Buying a pet

Buying a puppy? Here's what you should look out for...

Date updated: 04 03 2019

Let’s face it, falling in love with a puppy is pretty much the easiest thing in the world! But before calling the number on that Gumtree ad or PMing the guy on Facebook with a litter in need of homing, let’s just take a step back…

It’s important to find the right pup to fit in with your lifestyle and environment. They might be small at first, but they grow very quickly - and if you haven’t done your research and made an informed decision, you could be in for a few nasty surprises.

From choosing a supplier right through to picking from a litter, here’s our guide on what to look out for when choosing your puppy…


Are you in the right ballpark? Focus on breed
Those pug pups might seem irresistible, but then when it comes to your next big outdoors adventure, this little guy just isn’t up for it. Or you weren’t quite prepared for just how much hair a labrador can leave around your flat…

Narrow your search by getting to know your dog breeds. How much exercise do they need? Just how big is this pooch going to get? How will they cope if you’re away at work all day? From personality and family-friendliness, through to common health problems, our breed guides (link) are designed to give you the lowdown.

And this doesn’t just apply to purebreeds. If you’re looking at a cross, it’s a good idea to read up on the various breeds involved; this gives you a better picture of what to expect.

Choosing your supplier: why first impressions count…
It could be a friend of a friend on social media - or it could be a professional breeder. Either way, go and see that breeder in their own home. Your aim is to suss out breeder, parent and pups to decide if this is a litter you want to pick from.

Here are some positive signs to look out for…

  • Mum and Dad will look clean, happy, alert and well cared for.
  • Mum won’t be cowering away from you. She might be a bit loud or wary at first, (after all, you’re a stranger in her home), but once you’ve been introduced there are no serious mistrust issues.
  • Dogs and breeder all seem to get on just fine.
  • If it’s feeding time, the pups are nuzzling down together quite happily.

Above all, it’s worth taking a look at what’s going on and thinking, “If I was a dog, is this the type of environment I’d want to be in?”.

There’s always an element of pot luck when it comes to genetics (especially with temperament). But if the litter has obviously been given the best possible start in life with plenty of TLC, there’s a much better chance of picking out a confident, well-adjusted, healthy pup.

Areas to cover with the breeder
Do they know their stuff? Here’s what you should be getting from the breeder as you talk things over…

  • It’s actually a two-way conversation. A good breeder will care where these pups are heading off to. So if you’re quizzed on your prior dog-owning experience, dogs that are in your home already and whether there’s someone at home in the daytime, this is a good sign. They might even suggest which pups of the litter to focus on, based on your circumstances.
  • Expert knowledge of the breed. Temperament and health issues aren’t brushed over. The breeder has a well-thought out breeding programme in place, where pairs are matched for complementary traits. Ideally, they’ll be able to explain this to you.
  • Paperwork: all present and correct? Pups are typically homed between 8-12 weeks - i.e. at or shortly after the time of their first vaccinations. By 8 weeks, they should also be microchipped (it’s the law). The breeder should be on top of all of this - and have the paperwork on hand to show what’s happening. Add to this a diet sheet setting out what, how much and how often the pup is fed. It all makes for the smoothest possible transition, and are signs of responsible breeding.
  • Screening and best practice: the breeder takes it seriously. The Canine Health Schemes enables breeders to screen for a range of inherited conditions. Again, (depending on the breed), if the breeder builds this into their programme, it’s a sign they breed with the welfare of the pups in mind.  

The hardest choice of all: which pup am I taking home?
The big bruiser of the litter, the one who’s first to run over or the lazy pup still fast asleep at the back of the pen? It’s often a case of, “I didn’t choose them, they chose me!”

Love at first sight is a definite thing. But don’t be too quick to overlook the rest of the crew; the ones who are just as much fun, but who tend to be muscled out of the way by their bossy brother or sister…

Let’s say you’re looking for the perfect family dog. Outgoing, up for making friends, smart, playful, not constantly up for a fight: these traits probably sound ideal. And you’re not necessarily going to find the best possible match for all of this in the pooch who’s already marked themselves out as ‘top dog’ of the litter.

So take a good look at each pup individually. The ones who are into you; who are curious, friendly - but who still seem to rub along nicely with their siblings - these are worth developing a special soft spot for!