Essential pet advice with vet Jo Gourlay

This week we continue discussing breeding from your own dog. Having already covered some of the potential pitfalls and weighing up whether it’s the fairest thing for you or your dog, we now move to finding the best homes for the pups.

Ironically, when I have heard the following comment: “I loved every minute of having a litter of pups but I really don’t think I could go through it again”, it’s more often than not come from clients who have done a fantastic job being dedicated to producing healthy, happy puppies.

Usually what has left them feeling this way is the stress of finding “perfect” homes for their well-loved pups. It’s worth remembering that the more stringent and careful you are in ensuring they go to appropriate homes, the less likely you are to have problems and heartbreak months or even years down the line, when a desperate owner contacts you saying they can’t cope with what may now be an unruly, timid or even aggressive dog, unrecognisable from the gorgeous bundle of fluff you gave them.

Although it’s not nice being scrutinised, you should expect and almost be pleased if potential new owners reciprocate in checking out your set up. A well thought-out potential owner will have researched the breed so is likely to have questions about your bitch’s health in relation to known breed problems and will want documentation proving any tests that have been done on her or the puppies’ sire. They will want to meet your bitch to assess her temperament, see how sociable the puppies are and generally look about your home to see what measures have been taken to produce happy, well habituated pets.

In addition to ensuring pups are treated for both worms and fleas, many breeders will also go to the trouble of getting all puppies’ health checked by the vet. Some will include microchipping and free insurance for a limited time. When leaving, sending a few weeks of the food they are used to and perhaps a soft puppy toy or blanket that smells of mum for comfort is also a good idea. By providing these things, your pups will appeal to the right kind of new owner.

New owners should be ready to answer your questions without taking offence, and you must be able to say no to them. The perfect owner is someone with experience of the breed who’s had a puppy in the recent past. Owning a dog when they were a child may mean they are remembering the placid, well behaved adult dog, forgetting the puppy. It’s not to say that a first-time dog owner cannot be ideal – you just need to be sure they have done sufficient research and appreciate the commitment needed.

The activity level of the new family should meet those of the breed. For example, a working high energy breed such as a Hungarian Vizsla is unlikely to do well in an environment where there is no garden and the new owner loathes walking. Finding out who will look after the dog at different times, how long it will be left alone and what other pets or family members there are will help you get a feel as to whether they will offer a suitable home.

For advertising, the breed clubs and the Kennel Club are good places to start for pedigree dogs, as are canine magazines or some online sites. You want to advertise as soon as you know the bitch is in pup or before, some very reputable breeders will have a waiting list for predicted litters into the next year. Local papers and vet surgeries or pet shops are also used, but be aware you may get people on impulse, especially if there is a cute picture. Again, you just need to take into account they may not have thought through whether they are ready for a puppy.

Next week, we continue the series looking at what to expect during the pregnancy, finishing the week after with the birth itself.