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Where to get a new puppy

Where to get a new puppy

Congratulations! You’ve done your homework, you know you have the time and will make a lifelong commitment to a dog. You even know what kind of dog you want. But where should you get a dog? Adoption should always be the first option, but this article will focus on how to choose a reputable breeder. There are more disreputable, greedy dog breeders out there than you can imagine. Knowledge is power, know what questions to ask. After all, what are you paying for?


Do educate yourself and visit in person

Visit in person and insist on seeing where the pups were born and raised.  Reputable breeders want you to meet and spend time with your potential puppy. This is important because meeting your puppy will help ensure that he does not have any existing health or behavioral problems and that he’s been raised in a clean and appropriate home environment. If the seller won’t allow you to visit - walk away - they are hiding something.
When you visit be prepared to ask questions. Have your dogs been examined by a veterinarian? What health screening tests have been done and may I have a copy of the paperwork? May I contact others who have bought pups from you? Visit for info on all the things to watch out for.

Do insist on meeting the parents of your potential puppy

Parents are a sneak peek of the dog your puppy will become. Sometimes the father may not be on site but mom should always be there. Information about dad and the ability to visit him should always be provided. Reputable breeders happily and proudly introduce you to the parents of the puppies. Check mom out closely, is she easygoing and friendly? Temperament is the most important factor when choosing a pup. You want a friendly, confident dog. If mom is shy or displays any sort of aggression - walk away. Too often pups born to moms like this, and raised in an environment that doesn’t properly socialize turn out to be projects and not for the average family. What are you paying for?

Do expect to be interviewed by the breeder

Expect that the breeder will want to know all about you and your family! Reputable breeders never sell their puppies to strangers. They will make every effort to be sure this pup/breed is a good match for you. They will ask you about your family, if you own or rent your home, who will care for the dog, etc. Why would you want to give money to a breeder that doesn’t care what happens to the puppy once it is sold? Approach this purchase as carefully as you would if you were buying a house or a used car. Don’t assume only nice people breed dogs, nothing could be further from the truth. Buyer beware. 

Do choose a breeder that socializes the puppies

 Reputable breeders socialize their puppies to everyday people, places and things. They understand how important early positive exposure to every day situations is to a pup. Proper socialization helps pups to respond normally to everyday situations for the rest of their lives. Be sure your future puppy has been exposed to other dogs, men, women, children, household and real-world environments. If this isn’t done properly your adult dog (a pup is only a pup for a few months) is at risk for behavior problems.

Caring breeders are available as a resource for the life of your dog. If for some reason you cannot keep your dog reputable breeders are always willing to take their dogs back into their home. 

Do demand proof of individualized veterinary care of your puppy

Be sure the breeder has had a veterinarian individually examine and vaccinate each puppy and has verifiable proof of this. Reputable breeders have a relationship with a local veterinarian. Each puppy will have an individual record handed to you stamped with the contact information and signature of the breeder’s veterinarian.

Beware - many disreputable breeders vaccinate their own pups - this usually means the puppy has not had a complete physical exam by a veterinarian. Proper veterinary care ensures you will not have to endure years of heartbreak and expensive vet bills and your dog will not have to suffer with preventable medical issues such as hip dysplasia, blindness, heart disease, etc. Reputable breeders know their breed’s predisposition to certain genetic problems and have had their dogs tested for them. Beware of fraudulent papers. Most genetic testing is verifiable online through the testing organization such as OFA, CERF and others. See PupQuest Health Information page for more info.

If the mother dog is not on the premises and the pups were shipped from elsewhere - walk away - this is a pet shop in disguise and the source of the puppies is likely a commercial puppy farm/mill. Pet shops are not only in the mall, they can be anywhere. Visit the PupQuest Puppy Farm/Mill page for more info.


Do not buy a puppy over the Internet

Reputable breeders do not ship their beloved puppies to strangers during the most vulnerable time of their lives. Would you?

Never buy a pup sight unseen over the Internet. Deplorable puppy mill owners use this direct avenue to dupe unsuspecting dog lovers. Knowledgeable dog people know that it can be traumatic both physically and behaviorally for a pup to be treated as “goods” and flown or driven in crowded noisy places for many hours. If the breeder lives too far away for you to visit, find someone closer to home. Even if the “breeder” seems nice on the phone or online, if they are willing to ship a pup to you sight unseen that is a huge red flag, walk away. 

Do not trade your credit card number for a puppy

Beware of sellers who don't seem to know much about the breed or who give you that smooth-talkin' salesman vibe. Reputable breeders are dog-savvy and know their breed and their own dogs well. Ask the breeder questions about everything from the breed's characteristic traits to their own dogs' health and training.

Caring breeders have long-lived adult dogs, and the contact info for previous buyers. Speak to people who have adult dogs they bought from this breeder. Do they have recurring medical issues like chronic ear infections, allergies, or epilepsy?

Multiple breeding dogs living in kennels, and especially a variety of breeds living in these kennels, are red flags that you should not be giving this “breeder” money. What are you paying for?

Also really important, a seller asking you to make a business transaction in a public place is and always will be suspect. Don’t buy your dog in a parking lot!

Do not take a puppy that isn’t properly socialized

Don’t buy from a a breeder that doesn't properly socialize their pups. Socialization is positive exposure to other animals, people, places and things. It helps pups respond normally to everyday situations for the rest of their lives. It is absolutely critical that a puppy has been well-socialized. This is why we think all future family pets should be born and raised in the home, with the family.

Do not be fooled by vaccination paperwork

Reputable breeders have a licensed veterinarian individually examine and vaccinate each puppy and have verifiable and legitimate proof of this.

Proof of veterinary care is not a vaccination schedule with dates written on it by the seller. This is a common way sellers will deceive puppy buyers. True proof is paperwork from a licensed veterinarian. All puppies should have been vaccinated and examined by a licensed vet and you should be provided with paperwork that details the results of the exams.

Do not buy heartbreak by proceeding unaware of genetic risks

Reputable breeders know about their breed's predisposition to certain genetic disorders and have had their dogs tested for them.

All purebred dogs are at risk for serious debilitating genetic disorders common in their breed. Good breeders are very aware of this and have the parents and/or puppies tested to ensure they are not creating dogs that will suffer and that they are working to improve the breed and not ruin it. Verifiable proof of the results of these tests should be available. We encourage you to investigate the health issues in your breed. Visit the PupQuestHealth Screening Info for more in-depth info.
You can find a Lab without hip dysplasia or a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel without heart disease but it takes more work than just sitting at your computer paying money to a stranger so they will ship you a puppy. Don’t pay money for a dog with a sickly, costly future.

Jumping cartoon

In summary, look for a breeder who:

-Insists you visit where the puppies were born and raised. If they will sell to you sight unseen, walk away.
-Raises puppies in a home, not a kennel:
Puppies who spend their early weeks separated from people - in a garage, basement, or outdoor kennel, don't get the exposure they need to grow into friendly, outgoing companions.

-Will take their pups back at any point in their lives:
Any reputable breeder will take a puppy back into their home at any point in her life if you can no longer keep her. A life-long commitment to each and every puppy produced is a sign of a reputable breeder.

-Be careful if licensed by the USDA.
A United States Department of Agriculture license is a red flag that a seller is a puppy farm. Reputable breeders are committed to only one or two breeds. If a seller is advertising multiple breeds, it is likely they are just following the trends to make money on the “breed du jour”. Keep your eyes peeled for their tricks: separate ads for different breeds from the same place can be deceiving.

More expert advice about Choosing a Dog

Photo Credits: Puppy Love © - Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Lorna GrandeVeterinarian, Author

Lorna Grande has over 30 years of experience in animal shelters and veterinary hospitals and 20 years of experience practicing veterinary medicine. She has served as faculty at local community colleges and a large university teaching animal rela...

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