics. Within these seven groups, each pedigree breed hasits own breed standard, which outlines the breed’s individual characteristics – these can be found on the Kennel Club website.

You can use this predictability to help you choose the right dog for you. Size, grooming, training and exercise needs, and general characteristics are all important considerations when making that final decision. For example, are you a city dweller, looking for a dog with moderate exercise needs and easy to groom? Perhaps a Miniature Pinscher would be right for you? Or do you want a family dog, with a friendly nature, such as a Labrador Retriever or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier? Perhaps you have the time to spare for advanced training and want a lively, energetic dog that will give you lots of exercise in the country air, for example a Border Collie?

Image: Bill Murden

Health is another important factor to bear in mind. Although many dogs will lead very healthy lives, all breeds and crossbreeds have potential health problems, some of which are inherited. The Kennel Club has invested millions of pounds at its Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust to develop new DNA tests that give breeders the ability to test for conditions known to affect their breed (or both founding breeds, in the case of crossbreeds). Potential puppy buyers should look for breeders who apply these tests to their dogs before they are bred from. Armed with knowledge about the parents’ health you will maximise your chances of getting a healthy puppy.

Finding the right breeder is just as important as finding the right breed. It is critical to go to a responsible breeder who has taken steps to give your puppy the best possible start in life, which will increase your chances of having a healthy, happy dog in the future.

The Kennel Club registers puppy births but it also registers breeders under the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. These breeders have to meet the high welfare standards set out by the scheme and a Kennel Club inspector will check their premises, to ensure that they’re upholding the scheme’s standards. The Kennel Club has United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) accreditation to certify breeders on this scheme.

Image: Jane Hodges

Puppy buyers should always be looking for a breeder who follows the same standards as set out under this scheme – which includes giving the dogs they are breeding from the required health tests for their breed, giving their dogs the inoculations that they require, keeping them in clean and comfortable whelping conditions, offering a full after sales service and giving their customers all the information they need in a Puppy Pack.

Sadly, not all breeders meet these standards, so it is important that you do your homework when you are buying a puppy.

During Puppy Awareness Week, which ran from 3-9th September 2018, the Kennel Club revealed statistics which showed that 23 per cent of people think they could have bought from a puppy farm and one in three admit they would now know how to spot a rogue puppy breeder. A puppy farmer is someone who breeds purely for profit and who does not care about the health and welfare of their pups or breeding bitches.

Puppy farmers will do everything they can to disguise what is going on behind closed doors and will often meet puppy buyers at a neutral location, such as a friend’s house or a motorway service station, or will only show buyers their puppies in one room in the house, rather than allowing them to see their wider premises.

Buying a puppy in a life-changing and incredibly important decision, and should not be taken lightly. For those thinking of making those first steps, but who are unsure what breed will suit their lifestyle then coming along to Discover Dogs at ExCeL London on 20-21st October 2018 is a great opportunity to meet over 200 breeds of dog as well as speak to breeders and experts to help you on your way to finding your perfect dog discoverdogs.org.uk

The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dog health and welfare. It offers as wealth of information and advice on dog health, training and care, how to buy a puppy responsibly, finding the right breeder, as well as useful information on the 222 breeds of pedigree dog recognised in the UK. www.thekennelclub.org.uk