How to get a dog responsibly
We would always ask anyone considering bringing a four-legged friend into their life, to rehome a rescue dog. We have thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes in our rehoming centres waiting to meet their special someone. However we know that people sometimes want to buy a pup from a breeder.
Buying a puppy from a breeder can be hit and miss if you don’t know what to look for, or what questions to ask when buying a puppy. And, whilst we would never recommend buying a puppy from any online source, we have some tips to help you in your research and throughout the process so you can be confident that the puppy you have your eye on, has been bred responsibly.
Do your research
We urge anyone thinking about getting a dog to do their research before welcoming a puppy into their life. Having a bouncy, happy, playful puppy is a very enjoyable experience and dog ownership can be very rewarding, but it is a lot of hard work, and a lifetime commitment which can sometimes be forgotten in all the excitement! The key things to think about when you first decide you want a pup are which breed would best suit your lifestyle, the financial costs of dog ownership, who will care for your dog if you go to work or have holidays booked and training classes.
Be aware of online adverts
Sadly not everyone can be trusted, and there are thousands of unscrupulous breeders out there who make a good living pedalling sick puppies via online adverts who may have been illegally imported into this country. We want people to realise that if an advert seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, when you visit a puppy you should expect the breeder to be as curious about you and the home you can provide, as you are about the puppy. If you ever feel rushed into making a purchase, you should walk away. Don't buy the puppy because you will be fuelling the trade. It’s hard to do but it’s the right thing to do.
For an extra check, you could visit the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.
Meeting your puppy for the first time
- Ask the breeder lots of questions, and expect them to ask you some too! A responsible breeder will want to see their puppies going to a good home, so expect questions on your lifestyle and home environment. Take this opportunity to ask them lots of questions too! They should have no problem with you visiting a few times to get to know your puppy, and you should never feel pressured to purchase on your first visit. If you feel at all rushed into making a decision, walk away.
- Never meet anywhere that isn't the puppy's home
When you meet your puppy it should always be in the breeders home, where they were born. Be careful though as we know of unscrupulous breeders who rent houses to make it look picture perfect, so when you visit take a look at the surroundings - does it look like a dog lives there? If so, be sure to see your puppy interacting with their mum and littermates. Mum should be a nice, friendly dog because temperament can be inherited, although she might be defensive of her puppies, she should be very comfortable around the breeder. If you’re not allowed to see them interacting together, or mum seems uninterested in her pups it might be that they’re not really hers! If you can't see the mum and puppies together, walk away and ask to go back when you can. Don't be afraid to ask!
- How old should a puppy be?
They must be at least eight weeks old to leave their mum.
- Should a puppy be weaned?
At seven weeks they should be fully weaned. If they are not, they could be younger than the breeder claimed.
- How old should mum be?
She should be over a year old, but not obviously very old.
- Ask about mum's history, and how many litters she has had
It is against the law to breed a bitch more than six times in her lifetime. If the breeder breeds frequently they are required to have a licence.
- Have the puppies been wormed?
All puppies have worms at birth. Worming should start with the breeder at about two weeks old, be repeated every two weeks and be continued by you.
- Have the puppies had any vaccinations? If so, when is the next dose due?
Puppies should be vaccinated at 6-9 weeks of age and then again at 10-12 weeks. They will become fully protected two weeks after the second vaccination. You will need to do this if the breeder has not.
- Does the puppy look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom?
If the puppy is unwell, collect him another day. If he’s still ill then do not take him and try another breeder. If you are at all suspicious of the surroundings or the breeder, report them to Trading Standards. Please don't purchase the puppy as you will just be fuelling the trade.
- What should I feed my puppy? Do you have a diet sheet to take away?
A good breeder will give you enough food to continue exactly the same diet for a couple of days. They should also give you a diet sheet that shows how feeding should change as your puppy grows.
- What sort of socialisation or experiences has my puppy had so far?
Puppies should preferably be raised in a home environment with all the noise and through traffic of a normal home. Those raised in kennels away from the house will need more intensive socialisation training to ensure they can cope with daily life as a pet. If puppies have already met other dogs, domestic animals and people they will have more confidence than those that have not.
- Can I return the puppy if there are any health problems?
You should take your new puppy to a vet for a health check within 48 hours. A good breeder will offer to take the puppy back at any point should you be unable to keep him.
- Is the puppy Kennel Club registered?
If so, make sure you are given the registration certificate and pedigree when you pick up your puppy. You should also get some free health insurance for the first few weeks.
- When can I take the puppy home?
It is absolutely essential to see the puppies with their mother. Some unscrupulous people claiming to be breeders might in fact be dealers who have bought the pups in. They are likely to be poorly bred, might be ill and are usually too young to leave their exhausted, ill-treated mothers. If they survive, these puppies rarely make good pets, and you will be fuelling this cruel trade where money is the priority and welfare of the dog is ignored.
- Is the Puppy Microchipped
It is a legal requirement for all breeders of puppies to microchip and register their own details prior to sale. It is against the law for a breeder to not microchip the puppy. The microchip MUST be registered to the breeder and is considered an offence if they offer to chip and register directly into your name
Before you visit, take five minutes to have a look at the Puppy Contract. This can act as a reminder!
Take these with you
Getting a Puppy PDF 526 KB
Getting a Dog PDF 507 KB
I am concerned about a breeder or an online advert, what should I do?
If you are concerned in any way about a breeder or an establishment, you can report them confidentially to Trading Standards. If there are signs of obvious neglect or cruelty, contact the RSPCA as soon as possible.
If you have bought a puppy from a classified ad or website that has proved to be poorly or have behavioural problems, please report this to the Pet Advertising Advisory Group.