Dogs Trust

Getting a Dog

There are lots of ways to get a dog. We think adopting is the best way but we recognise that people sometimes want to buy a puppy from a breeder.

Download our factsheet (below) and take it with you when you go to meet your puppy for the first time:

Getting a Puppy Leaflet PDF 680 KB

Below are some important things to consider when getting your puppy, including questions to ask when buying a puppy and things to consider when buying a puppy.

What are the potential problems?

Buying a puppy from a breeder can be hit and miss is you don't know what to look for, or what questions to ask when buying a puppy.  You could end up with a sick or dying puppy that - even if he survived - might be plagued with lifelong health and behavioural problems. If you have bought a puppy from a classified ad or website and he/she has proved to be poorly or have behavioural problems, please report this to IPAAG.

Good breeders will not let a puppy go until he is at least eight weeks old. They should want to meet and interview you before the puppies are born or a few weeks later. This is a good opportunity for you as well, so you can see the conditions your pup is being raised in.

Always call a breeder first and try to visit before the puppies are born. When you see a litter of cute puppies in front of you it’s easy to let your emotions take over and forget all the questions you had ready and it can be difficult to say "no" to a puppy which may in reality be unsuitable for you or has come from a puppy farm. It’s helpful to write your questions down before calling or visiting a breeder.

Questions to ask when buying a puppy:

Can I see the puppies with their mum? Be sure mum is a nice, friendly dog because temperament can be inherited. She might be defensive of her puppies so take that into account. If you’re not allowed to see them together, or the ‘Mum’ doesn’t interact with them, it might be that they’re not really her puppies!

How old are the puppies? We would recommend that the puppies are at least eight weeks old to leave their mother.

Are the puppies weaned? At seven weeks they should be fully weaned. If they are not, they could be younger than the breeder claimed.

How old is mum? She should be over a year old, but not obviously very old.

How many litters has mum had? It is against the law to breed a bitch more than six times in her lifetime or for her to have more than three litters during any period of three years.

Have the puppies been wormed? All puppies have worms at birth. Worming should start with the breeder at about two weeks old, be repeated every two weeks and be continued by you.

Have the puppies had any vaccinations? If so, when is the next dose due? Puppies should be vaccinated at 6-9 weeks of age and then again at 10-12 weeks. They will become fully protected two weeks after the second vaccination. You will need to do this if the breeder has not.

Does the puppy look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom? If the puppy is unwell, collect him another day. If he’s still ill then, do not take him and try another breeder.

What should I feed my puppy? Do you have a diet sheet to take away? A good breeder will give you enough food to continue exactly the same diet for a couple of days. They should also give you a diet sheet that shows how feeding should change as your puppy grows.

What sort of socialisation or experiences has my puppy had so far? Puppies should preferably be raised in a home environment with all the noise and through traffic of a normal home. Those raised in kennels away from the house will need more intensive socialisation training to ensure they can cope with daily life as a pet. If puppies have already met other dogs, domestic animals and people they will have more confidence than those that have not.

Can I return the puppy if there are any health problems? You should take your new puppy to a vet for a health check within 48 hours (bring the puppy’s vaccination card for veterinary inspection too). A good breeder will offer to take the puppy back at any point should you be unable to keep him.

Is the puppy Kennel Club registered? If so, make sure you are given the registration certificate and pedigree when you pick up your puppy. You should also get some free health insurance for the first few weeks.

When can I take the puppy home? It is absolutely essential to see the puppies with their mother. Some unscrupulous people claiming to be breeders might in fact be dealers who have bought the pups in. They are likely to be poorly bred, might be ill and are usually too young to leave their exhausted, ill-treated mothers. If they survive, these puppies rarely make good pets, and you will be fuelling this cruel trade where money is the priority and welfare of the dog is ignored.


  • Never buy from a pet shop
  • Avoid anywhere advertising more than three different breeds
  • Do not buy a puppy if you have any doubts about the breeder or situation – even if you want to rescue him/her. By taking the pup you are fuelling the trade.
  • Microchipping - It is now illegal to take possession of a dog or puppy without a Microchipping Certificate. 

What should I do if I have doubts about a breeder?

Contact your local authority and make a report. If there are signs of obvious neglect or cruelty, please contact the ISPCA as soon as possible.