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Getting a New Puppy? | K9 Corner with Shona Nolan



So you have decided to get yourself a new puppy, congratulations! There are some important things to keep in mind when choosing the right puppy.

 Firstly you need to be prepared for when he arrives home. Read up on bringing your puppy home, what you need and how to start training and socialising him and basic puppy health care and vaccinations. Do this before you actually get him so that you are well prepared. We strongly recommend that you download Dr Ian Dunbars books BEFORE and AFTER YOU GET YOUR PUPPY, available free from

Positive Paws Dog Training offers a wonderful service to clients called the Puppy Head Start program. You can have a visit before you pick your puppy and get advice on how to do this, as well as bringing puppy home and how to make the first few weeks as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Click here for more info. When you are ready to bring a puppy home you are ready to go out and find one.






Do some research on the type of breed you like. Be prepared for what living with your new dog is going to entail (you'd be surprised how many people buy a Mastiff and then say "I didn't realise he would grow so big!"). 


Make sure you try to match up the typical breed traits to suit your lifestyle (i.e. don't choose an active working breed if you work long hours or don't like to exercise). Know what your favoured breed is bred for and so what activities they are likely to enjoy. But of course remember that it is not guaranteed that your dog will behave the same as its breed description and you will still have to love him regardless!


Make sure everyone in the family is happy with the chosen breed.


Be prepared to train the puppy during the first few years of its life. Puppies should begin in Puppy Preschool at 8 weeks of age, and definitely before 14 weeks!


Be prepared for the cost of owning a dog (vet bills, training bills, food, toys, bedding etc).


Get your house ready for a puppy - you need a crate, pen, bedding, loads of toys, mental stimulation toys, training treats, food, bowls, collar, lead. You need to puppy proof your home so that your puppy can only learn the right things from the start.


You need to have the time and patience to raise and train a puppy from the day you bring it home.



Choosing your breeder


Choose your breeder wisely. You want a breeder that breeds for temperament and is considerate of breed pre-dispositions (i.e. if that breed is pre-disposed to hip dysplasia then make sure your breeder has done hip scores on the parents and do not breed with affected dogs) as well as individual issues (i.e. if either of the parents is aggressive it is not recommeded to breed from them).


The breeder should be actively socialising the puppies not keeping them isolated. It is so easy to both effectively socialise and protect against viruses and this excuse is uneducated and unacceptable. Responsibe breeders are able to socialise their puppies and teach them how to live with humans. You will need to continue to socialise your puppy once you take him home. There are many excuses for not doing so properly and it really isn't good enough - socialisation is the most important thing you need to do with your new puppy!


The puppies should be raised in the home and then given access to the outdoors from 5 weeks of age (but not be put out for good). Do not go for puppies that have been raised in the garage, outside laundry or in a kennel as these puppies will need  a huge amount of work to catch up to where they should be developmentally.


The breeder should get the puppies vaccinated at 6 weeks of age. 


They should have already started housetraining the puppies and taught basic behaviours like sit. 


The puppies should not be rehomed before 8 weeks of age. If they leave their litter mates and/or parents before this age they will miss out on learning important dog social behaviours and can end up with serious problems interacting with other dogs. When puppies play with each other it is more than just good fun, it is learning social skills. Both their mother and father also play an important role in teaching them social skills so it is generally preferred that they have been raised by both parents.


If the breeder does not tick all these boxes, look elsewhere for one that does!!




Choosing your puppy


Pick the puppy that approaches you happily and hangs around to play with you. You want to see obvious signs of sociability from the puppy. Do not be concerned if they play bite you, this is a normal puppy behaviour and does not mean they will be aggressive.


Do not pick the shy puppy or the one that hangs back. This puppy already has issues and will be a lot of work for the person who takes him home.


Make sure the puppy is happy to be picked up and handled. They should relax and be comfortable being touched all over, not trying to get away from you.


They should startle but not overreact or panic when they hear loud noises. They should not be indifferent to the noise. Test the litter while you are there, see how each puppy reacts. If your favourite puppy bounces back nicely and settles quickly when experiencing something startling then they are showing signs of having a good, hardy temperament.


By choosing the most well rounded individual puppy, you will have less problems later on in life. If you cannot find one in that particular litter that seems appropriate then keep on looking till you do.


No matter how well rounded your chosen puppy is you will still need to do some work to maintain that lovely temperament.


The puppy should look and feel clean, strong and healthy.



So, once you have chosen your puppy and settled him in at home you now need to book him into a good puppy school that uses positive reinforcement mehods to continue his socialisation and training. Do not use trainers that still use traditional training techniques. They are old fashioned and behind the times. There are nicer, more dog friendly ways to train dogs and puppies that are just as effective, if not more so than the more older traditional methods of aversive training.



 You should also visit your vet within the first week of getting him home to discuss health care and get a thorough check over. Be aware that some vets are still against puppy school for misguided reasons. Do not let your vet persuade you that puppy school is dangerous or unneccessary. Puppy school, if run correctly, is a safe and neccessary way of socialising your puppy. It is considered as the basic standard of care and the position statement of the Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour shows that puppy socialisation should be started early.


 Recommended reading: download  BEFORE YOU GET YOUR PUPPY and AFTER YOU GET YOUR PUPPY by Dr. Ian Dunbar (it's free, so there's no excuse!)



Click here to book into a puppy school.

Click here for more information on choosing the right puppy.