A new dog will be joining the Tails We Win crew shortly and my choice has created some discussion among those that know me (and a few that don’t).

Choosing a dog can and should be tough. Regardless of whether you are an experienced dog owner or not the decision should not be taken lightly. You are adding a living sentient being to your home and family dynamics. A dog comes with a lot of responsibility, something that can sometimes be overlooked in our “want it now” society.

So assuming you’ve made a well thought out decision and are prepared to face all that entails how do you decide where to get a dog from?

There are many choices, none will be right for everyone, but some will be wrong for all.

What do I mean by that? Buying a puppy from a “puppy farm” or one of their outlets will never be a good idea. Puppy farms, where dogs are repeatedly bred from to produce litter after litter purely for profit will not produce puppies with a good start. The adult dogs will not have had health checks, or be bred with temperament or working ability in mind. The puppies will be raised in poor conditions, generally removed from their mothers too early and then sent to dealers or shops to sell. Many of the puppies are sick, or traumatised by their experiences, or both. None will be well socialised to people, dogs, novel objects or anything that they will be expected to cope with in modern life. Many of these puppies will have health or behavioural problems, or both, later in life.

Buying from a puppy farm, or a dealer or a pet shop perpetuates the problem. You may believe you are “rescuing” the puppy from an undesirable situation, and maybe you are. But by paying money for it you are actively participating in an abhorrent practice. Your purchase will make it possible for the pet shop to order in more puppies, or for the dealer to carry on because he is making easy money; and if that continues then the puppy farms will continue to churn out puppies to meet the demand.

What will stop this? Not buying the puppies. It really is that simple. These people do it because it makes them money. If the money dries up, the business stops, it’s true of any business.

So what should you do? Let’s assume your choice is to look for a dog or puppy via a rescue or via a breeder. How do you choose?

It depends entirely on your situation and what you want from your dog. For some a puppy from a decent breeder makes the most sense because of what they intend to do with their dog. Maybe they want a dog for a particular job or activity or sport and so getting a puppy from a breeder who is producing puppies that go on to do these activities successfully is sensible. Maybe you just want a family pet that will get on well with the children and enjoy going jogging with you. Well then maybe a rescue will be suitable for you.

In my opinion there is no right or wrong here, just the caveat that in either case make sure you are getting your dog from a reputable source whether that is a breeder or a rescue. So the question is then how do you tell whether a rescue or breeder is a good one?

Both should be asking questions of you. What your situation is, working hours, children, where you live, how much time you have, what you want from your dog etc.

A rescue might have dogs you can view in kennels or they might decide what dogs would be most suitable for you, there are pros and cons to both but you should have the opportunity to meet the dog before you make any decisions. For a breeder you should be able to go and see them and their dogs even before they have a litter for you all to ask questions of each other and get to know them.

A good breeder or rescue is a font of knowledge that you should be able to tap. They both should be prepared to help you after you take your dog or puppy home and have recommendations for training resources or behavioural help if needed. Both should be prepared to take the dog back should things not work out for whatever reason.

In addition a good breeder should be health testing all dogs they intend to breed- you need to find out what health tests should be carried out for the breed you are interested in. A good breeder will not be offended if you ask for proof of the test results or if you ask questions about the health status of puppies they have bred before.

A good breeder will be concerned about the temperament of their puppies and doing all he/she can to ensure the best outcome. This means not only breeding from dogs with good temperament and good working ability (if appropriate for your breed) but also ensuring that the puppies are brought up in an enriched environment. Puppies should be introduced to friendly people, friendly adult dogs, experience new locations, new surfaces, new objects, new sounds everyday they are with the breeder. A good breeder will be willing to talk to you about their socialising and/or enrichment processes, and provide updates on the puppies progress as they grow.

You should be able to visit the puppies – although they may have restrictions about when to reduce the risk of infection when the puppies are very young.

Basically a good breeder will care about their puppies, before they are born, while in their care, and once you have taken one home.

If you are getting a puppy from rescue then the rescue should also be raising them with good enrichment and experiences but obviously they can have no influence over the actual breeding. No good rescue will be breeding puppies intentionally.

So why the controversy over my choice of a new dog? I have decided to get a well bred working cocker spaniel from a great breeder. This in itself is not controversial given that the puppy will have the best of starts, but for some that know me for my rescue dogs it is perhaps a surprise.

I don’t believe that people should only get rescue dogs – clearly! What I do believe is that whenever anyone decides to get a dog or puppy consideration should be given to where it is going to come from. There are good and bad rescues just as there are good and bad breeders. Wherever you get your next dog from, make sure it’s from somewhere good, where you will have backup for life should anything go wrong. If you go to a breeder make sure your puppy is getting the best possible start you could ever wish for.

I’m very excited about Flint joining us shortly and can’t wait to tell you all about our adventures together.

Flint 2