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Giving your Puppy the Best Start in Life

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How to give your puppy the best start in life!

If you are considering getting a puppy careful planning is essential to give him or her the best start in its life with you and to help you avoid many common puppy problems.

Which Breed Should I Get?

There are over 200 different breeds that are recognised by our UK Kennel Club and an ever increasing list of popular crossbreeds.  Choosing the right breed for you is not just about looks, but also about the temperament.  Consider the exercise, grooming and feeding requirements of that breed – can you commit to this?  Research the breed thoroughly, paying attention not just to the best aspects, but also to the less convenient common traits.  

This is especially important if you are looking for a crossbreed.  Many expect that they will get the best of both breeds – but how can they know they won’t get the worst?  Many hope that a labradoodle will be a lab with a hypoallergenic poodle coat - the reality is that genetics is a lottery and you never know which genes will go into which pup, many labradoodles have found themselves looking for a new home as the owner discovers the fur is not hypoallergenic.  If you are adamant that you want a crossbreed, then by all means hope for the best of both breeds but prepare for the worst!

Where From?

All prospective new dog owners should consider rehoming or adopting, as there are many puppies and older dogs desperately seeking new homes in rescues around the country.  Adopting or rehoming can be a truly rewarding experience, you will likely be saving a dog’s life.  Thousands of loving and friendly dogs are put down every year because there just aren’t enough homes for them.  If you have your heart set on a particular breed, there are even specific breed rescues who usually have long lists of those dogs needing homes.  

However, if you decide to buy a puppy, bear in mind that making the wrong decision about where to buy from could cost you more than you think.  Young puppies need plenty of positive early exposure to people and the environment in the first few weeks of their lives, without this they can easily become fearful and aggressive, which needs expensive behavioural treatment to overcome.  Many puppies from disreputable sources (such as backyard breeders, puppy farms or pet shops) come with a variety of early illnesses or genetic health problems which can affect them for life, leading to a constant stream of expensive visits to the vets.  

So where can you get a healthy, well socialised puppy?  And what are the signs that you should go elsewhere?

  • Research, look up accredited breeders on the Kennel Club site, these breeders have been verified as working hard to produce healthy, happy puppies.  
  • Ask to see evidence that the breeder has undertaken relevant DNA and health tests to screen for medical issues common to the breed (or breeds if a crossbreed).
  • Ask to see the puppies’ mum.  Do not take any excuses, if you cannot see the mum walk away immediately – this is a common indicator of puppy farm puppies.
  • Check that the puppies are happy to approach you on their own accord – young puppies who have been well socialised around people should be interested in you.
  • Check that the breeder has been worming the puppies.  This is a basic health measure that should be started from 2 weeks old and can cause serious health problems if neglected.  
  • Do the puppies live inside with the breeder, or outside?  Puppies should be reared in the home so that they get used to the sounds, noises and smells.  Puppies that live only outside will be unlikely to have received adequate socialisation.
  • Does the breeder ask you a lot of questions about you and your home life, or do they just want to sell?  They should be vetting you as much as you vet them!

Time spent carefully considering where you should get your puppy from will save you time, money and possibly heartache in the long term.  

Start as you mean to Go On

Once you bring your new puppy home, the fun really starts!  Your puppy will be learning from you the moment he comes into your home.  Make sure that you are prepared for this, by sitting down and working out in advance the ‘house rules’ for your puppy.  It’s very important that the whole family are on board, it is not fair if one person allows the puppy on the sofa and another doesn’t.   Your puppy will become confused and unsure - clear, simple rules are best.

Puppies learn on a basis of what is safe and what isn’t and what gets them what they want and what doesn’t.  Use what your puppy wants (treats, attention, play, food, walks and so on) to reward good behaviour, puppies are motivated to repeat things that got them something they like.  Good behaviour is often ignored by us, so really make an effort to reward your puppy for chewing the right things, lying quietly, playing nicely, not jumping up and walking nicely on the lead.  Don’t wait for the puppy to try less good ways to get your attention, they will repeat these!  Do not be tempted to punish your puppy with a smack or shouting or using any methods designed to intimidate your puppy, it will not change your puppy’s motivations for doing the action that earned it the punishment and it will very likely make your puppy scared of you – which can lead to a variety of issues, like fear, aggression, recall problems and avoidance of handling.  Instead of punishing something you don’t like – such as a smack for toileting inside the house, set up your puppy to succeed, by monitoring them closely, taking them outside when they are likely to need to toilet and rewarding them the moment they go outside.  They will soon want to go outside to earn the reward!

Continued socialisation and early training is the biggest key to raising a happy, confident dog who is able to cope in our modern world.  Training classes can really help you give your puppy a great start in life, combining socialisation and training to help your dog learn to respond to you around the distractions of real life.  Again, do your research to ensure you spend your money wisely and look for a qualified dog training instructor, with professional memberships of organisations such as the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers UK) or IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers) which demonstrate their commitment to coaching owners through using positive, scientifically sound, reward based methods in their classes.

ForPaws offer a variety of puppy training options to suit you and your family, including indoor and outdoor group training classes in Guildford and Godalming and private training in the comfort of your own home at a time to suit you.  ForPaws is owned and run by Corrine Lisle, a member of the APDT (MAPDT 01181), IMDT and Pet Professional Guild.  To find out more about our puppy and dog training services visit our training pagesor call us on 01428 748188.

 

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