two labs in basket


Choosing a puppy as an addition to the family is one of life's absolute joys. But that little fluffy bundle also brings major responsibility. With some thoughtful preparation and well laid out planning, you can give your dog a great head start to life, and ensure yours is filled with more fun than frustration.

The responsibilities of owning a dog

Before you bring a puppy into your home, you and your family not only gain a new friend, but take on many responsibilities. The first questions you should ask yourself are:

Can I afford a dog?

Throughout their life dogs need food, grooming and healthcare.

Do I have time to look after a dog?

It takes a lot of time to properly feed, train, play with and care for a new puppy.

Is my home suitable for a dog?

This is particularly important if you are considering a larger breed that needs a lot of outdoor space.

Other things you need to take into account

Legal obligations such as:

  • taking care of any damage or problems the puppy may cause
  • making sure the puppy doesn’t hurt anyone or disturb people living around you
  • keeping private places and public walkways clean.

Health obligations such as:

  • keeping your puppy healthy and safe: This includes any suitable foods, water, shelter in a safe environment, preventative treatments against certain parasites and infectious diseases and any other necessary veterinary care. Keeping your puppy healthy is also necessary for the health of your children, family, and other people who come into contact with the puppy.

But more than anything, you are taking over the role of your puppy’s mother, the maternal role of carer and teacher. This means providing your new puppy a stable home, where he or she feels comfortable, safe and happy.

How to choose a healthy puppy

There are a number of things you can look for to make sure your puppy is healthy:

On the head

  • Is the nose cool and damp, or are there signs of an abnormal nasal discharge?
  • The gums should be a bright pink - pale can mean anaemia or a problem with worms
  • Bright, clear eyes
  • Check for redness or inflammation of the third eyelid
  • Clean, odour free ear canals - a build-up of wax and dirt or tenderness could mean ear mites or infection

On the body

  • Feel the stomach – swelling can indicate poor diet or possible worm infestation
  • A bulge at the navel or groin can mean a hernia
  • Do they have a strong, regular heartbeat?
  • Genitals should be clean and free from irritation, which could indicate worms, diarrhoea, or a digestive disorder
  • Is the coat fluffy, clean, and free of mats? Sores, itching, or deposits in the fur indicate fleas, mites, or other parasites

Bones and muscles

  • Is the puppy playful and agile? Problems with mobility and/or a reluctance to play may mean the puppy has conformational problems, which may cause lifelong problems
  • Are they noticeably underweight or overweight?

Download fact sheet

To download a fact sheet on choosing a healthy puppy, click here (PDF, 165kb).