Puppy Training Tips: Choosing The Puppy That’s Right For You & Your Family!

Ten Tips for choosing a puppy

1. Decide what breed you are looking for, then pause and think what can you offer to this breed; your thought process will be based on what you like a dog to look like but you must take into consideration what the breed was bred for. Is it a working dog? If so are you aware that these may have a lot of energy, and will demand a lot of exercise – both physical and mental, especially working springers, labs, and Golden Retrievers. Are you willing to put the time in for puppy training the dog properly? There may be some compromise, but it is better to compromise on appearance than behaviour; a big, clumsy working breed such as a young Great Dane may not be suitable for a young family with a toddler around. Even the colour of your dog may affect her behaviour and it is worth researching what breed and colour you would like before buying one, if you are into Springer’s or Cockers then I would research “Cocker Rage,” and then you may reconsider. Also be aware that some breeds have show varieties as well as working lines. For example, a show cocker tends to be more chilled out than a working cocker which can be extremely high driven. The working lines of any breed tend to be more clever, quicker to learn – which is great for puppy training – but high driven, and can be very hard work to keep stimulated. If you like your garden have you given any thought what a working dog would do to this?

2. What flooring do you have in your home? If laminate flooring then a large breed is likely to have problems with joints, whereas a smaller lighter dog may not be at quite so much risk. Carpets act as a soft cushion for dogs while a tiled or laminated floor will be quite a hard surface for a dog. Particularly a large breed.

3. How much grooming do you want to do? Can you afford a professional groomer? Short coats are less maintenance, but longer coats require a lot of care. Will your dog be kept outdoors? Mine are working golden retrievers and thrive outdoors in kennels. They are thicker coated, less prone to bone injury and generally, a lot healthier. What are your thoughts on keeping a dog outdoors in a nice kennel? It solves a lot of problems such as a dirty house, hair everywhere and avoids any potential dangers such as irons, etc.

4. If you choose a breeder who is breeding from Kennel Club registered dogs, you will be able to find out more information. The Kennel Club has a database called Mate Select which will enable you to find out how interbred the offspring will be. All you need is a Kennel Club number for your puppy or both the parents. Are you looking at websites or gumtree for your dog? Do you know the price of your intended pup and seen why it is hundreds of pounds cheaper on gum tree? There must be a reason. Most dogs I have worked with that are displaying behaviour problems are normally put onto gumtree and websites to be sold on. Is the current owner/breeder being honest with you? When you go to see the pup is the mother there, if not why not? Do the pups run off when approached, if so why? A well-socialised pup will not sulk or cower away.

5. The Kennel Club has a list of suggested health tests that your chosen breed should have so that you can be sure to avoid common medical problems in your chosen breed of dog. When you talk to breeders, make sure that they can prove that they have performed the suggested tests on their breeding dogs. If your breeder says they are health tested they should be able to show you the proof of this. Please see The Kennel Club link. There is also a puppy test to see what kind of attitude your pup will have, dominate or easy going I ALWAYS USE THIS TEST AT 6.5 WEEKS AND TO DATE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM DOG. Any good breeder will welcome you doing this kind of tests. It is called responsible dog ownership. You can also use The Kennel Club Website for resources.

6. Talk to a few breeders so that you can get an idea of how comfortable you feel with the breeder you eventually choose to have a puppy from. Go to breed shows so you can find out about responsible breeders, ask about temperament, etc. TAKE YOUR TIME. I waited six months until I found the right breeder. Find out the price of a pup and what is the waiting list for a pup. While it may be tempting to rush into buying a pup from gumtree because it is cheaper, it could cost you a substantial lot more in the future through puppy training and dog behaviourist problems.

7. You need to make sure that the puppies are reared in the home for the whole period. Check carefully to make sure you are happy these puppies have been reared indoors. There should be evidence, e.g. a clean penned area, sawdust, newspaper, toys, etc. I only have a litter every 4-5 years as I want a pup from that litter. As soon as they are born I pick them up, blow gently on them, and I also play classical music as research suggests this is very calming for a dog especially a mother. Outdoor reared puppies, without much human contact, can be very difficult and often nervous of handling; making puppy training difficult. Studies have shown that outdoor reared puppies are less emotionally stable than indoor-reared ones which have been accustomed to being handled from the day they are born. If you are taken outdoors to see a litter question why? If you happen to see a few other breeds in crates or kennels is this a puppy farmer? Again, the strong urge to buy a pup from a suspected puppy farm is strong but 90% of the time it will cause you a lot of stress, money and emotionally heartache.

8. Make sure you see the mother at the very least. Try to see the father as well, however it is quite normal to travel to mate a female to a male. I have travelled many hundreds of miles to mate my females to the right dog. If you are told the mother died then get evidence of this from their vet. This is a very common ploy by rogue breeders. If you are not able to see the mother there is a good reason for this, she would put you off buying the puppies. If the mother is nervous, aggressive and timid, it is highly likely that the pups will be the same. Pups will learn from mum and carry her genes. Genes affect temperament. Or it might be that the pups were not bred there and this person is acting for a puppy farmer and pretending to have a home reared litter. It is very common that a litter is now brought in from Eastern Europe, West Wales and parts of England and sold as a litter in that very nice house you in when responding to Gumtree adverts. These pups would have been outdoor reared and would be likely to have no health tests.

9. Ask your breeder how much they have been socialising the puppies. For example, how many people have come around to see them, have they met children, what did the children do with the puppies? For example, if children roughly handle puppies they can become very worried about being handled, so carefully supervised social encounters are important. Some breeders will expose puppies to sound effects CDs so that they get accustomed to the sound of fireworks and gunshots etc. very early on. Some breeders will expose the puppies to different surfaces, kitchen noises, etc. This is so important!

10. You should be taking your puppy home no later than aged eight weeks. However a number of visits prior would be very helpful. It really is worth doing the attitude test at 6.5 weeks and then placing some form of ID tag on your chosen pup; I use a coloured band for this. After this you will very quickly be losing very important early socialisation opportunities, and puppy training opportunities. If for any reason you can’t collect your puppy until later, ask your breeder to ensure that they vaccinate your puppy and also worm and apply tick treatment.

Ten Tips on Choosing a puppy from the litter

1. Try and see the litter from four weeks of age. However, I guarantee that the pup at four will be different at 6 and again different at seven weeks of age. It is best to visit several times if you can and make observations each time to make sure that the picture remains similar.

2. Stand back and watch the puppies when you go in. Don’t approach any, just observe. Watch the mother with the puppies. Is she happy for you to look at them? Personally, I WOULD NOT ALLOW A POTENTIAL BUYER TO SEE THE PUPS AT THIS AGE UNLESS I WAS THERE. If not, she may be guarding them, and this behaviour could be inherited by the puppies and learned from the mother. If the mother is not there, ask why not? There should be no reason that the mother would not be with her puppies unless she is ill, and then you will want proof of this.

3. Watch the puppies interact with any toys they have. Are they playing nicely or are they showing any signs of aggression over toys to each other or to you? What happens if you approach the pup which has a toy? Do they want you to play or do they take the toy and move away from you? I CAN RECOMMEND THE PUPPY TEST HIGHLY ENOUGH AS THE LAST THING YOU WANT IS HARD GOING PUP AS A PET. Ideal if you want to work a pup as you require drive and energy but this is a trait not really suitable for a pet dog.

4. Watch the puppies feed. Are they being fed in separate bowls or communal bowls? Ideally, they should be fed separately or in small groups so that they get enough food and this would reduce the need to fight for food. Potentially if a pup has to fight for its food this could lead to resource guarding – communal feeding may relate to food guarding behaviours in dogs. However as I have always watched my pups eating I always feed communally.

5. Which puppies approach you? Are there any that hold back and don’t engage with you? If not engaging with you at this stage these puppies are likely not to be as social as we would want. This puppy is unlikely to be comfortable in a busy family home with lots of children but may be fine with an adult home. Is the pup very confident again this may seem nice to you but a confident pup could become a bully so maybe it is not ideal for a first time dog owner.

6. Does the puppy become excessively bitey with you and show very pushy and “cocky” behaviour; is she/he climbing over you and behaving in a demanding way? Is she like this every time you see her? If so, this pup is for someone who will put in a lot of time puppy training and educating her. Ideal for an experienced dog owner or even a working home, as she is probably an extremely bright puppy who will want to be involved in lots of activities. Be sure you can manage this puppy. Probably not suitable for young families.

7. How does the puppy react when picked up? Is the body language soft, loose and relaxed or does the puppy struggle or become very stiff when you pick her up? Some puppies are not keen on being handled. Do you question the fact that this litter may not have been socialised? While they can be taught to be more comfortable being handled this pup would probably be unsuitable for a young family. Children like to cuddle dogs, and this puppy may object to close handling by children at some point. This pup would be better off in a home where time and patience will be taken to teach the puppy that being handled is lovely. This can be really difficult with a young family as children naturally want to love their dogs and may push the puppy too far too soon. IT IS EASY TO ALLOW A PUP TO RULE THE HEART WHEN CHOOSING BUT A PUP IS FOR LIFE.

8. Does this puppy seek conflict with the other puppies? If so this could be quite a domineering puppy and may be hard work to manage. This pup will also need a good education and puppy training with a wide variety of other puppies and dogs so that she can be educated how to behave with good manners. Otherwise, this dog could be involved in spats with other dogs.

9. Where are the puppies toileting? If there is evidence of toileting on carpets you can be sure the puppy is learning to prefer to toilet on carpets as their preference for toileting surfaces is learned at a very early age. I USE A LARGE WOODEN CRATE AT LEAST 3 M X 3 M to keep a litter in and this has a thick layer of sawdust that is replaced several times a day. While a lot of breeders may not have the room for this the sleeping area should be clean, and puppies should not be toileting in their cage or else this will become a problem with house training later. Dogs naturally don’t want to foul their beds but if they are shut in cages too long then they will have to, and then they will continue with this when they come to live with you.

10. How many litters does the breeder have and are there other breeds available? Personally, this puts me off as I would question that the breeder has sufficient understanding of more than one breed to be doing a great job. Why is the breeder having a litter? And a breeder selling a litter just for the money will never tell you the truth, but ideally if the breeder is keeping a pup back this is a good sign