Thinking of getting a puppy while we're on lockdown?
Advice from our dog welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines. Last updated: 5th January.
Last year saw demand for dogs soar with breeders, buyers and rescue centres reporting unprecedented interest and an inability to supply the market. This reported shortage of puppies has meant that we have also seen a rise in puppies coming from outside of the UK.
There's now a worrying trend of breeding and importing puppies, which is a potentially exploitative and damaging trade with the possibility of life-long suffering in dogs. You can read more about this and support our campaign #ForPupsSake which is calling on the UK Government to raise the age of imports from 15 to 24 weeks.
Bringing a puppy into your home always requires careful consideration, but in 2021 it's even more important to do your research so that you don't get caught out by people acting illegally or irresponsibly.
Our way of life has also changed throughout the pandemic and the same is true for our pets, especially dogs, so there is much to think about before we welcome a puppy into our homes.
Can I provide a puppy with what they need?
Getting a puppy at any time is both exciting and daunting. With their seemingly boundless energy and ability to find joy in everything, it's rare to find someone who won't smile or feel happy in a puppy's presence. It's easy to understand why they might be perceived as the perfect antidote to the current crisis we're all experiencing.
However, puppies don't stay young for long and, regardless of age, are reliant on you and your family to help guide them and provide everything they need to keep them happy and healthy for the rest of their life. This is a significant responsibility and commitment and one which no-one should take lightly.
You may have lots of time now but what about when everything goes back to normal? It's important to think about your previous lifestyle and whether you would have been able to get a puppy at that point. As well as being wonderful and very rewarding in many ways, puppies are messy, noisy, destructive and very demanding of time and energy on a daily basis. They can also be very costly so prospective owners need to consider whether they're prepared for all this. If the answer is no, then getting a puppy - especially now - is probably not a good idea.
Socialisation will be particularly challenging
With puppies, we also have particular responsibilities to help them cope with the world in which we expect them to live. To ensure they grow into happy and well-adjusted adults, we need to expose puppies, in a very careful and positive way, to all different types of people, as well as, dogs and other animals they're likely to encounter. This includes sights, sounds and smells - a process known as socialisation.
The key socialisation period in puppies occurs between three and 14 weeks and without this, there is the risk that they can become more fearful and anxious when they face new experiences and situations later in life.
As the need to maintain our social distance continues, effective socialisation will be more difficult. In addition to this, vets are also operating in a different way to normal and there may be delays with your puppy's primary vaccination course. If your puppy hasn't had their full vaccination course then there will be areas which you should avoid visiting to protect your pet.
Don't get Petfished
On the 6 April, new legislation came into force which banned the sale of puppies and kittens in England from third-party sellers e.g. pet shops, traders or dealers. This means that anyone wanting to buy or adopt must go directly to a breeder or rehoming centre. Similar legislation is also being planned for Wales.
If you do decide to go ahead and get a puppy then you need to be really careful and make sure that you don't get caught out by an irresponsible breeder or illegal third party dealer. Defra has produced lots of information to help you get your pet safely and avoid being 'petfished'.
Get a puppy that has the best chance of living a happy and healthy life
If having read all our information, you're confident that you'll be able to give a puppy, or an adult dog, a suitable forever home, we would urge you to think about adopting one of the many we have in our care. Although Although the pandemic is affecting the way in which we operate, we're planning to continue rehoming and fostering using a remote process, so please do consider adopting a rescue dog.
If you do decide to buy, then using the Puppy Contract will help ensure that your puppy has been well cared for, is healthy and will make the perfect pet for you.