Choosing a puppy

When you've decided on the right breed, the next step is finding and choosing the perfect pup.

How do I find a good breeder?

Make sure you do lots of research when it comes to finding a breeder. Although there are many reputable breeders, there are also some unscrupulous ones so it's important to bear certain things in mind on your puppy search. Ask friends, family, or other owners if they can recommend a good breeder of your chosen dog breed. Alternatively, call the relevant breed societies and ask them to recommend a breeder in your area.

Take care when searching on the internet — watch out for stock images of pups instead of real litters, and note whether a website refers to the showing successes of the parents. Local newspaper adverts should also be approached with caution. Be wary if the kennel offers several different breeds — most good breeders specialise in and are passionate about one breed alone.

The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme only advertises pups from breeders who have voluntarily signed up to an agreed set of standards. The Assured Breeder Scheme has UKAS (UK Accreditation Service) accreditation to certify its breeders who belong to the scheme. This is designed to ensure that quality, healthy puppies are bred.

Breeder checklist

Always visit a breeder and make sure you see where the pups are being brought up. Keep this checklist in mind when visiting a breeder:

  • Puppies should be alert, outgoing, and shining with health.
  • The pups' mother should always be available for you to see, and, if possible, the father too.
  • The pups' environment should be clean and comfortable.
  • The pups should receive regular fuss and attention so they are confident with different people and in different settings.
  • The breeder should question you about your circumstances and the reasons you want a dog.
  • The price shouldn't seem cheap — raising a puppy properly costs money.
  • Good breeders are unlikely to have more than a couple of different breeds or several litters at any one time.
  • The breeder should be more than happy to answer your questions and advise you about the breed.
  • All documentation should be available including registration papers and any relevant health certificates relating to the parents.
  • The breeder should offer aftercare for the pups and insist on them being returned if they can't be kept for whatever reason.
  • If you visit a breeder and feel for any reason the dogs are not for you, stand firm and walk away.

Questions to ask a breeder

Prepare a list of questions to ask before you make the journey. Plenty more questions will also likely occur to you while you are chatting to the breeder. Make sure you cover the following points:

  • When were the puppies born?
  • How old is the mother?
  • How many litters, if any, has she had previously?
  • How often is she bred from? The mother should not have spent her life in pup, she should have had regular breaks from breeding.
  • How long has the breeder been breeding dogs, why, and the reason for this litter?
  • Can I see the parents? You may not be able to see the sire as many breeders choose to take their bitch to the sire, and don’t own the dog, but a photo will probably be available.
  • Have both parents been screened for hereditary diseases? This is vital in many pedigree breeds.
  • What are the puppies’ temperaments like?
  • Are the pups used to other people and pets?
  • Have the puppies been wormed? Are they vaccinated and microchipped? Are they insured?
  • Can I see all relevant documentation including worming, screening, pedigrees, and registration papers? Check that the name matches that of the breeder.
  • Are there any dogs from previous litters that I can see to get an idea of how they turn out?
  • Will there be any support and advice from the breeder if I have any problems? Will the breeder take the dog back if I am unable to keep him for any reason? What type of written guarantee and contract is provided? Most breeders will take a puppy back should a health problem be detected within the first 24 hours of ownership.

Adopting a rescue dog

Although pedigree dogs can be found at animal rescue shelters, the majority tend to be cross-breeds. Puppies tend to come up for adoption less frequently, so your rescue puppy may be a little older. This has an advantage in that by the time a cross-breed is several months old, you will have some idea as to his adult looks and size.

Young pedigree dogs and puppies are often handed in through no fault of their own. Their owners may not have researched the breed properly and consequently found themselves unable to cope, or a change in personal circumstances may have made it impossible to keep them.

It may be possible to find out about their pedigree, but with others, nothing may be known about their background — and some inherited conditions might not become apparent until a dog is older. If a dog appears healthy with no obvious problems, however, it’s often a gamble worth taking. Rescue organisations will offer ongoing support and advice should you have any problems with the dog. They may visit you occasionally to check you are still happy with the dog, that your training is progressing, and you are able to meet the dog's needs.