Where Should I Get My New Dog?
If you do decide that a dog is right for your lifestyle, the next the next consideration is where you might get your dog from.
While your mind might immediately think of breeders, don’t forget that rescue centres can also have puppies and older dogs that need homes. If rescuing a puppy or dog is something you would consider, it may be worth contacting your local shelters. Even if they don’t currently have any puppies in, they may have a waiting list you can be put on. Don’t forget those adult dogs that need a new home too, they can be a fantastic addition to a home – a visit can’t hurt!
Rescue vs Breeder
A good rescue centre will know about the dogs in their care, and will also ask you lots of questions too. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little quizzed! You may also be required to have a home visit from staff at the rehoming facility. Everyone wants what is best for the dogs, and this involves finding them the most suitable home environment. Getting the right dog for your home will also benefit you too!
Good rescue centres will also usually microchip, vaccinate, neuter and provide initial flea and worm treatments for dogs in their care. This can save you money, as although rescue centres usually charge a rehoming fee, it is often less than the sum total of getting these procedures done. If you aren’t sure about your local rescue centre options, your vet may be able to advise you of any they have worked with, or you can have a look at the charity Support Adoption, which has a list to explore.
You could also contact your local council. Many councils rehome dogs collected as strays or abandoned in the local area, and sadly dogs that aren’t found new homes may be put to sleep. While these centres may not provide as comprehensive a package as other rehoming centres, it is always worth a check as you may find the perfect dog for you!
Here at Vets4Pets we work closely with Battersea, who have amazingly re-homed over three million pets! As part of this partnership, every dog or cat rehomed from Battersea goes home with a completely free Vac4Life package, helping their new owners give them the very best health care.
There are many people who breed dogs, so don’t feel like you have to get a puppy from the first breeder you interact with. Choosing your breeder should be like an interview process, and just like an interview, the process should be two-way. You should expect a breeder to:
- Be open and easily contactable
- Have a good knowledge of the breed
- Be happy to provide references
- Be only selling one breed of dog, except in unusual circumstances
- Be happy to provide information on how long they have been breeding
- Breed from their bitches no more than once per year, and having no more than four litters from each bitch
- Be interested in you and your home environment
- Be happy to take back a puppy if needed, and available to provide support and advice once a puppy has been rehomed
- Be happy to provide or sign any appropriate documentation you require
- Be unwilling to let puppies go to new homes before 8-9 weeks old
- Be on the Kennel Club Assured Breeder list if the dog is a pedigree. Breeders on this list may have a waiting list for puppies, but it is worth waiting for the right puppy
- Be right for you. No-one can put a price on intuition
- Happy to answer all your questions about the puppy and their parentage, and let you meet the parents and siblings
Selecting a breeder is important, as they will have a huge impact on your puppy’s start in life, from their genetics to their personal and physical development and vet care. A good breeder will make you feel part of the family.
Although legitimate puppies are sold through website sellers, many come from puppy farms and dealers, or are imported illegally from abroad. What to look out for:
- Puppies being sold without any paperwork.
- Puppies that have been recently bathed, or have soiling or staining on their coat.
- Puppies are in a crate or a cage, and parts of the building are off
- Puppies being handed over in a neutral location, such as a car park or petrol station.
- The breeder offers you more than one breed of dog. Having multiple breeds of dog is a definite red flag for puppy farming.
- The breeder refuses to show you the mother of the puppies or makes excuses.
- The mother should be responsive to her own name.
- The breeder can't answer your questions. Good breeders live and breathe their dogs and will be able to answer everything you want to know.
- The breeder isn't interested in you. Good breeders want their puppies to go to the right home, so will generally ask a whole raft of questions.
- The puppy either seems very cheap or very expensive.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with someone you feel is a puppy farmer or unscrupulous breeder it can be difficult to walk away. Many people say they felt compelled to ‘rescue’ a puppy or that they didn’t feel comfortable leaving. Although it can be difficult, especially to leave a puppy behind, it is the best action in the long run. Puppies born in poor conditions are often chronically ill throughout their lives or have difficult behavioural problems. Purchasing from these people or places also funds and supports the industry, meaning more puppies will be raised in this way. If you take one home, rest assured there will be another one to fill their place.
You may choose to rehome an adult dog from someone who can no longer look after them. While this can be a very kind thing to do and can save dogs from being placed into rehoming kennels or even from euthanasia, it is important to remember that each situation is judged carefully. Unscrupulous dog breeders can use rehoming sites to get rid of dogs once their breeding life is over, or palm off dogs with health problems – these dogs can still come with a hefty price tag too!
If you do choose to rehome from someone directly, here are some questions to ask:
- Why are you rehoming your dog?
- Can I have a copy of your dog's medical records?
- How is your dog with other dogs/children/cats etc? A good way to get an honest look at this is to ask to take the dog for a walk.
- Can I visit your dog at your home? Visiting the dog at their current home will give you a good feel for how they behave and help you check that the transition to your house won't be too much.
- Can I see their paperwork?
- How much does your dog cost? Many owners who are forced to rehome their dog are most bothered about finding the right home. If a dog is being offered with a large price tag, this may raise a red flag about if this dog has actually come from a puppy farm and been used for breeding.
- Can I have a receipt and a contract? Although this is not a business transaction, you may still be handing over money and it is a good idea to get a signed document from both of you that outlines the money that has been exchanged, and what is expected from both parties going forward. A modified version of the puppy contract can be a good way to do this.
As exciting and magical a time as getting a new dog is, it is important to remember that getting a new pet is a transaction, and you need to make sure everything is above board. This means exchanging paperwork which, while not very glamorous, is the best way to protect you and the breeder or rescue centre if there are any problems. Although some of the items you may want to have physical copies of are outlined below, the best document to work from is the ‘Puppy Contract’ or ‘Puppy Information Pack’. Designed as a way to make sure all aspects of puppy purchasing are covered, it can make having conversations about these topics easier as you are working from a pre-prepared document, and there is a page at the back for both you and your puppy’s breeder to sign which is legally binding.
- Health certificates for parents of your puppy. While this may not be possible for rescued puppies or adult dogs, any puppies from a breeder should come with health information on both parents.
- Vet check certification. Your puppy should have had a vet check before you bring them home. The breeder may have a printout of the notes, or the vet may have written any results of their examination in the vaccination card.
- Results of any hereditary diseases tests done on the parents of your puppy. For breeds which are prone to specific problems, both the dog and the bitch can have tests done which can indicate the level of risk in the puppy.
- Kennel club certification. If you are buying a pedigree dog that is kennel club registered, make sure you have the kennel club paperwork for them. This shouldn't be handwritten or photocopied make sure to get the original. If you have any concerns, you can always check with the Kennel Club directly.
- Vaccination certificate. If your puppy has had a first vaccination, or a full course, the vet will have issued a vaccination certificate which they will have signed.
- Microchip information. All breeders must microchip puppies by 8 weeks of age. A breeder is responsible for microchipping and must be listed as the first keeper. You will need the microchip details in order to change your puppies registered details from the breeder to your own.
- Insurance. Many puppies come with a short term insurance policy, usually for about four weeks if your puppy does, make sure to get the details, and don't forget to set up a long term policy before this one runs out!
- A receipt. Just like any monetary exchange, it is best to have documentation of the money you have paid, signed by both you and the breeder. If you get a dog from a rescue centre, you should receive a receipt for any fees paid just as you normally would.
- An agreement. Anything you agree verbally with the breeder, rescue centre or previous owner should be documented and signed. This includes if they have agreed to take the dog back if there are any problems, and any other commitments either of you have made.
Dogs come in all shapes and size, and all personalities too! While on average smaller dogs need less exercise and space, and larger dogs need more of both of these, there are exceptions in both cases. Dogs can also have all manner of traits, from irrepressible cheerfulness, to protective instincts, aloofness, stubbornness and eagerness to please. That means that so long as you have enough time, and are comfortable with the financial responsibility, there’s a dog for you.