11 Red Flags When Picking Out a Puppy

Choosing a puppy to take home and become a part of your family is incredibly exciting. Unfortunately though, all too often prospective puppy owners are scammed, or unknowingly support cruel breeding practices with their purchase. Therefore, it’s important to be able to spot the red flags when picking out a puppy.

You should always visit the puppy in person before deciding to buy them, and when you visit, look out for the following warning signs.

The puppy is being sold younger than 8 weeks old

This should never be the case. Don’t ever buy a puppy that is younger than 8 weeks old.

The seller is advertising many litters from different breeds

Search the breeder’s name online before you visit to see if this is the case. It could be a sign that they are operating a puppy farm.

The seller offers to meet you somewhere other than the place the puppy was born

For example, a car park or a sales room of some kind. Again, this is a sign that the puppy has come from a puppy farm or other disreputable breeder set up. You should always expect to see the puppy with its mum in the place that it was born.

The puppy’s mum is not there

If you go to visit a litter of puppies and their mother isn’t available to meet, it’s unlikely that the puppies were bred there. This means they could have been bred in an outbuilding or barn, or somewhere worse. Watch out for any excuses about where mum is, for example, on a walk or at the vets, as this may not be true.

The mum isn’t interacting with the puppies

This could be a sign that the adult dog you see isn’t the puppies’ real mum. Usually dogs won’t interact with another dog’s puppies. Again, if the puppies’ real mum isn’t there, this is a red flag.

You feel pressured to make a decision quickly

If the seller is trying to get you to part with your money quickly, this is a bad sign. They might tell you that there is only one available puppy left, or that you need to pay upfront before seeing them. Only pay once you’ve seen the puppy with its mother in the place it was born.

The puppy doesn’t look healthy

Look out for a shiny coat, bright eyes with no discharge, clean teeth and pink gums. Their bottom and belly should be free of redness or inflammation, and check to make sure they are not scratching excessively as this could be a sign of fleas. Also ensure that they run and walk comfortably, with their legs and feet facing forward. They should also have plenty of energy – but bear in mind that puppies also nap a lot!

The puppy’s environment looks unclean

Check that their pen, bedding, bathroom area and any areas they play in are all clean and well taken care of. If they are not, the puppies could get sick.

The seller is reluctant to share the puppy’s health records before sale

If there are no health records, or the seller is not freely sharing them with you, this is a red flag. You should be able to check all the records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, and microchipping before you agree to buy a puppy.

The breeder isn’t happy to sign the Puppy Contract

Ask the breeder to complete the Puppy Contract. You can download this for free, and it allows you to take a record of all the important information about the seller, the puppy and the puppy’s parents. A good breeder should be happy to do this.

The breeder should also be able to produce their licence number from their local authority. If they claim not to need one, you can check with the local council.

The puppy displays troubling behaviour

Even if you have found a reputable dog breeder, some puppies from the litter may still make better pets than others. Here are some red flags when picking out a puppy in terms of the behaviour they display:

  • They overly dominate the other puppies in the litter
  • They show signs of aggressive resource guarding
  • They are reluctant to interact with you, or they shrink back into a corner
  • They are unhappy with being picked up or handled. Check they are happy for their paws, face, ears and tail to be touched, and that they accept a good amount of handling before showing they want to be put down

Wrapping Up

Looking out for these red flags when picking out a puppy will help to ensure that you come away with a happy, healthy pup, and avoid scams. You’ll be better equipped to spot the signs of cruel, illegal puppy farms – if you are concerned that you may have come across a puppy farm, please contact your local trading standards and report it to the RSPCA. To help you find a reputable breeder, you can check out the Kennel Club’s list of assured breeders.

For more advice on how to find a reputable dog breeder and avoid being scammed, check out our blog, How To Buy A Puppy Safely And Responsibly.

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