How to get a puppy or dog responsibly

Choosing to have a dog in your life can be one of the best decisions you ever make. But getting a dog or puppy can also be a little daunting at first. It is the first step in a lifelong commitment and it’s the most important one to get right.

First of all, you want to make sure you are ready for a dog. If you are – great! You will no doubt be keen for a furry friend to join your family. But it’s important to take your time, making sure that you not only get the right dog for you but that they come from the right place.

It’s much better to spend a little longer searching for your pooch and ultimately getting them safely and responsibly. Otherwise, you risk the potential heartache (for both of you) that can result from rushing into it.

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Getting a puppy or rescue dog

Why not consider adopting a rescue dog and giving a pooch in need a second chance?

You may have your heart set on buying a puppy but our Rehoming Centres house many stray or abandoned dogs and puppies in need of loving homes.

If you get a puppy from us, we will also be there to offer help and advice should you need it. 

Adopt a dog

Thinking of offering a fur-ever home to one of our dogs? That's great! Browse our four-legged residents to find your paw-fect match and start your rehoming journey today.

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Buying a puppy or dog

If you decide that you would like to buy puppy, then it’s vital that you spend time researching breeds  and then finding a responsible breeder.

Start by checking out the Puppy Contract which will help ensure you buy a puppy responsibly. The more time and thought you put into it now, the more wonderful your future together will be.   

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What kind of puppy should you choose?

It’s essential for you to choose a breed and temperament that matches your circumstances and lifestyle. Making this decision, or at least having a few options in mind, will give you a good starting point when you’re researching where to get your dog from.  

- Book a pre-purchase consultation with a vet or vet nurse. This is an opportunity to discuss everything you need to know about becoming a dog owner. You’ll be able to learn about common health issues and inheritable diseases. Plus, any relevant testing available as well associated management options and ongoing costs. You’ll also be able to discuss exercise and enrichment requirements as well as the need for preventative health treatments such as vaccinations, worming, flea and tick treatments. This is important not only for your puppy's health, but also your own. You also might want to discuss pet insurance, which is incredibly important for any dog owner. You want to gather as much information as possible before making your choice.

- Think about your lifestyle, size of home, facilities for exercise and time available - including how much you can commit to training.

- Speak to other owners about their experiences to understand the demands and expectations of living with a dog. But, while it’s good to get other people’s opinions on dog ownership, all dogs are unique. The experiences of friends and family with their own dogs may not necessarily directly apply to your dog.

- If you choose to adopt or buy a specific breed, make sure you meet dogs of all ages and both sexes of that breed to give you an idea of what to expect. Again, remembering to keep in mind that each dog is individual.

- Consider both the physical and mental needs of the dog you have chosen. Are they likely to have higher mental stimulation or physical exercise needs? If so, this may not be compatible with an urban home, for example.

- You should also consider potential vet costs as some breeds are typically more susceptible to certain veterinary issues. Likewise, you need to factor in the cost of insurance. It's important to do your research well in advance as costs can vary considerably between different insurance companies, as well as between breeds.

- Remember to take into account the size of the dog, as bigger dogs will likely be associated with higher ongoing costs when it comes to things like food and vet costs (both preventative treatments as well as non-routine vet care.)

Need to know: Not all dogs within a breed will conform to the general behaviour, exercise or health standards implied or widely expected. This is because each dog is individual. Plus, lots of other things can impact this such as environment and behaviour/genetics of parents.


Finding the right breeder 

If you wish to buy a puppy from a breeder, then you need to make sure it’s a reputable and responsible one. We would recommend visiting the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. This scheme promotes good breeding practices and gives recognition to breeders that prioritise the health and welfare of their dogs and puppies. You can also ask your vet for advice as they might be able to recommend responsible breeders in your local area.

You should be prepared to put your name on a waiting list for a litter to be born. A responsibly bred puppy is worth waiting for and you should visit the parents to get an idea of what the pups will be like. It is a concerning sign if the breeder won’t let you visit the mum at their house.

Be very aware of online scams. Puppies that have been illegally smuggled into the UK are often sold to unsuspecting dog lovers in this way. Those behind the adverts are only concerned with the money and not puppy welfare. Signs to look out for include images and descriptions taken from elsewhere and likely used across multiple adverts. They may also have several different breeds available and a lack of knowledge about them. Be wary of claims that pups are registered with the Kennel Club – this does not mean they are a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. Look out for puppies advertised as having passports and under eight weeks of age.

Likewise, puppies should not be sold from pet shops. It’s very likely that these dogs have come from puppy farms. In the UK, sales of puppies under the age of six months can only take place at the location they have been bred. This means that selling puppies at pet shops, or by commercial third-party sellers, is banned.

Find out more about puppy smuggling and the devastating effects it can have on dogs and new dog owners.

What makes a responsible dog breeder?

It’s very important for you to go to a responsible breeder when getting a puppy. These breeders will prioritise the health and welfare of both the dogs they breed from and the puppies they produce.

  1. Not allow a bitch to have more than one litter of puppies in a 12-month period.
  2. Following Kennel Club recommendations, they will only allow their bitches to have a maximum of four litters during their breeding life.
  3. Ensure that a bitch that has had a litter delivered by caesarean section is not mated.
  4. Only breed from a bitch between the ages of one and eight.
  5. They would only breed dogs without behaviour problems.
  6. Not breed from a dog or bitch that is likely to pass on any inherited disease to future generations of puppies. (Research of your chosen breed may alert you to some of these inherited conditions such as hip dysplasia.)
  7. Responsible breeders will be able to show that the dogs that they are using for breeding do not carry genetic mutations known to affect that particular breed.
  8. Be knowledgeable about their breed and will always advise you on any queries you may have.
  9. Ensure their dogs have a good quality of life. This includes being fed an appropriate diet to meet their nutritional demands. Being kept in a clean and safe environment, at an appropriate temperature with adequate bedding and enrichment. Plus, access to fresh clean water and plenty of space. They should also have access to outdoor space for exercise.
  10. They will make sure they have regular routine vet care to include flea and worming treatment, vaccinations and health checks. Plus, a vet check prior to being sold.
  11. Ensure the puppy is comfortable with the daily goings on of a house alongside plenty of opportunities for socialisation.
  12. They’d microchip the dogs before they go to the new owner. This is because it’s a legal requirement for all dogs over eight weeks of age to be microchipped.
  13. They won’t sell puppies before the age of eight weeks.
  14. They will want you to visit more than once to give them a chance to get to know you properly and enable you to see puppy and mum in their home environment a few times.
  15. Ask lots of questions so they know as much about you as possible to ensure you’ll provide a suitable home for the puppy. This may be about your lifestyle and the type of home their puppy is going to.
  16. Issue a puppy pack which should include advice on feeding, socialisation, exercise, training and grooming. As well as flea and worming treatment, vaccinations and microchip details.
  17. Be keen to follow up on their puppy's progress in their new home.
  18. Offer to take the puppy back should your initial circumstances change (throughout the dog’s lifetime).


Six simple steps to safely buying a puppy

Step one: Call ahead

Speak to the breeder on the phone before visiting. You should ask lots of questions. You may want to have a few prepared for this initial phone call so you know what to expect. You could ask questions about the mother such as her age and how many litters she has had. This is a good opportunity to ask if you will be able to see the puppies with the mother and how old they are. It is a red flag if a breeder is not willing to let you see the puppies with their mum.

The breeder should also ask you lots of questions to check their puppy is going to the best home.

Remember, you should never pay a deposit up front – this will be paid once you have chosen your pup.

Step two: Meet the pup's family

When you arrange to meet, make sure you do it at the puppy’s home, where they have been bred. You should be suspicious if the seller wants to deliver the dog or meet at another location. You want to see the puppy interacting with their mother and littermates – and if possible, meet their dad.

This gives you the opportunity to choose which puppy you would like from the litter. It’s also a chance to check that your potential pup is happy and healthy. It is concerning if they are in a windowless room or outside and not interacted with. They should be in the home, interacted with frequently and exposed to daily goings-on. If not, this could result in behaviour problems or poor welfare later on. You should visit at least twice to see them.

Step three: Check paperwork

A Kennel Club registration/pedigree does not guarantee a perfect puppy. So, it is important that you carry out the appropriate checks. Make sure you see all relevant paperwork when you visit the puppy. This will include a health check report from a vet and details of microchipping (which is a legal requirement for the breeder.) You should also get a Pedigree or Kennel Club certificate.

Find out whether the puppy has been wormed and vaccinated. Some breeders will vaccinate puppies at eight weeks of age before releasing them to their new owners. If they have, you should be shown the vaccination certificate which should have been signed by a vet.

You should also ask to see a full health history (including health screening certificates) of both parents. If you need help understanding the results, ask your vet.

It’s also important to be aware that puppies must be at least eight weeks old before they can go home with you. A responsible breeder would never send you home with a puppy younger than that. This is a legal requirement. However, it’s also very important for social development that a puppy spends the first eight weeks with their mother and siblings.

Step four: Talk to the seller

Ask lots of questions about the puppy and be prepared to answer a lot of questions in return. A good breeder should be as curious about you as you are about them.

If possible, request a written agreement that the purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your vet within 48 hours of purchase. Ask if the puppy will be covered by insurance for any illness during the first four to six weeks in your care – most good breeders subscribe to this scheme.

You should also confirm that you can return the puppy if there are any health issues.

Step five: Take your time and report suspicions

Don’t feel pressured to make a snap decision. Walk away if something doesn’t look or feel right.

If you're worried about the pup's welfare, contact the RSPCA, SSPCA or USPCA. If you suspect a seller is acting suspiciously, or if you think the puppy may have been illegally imported, please report them to Trading Standards.

Step six: Buying your puppy

If you’re happy with everything and ready to buy your puppy, arrange a date to pick them up and book a vet health check-up within 48 hours of the date. If you are using a Puppy Contract, you should agree for this to be completed and confirm the paperwork will be ready for you to collect. Then you can begin to get your home ready and start getting excited for their arrival.

So, where will you be getting your puppy from? If you choose to rescue then you’ll find plenty of dogs waiting for their forever home and people ready to match you up with the most suitable one for you. If you wish to buy a puppy from a breeder, then do your research, take your time and use our puppy buying checklist  to help.  

Use a Puppy Buying Checklist 

The first time you meet your potential puppy, you might be so excited that you forget to ask something. That’s to be expected.

We can save you the bother of trying to remember it all. Download and print the Puppy Buying Advice checklist and to take with you when you embark on your puppy buying adventure.

Puppy Buying Checklist (PDF 65KB)