Friends and neighbours
Acquiring a puppy from a friend or neighbour may be a good source, but there are some things you should check.
Pedigree or not?
If the bitch is a pure bred and has had a planned breeding as a pedigree, you should ask the same questions as if it was from a registered breeder. For example have the puppies been registered? Were the bitch and sire subjected to screening for genetic diseases?
If this was an un-planned mating, and the litter is not pure bred, these questions are not relevant. Considering the issues presented under avoiding nuisance in the community and responsible dog ownership, it may have been preferable that such an un-planned mating should not have happened. But these things do happen and the puppies require a home!
Experience of breeding?
A friend or neighbour, however well-meaning, may have had little previous experience of breeding and raising a litter. Diet, vaccination, worming, weaning, early socialisation and so on are all very important factors that will have a long term impact on the puppy’s health and well-being.
It may be somewhat embarrassing to ask detailed questions in such circumstances, especially if the puppy is being given to you free of charge, but it is essential you know so you can make appropriate plans.
Vaccination of the bitch and puppies?
A bitch will pass on immunity to its puppies in the milk produced in the first few days after birth. This is called the colostrum and it protects the puppy for the first 8 – 10 weeks of life. It may interfere with the primary puppy vaccination if the latter is given too early. Normal primary vaccination protocols allow for this.
If the bitch has not received routine annual vaccinations, has been given homeopathic “vaccines”, or if the bitch died at the time of birth, the protection of the puppies may be sub-optimal and your veterinarian may suggest a revised vaccine protocol.
Worming of the bitch through pregnancy and worming of the puppies?
The larvae of the common roundworm, Toxocars canis, will form cysts within the muscle of the bitch. During the latter stages of pregnancy, the hormone changes in her body stimulate these cysts to continue their development such that larval worms will pass to the puppies across the placenta and through the milk. All puppies are therefore born with developing worm larvae in their bodies.
Certain worm preparations can be used in the later stages of pregnancy in the bitch and are effective against migrating larvae. However, this will serve to reduce the burden rather than eliminate them completely, and so worming of the bitch and puppies should commence two weeks after birth. Not all worm preparations are the same, and there are variations in efficacy. So check the worming preparation and frequency of treatment given and discuss this with your veterinarian.
Diet and weaning
Reference to the good diet section will illustrate that dogs need a balanced diet and that during puppyhood the balance of nutrients required is different than that of adults. Check the diet that has been given and ask advice if there are potential deficiencies.
Abrupt weaning may lead to bouts of diarrhoea.
The early experiences of a puppy are critical to mould its future development. One advantage of getting a puppy from a friend or neighbour is that the bitch is likely to be a family pet and so the litter will be reared within the home together with the bitch and in contact with the family.
It may be that your own family has had frequent interactions with the puppy from an early age. This will facilitate socialisation and reduce the potential stress of the move to your own home. This is clearly a big advantage. However, it may not always be the case, so check first.