Buying a puppy
- Is a puppy right for you?
- Would an older dog suit you better?
- Where should you get a puppy from?
- How to choose a trustworthy breeder
- Puppy health: Pedigree vs crossbreed
- How to spot a good breeder
- Signs of a bad breeder
- Questions to ask when buying a puppy
- What to look for when you meet your puppy
There are many dogs in rehoming centres looking for a loving home, so speaking with your local centre is always a great place to start. Not only will you be giving a home to a pet in need but you will also be helping free up a space for us to help another dog without a home.
However, we appreciate that you can't always get the puppy you want from an animal charity. So, if you decide you would prefer to buy a puppy, then here's a guide to help you find the right one for you.
Is a puppy right for me, right now?
If yes, you will need to consider whether you will continue to be around throughout the day for the duration of your dog’s life. Not just to settle them in.
If not, you could look to make arrangements for someone trustworthy to be there when you aren’t.
If you work in a job where you will be away from the house 9.00am to 5.00pm without being able to take your pet with you or find someone who can spend time with the puppy during the day, we would recommend reconsidering whether this is the best time for you to get a dog. Dogs are social animals and need companionship, so aren't suited to being left for long periods of time.
Can you afford it?
The average pup can cost anything from £400 to £3,000 upfront. You’ll also need to consider the cost of:
- dog food
- annual check-ups
- flea and worm treatment
- pet insurance
- ill-health or emergency vet treatment
Do you like a challenge?
Puppies are brand new to the world and they don’t know right from wrong. You’ll need to teach them everything you want them to know. From how to go to the loo outside to being a well behaved dog around other pups.
They need positive encouragement and patience to help them learn how to be a good member of the household. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding!
Will you be a responsible dog owner?
There are laws around dog ownership, as well as things you can do to help make sure your pet is a good member of the community. You’ll need to train your puppy to behave around people and other animals, pick up after them, and make sure they are never out of control or allowed to harm anyone.
Is everyone in your family keen?
Owning a puppy is hard work and they learn faster if everyone has the same house rules and uses the same words and actions for training. Everyone needs to be committed.
What breed or crossbreed is best for you?
Dogs were developed to have different jobs, so some breeds suit some lifestyles better than others. Check out our advice to find out which dog breed is right for you.
Would an older dog suit you better?
Adding an adult dog to the family will suit some people better than taking on a young puppy. If you’re new to dog ownership, an adult dog may give you the best introduction.
Benefits of an older dog
- Depending on their age, older dogs will be out of the whirlwind puppy phase
- Most adult dogs are already housetrained
- Some will have basic training such as walking nicely on lead, good recall and knowing when to settle, and they will be less likely to keep you up all night
- Adult dogs’ personalities are already formed
- If you’re looking for nice long walks from day one, an adult dog will be better suited. Puppies need to wait several months before they are ready for this level of exercise.
Benefits of rehoming an adult dog from Blue Cross
- Our expert team, who have assessed the dog, can give you a much clearer idea of your pet’s personality and the type of home that would suit them best
- You will have the added peace of mind that we have matched you to a dog that we feel suits you and your lifestyle
- We will give you advice on how your dog may react in certain situations which will help you in managing your day-to-day dog ownership
- You’ll be giving a much-needed home to a pet that really needs it
Where should I get a puppy from?
We rehome thousands of pets a year and treat animals that have got into difficulty with unexpected illnesses or unwanted litters. So it won’t come as a surprise that we would encourage you to consider the benefits of rehoming a dog.
If you do decide to get a puppy, the best thing you can do for them and your family is to make sure you give your new pet the best start in life, and that begins with choosing a trustworthy and caring breeder who has the pup’s best interests at heart.
Getting a puppy from a rescue centre
Puppies and pregnant bitches often find themselves in rescue. They are frequently given up or abandoned when the person using them for breeding or selling them is unable to give them the care they need.
Like us, good rehoming charities will:
- give a puppy a full vet check and behaviour assessment to make sure the puppy is going to the best home for them
- provide the basic training they need to get the best start in life
- offer ongoing support for the life of your dog, should you ever have any problems
- rehome a puppy based on their individual needs, so you’ll be well matched from the beginning
- will take your dog back and find them a new home should your circumstances change and you are no longer able to keep them
- rehome dogs and puppies to families with children of all ages, with cats, other dogs, and without gardens, if the pup and the family are the right match
Finding the right dog for you might take time. But it will be worth the wait!
Choosing a trustworthy breeder
Since 6 April 2020 it’s been illegal to sell a puppy or kitten under six months old that you have not bred yourself. This doesn’t apply to animal rehoming charities, like us, who will continue to be there for animals who need us.
There are lots of people out there who make large sums of money by selling puppies that have been poorly bred, often in terrible - and even cruel - conditions. Unfortunately, these unscrupulous breeders and sellers can be tricky to spot, as some will go to great lengths to convince you they care about the puppy.
Thankfully, there are lots of people out there who have decided to have a litter because they have a passion for a particular breed or want others to get the same enjoyment they have had from dog ownership.
Avoid puppy farms
Puppy farms are large-scale, factory-style breeding facilities. They cannot provide the right environment to ensure a puppy is happy, healthy and will become a good family pet.
Breeding parents suffer in these places too, and once they are no longer any use, they are often dumped or killed. Get clued up on the signs of a bad breeder and don’t fund this cruel industry.
What to think about when choosing between a pedigree vs a crossbreed
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are literally hundreds of breeds to choose from – even more if you count crossbreeds.
Years of refining breeds have inevitably led to dogs with pools of very similar genes. This means that health problems are inherent in some dog breeds, which can cause them discomfort and suffering. A number of these problems are preventable if breeders use genetic tests to select the healthiest mums and dads-to-be.
Crossbreeds are often thought to be healthier because of what’s called ‘hybrid vigour’. This is the idea that crossbreed dogs are genetically healthier and only the healthy genes win the race. While there is some truth in this, there is also a risk that the bad genes from both parents could be passed on to their puppies. If you’re buying a cockapoo, for example, insist on a breeder who has screened both the cocker spaniel parent and poodle parent for the problems inherent in both their species.
Research, no matter what the breed
If you want a puppy with the best chance of a healthy and happy life, research the genetic problems within the breed and make sure you choose a breeder who health tests for hereditary problems. If the breeder doesn’t do this, then choose another breeder who does.
You will pay more upfront for a puppy from a health screened litter, but it will help you avoid the financial and emotional costs of your pup developing a preventable disease.
Do genetic screenings catch everything?
No, genetic screening tests don’t exist for all conditions. And some problems are ingrained in certain breeds. However, some problems can be detected from examining a dog physically, for example by looking at facial shape.
Sadly, 50 per cent of Cavalier King Charles spaniels have a heart murmur by the age of five, and brachycephalic dogs, including pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers have been bred to have flat faces. Their flat faces means they suffer from breathing difficulties and other problems which can limit their ability to enjoy a happy life. In breeds like these, even a good breeder won't be able to produce a truly healthy litter.
If you decide to get a breed that suffers from a genetic disease, be prepared for the costly vet bills. This could include needing one or more operations during their lifetime and any costs for any additional care.
We are seeing increasing numbers of flat-faced dogs with breed-related issues that require owners to take a lot of extra care of their pets, and we would seriously recommend reconsidering getting a puppy of these breeds.
How to spot a good breeder
Before you take your puppy home a good breeder will:
- give lots of information in an advert for selling the puppies
- have a waiting list for puppies
- encourage you to meet your puppy several times before taking them home
- have a clean and safe area in their home for puppies and their mum
- ask you lots of questions about why you want a puppy - be prepared!
- want you to ask lots of questions about them and their puppies
- give you their vet’s details so you can ask the vet questions about the litter and parents
- not let you take the puppy home until they’re old enough to leave mum, at least eight weeks
When you visit or collect your puppy they will:
- give you a contract that promises to take the puppy back if there are any problems
- keep in touch after you’ve taken the puppy home – ask them if they are still in contact with previous litters
- have the puppies microchipped before you take them home (this is a legal requirement, unless they have a certificate signed by a vet)
- encourage you to meet other members of the litter’s family so you can be sure about temperament
- be able to tell you all about the socialisation they’ve been doing, eg taking them in the car, meeting lots of people of all ages, meeting other animals, playing etc
- have started housetraining the pups by the time they are old enough to leave
- give evidence of relevant health testing, if needed. Some breeds and crossbreeds should have genetic testing to rule out inherited disease.
- provide pet insurance for the first few weeks to cover illness
Why socialisation in puppies is so important
A breeder should also make sure that a puppy gets the right socialisation between three and 12 weeks. This will make sure that they're less afraid going into new situations and less likely to develop behaviour problems in future.
Ideally, a breeder should positively introduce a puppy to the following:
- dogs, and other animals eg cats, horses and livestock (if appropriate)
- going outside
- travelling in the car
- visiting the vet
- different noises, including normal household noises (vacuum cleaner, washing machine)
- various smells
- people of all ages and appearances
- people wearing different clothing, eg hats, uniforms etc
- Care must be taken to ensure puppies don’t mix with unvaccinated dogs when they are susceptible to illness.
How to spot a bad breeder
A bad breeder will:
- give very little information in an advert, eg one or two sentences
- not let you, or make excuses about why you can’t, meet the puppy’s family members including mum and littermates
- offer to meet you in a public place such as the street, a service station or railway station to hand over the puppy. Or, offer to drop the puppy off at your home.
- not let you meet the puppy or mum before you take the puppy home
- get a puppy from abroad. These poor puppies have been transported hundreds of miles at a very young age. Not only does the travel have a negative impact on the puppy’s welfare, but you will have no way of checking the environment the litter and parents were kept in. You also run the very real risk of funding a cruel and illegal industry. If you are concerned, contact Trading Standards and the RSPCA. It is illegal for puppies under 12 weeks to be imported, and bad for their welfare.
- be unable to provide proof of vaccination, worming, health certificates etc
- be unable to give you information about, or proof of, relevant genetic health testing
- not provide a genuine vet’s contact details
- not have the puppy microchipped (this is a legal requirement before the pup goes to a new home)
Questions to ask when buying a puppy
- Will the puppies come vaccinated, microchipped and wormed with the relevant health certificates?
- Have any of the puppies been poorly or had any ongoing health concerns?
- Can you see all of the litter and interact with them?
- Are you able to see the puppy with their mum? Ask about dad and any siblings too.
- Where do the puppies and mum sleep at night and do they have regular human contact throughout the day?
- What training and social interactions have the puppies had so far? Will your pup have started toilet training before you take them home?
- Is your puppy Kennel Club registered (pedigree dogs only)? If so, can they provide the relevant certificates?
- If you’re buying a breed that suffers from inherited health problems, can the breeder provide evidence of screening for these?
- If there are any problems, will the breeder take the puppy back?
Puppy health check
What to look for when you meet your puppy
- You should see your puppy with their littermates and their mother several times if possible, but at least twice before you take your pet home
- Watch mum and puppies interacting together to make sure they are happy. If they don’t appear happy, or if you’re not allowed to see the litter with their mum – walk away.
- Is the mum a happy relaxed dog, not fearful, and comfortable in the presence of people? Parental influences have a big effect on future character.Pick up and play with your puppy. This is great socialisation.
Signs of a healthy puppy
- Bright eyes - no weeping or discharge
- Clean nose - no discharge or sign of sores
- Shiny and clean coat, with no sign of flea dirt. They shouldn’t smell bad.
- Clean teeth
- Clean ears - no redness, discharge or dirty, thick wax
- Clean bottom - no sign of diarrhoea or worms
- Neither skinny (though some breeds are slim), with the bones visible or easy to feel, nor too fat
All puppies, regardless of breed, should have their first vaccination between six and nine weeks of age, and their second at 10 to 12 weeks.
Puppies are vaccinated against:
- canine distemper
Your breeder should sort out the first vaccination. Make sure you get the vaccination card (check that it’s been signed by the vet) so your own vet can give the second.
- Purebred puppies will come with a pedigree certificate from the Kennel Club, the body that registers pedigree dogs in the UK. These tell you that the dog you have bought is the breed the seller says it is.
- A Kennel Club registration certificate is simply a record of a dog’s birth - it doesn’t guarantee puppy health or that the breeder is responsible
- A pedigree certificate displays a dog’s family tree
- If you see the phrase ‘KC registered litter’ on an advert, this simply means that the birth has been registered. Sometimes, an advert might say the puppy 'comes with papers'.
- The Kennel Club also runs an Assured Breeder Scheme. Breeders who register with this scheme are inspected by the Kennel Club and must meet certain standards, including screening mums and dads for relevant genetic problems.
- Beware of fake pedigree certificates. We often see certificates that look credible but aren’t. You can check a puppy’s pedigree with the Kennel Club to ensure it’s genuine.
Regardless of whether or not your puppy has pedigree paperwork, we recommend doing your homework and making sure you are happy with the breeder before committing to purchasing a pup from them.