How to buy a puppy safely and responsibly

How to buy a puppy

You’ve no doubt read news stories about puppy buyers who have been scammed. This is an all too common problem, which can leave puppy buyers heartbroken and out of pocket. Here’s what you need to know about buying a puppy and how to avoid being scammed.

Where to buy a puppy

 There are a couple of ways you can get a puppy: from a breeder or from a rescue centre, which often have puppies as well as adult dogs.

Dog breeders can be licensed or unlicensed, depending on the number of puppies they breed each year, how many they sell and whether they breed dogs as a business. A licensed breeder will be subject to inspections by the local authority and have to meet certain requirements regarding the welfare and care of their dogs and puppies.

However, the term ‘licensed breeder’ includes small-scale professional breeders as well large-scale commercial breeders, commonly referred to as puppy farms. Therefore, a licensed breeder doesn’t always signify a good breeder.

Some people breed and sell puppies commercially, but fall below the threshold for requiring a licence. For example, not all members of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme are licensed, but they do meet standards set by the Kennel Club. The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme can be a good place to begin your search for a puppy.

 Lucy’s Law

 A new law, called Lucy’s Law, came into force in England in April 2020 – it means that puppies can no longer be sold by third parties, e.g. a pet shop. Previously, lots of puppies were being sold online by traders who bought puppies from puppy farms. Many of these puppies were imported from eastern European countries and Ireland, and with no traceability or knowledge of the conditions in which the puppies had been bred, they would become sick or die shortly after being sold to their unsuspecting new owners.

The good news is that Lucy’s Law will help to clamp down on this unscrupulous trade – however rogue traders are still continuing to flout the law to con puppy buyers out of money. Some breeds of puppies are sold for several hundreds, or thousands of pounds, which makes it a lucrative business and an easy trap for puppy buyers to fall into.

Choosing a family-friendly puppy

A puppy that has been bred and raised in a family home will make a much more suitable family pet than a puppy that has been bred in a barn or outbuilding – this is because a puppy that has been bred in a family home will be used to a busy household environment. Puppies that have been bred in a barn or an outbuilding are more likely to be anxious and develop behaviour problems.

That’s why it is really important to always see a puppy with its mother in the place where it was born. You can tell a lot about a puppy when you visit a litter, which is why you should never buy a puppy until you have seen it. Here’s what to check for when you visit a litter of puppies:

  • The puppies have been bred and raised in a family home – ask this question before you visit.
  • You can see the puppies with its mother in the place where it was born.
  • The breeder has started to socialise the litter of puppies (e.g. to get them used to different people, being handled and brushed and having their paws touched).
  • The puppies are confident and inquisitive and seem happy to approach you. Puppies that seem anxious or afraid are likely to grow into nervous dogs and will not make good family pets.
  • The puppies will be microchipped and wormed before going to their new home.

You should look for a puppy that has clear, bright eyes and clean ears that don’t smell. They should have clean teeth and pink gums, soft shiny fur, a clean bottom and no sign of fleas. Avoid puppies with pot-bellies. This is a sign that they have worms.

How to avoid being scammed

 Rogue puppy traders rely on the ‘cute’ appeal of puppies to lure their buyers. They know how hard it is to resist a puppy and will do whatever it takes to get you to part with your money, including trying to persuade you that there is only one puppy left and you need to pay upfront, and offering to deliver a puppy to you, which doesn’t materialise.

There are a number of ways to protect yourself when buying a puppy:

  • Arrange to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old, rather than ready to go. This will prevent a seller from persuading you to buy a puppy there and then – even when your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong. It also means you will have time to properly meet the puppies, get a sense of how they interact with you and you can ask lots of questions of the breeder before you buy.
  • Only pay for a puppy once you have seen it with its mother in the place where it was born. If you are asked to put down a deposit, make sure it is refundable.
  • Use the Puppy Contract when buying a puppy. The Puppy Contract is a legally binding contract between you and the seller.

Visit Our Family Dog for more advice about getting a puppy. Our Family Dog is a website for first-time dog owners

By Justine Williams, founder of Our Family Dog.