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When buying a puppy


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I've noticed there's not a lot of people who know what to look for when buying a puppy/dog, and they often have similar questions in Pets, so I wrote a short guide.


1. Do not buy from a pet store, newspaper ad, parking lot or side-of-road


The puppies from these places aren't bred with their welfare in mind. Pet stores aren't supplied from 'local breeders', they are provided from by people breeding in their backyards or by puppy mills. The storepeople will tell you that their dogs come from breeders, not puppy mills.

The truth is, they have no idea where they've come from, and they do not care, as long as you buy from them.


They often advertise their dogs with "papers". This is a registration with a council, which any dog can be papered with, and most are registered with private "clubs" that cater to puppy mills and, for a small profit, register the puppies with the club to produce genuine sounding papers.


They look cute and sad behind the glass, but don't be fooled. Supply and demand; once you've 'rescued' that cute 6 week old puppy from the pet store, another two will take it's place. both from the same filthy conditions as the one you bought.


Because they are forced to toilet in the same area as they sleep and eat, sometimes housetraining is impossible to teach, and they can commonly suffer from severe seperation anxiety, which includes barking, howling, digging and destructive behaviour.

Solving these issues takes a lot of time and can sometimes continue for the remainder of the dog's life.


Puppies from these places aren't checked for diseases or genetic illnesses. They're not socialised and they aren't cared for the way a real breeder cares for their pups.


2. Okay, so what is a "real breeder"?


A real breeder will take two dogs with the best health and temperament scores and produce a limited number of puppies from them.

They will provide proof that their dogs have been tested sound, and have been tested for a range of genetic illnesses. The odds of the puppies having one of these illnesses is calculated, and if the chance is too high, they will not be bred.

A real breeder can provide you with the paperwork to prove their dogs are healthy.


A real breeder will be willing to let you view the parents, grandparents, other litters and the rest of your litter. They will also be willing for you to bring a vet or behaviourist with you to inspect the dogs.


A real breeder doesn't let their puppies go until 8 weeks of age, and many breeders will ask that you wait until 12 weeks of age.

They will socialise their puppies with other dogs, with cats, birds, cars, bikes, men, women, children, people in wheelchairs, lawnmowers, whistles, loud noises, small mammals....anything that could cause your adult dog to be scared or aggressive is brought to the puppies and taught that it's not to be scared of.


A real breeder will also start the basics of crate and house training, obediance, bite inhibition and social skills.

When I brought my Irish Wolfhounds home at 12 weeks, they had already mastered 5 commands, were house broken and slept through the night.

I could not have gotten that from a puppy bought at the same age at a pet store.


A real breeder will not let you choose your puppy, but will instead ask you what you want from an adult dog, and select a puppy based on your desires.

The one you have your eye set on might be too active for your lifestyle, and will drive you mad. A breeder prevents these problems.

However, some breeders will let you choose your own puppy, especially if more than one suit your needs.


A real breeder will offer the results of your puppy's vet checks and proof of immunisation.


A real breeder will offer you a 'puppy pack'. This is a bag or box that has supplies for your puppy in it. It may include a puppy book, a collar and lead, a bag of the food they feed, a toy, a blanket or a bag of chews.


A real breeder will ask questions. They'll ask you what you do for a living, if you have the time for the dog, what you plan to do if it starts barking/digging/biting, if you have a local vet, what the size is of your backyard, if you have kids, etc etc. Answer honestly.


2. Buy or rescue?


Rescueing a dog or puppy is a good option, but can backfire heavily.

A puppy/dog {thereafter referred to as puppy} rescued from a shelter has already had it's 'danger period', the time in it's life where it has developed fears or bad experiences that shape it for life.

A 6 month old pup from a shelter is a potluck.

Who were it's parents? Does it have genetic diseases? Has it had any bad experiences that you may not be able to deal with, such as an aversion to loud noises, child aggression, a fear of cars?

Also consider it has spent some amount of time in a traumatic environment.

To end up in a shelter, it would have either been submitted by an uncaring or abusive owner, or has been rescued from a bad situation.

This is not common in rescue dogs, but it is a risk that has to be considered.

Note, I am not advising against rescue for dog owners, I own three rescues myself.

A rescue dog may not be the right choice for an owner that has no idea how to recognise or treat behaviour issues.


It is best to ask a shelter worker, tell them about your level of experience, your ideas for what you want in a dog, and ask their experienced opinion.


Buying a puppy from a registered breeder also ensures the puppy is bonded to you from the start, and is used to your situation.

It is easier to train and develop habits in a puppy from a breeder.


3. What to feed?


A vet will recommend whichever brand of pet food they are paid to recommend. I did three years of vet nursing, and in our clinic we sold Pedigree dog food. Pedigree is a brand which barely scraped the line of 'acceptable' to feed a dog, but we were sponsered by the company, and so had to tell new owners to feed their dogs the rubbish on sale in the waiting room.


Most dog foods use additives that can cause bowel problems and digestive illnesses in dogs, and can even cause growth issues and skin conditions.

For example, giant breeds cannot have a dog food that is any higher than 25% protein. It can stunt their growth and radically affect bone density.

However, most 'top end' dog foods offer much higher levels of protein and it is a rare vet that will tell you about the 25% rule, as they won't profit from it.


A raw or BARF diet is simply the best food to feed a dog or puppy, and plenty of information on this is avaliable on the internet.


Raw bones are not dangerous to dogs, but never give a dog a cooked bone. Smoked bones are fine.

Rawhide comes off in strips and can block a tract, so avoid them.


4. Mixed breed or pure?


If you're set on buying from a registered or real breeder, you won't be getting a mixed breed.

Breeders that offer labradoodles, puggles, maltidoodles, ruggles, poozles, cavoodles, boodles or anything 'teacup' are not responsible breeders.


The main selling point of 'rare' mixed breeds, or designer dogs, is the hybrid vigour myth. This myth states that mixed breeds are healthier than pure breds, live longer, have less genetic diseases, cost less, are less allergenic and less prone to illness.


All of that is wrong.


When you cross, for example, a pure labrador that has never been health tested, to a pure poodle that has never been health tested, you don't get non-shedding, intelligent, low energy, healthy puppies.

You get the health problems of both breeds, so you're doubling the chances of the puppies contracting one of these problems.

Labradors and poodles commonly suffer from {and this is the short list}: joint dysplasia, luxating patella, myopathy, deafness, Gastric Tortion-Bloat, Sebaceous Adenitis, von Willebrand's Disease , Progressive Retinal Atrophy, epilepsy and Legg-Calve-Perthe's Disease.

None of these are cheap diseases to cure, if they can be cured. The costs to treat these can run into the thousands quite easily.

Two non health tested dogs of differing breeds can produce puppies that are genetic time bombs.


These dogs are also far from non-allergenic. The litter is a gamble, they can all be heavy shedders, low shedders, or even a mix. There is no such dog as a non-shedder. They all shed.


5. Choosing a breed

Choosing a breed is a difficult path.

You might be dead set on a Border Collie, but live in a one-bedroom apartment with a 9-5 job 7 days a week and no grassed area.


Most people assume if they have little space, a large breed isn't suitable. The truth is very different; giant breeds do very well in small spaces, so long as they have a backyard to run and play in every day.


Consider the energy levels of the breed you're considering. Getting an active working breed if you have no intention of walking the dog is a very bad idea. Energy stores build up and have an outlet in aggression, barking, digging, chewing, jumping, howling and stress biting.


If you have very low energy and don't want to leave the house much, consider a low energy breed such as an English Bulldog.

If you want a family dog and have small children, consider the Saint Bernard, the Labrador, or even the American PitBull Terrier {yes, they are fantastic children's pets}


Extensively google your breed choices, buy breed books, talk to owners and breeders, and meet a few dogs and puppies of the breed you want.


I have always wanted an Airedale, but after meeting a litter of pups at the Club's open day, I quickly changed my mind. They jump jump jump and bark bark bark and that was not what I wanted in a pup.


6. Common issues


Most problems new owners face can be put down to boredom. Truly, it is that simple. At check-ups, we often got questions like "He barks in the backyard all day. What can we do?". The anwers is right there: take him out of the backyard!


Dogs aren't machines that can be turned on and off at will. Dogs, especially working breeds, constantly need something to occupy them. Work out a schedule to stick to from day one, and in the space in between play games, provide entertainment or give them a chew.


My dog's schedule, and I have eight of them, is a breakfast at 6, hour walk at 9, then they play in their enclosed paddock until three which is when I get home, another hour's jog, then they stay inside until the morning with Kongs and treat balls stuffed.


This schedule gives them the energy outlet of running every day, a nutritious meal, a large area to play together in, inside time with me, and toys that occupy their needs both to chew and to forage for food.


Of course, you might not be able to run your dog for an hour twice a day, and if you have a puppy {especially a giant breed} it shouldn't do a long walk until at least a year's age.


7. What to ask a breeder


Ask as many questions as you can. If they dodge questions or don't want to provide inspections, move on.


Ask them if they health and temperment test their dogs. If they say their breed is special so it doesn't need tests, leave now. Also get copies of their tests and ask your vet to 'translate', if you cannot read them.


Ask what they feed their dogs, and how much.


Ask if they show their dogs, or do dog sports. Ask for certificates.


Ask if they have ever had a dog destroyed. In any town that has BSL, this is important. If they're offended by this question, explain why you're asking. It is important to know if their dogs have ever been prone to aggression. Puppies do inherit behaviour problems.


Ask them if they'd take the dog back if you had any problem and couldn't keep it. This should be in your contract


Ask them if they have a desexing policy. Some breeders offer money back with proof of desexing.


Ask them if you can see the other dogs they keep, and the other puppies in the litter. If you can, take a vet or dog behaviourist with you, ask their opinion of the dog's conditions.


Ask if they socialise, crate train, start obedience in the litter and have single puppy play time.


8. Choosing a puppy


Do not buy from a breeder if the mother is fearful or aggressive, the puppies lack energy and seem afraid to approach you, flinch at the sound of your voice, have dribbly noses or eyes, patchy fur, sores on their bodies or rasping breathing.


If the surrounds are filthy and smelly, the other dogs are aggressive or fearful, the breeder is pushy or threatens you, walk away.


The common view 20 years ago was don't choose the playful puppy, as they're dominant and pushy. This is now known to be untrue.

A litter of 8 week old puppies that don't rush to greet you, that don't jump up on you licking, that don't nip your hands, that don't play fight, are un-natural.


By observing the litter you can see personalities showing through.

The puppy that climbs it's mother to reach the teat, that holds other pups down, that leaps and bounds and runs constantly, is high energy and will be great if you want an active companion or want to join dog sports.

The puppy that plays gently for a while then lies down to watch the others will be great if you want a laid back dog to hang out casually with you.

The puppy that is a fair player and likes the company of the other dogs will be good for families.


Try to ignore colours and sizes. The most beautiful puppy in the litter may be your worst nightmare for it's adult life.


Ask the breeder which one they think will be best for you.


Also try and get each puppy alone in a room with just you. This way you can see how they do without their littermates and mother. Get down on a knee and call them. Roll them gently over, touch their bellies, mouths, ears, tails and paws. Jingle your keys and watch their reaction.

Play with them, then stand up and ignore them.

Instruct them to sit, and gently guide them down.

The puppy that bites you during all of this, growls, slinks around you with tail and head down, flinches from you, refuses to come, is afraid when being petted and runs to the corner of the room isn't for you.

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What's wrong with cooked bones? Also, I tried looking for studies or research that show the BARF diet is the best, but I couldn't find any. Could you point me in the direction of some?


Googling 'BARF diet' will point you in the right direction.

Links to start you off


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Googling 'BARF diet' will point you in the right direction.

Links to start you off


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I did see that sort of information, but is there actual research? My quick search of the internet actually revealed a lot of controversy over the BARF diet.

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I did see that sort of information, but is there actual research? My quick search of the internet actually revealed a lot of controversy over the BARF diet.


Yes, there is a lot of controversy from vets, schools and pet food companies.


If you don't know, the way it works is a particular company "buys" the right to the nutrition course in veterinary medicine school. so upcoming vets and nurses learn all about, for example, how Hill's Science Diet is the best food ever. They don't learn about alternative diets because Hill's has bought the rights to the syllabus.


When a vet clinic is started up, they can get funding from a pet food company, one or more, to advertise and promote their brand of food. The more people buy the food from the store in the clinic, the more funding they get.


You'll notice a lot of posters by a particular company, displays and even treat jars.


Raw diets don't supply the pet food business with any money because it involves people buying from fresh meat from natural sources.

How can they cash in on their whole-grain canned by-product if you're buying fresh chicken necks for your dog?

The companies don't benefit, the clinics don't benefit, the schools don't benefit, so it's not recommended.


Links and books.


Switching to Raw:



Jane Anderson's Raw Learning Site:

Jane Anderson's Raw Learning Site


Dog Owner's Guide - BARF: Bones And Raw Food:

Dog Owner's Guide; BARF: Bones And Raw Food


Canine Nutrition - Raw Feeding or BARFing:

Canine Nutrition - raw feeding or barfing


Should I feed my pet raw food or the BARF diet?

Canine & Pet Diabetes presents Dr. Jennifer Fry


Raw Meaty Bones:

Raw Meaty Bones


Raw Fed Dogs:

Raw Feeding



Raw Feeding FAQ


BARF for Beginners - Top 50 FAQ's:

BARF for Beginners - Most Frequently Asked Questions


BARF Australia: What is BARF?

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This is a yahoo group about raw feeding, you need to apply to join this group:

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Raw Feeding Books:


Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy For You And Your Dog - Carina Beth MacDonald


Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones - Dr Tom Lonsdale, DVM


Raw Meaty Bones - Dr Tom Lonsdale, DVM


Grow Your Pups With Bones - Dr Ian Billinghurst, DVM


Give Your Dog A Bone - Dr Ian Billinghurst, DVM


Ultimate Diet: Natural Nutrition For Dogs And Cats - Kymythy Schultze, CCN


The BARF Diet - Dr Ian Billinghurst, DVM


Raw Food For Dogs: The Ultimate Reference For Dog Owners - Mogens Eliason

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