Do you want a dog? Once you have decided you are ready for a dog look to source it in a way that supports animal welfare.
Adopt don’t buy. With large numbers of healthy puppies and dogs unable to find homes, consider adopting a rescue dog and help alleviate the “wastage” that irresponsible breeding and ownership creates. Don’t buy from puppy farms, even if you feel sorry for the puppy; more will be bred to replace it. Visit the breeding facility and look carefully at the environment where the puppy is being raised. It should be hygienic and provide the puppy with the opportunity to socialise with people and other animals.
Satisfy yourself that the mating pair selection was made with consideration to the health and wellbeing of the resulting puppies.
- Don’t support breeders who produce puppies with severely exaggerated features that may compromise welfare. If buying a breed that has exaggerated features, choose a breeder who is trying to breed away from extreme features.
- Ask about the health history of the parents and ask to meet them. Be wary if the parents have needed correctional surgery to enable them to breathe comfortably, correct eyelid issues, or walk normally.
- Support breeders who are registered with Dogs New Zealand (formally New Zealand Kennel Club) and participate in screening programmes that seek to eliminate inherited disorders. You can see what screening programmes are recommended for each dog breed at Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. Discuss the results of tests performed with your veterinarian before you buy the puppy. It is not enough for a breeder to just participate in the scheme; they must also use the results to inform the suitability of mating the dogs.
- Avoid buying puppies produced from mating closely related dogs. A puppy from a Dogs New Zealand registered breeder will have a pedigree so this can be checked. There is no way to verify this for a dog without a registered pedigree.
Ensure that the puppy’s health has been well managed.
- A responsible breeder will have had the puppies checked by a veterinarian for any congenital defects or other health issues before they release them to their new owners.
- The puppies will be on a regular parasite control programme and will have had any vaccinations that are required.
- The puppies will have been fed adequate amounts of a nutritious diet that meets all their needs so that they are well-grown and in good body condition.
- Puppies must be weaned and fully self-sufficient and at least eight weeks old before they are released to their new owners. For small breeds, waiting until 10 weeks of age is preferred.
Ensure that the puppy’s behavioural needs have been met.
- Puppies should be socialised with people and other animals from three weeks of age. This markedly improves the puppies' abilities to accept new experiences as they get older and reduces behavioural problems in the long term. Well-socialised dogs reduce the risks of being relinquished by their owners for behavioural problems.
- Breeders must consider the parents' temperaments and ensure that only dogs with suitable temperaments are used for mating.
Select a breeder who will provide support and follow up care.
A responsible breeder will also be knowledgeable about the breed and the care of new puppies. They will be keen to provide follow-up support and you should receive printed advice about:
- general care, housing, and management
- appropriate diet
- legal responsibilities of animal ownership
- vaccination, de-sexing, and registration
- Registered Dogs New Zealand breeders operate under a code of ethics, which requires them to provide follow-up support. If you source your puppy from a Dogs New Zealand registered breeder you will be able to access their canine health and welfare officer to mediate if problems arise.
Lifelong care of the dog
The lifespan of a dog is related to its breed, with averages ranging from 8-14 years. When undertaking responsibility for a dog, it is important to consider the commitment required for the dog’s entire life.
The investment of time and money required
Pet food is the largest expense over the dog’s life (New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc., 2016). Owners must also consider costs associated with annual council registration, veterinary care (both planned and unplanned), pet health insurance, training courses, equipment (dog beds, collars, leads, bowls etc.), housing alterations that may be needed (e.g. fencing), doggy day-care, and boarding kennels. In addition to financial costs, the care and maintenance of a dog requires significant investments of time and money.
Lifestyle and living environments
Prior to acquiring a dog, consideration must be given to the size of the home and outdoor space; along with lifestyle and family activities, the ages of family members and health concerns such as allergies. Consider also that landlords may place restrictions on keeping dogs in rental properties.
Because dogs have such a wide variety of size and temperament, selecting the right type of dog, most suited for the specific circumstance, can considerably improve the dog owning experience.
Sourcing the dog
There are many more dogs in New Zealand than there are homes available. Adopting from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) or another dog welfare organisation improves overall dog welfare, by providing a home and reducing euthanasia rates at shelters. If a pedigree or purebred dog is desired, the NZVA strongly recommends seeking veterinary advice before a dog is bought to ensure dogs are sourced from a responsible breeder.
Particular care is required when purchasing a dog online or from a pet store. The NZVA strongly recommends puppies are not purchased without first visiting the breeding facility and checking the environment in which they have been raised.