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How to choose a puppy

Neil the vetVet Neil McIntosh talks about how he finally gave in to his kids’ appeal for a pet and how they went about choosing the dog of their dreams

So. You’ve read the magazines. You’ve digested all the books. The wonderful source that is the internet (if only you could believe it all) has been exhausted. The sleepless nights have trundled on. Friends are fed up being asked their opinion. But finally, yes finally, after three weeks of torment, you have decided. Yes! Now you know which car you are going to buy. So why, oh why, did you just dash out and pick up that puppy without a moment’s consideration? Why, oh why, do we spend weeks deliberating over a vehicle that will live on the street for the next three years yet take only five minutes making up our minds about the dog that will share our house, our lives and our hearts for more than a decade? Daft, isn’t it?

Here’s how to avoid it:

  1. Consider your situation: Are you about to have children, leave home and move into a flat or become very old and infirm? If so, your personal life is about to change dramatically. Select a dog for your future and not your past. Don’t buy granny a Great Dane or your three-month-old daughter a werewolf.
  2. Assess your lifestyle: Do you ever want to go on holiday abroad again? Are you a couch potato or a fervent hill walker? Do you jog or cycle? Do you ever get home from work before it is dark? That Chihuahua is not going to manage all those munros you know. Well not unless you carry him. Similarly, that collie needs thirty miles of exercise a day and currently you can’t manage 500 yards on the treadmill.
  3. Consider your resources: Are you skint? Blowing hundreds of pounds on a pedigree pooch ain’t going to make you happy. It is not an impulse buy that can be returned with the label intact for a full refund. The cost of keeping that Labrador properly in the first year, if you include vaccinations, worming, neutering, food and insurance, might be £1000
  4. or so. Never mind the day-to- day stuff like beds and chews and the odd uninsured vet’s bill. Better buy is a small cross breed that will be cheap to feed and water.
  5. Assess your ability: Have you ever trained a dog before? Is your knowledge based on old wives’ tails and a couple of editions of that funny Caesar Milan guy? If so, stop! You know nothing! Visit a local dog training class before you purchase and see for yourself the purgatory these people are going through. After six weeks of intensive instruction, some of them can even walk their dog on a lead. Next year, they are going to give that ‘sit’ thing a try. So do some homework first, so that you can start training the instant your new pup enters the home. Think what that fluffy puppy will be like as an adult and whether you really can cope with it.
  6. Consider your family: What do they want in a pet? Is it a whim or will they really be in it for the long term? This is not a handbag or a bicycle you are buying.

And finally:

Assess the puppy: Ok. You’ve got this far. You’ve worked out the breed, you have a plan. You have arranged to visit the mum. Don’t feel pressed to buy. Don’t pick up the first pup that runs at you. Stop. Assess. Consider. Look for the pup you really like and be prepared to walk away if you don’t find one.