Choosing the right breed
The search for the right puppy needs to begin long before you ever get near a litter. Only after some serious soul-searching, detailed research and frank discussions with your family should you be tempted to consider bringing a pup home - a bit boring and lacking in spontaneity perhaps but packed full of anticipation with the assurance of many years of enjoyment to come.
A successful partnership with your future pet depends on you getting on well and having compatible personalities. So, make a list of your own characteristics - honestly. If there are other people in the household get them to do the same. Are you a couch potato or a sporty, outdoor type? Do you need time alone? Are you fun loving or more reserved? You should quickly get an idea of the sort of dog you could live with. For example, would a busy, active dog drive you mad or do you want one who follows your every move?
Dog or bitch?
Ultimately this comes down to personal preference. You can eliminate much of the gender-related characteristics through neutering (females coming into season - males inclination to roam). Neutering will also stop any unwanted pregnancies and can prevent a number of life-threatening diseases. If you already have a dog it is advised that you buy a puppy of the opposite sex, this combination is the least likely to cause friction. In general, dogs tend to be larger than their female counterparts and personalities between the sexes (affection, independence etc.) can vary from breed to breed.
Responsible dog breeder?
A good breeder should be more than happy to answer all your questions and should have a fair few to ask you about your lifestyle. Be wary of a breeder that is more interested in making a sale than ensuring you will be a suitable owner. Check that the breeder's facilities are clean and that any puppies are happy and confident. Check all the necessary health tests have taken place and that the dam/sire are good, healthy - and typical - examples of that breed. If at any point you feel uneasy, pressured or are not 100% happy with any aspect of the sale or the answers you receive, then walk away.
What is the best age to buy a puppy?
In the majority of cases, about eight weeks. If they leave the litter earlier than this, it may make it more difficult for them to adjust to their new surroundings. An early separation will also deprive a pup of valuable education time with its mother and siblings. From the breeder...
1) Make sure the breeder provides you with the appropriate Kennel Club Pedigree papers if applicable. You should also receive all the paperwork regarding vaccinations, worming, health screenings and their hereditary medical history.
2) Ask about the level of socialization that the puppies in the litter have been exposed to. Have they been kept indoors or out? Have they been handled regularly? Have they met any children or other animals yet?
3) Clarify what level of future support the breeder offers. Will they take the puppy back if it really doesn't work out? Do they have issues with you showing or even rehoming in the future? Any agreement is best to put in contract form so as to avoid any undue future stress.
4) Take advice from your breeder about feeding the puppy, which brand of food they have been using, and how much have they been feeding them. Keeping this consistent will really help your puppy settle happily with you and lessen the chances of an upset tummy.