Puppy Purchasing Guide

So you want to buy a puppy, you’ve chosen the breed and you’re looking ….

what measures can you take to ensure the pup is happy and healthy? 

Here are a few sensible rules to bear in mind:

Firstly, consider carefully Do you have the time, the space, the common sense or experience- and the cash for a dog? For around 12 years, give or take?

Puppies are a lot of work in the beginning- but you get back a thousand or more times what you put in.

Looking for breeders

* Now you can’t, by law, buy a pup from a third party, like a pet shop or market. It’s a good step as you cannot check the quality of the breeder and you can’t tell what happens to the pup when the shop’s day is over.

* Do some homework- check out the Kennel Club (KC) or maybe a local breed club who often have a list of breeders. Get an idea of average price you would expect to pay.

* Google search the kennel name and breeders if you see one you like.

Pop and pup

Kennel Club registry/ pedigree papers– there are pros and cons to KC registry- there’s rules to safeguard heath- breed specific tests for the parents and rules about how many litters a mother can have, plus you know exactly your puppy’s family tree, useful for ensuring good genetic diversity. Just as there can be KC registered puppy farmers, there are good breeders who do not have KC registered dogs. With designer breeds, read up. A KC registered labrador can be cheaper than a non-registered cockerpoo. Check that you are not paying a huge amount of money for a puppy  whose parents haven’t had any health checks. Hip scoring is a scheme run by the KC and can only be done on pedigree dogs.

* Assured Breeder Scheme. We are members of the Assured breeder scheme. When we applied we were astonished- other than the obvious health tests, we were not asked any questions. It’s taken 3 years, but we now have been inspected (and passed). I am really glad that everyone is getting inspected and have more faith and confidence in the scheme.

Contacting the breeder

* Be prepared to be questioned- a responsible breeder will want to know if you have the common sense, experience, space, time and finances to support your new family member. They may want your address so they can look up your house on Google maps.

* If you find a breeder you think is suitable from the internet or through a newspaper ad, ask to visit the pup.

* Unless the dog is a foreign rescue or coming for very far away and the breeder is well established and respected, don’t agree to let the person drop the pup off at your house or meet you in a car park. (I was once helping in a rescue where the dog was German and we had to meet a Peterborough services at half 6 am- it was a magical day)

*  How many litters has Mum had? KC rules state that mums can have 4 litters between the ages of 2 and 8.

 I find breeding as tiring as it is rewarding- you’re up many times in the night, the house must be kept extra clean and tidy and (after 4 weeks) visitors are encouraged daily to help with socialisation, so the kettle is put on overtime!  It’s tiring and fun in equal measure.


* Ask what food the pup is receiving. There is little financial gain in breeding if done properly- a good breeder will not be stingy. Mince, tripe, chicken, veg and fruit or quality food like Orijen, which is 80% protein.

* Will the pup have any parvo jabs? Any worming? What about fleas? Any vet checks? Micro-chipping?

* Will the pup be well socialised- how many different people will see and handle the pup before they leave? Will they be accustomed to uniformed people, children, mobility aids and people of different ethnicities?

* Are they getting used to normal household noises (radio, television, hoovers, washing machines)?

* Is the pup getting paper trained?

* A good breeder should be happy to give you references from previous customers

Visiting the pup

Take a camera. As there may be paperwork (if you need them) don’t forget your reading glasses.

* It will be exciting to see the puppy, bring a friend along with you if you think you could get carried away. A cool head is needed to assess the breeder and good breeder will tell you a lot of important information that you will need to remember. 

* Ask to see at least one of the puppy’s parents (the mum should be with the pups, but the father could have been a stud dog, so may not be there).

* Ask to see where the puppies and dams (mums) are kept. Look for cleanliness and safety (for example, how often is the pen cleaned and are they checking the masking tape over any electrical wires regularly?)

* If you feel sorry for the pup, don’t buy them, and

* Don’t be afraid to report any misgivings or suspicions of abuse. Remember until you have paid a deposit, you are under no obligation. 

* A deposit is the usual way to secure a pup. Expect a receipt.

* If you can/ want to pick the Kennel Club name for your pup, tell your breeder in plenty of time so that the paperwork can be ready. It takes a surprisingly long time to come through.

* Not many breeders will let you visit your pup before you take them home, but it is always worth asking. Possibly bring a present for you pup, if you want- a soft toy that smells of you is a good idea, but be aware it may be wrecked in exciting litter- wide tugs of war (such fun).

* Check any paperwork thoroughly, ask to see pedigrees of parents, if appropriate. 

Picking up your dog

* Consider and prepare for the journey home.

* There will be a good deal of information to take in and with a pedigree dog, there is quite a bit of paperwork that you will need to go through. You may need your cool-headed friend (with a good memory) to accompany you again.

* If you are paying pedigree prices for your pup, don’t take the dog until you have received your pup’s legitimate KC number and/ or the appropriate paperwork.


The standard KC covers pup, breeder and new owners. If pup isn’t a pedigree, this is still worth reading for questions and points to discuss with the breeder.

 If you’re given a contract, read it carefully. A few things stood out for me:

Talk about the health checks that are expected for the breed. The contract will outline the tests that the mother and father have had. Some tests (like hip scores) can only be done with a KC number. Different breeds have different requirements- the Kennel Club has a list. Whilst this is not a guarantee that the puppy will become ill, it shows that they have maximised the chances for good health.

For some breeds of dogs, the inbreeding co-efficiency may be important. Different breeds have different averages. For us, matching a labrador was very easy, but as we wanted to be lower than the national average in bearded collies, it took over a year of research to find Cossie- the puppies were 2% lower. 

The contract tells you to take the new puppy to the vet asap. Whilst they should have already had a vet check, meeting your own vet and getting a second opinion is always sensible. If they spot a problem, the standard KC contract says you can return the dog and get your money back- it’s upsetting as no-one wants to find out their dogs are unhealthy. This will be as devastating for the breeder, so don’t expect compensation for the upset.

* What are endorsements? It’s about rules concerning any future breeding of the puppy. If you wish to breed from your dog and register their puppies with the KC, then you will probably have to pass (breed-specific) health checks. Others are rules concerning whether they can register any future litters outside the country- things to consider are climate suitability, disease susceptibility and whether you are able to support future owners for the whole lifetime of the dog. Our dogs are all endorsed- it’s really sensible. If you are thinking about (or intending to) breed from the puppy when they’re older, tell your breeder, they will definitely want to know… it’s always good to be up front about these things and it will help when it comes to lifting the endorsements later.

The contract will say that the breeder has tested the parents so the health and looks of the dog are as good as can be, but they cannot guarantee what the dog will look like when they are grown and can make no promises as to whether the dog is of show-quality. The pedigree is as an indication for the potential of the dog- no-one has a crystal ball. 

There are spaces in the form for the breeder to note any markings which would reduce their chances or disqualify them from showing. This lack of guarantee goes for colouring  too- our Willow  was born with white claws, liver eye rims and nose so technically she is a brown labrador, but it is hard to tell unless she is in direct sunlight- she looks an amazing rich, dark chocolate. Fortuitously, dark brown labradors are highly regarded for their abilities in the gun dog world. She’s certainly very eager and really enjoys any opportunity to do training work or play.

The contract will state what endorsements there are placed on the puppy, so it is a good chance for you to say what your plans are (if you are thinking about breeding yourself).

Some breeders add things- so read it all. There may be a no chocolate rule. We wanted to know if/ when the dog is going to be neutered (early neutering causes problems with growth) and told people that we’d added it- but there’s no obligation to say.

The contract says that if you ever want to re-home the dog in the future, then you must talk to the breeder. If they can’t take them back themselves, they should find/ know someone who would welcome them.

* Check the terms and conditions of any free insurance.


A good breeder would be happy to answer any reasonable questions you may have once you get home, don’t be afraid to ring or text if you have any concerns.


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