One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to choose a healthy puppy. I’ve always responded by giving people the same list of things to look for. My book even talks about signs of bad health in puppy, discharge from the eyes, dry, matted fur, irregular breathing, and so on. Despite this, the same people would come and talk to me a month later, after they’d gotten their puppy, telling me about the puppy’s health problems.
What went wrong? I’d gone to a lot of trouble to help them in choosing a healthy puppy, but they’d still ended up with a little puppy with health issues.
They fell in love. That’s what went wrong.
Here’s the hardest thing about choosing a healthy puppy: You’re going to see one (you know, that special one) and fall in love. At that point, any hard-nosed advice I dish out about looking for health concerns goes out the window. Reject your cute little puppy because their eyes are a little dry? As if. After all, you’re in love. And all love knows is that sweet puppy has soft, soft fur and adorable little paws, and you’re going to take it home. Right. Now.
The trick, then, is that choosing a healthy puppy takes place far before you even set eyes on the little sweetheart. And how does that work, you ask? Make sure that the person or place you get the puppy will only give you a happy, healthy puppy. Choosing a healthy puppy is all about choosing where you get the puppy.
Don’t buy from a pet store that gets their puppies from a puppy mill. Puppy mills couldn’t give a hoot about how healthy their puppies are. They’re all about making money, regardless of the health or happiness of their dogs. Resist the urge to stop into a pet store just to look. Not only may you get a puppy that’s not healthy, the hard-earned money you pay goes to support puppy mills, nasty places where puppies are bred only for profit.
Puppy mills and reputable breeders are very different.
Do your research and find a reputable, caring dog breeder. Ask your friends. Ask your co-workers. Ask the clerk at the grocery store. People will only be too happy to pass on the name of a good, reputable dog breeder. Check the online forums. Be patient. My book, Choosing a Happy, Healthy Puppy, talks about how to find a good, reputable breeder, down to a checklist of questions to ask the breeder, and some telltale signs that the dog breeder might not be right for you.
If you get a puppy from a friend (or a guy down the street, even), ask yourself some hard questions. Do you trust that the person you’re getting the puppy from would only give their pups the best care and attention? Would they breed dogs (or let dogs accidentally breed themselves) with absolutely no thought about if the puppies could inherit genetic diseases or disorders? If the answers are yes, then don’t get your puppy from them.
I can’t say it enough: the time to think about choosing a healthy puppy is before you see the little one for the first time. As soon as you set eyes on those big, soft, puppy eyes, you’re done for.
Want more detail on choosing a healthy puppy? My book lists the common health concerns to look for in a new puppy.