Emma the Vet on ... What to know before bringing home a new dog

Written by Napo HQ
4th May 2022
6 mins read
When looking to buy from a breeder, Dr Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS (Emma the vet) explains the importance of requesting proper health tests, using the AWF puppy contract, and avoiding unscrupulous breeders and puppy farms.
Emma is a big advocate of adoption and "proper mongrels", and recommends all would-be owners visit a rescue centre to see if they fall in love! 
Breeder or rescue, always talk to a vet about your new dog's needs, health issues, and cost of care before you bring them home.
Amongst all the excitement of deciding to get a dog, it can be easy to just focus on finding your perfect pet and bringing them home.
However, there are many different things to figure out before you bring home a new furry friend. That's why we fetched expert answers from Emma the vet about everything you should know before bringing home a new dog.
Whether you're looking to buy a puppy from a good breeder or rehome a rescue dog, here's her advice on how to find the right dog for you, ethical places to find a pet, and what you should be asking breeders and shelters about your new dog.

My family is thinking of getting a dog. How can I go about choosing the right breed for us?

It really is essential that people pick dogs that suit their lifestyle and their family dynamic. I’m a huge fan of adoption and the good centres can really help with this assessment.
Lots of people pick dogs based on popular breeds or celebrities and social media but these can be disastrous choices if not properly researched. You need to be very honest about your financial situation, how much room you have and how active you are.
Also, I would love more people to talk to their vets before getting a certain breed to find out about needs, costs, and health issues.
Fundamentally, I would like to see more people choose proper mongrels (not designer crossbreeds!) and/or look for breeders who are more concerned about health and temperament than looks.

If I decide to get a dog from a breeder, how can I find a reputable one?

The RSPCA and DEFRA have great advice about how to avoid puppy farm dogs and unscrupulous breeders.
Also, the Dog Breeding Reform Group has advice on puppy buying.
make sure you see the puppy with its mother and siblings in the home environment. Never buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it.
It’s very important that every puppy buyer should use the AWF puppy contract and puppy information pack. This is free to download and is the best tool to help prospective owners get the healthiest, most well-adjusted puppy possible. If a breeder won’t sign this, walk away. Please!

What documentation should I ask the breeder for?

Make sure you know what the health problems are in the breed you are looking at. Talk to your vet and look at the Kennel Club website about what health tests the parents and/or puppy should have had.
Sadly, pedigrees have plenty of health issues that can be devastating for the dog and the family. If a breeder has not done the recommended health tests for the breed do NOT buy the puppy. Only when owners start expecting more form breeders will change happen.
As I said above, the most important document to make sure you get is a signed, completed puppy contract. This will ensure the health questions and many others are asked.
Lots of owners get hung up on pedigree certificates. These are not a guarantee of health, and often can be the opposite if the same names appear time and again on it.

What should I ask the breeder the first time I go to visit the puppy?

Everything! You need to ask about health, temperament, socialisation and habituation. These are essential to ensure you have the best chance of finding a good, well-adjusted, family pet.
Ask about worming and vaccinations and diet. I personally would never buy a puppy from anyone using homoeopathic vaccines or medicines and I would never buy a puppy from a breeder feeding raw food.
Something that many owners forget is to expect the breeder to ask them questions. Good breeders will want to be absolutely sure that their puppies are going to good homes. If a breeder doesn’t seem to care what your circumstances are or how much you know about caring for your new puppy, I would be very wary.

What red flags should I watch out for when finding a breeder? What should I never do?

buy a puppy from;
  • Someone who offers to meet you somewhere like a motorway services. You must see the dogs in their home, with their mother.
  • Someone who wants cash and is happy for you to take the puppy straight away. Make sure you see the puppy more than once and don’t get rushed into buying.
  • Anyone that won’t fill in and sign the puppy contract and information pack.
  • Someone who makes excuses about why health tests haven’t been done or can’t provide proof of test results.

If I decide to rescue or adopt a dog, where are the best places to do that?

Stick with the big organisations such as Blue Cross, Battersea, and Dogs Trust.
If you have a local adoption centre feel free to have a look around, but you want to be sure they are good at behavioural assessments, and are happy to help with follow up issues if they arise.
I would always ask people to consider adoption, even if they don’t think it’s for them. You’ve got nothing to lose spending a couple of hours wandering round an adoption centre. You might just fall in love and there are so many dogs out there looking for homes.
It is my opinion that owners should look to adopt locally. The risk of infectious diseases when adopting from overseas is very high and the dogs can have significant behavioural problems because they are not used to home life.
I know it feels like a noble thing to do, but there are thousands of dogs already here that need homes!

Is it OK to buy or rehome a dog online, from somewhere like Gumtree?

Most people buy everything online these days and reputable breeders will be online too.
I would definitely avoid sites such as Gumtree, because it can be very difficult to weed out the puppy farms and the unscrupulous people importing puppies that are too young to leave their mothers.
Again, the Petphishing advice from DEFRA is good, and well worth a look for lots of pet-buying questions.

Getting a new dog is a big deal! What are the basic things I should do to prepare myself and my home for this new member of the family?

My number one wish is that anyone thinking about getting a dog sets themselves this simple task; between the people responsible for the dog, they have to go for a half hour walk twice a day, every day, for a month before they get the dog.
This will be the bare minimum any dog will need and it’s surprisingly difficult to find the time and energy, especially if the weather is rubbish.
Lack of exercise and stimulation is a huge cause of frustration and behavioural problems in dogs and can also be a cause of bite injuries. It’s not acceptable to have a dog and ignore it!

Jump to

When is it too hot to walk your dog?
When is it too hot to walk your dog?
Most cases of heatstroke in dogs are caused by exercise in the heat, so it can be too hot for walkies.
Can dogs eat prawns
Can dogs eat prawns
Prawns can be a tasty treat for your pup as long as they're plain, cooked, and the shell and tails are removed. But avoid giving them prawn-flavoured foods like crisps or prawn crackers, as these can have harmful or unhealthy ingredients.
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
Puppies aren't born knowing to toilet outside, so we have to train them to do it. It can take a few weeks to months. But by 5-6 months, you'll probably notice fewer accidents in the house.