You’ve decided to get a dog, researched the right breed for you and decided you can put in the time needed to train a puppy. What do you need to do to check your puppy is from a good home?
How do you check breeder or seller credentials?
If you’re taking on a puppy there are certain checks you need to make before you allow yourself to fall in love! We've all heard the stories of the massive increase in the cost of a puppy since lockdown began, and the increase in dog napping, so how can you make sure your puppy is a good purchase?
It’s a good idea to buy a puppy from a breeder who also owns the puppies mum. You can check that your chosen breeder is licensed both with their council and the Kennel Club. This will mean they have been inspected (hopefully) and proven they are a reputable breeder who looks after their dogs and brings up puppies in the right way. It’s now law that anyone selling puppies needs to be licensed with their council, which is part of legislation to try to rid us of terrible puppy farms. This is an important first check.
If you are buying an older puppy that isn't with it's mother you might want to check the credentials of the seller more carefully. It could be they bought the puppy from a good breeder but are now trying to sell it on as they can't cope with the commitment a dog needs, but buyer beware! Bear in mind that during the time that puppy was with that owner it may not have been trained properly or treated very well and so you need to spend time with that dog to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Like a rescue dog, you won't really know what life experiences it has had to date and you might have to be prepared to work hard with that dog to correct unwanted behaviour.
How could I check if a dog offered for sale is stolen?
It is possible to buy an inexpensive microchip scanner and it could pay to check any older dog for sale, to make sure it isn't registered to another owner. Dog-napping has increased massively during the pandemic as demand for pets increased and you don't want to spend a large amount of money on a dog that ends up being owned by someone else. Any reputable seller won't mind you making this check anbd you can look up ta pets microchip number online .
How do you check the mum and her puppies are well-treated?
It’s important to check the puppies are with their mum and ideally, raised in the breeder’s family home. It’s great if their nest is moved near to, or in the kitchen once they get to about 5 weeks old so they can get used to the normal noises of family life. They need to be comfortable with comings and goings, door slamming, lots of chat and noise, washing machines, strange people visiting, vacuum cleaner noises, and children running about so it won’t scare them witless once they are home with you.
They need to be comfortable being handled every day. It’s good if the breeder is weighing the puppies daily to monitor their growth and make sure they are used to being picked up and interacting with humans.
We love our dogs in UK and we treat them as members of our family who live in our homes with us. It’s unusual now to find pet dogs that live outside, so isn’t it better to have puppies and their mums cared for in the breeder’s home? Any situation where a mummy dog and her puppies are in a separate kennel has to be questioned, in my opinion. Of course, there could be good reason for this and the dogs could see people all day and be perfectly happy and healthy but I think it’s harder to judge their upbringing if they are in kennels.
What is the puppy’s mum like?
You must see the puppies with their mum and to observe her behaviour. If the breeder makes excuses saying you can’t see her for some reason, be very careful! You need to see her to judge if she’s well cared for and to judge her temperament. Is she an anxious mum? Does she mind you being near her puppies? Does she have a friendly, calm temperament, and does she look well?
Everyone I have asked about this says the same thing. The mum teaches her puppies good manners and how to behave. If she’s anxious, scared, nervous or aggressive the puppies will learn this is how to behave and you could be taking on a puppy that is going to need a lot of work to get them to be a happy, confident, friendly and well-mannered dog. Her temperament and the temperament of any other dogs in the breeder’s household are an important indication of how your puppy will behave once you get it home.
What health checks should I ask about?
If you decide on a pure breed dog there are certain checks you need to make before allowing yourself to fall head over heels in love with a puppy or you could be taking on a very expensive problem. Many pure breed dogs could potentially have hereditary health issues. If you’ve taken a look at our breed guides you’ll see that these inherited conditions are often serious. Check which conditions are a particular risk in your chosen breed and ask your breeder if they have screened both parents for those conditions and the results. You should also ask what the Inbreeding Coefficient (COI) is for your puppy’s family. The UK Kennel Club average is 7.6% so a score around or below this is favourable.
If you are buying a cross breed like a cocker-poo or a labradoodle or a pure breed puppy it’s a good idea to ask for hip scores for the parents. The scores will give you an indication of how likely it is that your puppy will develop hip dysplasia. Each dog will have a hip score from 0 to 53 in each hip with the lower the score the better. The overall score is the sum of the score in each hip added together. You can find out the average score for your breed of dog from the Kennel Club and it’s best to buy a puppy from parents with below average hip scores. For example, the UK average for a German Shepherd is currently a total of 18 and for Labradors the current average is 12. It’s best if the breeding dogs have similar scores in each hip.
Listen to your instincts
When you visit to choose your puppy listen to your instincts. Does the whole situation seem genuine? Do the dogs look well cared for? All these checks I’ve discussed can help you decide but your gut instinct will tell you if this is a good place to buy a puppy from, or not.
Once you’ve decided on the right dog for you, researched and found a good breeder with a suitable family of puppies that have been health screened, all you have to do is decide on the right puppy from the litter for you! Maybe that’s the hardest decision of all!
Don't forget to invest in pet insurance for your new family member, too. Vet fees can soon mount up and the right insurance can provide you with peace of moind that you'll be able to cover any unexpected health issues.