I’ve been running Hampstead House Sitters and sister company Hampstead Hounds for over 4 years now. During that time, I’ve provided post-op care, bespoke dog walking and training for many of my client’s dogs and puppies. However, for me there was just one thing missing, a dog of my own.

So, this time last year my thoughts turned to finding the right puppy for our lifestyle and home. We considered adopting a rescue, but with 2 very opinionated cats at home we decided a young puppy from a busy home would be the best decision for the family as a whole. We recently celebrated her first birthday, and it has been a year filled with adventures and so much joy.

Our lovely Winnie when she was a puppy

Her name is Winnie, a French bulldog and we chose this breed as we are a high-energy family who love to play, laugh, and travel, things that all appeal to a Frenchie’s character. Winnie joins me where she can on various dog walks and the occasional meeting or two. Plus, she’s been known to help me at various dog charity events taking her place on judging panels! She has a great personality, is very well socialised, and our clients love her.

I’m lucky to live and work in Hampstead Village in London, with daily access to the famous dog heaven that is Hampstead Heath – a fabulous mixture of scenic woods, open fields and ponds to exercise and walk Winnie alongside the other dogs and puppies I look after. It’s important she interacts with other hounds and makes friends with them – something I promote throughout my services.

If you’re thinking of owning a puppy then January is a great time to start the ball rolling. Puppies that are born during winter are ready for their new home in spring. It a lovely time to get a puppy as the weather has improved. After their injections you can get them out and about during the longer hours and the more important toilet training is much easier!

But please do take a decision to raise a puppy or adopt a rescue dog seriously. For those unprepared humans it can turn out to be overwhelming, time consuming and expensive. Possibly leading to the worst-case scenario of a new puppy being handed over to an already busy animal charity for re homing. Before you make that all important decision please do make sure you have taken the time to consider;

• What dog/puppy would be suitable for your lifestyle?
• What are you basing your choice of breed on?
• Will the breeder you are choosing allow you to meet the Mother during your visit?
• Are you ready to adapt your lifestyle and routine to accommodate the needs of a dog?
• Will the puppy be left on its own for long periods of time?
• Have you decided on your toilet training strategy that everyone in the family can stick to?
• Are you prepared to spend the time safely introducing your puppy to other animals, or children in the home?
• Is where you live appropriate to raise a dog?
• Are there good dog-walking areas where you live?
• Will you have time for regular dog walks – rain or shine?
• Are you aware how much annual injections, regular worming and flea treatments and good quality food cost?
• Is dog insurance affordable for you?
• Do you have access to an experienced carer for your puppy while at work, or when away on business or holiday?

I know it’s a long list, but these tips should be taken into consideration. Every year the amount of dogs abandoned increases, especially this time of the year when owners either can’t afford to keep the puppy or they suddenly realise the responsibility they will eventually have. Puppies can grow into large adult dogs, with personalities to match!

Once you have taken that all-important decision you need to go to a reputable breeder. Please do not buy a puppy online from Gumtree, the prices may be cheaper but you will possibly pay more in the long run with health problems. 9 times out of 10 there won’t be any breeding history. You’ve probably read in the media of the terrible conditions in farms, puppies becoming ill days after being brought home and owners ending up with sky-high veterinary bills. The breeder may offer to give you a refund and take the dog back; they will possibly put it to sleep as it is considered an expense that they wanted to pass on. Please do be sensible and mindful as these unethical breeders rely on you falling in love with the puppy at first sight.

The Kennel Club is a good place to source ethical people interested in breeding healthy dogs, or you can ask at your local vet or dog owners that you meet out and about. Please be wary of any new colours of an established breed, colours such as blue and lilac are essentially new experiments in breeding lines, and they can result in animals with a lot more health issues. Just ask our lilac coloured British Shorthair Lily, who was born a hermaphrodite, and had to have corrective surgery.

Cute Charlie who we walk daily

A very worthwhile option, and one I would highly recommend, is to approach one of the many established charities such as All Dogs Matter. I’ve been lucky to have supported this charity for many years and they do a fantastic job of rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs in need.

The charity provides customers with the opportunity to foster a dog which means you can test the water before making a final decision before introducing a puppy/dog into your home permanently.
In fact there’s a whole list of dogs and puppies waiting to be fostered or adopted right now – you can take a look here

All Dogs Matter is not the only charity, you can approach a whole range of organisations across the UK including The Mayhew, Edward Foundation, RSPCA and the Dogs Trust to name but a few. As ever please do your homework and make sure that you understand any specific needs that the rescue dog may need from their forever home.

Once you invite a dog or puppy into your home you have a friend for life who becomes an important part of the family. They will listen to your problems, always give you a warm welcome, be fantastic company, provide endless cuddles and teach you more about living in the moment. They will also do a lot that is disguised as fun to help promote your fitness and improve your mental health and well-being – a scientifically proven fact!

This year we’ll be expanding our services for puppy training and walking. So, if you need our expert advice and services please do give us a ring, we’ll be more than happy to chat to you about what we can do to help you raise a happy, well-behaved, fun and fit puppy!

Good luck!

Organisations named in this blog are a trusted recommendation and have not paid to be included.