There have been a lot of stories in the news lately of celebrities purchasing their new pet pups from abroad. Ex-Love Island contestants Molly Hague and Tommy Fury were left horrified and distraught when their new puppy passed away just days after being imported to the UK from Russia. And Olivia Attwood, also from Love Island, has said she has been offered new puppies from breeders in the hopes she will plug their business.
Buying a puppy is not like going out and buying a new pair of shoes. A dog is a living, breathing being, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. But while many of us know the popular "adopt don't shop" phrase, many don't understand the reasons behind it - and why it isn't always the best choice.
Choosing a Puppy
The most common requirement people look for when choosing a puppy is how "attractive" it is. People do not seem to realise that breeds come with a host of other characteristics (like health, personality and temperament) that you need to be aware of.
Fancy a Husky breed because of their piercing blue eyes? Think again - they are notoriously difficult to train due to their stubbornness and they require a LOT of exercise.
Maybe you want a French Bulldog because they're so in fashion right now? But are you aware of the many health complications these breeds tend to have, and do you have the money to cover vet bills if things go wrong?
Maybe you want a Jack Russell - but you don't realise that, as a vermin hunter, you may be putting your daughter's pet gerbils in danger?
Or maybe you want a Labradoodle because they're so cute? You're probably not aware that this breed has been vastly overbred to meet the sudden high demand, resulting in some dogs having difficult temperaments.
Before you even narrow down your search, you need to figure out what type of breed suits your lifestyle and circumstances. If you live in a small house with a tiny back garden, don't get a large dog that requires lots of exercise. If you don't have the time to take your dog on multiple walks a dog, avoid breeds that require lots of walking (like Dalmatians). If you are on a tight budget, don't choose a breed that is likely going to require a lot of vet visits.
Do your research and think about what is in the best interests of the dog, as well as yourself and your family.
What Does 'Adopt Don't Shop' Mean?
When we hear the phrase 'adopt don't shop', it is referring to the pet stores that sell puppies. These dogs come from puppy farms - horrific places where dogs are bred over and over again and treated abysmally. The dog's health and wellbeing is not important to them - they just want to make money. The dogs are kept in tiny cages and are not properly socialised.
Many dogs from these types of places end up very anxious and can have many different issues that are difficult to sort out. Avoiding these types of shops will help put these farms out of business. This is what is meant by 'adopt, don't shop' - it means to avoid buying puppies sold through stores.
Adopting From a Shelter
Adopting a dog from a shelter is a great way to find a pup. There are many dogs waiting for their forever homes and adopting a pup from these types of places helps make room for other dogs in need while giving other dogs loving homes.
However, there is a downside to adoption. You know nothing about the dog's background. This means there could be some behavioural issues that become announced over time. This can be more difficult to sort when the source of the issue is unknown.
Another issue is that you do not know anything about the heritage of dogs in shelters. Just like with humans, illnesses can be passed down from dog to dog. Without this information, you have to be aware that your dog may have an illness or issue in the future that you will need to sort. An example of this is the German Shepherd. They tend to have a lot of joint issues, particularly with their hips. It is handy knowing if your dog has inherited this type of trait and it also helps you take action to prevent it.
You shouldn't let this put you off, however. There are so many loving, beautiful dogs who have fallen on some bad luck and really need a family. Take your time when visiting a shelter. If you can, take the family so you can all make sure you get along with your chosen dog. Speak to the shelter employees, as they will be able to answer any questions you have.
How Does Breeding Work?
If you want a pedigree dog, choosing a dog from a breeder may be the way to go. Buying from a breeder is expensive, and for good reason - good breeders put a lot of their own work, time and money into breeding healthy, happy dogs.
A good breeder is not in it to make money. They are highly knowledgeable about their breed and will take good care of their dogs.
Breeders will ask you a lot of questions - they will not sell their precious pups to just anyone. They will make you sign a contract, and they may include a clause which states you will give their puppy back if you ever decide to get rid of it (rather than taking it to a shelter or giving it someone they might not approve of). They may ask to see your home and they will expect you to visit your chosen puppy several times in order to bond before take-home day.
Breeders are experts at giving puppies the best start in life possible. They will desensitise puppies from an early age to things like hoovers, car rides, other people, thunder etc. This desensitisation will mean puppies rarely have anxiety or people issues.
They will probably start to leash train the puppies before their take-home date, too. They will be on a healthy, strict diet (which you will be expected to follow) and you will be given all the information about vet visits and required inoculations.
Breeders will have a lot of information about the puppies parents. The mother - also known as the dam - will be owned by the breeder. You should be able to meet her. If you can't, this is a huge red flag.
The dam should be friendly and well-trained with no behavioural issues. You should be able to ask for further information about health and anything else that may affect your puppy.
The father of the puppies - known as the sire - may also be available to meet. At the very least the breeder will have a lot of information about the sire - they won't want just any dog breeding with their own dog.
A good breeder will be emotionally invested in the puppies. They care a great deal about them and may even ask for photos and updates. They will likely ask you how much experience you have with dogs. Good breeders are incredibly picky about who they give their puppies to. Breeders of more challenging breeds will be even more so; if you are a complete beginner to dogs, do not expect to be sold a Husky by a professional breeder.
This is why it is not a bad thing to purchase a dog from a breeder. You are paying to know your dog has the absolute best start in life with minimal risk of future issues, behavioural or health-wise.
Like shops, backyard breeders are to be avoided. A backyard breeder is someone trying to make money out of breeding their dog. They will not have any information about their dog or the sire. They will be unknowledgeable about their breed. They may over-breed their dog, resulting in health and behavioural issues.
You will know a backyard breeder from a good breeder by asking a few simple questions. If you have any doubts, do not choose a puppy from them.
Occasionally, a nice family will not ensure their dog is neutered or spayed and they will end up with a pregnant dog accidentally. They will not have the same knowledge as a breeder, but their hearts will probably be in the right place and they will be eager to find their puppies a nice forever home. You should still try to meet the dam and ask as many questions as possible before committing to a purchase.
A lack of knowledge is not always a bad thing, but it can result in health or behavioural issues. Be sure to ask lots of questions about the puppy's parents - you do not want to choose a dog whose sire shows aggression and whose dam is highly anxious.
Choosing a Puppy
Once you have decided on your chosen breed, and once you have chosen the place to get it from, it's time to pick the actual puppy! Whether from a shelter or a professional breeder, there will likely be a litter of pups that you will need to select your chosen puppy from.
To choose the right dog for you, you will need to meet them as soon as you can. It's advisable that you meet several times before home time so they can become used to you. Try to choose a dog that is inquisitive but gentle. Puppies that sit in the corner may have anxiety issues, and dogs who are too boisterous may become bullies and be difficult to train.
Once you have chosen a puppy, leave a blanket or t-shirt with your scent on with them so they can get used to your smell. Remember to take this back with you when you take your puppy home - it will pick up the scents of their litter and mother, making the transition to your home easier and less stressful for them.
All puppies have different personalities. The first 12 weeks of their lives are incredibly important; this is the time they will absorb the most information. Future behavioural issues and anxieties can be learnt during this time. It is up to you - and whoever you purchase the puppy from - to give them the absolute best beginning possible to avoid future potential issues and provide your puppy with a happy life.
If you want help or advice choosing a puppy, e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org