As most of you probably know, we have decided to get a puppy! After losing Lola last year (more on that here), we weren’t sure we would ever be ready for another dog. But after months of a quiet house, we knew we wanted to get another dog. Astrid arrived 2 weeks ago, and we knew we’d made the right choice the minute we got in the car with her, but we know choosing a puppy isn’t the easiest thing. So I thought I’d write a little post with some tips on getting a puppy, and the first few weeks should you decide to get one!
(NB. Please do not see this post as an exhaustive list of ideas – a quick google should give you lots of other information on getting a puppy. The Kennel Club, Dog’s Trust and the RSPCA are all great sources of advice!)
1. Research EVERYTHING.
Knowing which breed will best suit your lifestyle will go a long way to ensuring your new furbaby will be happy in her/his new home – and you’ll be much happier too! Space is probably the first consideration; trying to squeeze a Great Dane into a tiny studio apartment won’t be much fun! Although our house isn’t huge, we do have a really big garden, which is perfect for a breed like a Dalmatian that needs a lot of exercise; we also factored in that when fully grown, Astrid will need 2 hours+ of walks every day, so we knew we’d have to be willing to spare an hour in both the morning and the evening along with plenty of games and exploring during the day to keep her happy. Consider how much time you have before/after work and whether you have someone who can be at home with your pup all day: either yourself, a dog walker, a friend or relative that can pop in to check up on pooch – or even doggy daycare, which is great for socialising and using up some energy before you get home tired after a long day!
Consider temperament, grooming needs, nutritional needs and exercise requirements as a basic list of research points, and go from there. If you’re someone with a really active lifestyle, choosing a dog that is known for its laziness isn’t going to be a good fit; likewise, if you’re someone who isn’t very active and doesn’t like a lot of long walks, a Husky isn’t going to work for you – no matter how cute they are. NEVER get any kind of pet as a snap decision. It should be obvious, but research and think about it for at least a couple of months before you decide on welcoming a new pet to your household.
After much consideration, and months of debating other breeds, we finally settled on getting another Dalmatian and began a couple of months searching for the perfect breeder.
2. Choose The Right Breeder.
Finding a breeder you are happy with should be a big consideration, as how a pup has been brought up for the first 8 or so weeks of its life can have a big effect on how they will be as a fully-grown dog.
When I first started looking for a breeder, I was very concerned about finding a breeder I was happy with. After months of searching and almost giving up, I came across a website called Champdogs, where you can register your interest in puppies of a specific breed, set preferences for things you would like them to do (like health checks, hearing tests, etc.) and receive email updates on new litters. I know most people prefer to adopt dogs from shelters now, (and we do hope we can do that too in the future!) but if you’re going for a puppy, through Champdogs or the official Kennel Club is one of the best ways to do it. They may be a little pricier, but it’s worth it to know that your new best friend didn’t come from a puppy farm and has been brought up with her/his mum and litter mates for the first 8 weeks before they come home with you.
So you’ve picked the right breeder on paper, and you’re on your way to meet pup for the first time – what should you look out for? And what questions should you ask? Here are a few points to consider:
- Read up on any breeding guidelines, and make sure the breeder is following them.
- Ask if they are following the health screening guidelines and make sure paperwork can be provided – eg. Dalmatians are prone to hearing deafness, and BAER hearing tests are standard to ensure your pup is not deaf (our breeder provided us with a certificate to prove Astrid has full hearing).
- Your pup should be with mum and any other litter mates – if they aren’t, ask why. Seeing your puppy with its mother gives a good indication of temperament and size if nothing else – and if you see your puppy, they should still be drinking their mother’s milk (or at least trying to if they’re a bit older!). You should also be able to handle any of the pups, and interact with mum too.
- Most good breeders provide information packs to the new owners of their puppies, including diet, socialisation guidelines and even training tips.
- Be a point of contact throughout your new dog’s life (we even signed a contract that if for any reason we had to give up Astrid, we would return her to the breeder instead of her going to a rescue).
I’ve also found that the best breeders are also interested in you – they want to know where their puppy is going, what kind of lifestyle it will have, and that you will love her/him just as much as they do. So be prepared to receive the Spanish inquisition as much as you are to give it!
3. Prepare For Chaos!
So the puppy is arriving next week, what do you need to do? Well, I would suggest moving anything you don’t want chewed out of reach, putting up any baby gates to keep pooch out of areas you don’t want her/him, and making sure your garden/balcony/outdoor area is secure. Obviously you’ll also need to buy some things like a bed, water/food bowls, toys, a collar, lead and potentially a harness too.
The journey home might be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of getting a puppy, but with a little preparation for this too, you should be able to minimise accidents. With Astrid, we were lucky that her breeder had already alleviated most of the possibility for car sickness by taking her in the car with her brothers and sisters on lots of occasions before she came home with us; however, lots of puppies will suffer from car sickness, so be prepared for any and all ‘little accidents’ including this.
Toilet training is probably going to be amongst your top priorities once you get puppy home. Whilst I don’t think training a puppy to use puppy pads is particularly useful, having a stack on hand to use on car journeys or to mop up any accidents is great, along with paper towels, scented cleaner (as if pup can smell she/hes been to the loo in a particular area before, they’re more likely to do it again) and a stash of poo bags.
If you’re going to crate train pup (which we are great advocates of!), make sure you get this out and ready before they arrive, and make it look as inviting and cosy as possible. Use a bed or a crate liner to provide a comfy place for your new dog to snooze, along with a couple of toys to keep them entertained and a waterbowl too. I would also recommend either a crate cover or a couple of blankets to cover the top of the crate – experience has proven it’s easier to convince a puppy that it’s bedtime if it’s as dark as possible!
Puppy is also likely to want to chew everything, so be extra prepared and have lots of toys of different shapes, sizes and textures ready for them to get their jaws around – and hopefully deter them from nibbling your pride-and-joy West Elm velvet armchair instead!
4. Decide On A Training Plan
You’ve welcomed pup home and their settling in well, what next? With any luck you’ll have a bit of time at home to help bond with them, so you might as well kick-start the training ASAP. Obviously toilet training might be your number one priority for a while (luckily for us, aside from a few accidents, Astrid seems to have got that one down within a week), but once that starts to get consistent, there’s no reason not to start learning some basic commands
Keep it simple to start with; ‘come’, ‘sit’ and ‘down’ are 3 good ones to start with (we are currently fighting a losing battle with that last one!) and are quite easy for most pups to understand. Have a bit of patience, reward with fuss, games and treats, and repeat little and often, and you’ll soon have a pup that’s mastered the basics and is ready for the next step.
Puppy classes are a great thing to look into once puppy is old enough (and has had both vaccinations), and will be great at helping you to teach pup manners. I would recommend these for anyone who has never had a dog before, as they should teach you how to teach your pup all the things they need to know. If nothing else, these are also great for getting pup socialised with both other dogs and people, and to work off a bit of energy and give them some stimulation. Socialisation is a really important thing for a young dog, which leads me to my final point…
5. Take Them With You EVERYWHERE
Your puppy won’t be able to go for walks, or even on the floor outside until they’ve had both vaccinations and waited the appropriate amount of time afterwards (the times will vary depending on which vaccine your vet uses), but that doesn’t mean they (and you!) should be confined to the house. Up until your puppy is 14 weeks old, the things they experience will have a lasting effect on your pup; meaning you want them to have as many positive experiences of the outside world as possible.
People, children, other dogs, public transport, busy towns, the pet shop, a beer garden, having a bath, riding in a car, etc. – these are just a few examples of things your new puppy should experience as soon as possible. You’ll have to carry them either in your arms or some kind of puppy carrier or bag (adorable!) when out until they can go down on the floor themselves, and they shouldn’t come into contact with other dogs until then either, but they can experience things calmly in your arms from a distance from the week you bring them home.
Although it can be tempting to stay at home with your puppy and not get out and about with them, it’s also a great way to both bond with pup and for you to meet some other people too – no one can resist giving a cute puppy some fuss!
Do you have any other advice for getting a dog? Are you thinking of getting a puppy, or maybe you’ve recently adopted a different new pet? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!