Picking the perfect pup for your family

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Every day I vaccinate new bundles of fluff – a tough job but someone has to do it.

Although the majority of pups are healthy and well suited to their families, I do see a number of health and behavioural problems that could be avoided.

Choose an appropriate breed. Remember the function the dogs were bred for, as it will tell you how much exercise and training they require. For example, dalmatians were bred to run alongside carriages for hours and need a lot of exercise, whereas greyhounds just need short bursts.

A working breed, like a border collie, will be obedient, but is bred for working long hours and mental stimulation so will not cope well if left alone. Toy and small breeds will cope better, but it is never ideal.

Certain breeds are prone to health problems. Cavalier King Charles spaniels may be affected by heart disease and brachycephalic, and flat-nosed breeds, such as the pug, are more likely to have upper respiratory, eye and tooth problems. Cross-breed pups generally grow into healthier dogs and are cheaper to insure. However, it is difficult to predict adult size and temperament.

Where do you get your pup? For pedigree dogs, the Kennel Club has lists of registered breeders. You can also ask your vet or pet shop. Avoid buying puppies from social media or anyone that has many different breeds at one premises.

For certain breeds, use breeders that have had the sire and dam tested for genetic diseases. In Labradors, this would be hip scoring and possibly elbow and eye scoring.

Visit the puppies before you purchase. You can choose your own pup, assess the temperament of the mum and get to know the breeders. Watch all the pups together. The healthiest will be lively and bouncy and a similar size.

The breeder should be concerned where their pups are going and supply information on worming and feeding. Be wary of breeders who are selling pups cheaply, or want to meet at a remote location to ‘hand one over’.

Give your pup a mini health check. We don’t want to see any discharge from the nose or eyes, and no sneezing or coughing. Look for black specks of flea dirt, and rub their tummy – an umbilical hernia (small lump similar to an ‘outy’ tummy button) is common, but may need surgery.

Once you get your puppy home, book an appointment for a more thorough health check with your vet. These are usually free.

By Catriona Gibson, Vet