Questions for your breeder

If you are considering getting a puppy from a breeder, it’s important to choose a reputable one. Find out the key things to keep in mind when choosing a breeder and some important questions to ask them.

Making a decision to get a puppy is one of the most exciting things you can ever do. It’s also an incredibly important decision. Once you’ve decided which breed will be the best fit for you, your lifestyle and your family (if you have one), you’ll want to make contact with breeders and possibly rescue centres as well.

Bear in mind that dog breeding is a very specialised area. This is why it is essential that if you do get your puppy from a breeder, rather than from a rescue centre, you choose a reputable one.

Good breeders will carefully choose a brood bitch or stud dog based on their quality relating to the breed standard, breed lines (ancestors and genetics) and compatibility.

When you’re searching for a breeder, watch out for indicators that may signal a bad breeder or puppy farm. These include breeders who are apparently selling puppies in large numbers, breeders who won’t let you see the puppy’s parents, and breeders who don’t ask you questions to check that the puppy would be going to a good home.

To ensure you take home a healthy, happy puppy, there are some key things to keep in mind. A good breeder:

  • Won’t breed from a bitch on two consecutive seasons. They will only allow their bitches to have three or four litters during the bitch's breeding life, and won’t breed from a bitch under two years of age or over eight years of age.
  • Will avoid breeding from a dog or bitch that is likely to pass on any hereditary problems to future generations of puppies. Always research your chosen breed so that you are aware of any hereditary and common health conditions that could occur, such as hip dysplasia.
  • Will ensure their dogs have a good quality of life, including a balanced diet, good housing, exercise, socialisation and veterinary care when needed.
  • Won’t sell any dog to a commercial wholesaler, pet shop, dealer or other retail outlet.
  • Will be knowledgeable about their breed and will always advise you on any queries you may have.
  • Will offer to take the puppy back should your initial circumstances change, for example, if you discover you are allergic to the dog. Be sure to get written confirmation of this.
  • Will be keen to follow up on their puppy's progress in its new home and will want to know as much about you and what type of home their puppy is going to as you will want to know about them.

Once you have found a breeder that you’re happy with, it is worth considering the following:

  • Be prepared to put your name on a waiting list for a litter to be born, because a well-bred puppy is worth waiting for. In the meantime, ask if you can visit the parents to give you an idea of what the dog will be like as an adult. It is now a legal requirement for the mother to be shown alongside the puppies. Find out more about Lucy’s Law.
  • You should have access to the puppies and be able to handle them – do not allow the breeder to show you just one puppy.
  • Make at least two visits to view the puppies before the final collection.
  • Check that the puppies have regular access to human contact, ideally with more than one person. It is better if the puppies are being raised in a home environment rather than in a kennel, as this will help them get used to the everyday sights and sounds of the home. Ensure that the facilities are clean and that the puppies appear alert and healthy.
  • Make sure all the relevant paperwork is available for inspection when you visit the puppy. This will include the pedigree and registration papers and hereditary screening certificates of the parents (for example, hereditary eye disease or hip dysplasia if appropriate to the breed). Check to see if the puppy has been regularly wormed and vaccinated. Some breeders will have the puppy vaccinated at eight weeks of age before releasing it to its new home.
  • Ask if the puppy will be covered by insurance for any illness during the first four weeks in your care (most good breeders subscribe to an insurance scheme).
  • Also ask the breeder questions about the puppy's feeding regime – good breeders will supply you with a diet plan.

Choose a puppy that is interested in you, not the one that cowers in the corner. Check that it has no discharge from its eyes or nose and that there are no sores, bald patches or scabs on the skin. Make sure the puppy is alert and responsive to sounds and is showing no obvious signs of illness, such as coughing. Note that you will have to pay a deposit on choosing your puppy.

If you are unsure about buying the right puppy, make enquiries with the local vet to see if they would be willing to attend the viewing to check the puppy for any visible health problems – this could save money and upset in the long term. You could also request a written agreement that purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your veterinary surgeon within 48 hours of purchase.

The ideal age for collecting a puppy is any time after eight weeks old. If a puppy appears unwell on collection, do not take it – arrange with the breeder to return another day. If you have any doubts, choose another breeder.

Remember a Kennel Club registration/pedigree does not guarantee a perfect puppy. It is up to you to carry out the appropriate checks to ensure the breeder you go to is reputable.

After all your checks are complete and you have welcomed your new puppy into your home, it’s time to enjoy every moment with your canine best friend!

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