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top tips for looking at puppies

(25 Posts)
MacarenaFerreiro Thu 25-May-17 17:58:48

We've been looking at getting a puppy for a while. Through a breed-specific association we've been put in touch with a breeder who has a litter of 3 week old pups. We're going to see the litter on Monday with a view to reserving one of the puppies.

It all seems kosher - this woman isn't advertising on gumtree/preloved and is keeping one of the puppies for herself. She says both parents are pedigree pets and is known personally by the woman I was in touch with at the breed association who vouched for her.

I know to ask about things like hip scoring and health testing but are tehre are more subtle warning signs I should be looking out for? The part of the country we're looking in is notorious for dogs being brought over from Ireland so I'm wary.

CornflakeHomunculus Thu 25-May-17 18:20:42

This is a good little guide to buying a puppy. They also have a list of questions to ask a breeder which anyone decent is going to be happy to answer for you.

Expect to be thoroughly grilled by the breeder, even if they've already talked to you a fair bit on the phone or by email. They should be wanting to know all about you, your family, your home and your lifestyle. Likely questions are things like what you feel you can offer a dog, what you're hoping for in a dog, why you feel that breed is the best fit for you, why you picked them as a breeder, etc.

A good breeder will generally want some level of input when it comes to matching you up with a puppy rather than just letting you pick whichever one you want from the whole litter. This may be shortlisting a few for you to then pick from, steering you towards a particular puppy or even matching you with a single puppy. If you're open and honest with the breeder then they're much better placed to know which puppy (or puppies) really would be the most suitable for you and your family. At three weeks I wouldn't expect them to be reserving specific puppies for new owners yet though.

At three weeks old the breeder should be starting to socialise the puppies in earnest to new sights, sounds, textures, etc. This site gives a breakdown of the various developmental stages of a litter and what basics the breeder should be doing when. Puppy Culture is the absolute gold standard of puppy raising, there's an excellent FB group where you can see posts from breeders raising litters following the PC protocols. It's really worth having a look as it shows very clearly just how much work breeders should be putting in to raising a litter.

It should be very obvious the puppies are living in the house full time. At that sort of age they may still be in a large whelping box or the breeder may have a large pen set up for them with bedding, a toilet area, etc.

Which breed is it you're looking at an have you double checked which health tests should have been done? The KC (and unfortunately some breed clubs) aren't always that quick off the mark when it comes to recommending newly available tests so it's worth doing some research to see what tests are available so you can ask the breeder about them all.

MacarenaFerreiro Thu 25-May-17 21:44:59

Thanks for all the advice. She has already clairifed that we're not interested in a puppy for breeding or showing (we're not) and i've told her a bit about out set-up at home iike the ages of the children and the fact i work from home so i'm here most of the day.

It's a labrador - the breeder is listed on that Champdogs site. She's not advertising her puppies and it appears to be through contacts and recommendations only. I will be asking about things like hips and vaccinations.

The only note of concern is that my daughter who is almost 12 is extremely nervous around dogs. It's part of the reason we're getting one and have chosen a Lab - to get her over her fear as to be honest who can be scared of a lab puppy. We're hoping that having a dog of our own will help her enormously. I'm concenred that if she freaks out when confronted with a room of adult dogs and bouncy puppies the breeder will just show us the door....

CornflakeHomunculus Thu 25-May-17 23:05:33

The only note of concern is that my daughter who is almost 12 is extremely nervous around dogs.

Have you already mentioned this to the breeder? If not I'd do so now as it's pretty normal for a breeder to want to see how family members act around their adult dogs before introducing them to the puppies. If you let them know beforehand they can, if necessary, modify how they do introductions with the adult dogs.

The breeder may be reticent if your DD is very scared and not unreasonably so. All puppies are bitey, jumpy little things and labs particularly so.

Health test wise, as an absolute minimum both parents should have had:

* their hips scored with results at least lower than the current breed average (currently 10.8 I believe) but preferably as close to 0 as possible

* their elbows scored with results of 0 (and certainly not higher than 1)

* a clear eye test under the BVA scheme within the last year

* DNA tests (with at least one parent testing clear) for prcd-PRA, Centronuclear Myopathy and Exercise Induced Collapse

Ideally they should also be having the litter screened under the BVA eye scheme plus DNA testing the parents for Achromatopsia, Leukodystrophy, Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome, Cystinuria, Degenerative Myelopathy, Skeletal Dysplasia 2, Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis, Macrothrombocytopenia, Narcolepsy, Retinal Dysplasia and X-linked Myotubular Myopathy.

It's acceptable to skip DNA tests on a dog when they have parents who were both DNA tested clear for that particular condition as this means the dog can't be anything but clear.

It's also worth asking about the coefficient of inbreeding for the litter. As KC breeds have closed studbooks there's a very finite amount of genetic diversity within each breed. Good breeders should be doing everything they can to maintain this diversity by considering COIs when breeding and aiming to produce dogs with a lower COI than the breed average. This article explains really well why this is so important. The current official average COI for labs is 6.5%, the litter's COI should be below this and preferable as close to 0% as possible.

If you have the full names of the parents you can check for the results of certain health tests (hips, elbows and eyes plus the DNA tests for prcd-PRA, CNM, EIC, SD2 and HNPK) and the COI of the litter using the KC's Mate Select service.

Booboostwo Fri 26-May-17 01:34:21

Make absolutely sure the breeder knows about your DD's fears and your DD gets a chance to see the puppies as they get larger and before you rehome one. Puppies can be very scary to people who are scared of dogs because they run around, jump up, nip, pull on clothes, etc. A lab puppy will become fairly large quite quickly and this may worry your DD further.

Catinthecorner Fri 26-May-17 03:11:59

I've got a lab puppy at my feet. Four months and over 40lbs.

Florence16 Fri 26-May-17 07:46:35

Catinthecorner that sounds very heavy, how big was he at 8 weeks?

My first retriever carried too much weight as a youngster and I didn't see it until he was much older. My youngest is nearly a year and weighs only 55lbs. Could be worth keeping an eye on how quick he is gaining, slow growth is much better on their hips and elbows.

Frillyhorseyknickers Fri 26-May-17 07:52:55

I agree with Florence. Labs are large working dogs - too much weight will put unecessary stress on their growing joints- that puppy sounds too heavy.

CMOTDibbler Fri 26-May-17 10:23:36

I'd be really, really concerned about your dd to be honest. Before you make the huge commitment of buying a puppy you need to see what she's like with a puppy in her house. Puppies are cute, but they are also bitey, chewy, licky, bouncy gits (looking fondly at foster puppy) and it is not a given that she will take to it, and continue to be OK with the puppy as it grows up - labs don't really grow up for a long time.

Hoppinggreen Fri 26-May-17 10:34:08

My DD was 11 and a real dog lover when we got our GR puppy and DS was 8.
At times they were both quite scared of him as he was an evil little bitey thing, DS would happily have sent him back at times.
He's now a lovely part of the family but I would be very worried about a child who is scared of dogs getting a puppy, it could make things worse.

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 26-May-17 10:38:48

I see a lot of lab puppies wonder exuberant bouncy puppies with all the normal puppy mouthing with razor sharp teeth. They do have a tendency to be little land sharks.
As they grow labs tend to be slower to learn not to jump up and even the working dogs in good working homes at

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 26-May-17 10:39:22

Posted too soon are still jumping up at a year old not a good combination with a dog nervous 12 year old.

Rightpivotturn Fri 26-May-17 15:28:19

Another poster extremely concerned about the possible combo of nervous daughter and lab pup. I'd say they'd be one of the last breeds I'd choose for someone who was nervous. They are incredibly bouncy and most labs take a long time to mature - they don't seem to get at all sensible till about 3 or so, if then, and you see so many of them belonging to the "He's only being friendly" brigade as their out of control cannonball hurtles into people, jumps all over them, excitedly sniffs their crotch, steals their food etc. Yes, there are well trained ones (especially gundogs generally) but I find they are the exception rather than the rule.

Please, please think hard about this and what's best for your DD.

LumelaMme Fri 26-May-17 15:35:56

Mac, what is your daughter's take on getting a puppy? Is she up for it? Has she met puppies before? They really are bitty land-sharks, and a large puppy is capable of unbalancing an 8-yr-old.

I came on to steer you towards the KC's Mate Select stuff, and a good article on COI, but I see Cornflake has already done that. Low COI was a key factor for us.

When we saw our most recent puppy at 3 weeks, the litter was in a whelping box in the dining room; by six weeks, the puppies had entirely taken over the dining room (whelping box as bed, litter tray in a crate, toys everywhere), and were allowed out into the garden via the kitchen. It was very obvious that the dam was owned by the breeder (plus he showed me videos on his phone of her working with him the previous winter).

My advice would be to check out everything the breeder tells you - the internet is a marvellous tool for this.

CornflakeHomunculus Fri 26-May-17 15:45:08

Whereabouts are you Macarena?

There are some dog training clubs that run special cynophobia classes which are specifically geared towards helping people (especially children) overcome their fear of dogs.

I know there are well establlished classes in Essex and Kent. I'm pretty sure there's one run in Sussex as well, though I can't find the link now, and there are others gradually popping up around the country.

It's well worth looking into something like that to deal with your DD's fears rather than getting a puppy straight away, which is essentially just throwing her in at the deep end. They are incredibly cute but they all bite (and have very sharp little teeth), tug on clothes, jump up and turn into complete monsters when over excited or over tired. One of mine used to launch himself, snapping, at our faces when he got too giddy as a puppy hmm

I'd definitely be honest with the breeder you're intending to visit about your DD's fears ideally before you actually go, it's not fair on anyone (your DD, the breeder or the dogs) to be putting them in a situation where she may "freak out".

TheBrandNewBLUE Fri 26-May-17 18:09:00

My puppy was a teeny tiny little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and DS was confident around animals. Pup still scared him a bit from time to time - they nip, with incredibly sharp teeth (think mouth full of needles for teeth), they are springy, jump up (sometimes even nip towards your face, when very little), can barge past people (especially DC), jump on you when you sit down, etc, I imagine it would be far worse with a lab.

Please tell the breeder in advance of your visit.

Whoknowswhocares Fri 26-May-17 18:37:21

Hmmm, I'm not sure I'd recommend a lab pup for a nervous DD tbh. Sure when an adult they are often placid and suitable for bringing confidence, but a pup and more especially a rambunctious adolescent lab is bouncy, lunges like mad and is often a VERY full on experience with a 'bull in a china shop' mentality. Many people come to my classes very surprised at what they've let themselves in for.
At the very least you need to make sure you go down the route of a show line rather than working line dog, they are usually bigger but more calm and placid in temperament eventually (massive generalisation though, you need to asses both the most her and father in person for a more reliable idea)

StandardPoodle Sat 27-May-17 15:51:25

As a PP has said, I'd expect to see evidence that the pups were being reared in the house, and see them with their mum at least, perhaps other members of their family but probably not their sire as the breeder will most likely have used a stud dog from as different a bloodline as is feasible to unsure a low inbreeding coefficient.
Health checks obviously are very important, and you can check a lot about the breeder's dogs on the internet.
We met DDog2's siblings, his mum, aunt, uncle and members of his line going back to his great great grandmother (all immaculately turned out) and are still in touch with his breeder.
(He's an absolutely cracking dog too!).

Unicorn81 Sat 27-May-17 16:32:02

Id check if kc registered

Hoppinggreen Sun 28-May-17 09:10:21

My dog is KC reg and is also from a puppy farm!

MacarenaFerreiro Mon 29-May-17 23:09:43

Thanks all for their input on this - so much to consider.

On the fear of dogs - she has been getting a lot better over recent months after we did some work on managing her fears with a friend who is a clinical psychologist. She was running across roads to avoid dogs this time last year, now she's happy to walk past dogs without freaking out as long as she's got someone with her. We did look into PAT pets as therapy dogs but in our area they would only see her under referral from the NHS, and the NHS said they were so stretched that CAMHS couldn't see her and that we'd be better trying to deal with it ourselves.

We went to visit the puppies today and she was fine with them. The mum was a bit bouncy and excited and she wasn't terribly keen but she didn't scream and cry as she would have done in the past. She didn't want to hold the puppy but neither did her brother as it was a bit wriggly. She was happily stroking her as I held the pup - again she would not have been within 10 feet of a puppy 6 months ago. I really think she has turned a corner with her fear and she's so excited about the puppy coming home with us. We're also putting in clear boundaries (no dogs upstairs) so she will be able to get space too.

The breeders appeared to check out - they had three adult dogs and we saw the mum with the pups. (Definitely the mum, we saw the pups feed and they have pictures of her all over their living room walls). The puppies are in the house and are clearly loved to bits. They've had labradors for about 30 years I think but don't have puppies often. They're keeping one of our pup's siblings for themselves. The puppies seem well loved and very well cared for, and they had all the answers about hip scoring and health testing.

Kids are now incredibly excited and don't really believe that at 3 weeks she's too wee to leave her mum! thanks for the advice guys, I'll probably be back with lots of other questions.

CornflakeHomunculus Tue 30-May-17 14:51:33

Did you discuss your DD being scared of dogs with the breeder?

It's great that your DD wasn't too scared but do bear in mind that puppies at three weeks are very, very different to puppies at eight weeks and beyond in terms of activity levels and propensity for biting/mouthing.

It's also great that your DD is excited about the puppy coming but have you warned her that he/she will be very different by then? That it's normal and expected for them to be jumpy/mouthy/bitey?

BlueKarou Tue 30-May-17 15:51:17

Would it be possible for you to find someone locally (through local fb, vets, etc) who has an 8/12 week old puppy you could introduce your kids to?

Puppies really are horrid little beasts; all jumping and biting and relentless (until they pass out and cuteness resumes!) and I find it a little surprising that you're choosing a puppy of a fairly chunky, large breed rather than maybe something 2 years old, more settled and of a smaller size.

It definitely sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this, I just find it strange that you're doing this now, when it sounds like your daughter is still wary, and it's only a year since she was very strongly afraid of dogs.

Booboostwo Tue 30-May-17 19:26:55

Goodness OP your DD has a serious fear of dogs, rethink the puppy idea! Your DD is making wonderful progress but she does not sound like she is at the right place to deal with a puppy. My DD had no fear of dogs and has grown up with all sorts of animals and she still found our puppy difficult at times. If your DD starts screaming and running away from the puppy you will have a lot of problems - the puppy will chase, nip, jump up and get very excited in responce.

LolaTheDarkdestroyer Fri 02-Jun-17 14:36:59

Selfish. For the dog and your dd.

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