Where should I get a puppy from?
There are a huge variety of pedigree dogs. A reputable breeder will provide you with information about the particular breed and whether it really is the right dog for you. Also speak to friends with the same breed and read dog magazines and books. Do not buy puppies from pet shops and unscrupulous dealers. Always ask to see a puppy with its mother and preferably in a home environment. Early experiences are important to produce a happy well-adjusted dog, so ideally choose a puppy from a household that is similar to your own. Animal welfare charities are always looking for good homes for puppies and mature dogs.
How do I tell if a puppy is healthy?
A healthy puppy has bright eyes and a shiny coat. Avoid taking on a puppy with a potbelly or a dull coat. Your vet can tell you if the puppy looks healthy and may be able to detect some congenital defects, which might cause problems in later life.
What are the signs of a good nature?
A puppy should be active, interested and playful. It is a bad sign if the puppy is nervous or appears sleepy all the time. However, normal puppies do sleep for long periods so it is worth visiting on several occasions before making a final decision. A puppy that is aggressive with its littermates might be more dominant when older.
Feeding your puppy
Puppies normally leave their mothers between eight and 12 weeks. Feed the same type of food for at least a few days and introduce any new diet gradually. Do not give too many treats. Feeding should take place at the same times each day (this makes toilet training easier) and it is best to feed your puppy immediately after you have eaten - it will teach patience. Make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions on feeding and regularly monitor your puppy's condition. Do not allow it to become fat.
If your puppy has been vaccinated you should be given a certificate signed by a vet. If it hasn't been vaccinated, ask your vet for advice on a suitable vaccination program. All puppies have worms and so regular worm treatment (usually every two weeks at first) is vitally important. Again, your vet can advise on a suitable course of treatment.
What equipment do I need?
Food and water bowls, a warm bed and grooming equipment are all essential. Toys are also a good idea.
Bringing your puppy home
Take a blanket to your puppy's home a few days before you collect it, and ask that it be put where it sleeps. Then when you take your puppy home, pop the blanket in a sealed bag and put it in its new bed. It will help the puppy feel at home. On the first night, expect your puppy to whimper; it is only natural. Before going to bed, play with your puppy and tire it out. Make sure it goes in the yard to take care of business (and praise it when it does). If your puppy whimpers, do not on any account go to it and do not take it into your bedroom. After a few nights it should settle quite happily. Put paper down for your puppy to use as a toilet. When you get up, take your puppy straight out into the yard to go to the toilet. Do not punish your puppy if it has eliminated during the night, but praise it if it is clean and always praise it when it goes where it should in the yard.
Your puppy should only be allowed to mix with other fully vaccinated dogs until it has completed its course of vaccinations (around 12 to 14 weeks). If you have other pets introduce these gradually and always when you are present. See the webpage "Introducing Your Dog" for detailed advice. There are many `socialisation classes' where your pup can meet others of the same age. Details of such courses are available from vets, dog wardens and rescue shelters. Do not overwhelm your puppy, but introduce it to new things. The webpage "Socializing Your Dog" has further information.
What else do I need to do?
Register your puppy with a vet as soon as possible. A collar and tag are also essential. Remember, a puppy will grow but its collar won't, so do replace the collar when necessary! Regular daily grooming will help keep your pet in top condition. Dental disease is common in dogs and this can be avoided by daily tooth brushing. Special brushes and doggy toothpastes are available. Do not use human toothpaste as this will foam up in your puppy's mouth and it will not like the taste. Make these activities fun for your puppy.
Puppies can be neutered from a young age. Remember that neutering is not only birth control it may also help avoid bad behavior and health problems in later life.