Choosing a Pet – Part 2

What to look for when choosing a puppy:

  •  Do the puppies in the litter appear healthy and vigorous?
  • Do other dogs that have contact with the pups appear healthy and friendly?
  • Is the mother friendly and trusting or fearful and aggressive towards strangers? Timidity in the mother is  a bad sign, it may be inherited by the puppies or learned through example.
  • Are the pups being raised in an environment that provides stimulation and exposure to different objects and people?
  • Are they being handled regularly? Early handling is of crucial importance in the puppies socialization.
  • Have the pups been separated from the mother? If so, when?
  • How old is the litter? Before 6 weeks the pups are too young to leave the mother, from 12 weeks they may be too old.
  • What food is the puppy getting, has it been vaccinated and dewormed?
  • Does the puppy and the litter appear healthy and is the environment hygienic?

Your new puppy will need:

  1. A place to eat – its own feeding and drinking bowls, placed in a quiet corner away from the family dining area.
  2. A place to sleep – a big cardboard box will do – lined with washable bedding and placed in a draught – free corner or a dog bed. Hint – the first few nights away from its mother and litter might be slightly traumatic for a puppy – on old – fashioned tick-tock alarm clock works well, some soft blankets and a wrapped hot water bottle could help to make up for the absence of its litter mates.
  3. A thorough check-up – from your vet during the first week. Ensure it completes the full programme of immunisation shots. Continue with its deworming treatment, groom your puppy regularly – check the coat for fleas and ticks and the ears for redness and other signs of irritation, inspect the teeth to make sure they are developed properly.
  4. A collar and i.d. tag – make sure the collar is not too loose or too tight (generally two fingers space between collar and neck is a comfortable fit). You may consider having a micro-chip implanted for permanent identification. P.s. if you don’t have an id tag immediately, write your telephone number on the inside of the collar with a permanent marker.
  5. A strong leash – a shorter one for walking your puppy, a longer, flexible one for training.
  6. The right food – no sudden change from what the breeder was feeding – to what you would like to feed. A puppy has different nutritional requirements to an adult dog and should therefore be fed puppy food.
  7. A safe environment – fence of out of bounds areas e.g. the swimming pool.
  8. A variety of safe toys to play with.

Taking in a rescue dog: Rather than buy a puppy from a breeder, you may decide to give a home to an abandoned dog from a animal shelter. You may successfully acquire a perfect companion, but pleasure can sometimes turn to disappointment when a dog is found to have unforeseen behavioural problems and cannot adapt to family life.

Do’s and don’ts of adopting a dog:

  • …Decide if you want a puppy, adolescent, adult or older dog before contacting the centre. Consider your own circumstances – always busy? – don’t choose a dog that needs daily grooming. Getting older? – avoid an athletic type. Got children? – make sure the dog is used to them.
  • …take your time, find out all you can about the dog’s background and personality. Take it for a short walk. Watch how it behaves with other dogs and people. Have it checked over by a vet when you get it home. Make sure it has had all its shots.


  • …choose a rescued dog because it may be a cheaper option – you must be prepared to give it plenty of time and patience.
  • …make an over-hasty decision – spend time with the dog before committing yourself.
  • …expect to find the perfect dog the first time you go looking.
  • …choose a dog solely on the basis of its appearance – it is more important to see how the dog behaves.
  • …smother it unnecessary with love and affection. Allow it time and space to adjust to its new home.

Cross breeds vs. pedigrees.

  • Hybrid vigour (stronger gene poole) produces a robust, healthy dog with fewer genetic diseases.
  • a cross-breed will give as much loyalty and affection as other breeds.
  • it is usually cheaper to buy.


  • there is no guarantee of what size or type of dog you are acquiring.
  • no guarantee of temperament or behaviour.

Choosing a cat.

What to look for in a kitten:

  • Does it have a lively, friendly personality?
  • Is its mother (and father if present) friendly, outgoing and trusting with people?
  • Is the coat glossy, with no sign of flea dirt?
  • Are the eyes clear and bright, with no “third eyelid” visible?
  • Is the nose damp but free of discharge?
  • Does it have white teeth, sweet clean breath and healthy pink gums?
  • Are the ears clean, with no wax or discharge?
  • Is the area under the tail clean?

Your kitten’s basic needs:

  • a safe environment.
  • a calm atmosphere.
  • it’s own space.
  • continued socialisation.
  • the right food.
  • a litter box.
  • vaccinations and deworming.

Advantages of a cross-breed:

  • usually a huge selection to choose from.
  • you will not need to contact a breeder.
  • they cost very little – are often given away.
  • cross-bred cats are robust and live longer.
  • they suffer from fewer inherited health problems.

Adopting a homeless cat.

  • is the cat healthy? Has it been vaccinated and sterilised?
  • what is the approximate age?
  • is it a stray or has it been living wild? Why did the first owner’s give it up?
  • does it have any behavioural problems (these can take long to overcome)
  • is it house trained?
  • is it friendly and outgoing, or does it show signs of timidity or aggression?
  • did it live indoors -was it allowed out?
  • is it used to children and other pets?
  • if a long-hair, does it tolerate grooming?
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