Deciding to bring a puppy into your life can be a bit like deciding to commit properly to a relationship. You like the idea of having a puppy but you don’t want to lose your freedom, you know? And what if you spend loads of time together but it just doesn’t work out? What if they don’t get on with the kids? The good news is there is a pretty robust set of rules you should follow to make sure you’re puppy ready.
Clinical animal behaviourist Rosie Barclay says the first rules of puppy club are the simplest ones: decide what breed of dog is likely to fit into your life and your lifestyle.
“The questions to ask yourself are simple really: do you live in an urban or rural area? Do you have easy access to outside spaces? Are you prepared to dedicate time to training a new puppy and are you ready to attend regular puppy training classes? Have you just had your house redecorated?” she says. “Because it is highly likely that no matter how well you train your puppy, you will have wee and poo in places you don’t want them and they are highly likely to chew things that are available to them – be they chair legs, shoes or carpets.”
Do your research
This isn’t just about what you like the look of – far from it. In fact, the breed of puppy you decide on should be mainly based on your lifestyle and the recognised breed traits. If you want a dog that will accompany you on your runs every day, you need to look for a puppy that when grown will be happy with that kind of exercise. If you want a dog to play fetch with you and the kids for hours, get a retriever type and not a terrier. If you’re a busy city dweller, it might be a smaller dog that tires out faster.
“Do research into your preferred dog breeds,” says Barclay. “And be honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate not just to a puppy as it grows up, but to that dog for the next 10-15 years.”
Tip: What breed is best for me?
The Kennel Club has a comprehensive guide for would-be pup parents.
Take a long hard look at yourself and your family
No, seriously. Are you ready for a puppy … really ready? Are you prepared to have the extra set of four legs tag along with you (almost) everywhere you go? From walking to the local shops, to going for a wee, to visiting your parents over Easter? Getting a dog means rewriting your life rulebook.
“It’s a big deal,” says Barclay. “If you’ve just moved into a new place, or you rent, is a dog a good idea? If you have really young children ask yourself if it is fair to bring a new puppy into that environment. It may be easier on everyone if you waited until the children were at school – at least for part of the day?
“Slightly older children tend to be able to be more responsible. Also, your puppy will grow a lot faster than your children – a juvenile dog is highly likely to knock smaller children over as it is learning how to behave, while little children are learning how to walk.” If you have children and want a puppy, check out the RSPCA’s handy guide.
Tip: Get the right support
Working away from home – as most of us do – is not necessarily a barrier to entry when it comes to dog ownership, but you do need to ensure that you get the right puppy and have good doggy day care figured out: this can be a reliable, trusted adult, a registered dog day care centre or a registered dog walker/pet sitter. Your local vet is a good source of referrals.
Take a long, hard look at your finances
Can you afford a puppy? The cost of owning a dog is around £2,000 a year over the course of an average pooch’s lifespan. Not only is there the buying fee, but there are also training costs, vets fees, food, insurance … it can be hard if your heart says yes, but your bank balance says no. The right thing to do is wait until Fido isn’t going to be an unwelcome drain on your finances.
Tip: Be fur on yourself
If you have allergies, or have children or relatives who do, make sure you look for a non-shedding dog.
Source your puppy responsibly
This can’t be said strongly enough: make sure you buy your puppy from an accredited breeder, or adopt from a dogs’ home. If you do go with a breeder, always ask to see the puppy with its mother and siblings and always ask to visit at least twice before you decide on the puppy to take home.
A good breeder will:
- Have a puppy waiting list
- Ask you lots of questions to find out if you’re ready for a puppy
- Be willing to take the pup back if you have issues
- Be happy for you to contact their vet about them and their dogs
- Not let you take a puppy too early
- Want to keep in touch with you
Puppy-proof your pad
It is not the time to redecorate if you’re about to get a new pooch. Instead, make sure you have made the inside and outside of your home as puppy-ready as possible. Check all boundary fences and gates to ensure they are escape-proof and invest in some stairgates if you want to keep your puppy from going into certain areas of the house. Cover all plug sockets, pup-proof any ponds or open water and keep electric cables off ground level or protected by chew-proof covers
You’ll also want to get in the habit of not leaving risky items around: don’t leave anything chewable on the floor; store food waste in a protected out-of-reach place; and ensure that no medicines or poisonous products such as insecticides or cleaning products are within reach.
Buy the right kit
Here’s what you’ll need on day one of puppy-ownership:
- The right food (ask your breeder or vet for help to ensure your food is puppy and breed appropriate)
- A travel crate (sized appropriately for your adult dog)
- A bed (a removable washable cover is best)
- A correctly sized harness (your breeder or vet can help with this)
- Dog poo bags (biodegradable ones are best)
- Breed and age appropriate chew toys
- Clean bowls for food and water
“It is advisable to buy some appropriate puppy play and chew toys,” says Barclay. “Dogs need to play and chew and so you need to provide them with safe ways to do this.”
Get your new pet settled in smoothly with made-for-puppy food tailored to their breed. Royal Canin dog food provides nutritionally complete, age- and breed-specific diets for optimum canine health