Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Orla at two weeks old. Copyright: Elaine Henley

Take your time. Research what you want and never buy on impulse. Never buy online without visiting first. Liars flourish online.Read  http://www.getpuppysmart.com
and www.pupaid.org Another good online guide can be found at  http://www.dogadvisorycouncil.com/puppy/index2.html There’s a puppy contract form at http://puppycontract.rspca.org.uk/home The way a puppy is brought up is as important as the type of puppy. During the age of three to 8 weeks puppies need to meet lots of humans and get used to cars, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, etc. Puppies brought up in kennels don’t have these experiences and may always be nervous.
Pedigree is no substitute for a good upbringing.


Only buy a puppy from a breeder that keeps the mother and her pups in the house. A busy noisy household is best. You should be able to see the whole litter with their mother in the kitchen. Note the mother’s large teats. If she has none, she is not the mother. Avoid unfriendly or frightened mothers – she will have taught the pups to be wary of humans.

Never buy a puppy from a pet shop. No decent breeder sells to a shop! Only puppy farms sell to shops. Never buy off a farm with a sign outside – it might be a puppy farm. Working border collies, often sold by farmers, make very difficult pets.

Avoid kennels, even if these are run by show breeders. A posh pedigree is no substitute for a well brought up puppy. As you drive in if you see lots of dog kennels, drive out again. You want house dogs not kennel dogs. There are now some very fancy kennels, which sell puppies from Irish puppy farms, so don’t be fooled by nice surroundings. Other places to avoid are puppies sold out of barns or sheds or railway carriages. Any place offering more than one breed is usually doing mass breeding.

Ask rescue shelters if they socialise their puppies. Some rescues, particularly smaller ones, are still bringing up puppies wrongly, keeping them mainly in kennels. Good rescues are Dogs TrustBlue Cross, Wood Green Animal Shelters , Battersea Dogs Home, and most RSPCA shelters. Smaller rescues vary from the wonderful to the shocking. So check up.

Report any bad puppy establishments to the RSPCA.

Ask your breeder how she has “socialised” the puppy – and if she looks as if she doesn’t know what this means, avoid her. Bad breeders will tell you this doesn’t matter – but a breeder who says that is more interested in selling dogs than making sure they will be good pets. (Some breeders, even a few who win at Crufts, are shockingly old fashioned)

Has the puppy met cats? Has the puppy met children? Has the puppy travelled by the car? Has the puppy heard the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, etc? Have the puppies been left alone without their mother at times, in order to learn to be left?

Avoid adolescent dogs that breeders have “run on” for a few months, unless you are an experienced dog owner. This often means the puppy has grown up and turned out not good enough to show. Not being perfect in looks doesn’t matter but these dogs are often kennelled rather than kept in the house and may have behaviour problems because of poor socialisation. Some of these dogs have never been left on their own and may suffer from separation distress.

Ask about hereditary diseases. There’s also a reasonably independent website which might help – www.dogbreedinfo.com There is another useful website, produced by Cambridge University, where you can search by breed, here. Inherited disorders vary from country to country, so if you are buying a dog outside the UK some of this may not apply.

A breeder who hasn’t heard of hereditary diseases may be ignorant! If a breeder says her breed has no problems at all (most breeds have some problems), go elsewhere! A breeder who admits to problems is far better than one who denies that any exist in the breed.

Check on hip score.


Ask local dog trainers if they can recommend a breeder. They – rather than vets – usually know the bad ones because they have to deal with the results. So they can warn you off the bad ones. You can get a pedigree puppy by ringing the Kennel Club who will send details of litters in your area. It is essential only to buy from a breeder who is on their accredited breeder scheme. These are breeders that socialise puppies, offer phone advice, and take part in health screening schemes. Even so, go and look before buying. I am not sure how well this scheme can be policed.

Some puppy farms produce false pedigree documents.

Get details of local puppy playgroups. A puppy needs to learn how to get on with other dogs of all ages, and you need to learn how to become its guide. If you skimp this, you may never have a really reliable dog.

The Dogs Trust has information – Which Puppy, and A New Dog in the Family, Having a Sociable Dog, – www.dogstrust.org.uk.

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