It is Puppy Awareness Week!
Do you know what to look out for when choosing a puppy?
Research for Puppy Awareness Week has shown the shocking state of the puppy buying and selling industry in the UK – with too many people ending up with pups who are suffering from health and behavioural problems, after being bred by puppy farmers. At Burnham House Vets we see the health and welfare costs of puppy farms via our work with the Dogs Trust and APHA on puppies being imported into the UK from European puppy farms. We want to actively help our clients understand the cost of such irresponsible breeding to both themselves and their puppies.
Puppies from puppy farms are bred with no regard for their health and well-being and are kept in appalling, unsanitary conditions. They are often sold onto unsuspecting puppy buyers, who don’t know what danger signs to look out for. This can lead to costly vet bills for health conditions caused by their breeding or their early start in life. Puppy farmed pets often live shorter lives, with more health and behavioural complications. For more information from recent research into puppy farming and it's detrimental effect, see: https://theconversation.com/puppy-farmed-dogs-show-worse-behaviour-suffer-ill-health-and-die-young-so-adopt-dont-shop-83267
PAW, an initiative of the Kennel Club aims to help puppy buyers be aware of how to find a responsible breeder, and a healthy, happy puppy.
What makes a responsible breeder?
A responsible breeder is someone who takes the health and welfare of their breeding animals and any litters produced seriously.
1. Only breed from dogs who have good health themselves and no conformational issues or health conditions which could be passed on to the next generation. They should test for any potential issues prior to breeding and demonstrate the results to you.
2. Only breed from dogs who come from separate breeding lines and are not closely related.
3. Only breed from matured adult dogs over a year old themselves.
4. Be knowledgeable about nutritional requirements etc of dogs during pregnancy and have a registered vet to monitor the pregnancy with them.
5. Be prepared for whelping and if/when a c-section will be required.
6. Be able to care for mother and puppies, support health needs and begin vaccines, worming, flea treatment and micro-chipping.
7. Be able to answer all your questions and provide all information necessary to satisfy the Puppy Contract.
How do I find a responsible breeder?
The Kennel Club recommends that using their Approved Breeder Scheme to help find your puppy is best. It is the only scheme in the UK that sets standards for and inspects the premises of dog breeders (the Kennel Club has UKAS accreditation to certify breeders on the scheme, meaning it is robust and impartial). You can find out more about Kennel Club Assured Breeders via https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/breeding/assured-breeder-scheme/
Another very useful tool to help you identify a well-bred, happy puppy is to use the RSPCA Puppy Contract. For breeders and sellers the contract is a record of the thought and attention they have devoted to their puppies' breeding and care. The contract can be used for all puppies, whether they are pedigree or not, and by any breeder or seller, including rescue centres.
The puppy contract has been developed to empower puppy buyers and help them to avoid the problems that can arise from buying a puppy from an irresponsible breeder. Puppy buyers can use the information provided by the breeder or seller to make a decision on whether they want to buy the puppy they have seen. You can find out more information and download a copy of the Puppy Contract via: https://puppycontract.rspca.org.uk/home
What should I look out for?
The main things you should ALWAYS see or receive from a responsible breeder or rescue centre are:
1. You should view where the puppies are living - This should be clean, dry and safe with water and food on hand for mum. Ideally this should be in the house where puppies will become comfortable early on with normal household activity and socialisation with humans.
2. You should always be able to meet the puppies mother. Assess her behaviour - is she willing to greet you, does she seem socialised, is she is good health and well-cared for?
3. Ideally you should meet the puppies father. This is not always possible, especially in rescue situations, but most breeders should be able to tell you all about the father.
4. Check pedigree information is accurate and all paperwork is seen. Check the breeder status with the Kennel Club. If the puppies were born via c-section, ask which vets performed this operation.
5. Have the puppies been seen by a vet and if so which practice? Can you have a copy of their clinical notes?
6. Have the puppies been wormed, vaccinated and micro-chipped (this is a requirement).
7. Does the owner mind you having the puppy vet-checked prior to purchase?
What should I do next?
When you think you have found your perfect pup via a responsible breeder or using the Puppy Contract via a rescue centre, and you are happy that the sellers have answered all of the above questions satisfactorily, you may wish to have the puppy examined by a vet prior to purchase. This examination could detect health issues which you would otherwise be unaware of such as a heart murmur, soft palate deformation, joint instability, etc. It will give you the information to make an informed decision as to whether you can support (financially and emotionally) this puppy throughout its life.
And once puppy is home?
Once puppy is home and settling in well we advise you establish a good worming and flea treatment protocol using quality products available from your veterinary practice. We also suggest attending Puppy socialisation and training classes or Puppy Parties to give you all the tools you'll need to train your puppy and approach challenges like car travel, etc.
Do you have a story to tell about your experience? Get involved!