Before buying a puppy, read my article about choosing and buying a puppy. This will help you focus on what kind of dog suits you, your family and your circumstances, both present and future. You need to think about the different breeds of dog, but you might also decide that an adult dog would be better for you and your family than a puppy.

If you do decide to buy a puppy and you have researched the breed you are interested in, here is some basic advice to help you avoid mistakes.

The first rule is never buy from a pet shop, always buy direct from a reputable breeder. Contact several breeders and talk to them about the breed in general and about their breeding practices and policies. Visit them and ask them about genetic problems that the breed is prone to and how they avoid them in their puppies. A reputable breeder will have a policy of screening their parent dogs for hereditary diseases, thus giving their puppies the best possible prospects of a long, healthy life. This is also the time to ensure that the breeder holds all relevant legal paperwork.

Choose a breeder that inspires you with confidence and really cares about the dogs and puppies. Discuss the price and make sure that it is within your budget, bearing in mind all the other costs of having a new dog. Also keep in mind that a breeder that charges more may well be better, as they spend more on their dogs, puppies, vets fees etc.

When choosing a puppy, make sure you see the litter with their dame, preferably see both parent dogs. Look at the puppies carefully for signs of ill-health. Puppies sleep a lot but once awake, they should be active, alert and energetic. Inspect the general environment that the dogs are in – is it clean and comfortable? Do the dogs have everything they need – fresh water, clean bedding, a dry, clean room at a comfortable temperature? Do the dogs and puppies respond well and in a friendly manner to the breeder?

Look for signs of diarrhea, vomitting, bloated stomach (a sign of worms), discharge from eyes and nose (a sign of a bacterial or viral infection) and never buy a puppy with any signs of ill-health. Leaving the litter and dame and going in to a new environment is stressful on a puppy in the best of health, but an ill puppy will quickly deteriorate. It is the breeder’s responsibility to care for the puppies and get them into good health before they can go to a new home.

You should receive a written health guarantee from the breeder that allows you to return the puppy within 72 hours for a full refund if any disease is found by you or your vet within that period. This sounds heartless to some people – how can you return a poor sick little puppy? – but the point is to put the onus of repsonsibility onto the breeder to care for the dogs and puppies in his charge and provide healthy puppies to new owners.

Once you see a puppy that you are interested in, ask to see it away from the litter and the dame. You need to get an idea of how this puppy will respond to you one-to-one once you get it home. If you decide it’s the puppy for you, go ahead with the purchase but make sure that all the paperwork is in order. A good breeder should be happy for you to phone them to ask questions and advice after you get the puppy home.

You should already have prepared your home for your new dog. A comfortable bed, food and water bowls, collar and leash and some safe chew toys should be ready for your new companion, plus a dog crate if you have decided to use one. It is usually advisable to keep the puppy on the same food as the breeder was feeding him, at least to start with. This can gradually be changed over the following week if you prefer a different brand, by blending the existing food with the new one. Sudden changes could upset the puppies tummy, so take your time with this.

Read my other articles for help with house training and generally caring for you new dog.