WHEN the grocer’s shelf is full of apples, you can afford to be choosy.

The shiniest, reddest, plumpest fruit can be picked after careful and thoughtful deliberation.

Every aspect of the apple can be taken into account. Colour, texture and shape all come into play. You can’t just rely on how the apple looks. Many of your senses are used in making your decision.

Sight, smell, touch and taste are all important. If you do taste before you buy, you might even employ your hearing to assess the crunch. But when the cupboard is bare, you might be far less discerning.

If only one apple is left then anything will do. You’ll even take that bruised, slightly shrivelled thing that everybody else has discarded. It would have been much more sensible if you had chosen to take an orange or a banana instead.

Buying a puppy is just the same. If your favourite breed is well represented in the small ads you know you have a choice to make. Each breeder can be sounded out on the phone before you even visit their premises. Do you like their manner? Do they sound like the caring sort of person you would want to have bred the puppy who is to become a member of your family?

You may find that much of their temperament has been transferred to their dogs. Are they concerned enough about their puppies’ welfare to ask about your circumstances or do they only want to tell you how much money you will have to part with?

Have they carried out basic health testing of the dam and sire or do they bluff you into thinking they don’t need to do that?

Once the hearing test has been passed, it is time to visit and look, smell and touch. Puppies kept in unhygienic conditions are likely to have roundworm, bacterial and protozoal infections, all of which can be severe and can be transmitted to humans. If the puppy is presented to you in a reception room, ask to see where he is normally kept. A refusal should have you walking away.

Don’t be blinded by this little ball of fluff with the waggy tail. Are the premises clean? Do they smell of poo or disinfectant? Is the bedding fresh? Are there far more puppies than mums

Some unscrupulous breeders will have a few breeding bitches for show but will puppy farm many more.

Now, and only now, can you consider the puppy. If your heart wants you to save it from a den of iniquity then please don’t.

You will only provide the seller with enough money to replace it with four. Contact the Scottish SPCA instead.

A careful examination is now required. Assess body condition, ears, eyes and teeth. Look for lumps and bumps, especially on the tummy and make sure it is a similar size to its littermates.

Don’t buy without a written assurance that you can return it if your vet advises on his first examination.

There are some bad apples out there that are rotten to the core.