Lhasa Apso puppy running along the sand on the beach

Buying a Puppy: How to Avoid Scams, Puppy Farms, and Dodgy Dealers

As a vet, I’ve seen the heartbreak when owners buy a new puppy, only for it to become ill shortly after getting it home. Not only can this be stressful financially, it also ruins what should be memory-making days with your new bundle of fluff.

So how can you avoid buying a sick puppy? What are the red flags you should be aware of when choosing a good puppy, from a good breeder? And who can you talk to if you suspect things aren’t right?

Should you get a puppy?

Chances are, if you’ve come this far, you’ve decided to get a new puppy. But it’s worth just checking that you’ve considered everything before you take such a big step. As a minimum, you’ll need:

  • Money for food, regular medicines, neutering operations, and preventatives like vaccinations and flea treatments
  • Enough money for pet insurance, or quick access to several thousand pounds for an emergency
  • Time to exercise, train, and play – put aside at least 2 hours for exercise time, and another 1-2 hours for training and play in the first year. Active dogs may require more!
  • Someone to look after the pup when you’re away
  • To be able to have the above for the expected lifespan of your dog – around 12 years for most breeds.

You should also have a think about what breed of puppy is right for your lifestyle.

Looking for a new puppy

So now you’ve decided on a new puppy, how do you find one? These days, the internet is the obvious choice. Breed clubs often have a list of members who regularly breed litters, and you can also look at websites like the Kennel Club, who list breeders for many of the breeds they recognise. Whilst you’re there, look up the recommended health tests for the breed you’re buying (if it’s a mixed breed, look at both parent breeds for their health tests) as you’ll need this information later.

How to Find a Good Dog Breeder

1. Know the Law

Know the laws around buying a puppy. If you are in the UK, various laws apply. Breeders with more than 3 litters a year must have a license from the local council – this number should be on any adverts.

2. Check for Duplicate Adverts

Often, the same information will be used to advertise several puppy-farmed litters. Copy and paste the contact number into an internet search to see whether it’s being used for several adverts. If a breeder is advertising more than one litter of different breeds, you should be very cautious – it’s likely they’re breeding for profit rather than health.

3. Ask Lots of Questions

Before expressing interest in a particular puppy or litter, call the breeder to find out more about their set-up. Is this a one-off, or are they regularly breeding? Are they passionate about their breed? What health tests have they done on the parents? Are they part of any assurance schemes? Do they show or work their dogs? A good breeder wants the best for their puppies – so expect them to ask as many questions of you as you do of them!

Meeting your Puppy

When it comes to meeting your puppy, there are a few more checks you should make.

  • You must be able to see the place they were born and reared, and you should be able to meet their biological mother.
  • Puppies also need to be 8 weeks old before they leave their mum. This is a legal requirement.
  • Ask to see paperwork – passports, kennel club registration info, vaccination paperwork etc. A good breeder will keep all this information ready to send home with the new puppy.
  • The puppy should be bright and alert, inquisitive, with clear eyes and a good coat.

Buying your New Puppy

Don’t expect to take your puppy home straight away. Reputable breeders will let you place a deposit down and return when the puppy is old enough – this is a great way to check that the breeder is legitimate.

Ask to use the Puppy Contract. Not only will the questions on the form quickly scare off a poor breeder, but it’s a legally binding contract.


Buying a puppy is an exciting time, but it’s important for your puppy’s health and the welfare of other dogs that you get them from a responsible breeder. Our tips will help you avoid buying from an illegal importer or a backyard breeder. Picking up your puppy now? Let’s look at what you should do on your first day with a new puppy.

Dr Joanna Woodnutt

After graduating from the University of Nottingham, Jo went on to work in small animal practice in the midlands, where she developed a love for consulting and long-winded medical cases. She now lives in the Channel Islands and works as a locum vet alongside writing about pets and pet health.

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