Buying a Dog


WE BELIEVE THAT: A dog should be a fundamental part of your life,
not an accessory for evenings and weekends or a toy for your children

The way that dogs are bred and sold is at the heart of dog welfare. Potential owners can have a major affect on the quality of life of dogs by undertaking as much research as possible before buying a dog. Alas, too many people buy on looks alone, from dubious sources,  and rely on sentiment to guide them.

There are a few general points to bear in mind when buying any dog.

  • Never buy a dog without undertaking thorough research, even if you are not a first time owner – there are many aspects in the dog world that are changing rapidly
  • Think about your current circumstances and your likely circumstances for the next 15 years
  • Think about what you would do if your circumstances changed so drastically that you could not keep a dog and how this would affect the dog
  • Think about what you can offer a dog and whether it will be sufficient
  • Think about what type of dog will fit your lifestyle and how you will be prepared to change your lifestyle to suit your dog
  • Think about who will look after your dog if you need to be away for a short time or a longer time such as an unpredictable stay in hospital
  • Budget for preventative health care, legal requirements (collar, lead, tag), food, training, emergencies. Then add at least 10% to cover inflation and contingencies
  • Think again about why you want a dog and whether those reasons are going to be sufficient to satisfy fully the needs of the dog
  • Never buy a dog via a website or from a pet shop
  • Never buy a young puppy without seeing it with its mother in a home setting
  • Never buy a dog from a source that advertises several breeds or that claims to be selling on behalf of a breeder
  • Never buy a dog if the seller arranges to meet you in a car park or similar location.



The way that bitches are treated throughout their pregnancy and the way that whelps are handled has a fundamental affect on the rest of their life. If the bitch has not been fed properly, if she has not been wormed, if she has a poor temperament or is an inexperienced or unhappy mother, her puppies will be affected permanently.

Responsible breeders never sell via pet shop dogs so dogs are supplied from puppy farms and are often in poor health. They may have been taken away from their mother when far too young and are unlikely to have been properly socialised. Their mothers are often in very poor condition, undernourished and badly handled and usually permanently caged, sometimes in semi-permanent darkness with little or no human contact.

Buying puppies via websites such as Gumtree or Pets4Homes encourages back street breeders who often have no idea how to breed and raise dogs responsibly, and who just want to make money. Buying an older dog means that you will have no reliable way of ensuring where the dog came from and you will undoubtedly be taking on a dog from owners who have not given it a good start in life.

Dogs brought from these sources are unlikely to have had prior health checks, may have been imported illegally or may be being sold via a seller who is a front for a puppy farm.

This video on the C.A.R.I.A.D website is just one example of a puppy farm in Carmarthanshire. Be warned: it is distressing.

Never buy a dog because you feel sorry for it. You will just be leaving space for the next sickly specimen and you will have to deal with fundamental problems engendered by poor welfare.

Finding a Breeder
There are details on how to find a breeder on the Pedigree Dog page.

The law regulating licensed breeders operating in England changed on October 1st, 2018 and now comes under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. As with all legislation, much depends on how precedents are set via case law and there seems to be plenty of potential for confusion in deciding which breeders should be licensed. Bear in mind, if a breeder claims to be a “hobbyist” and therefore not needing to be licensed, you have no independently guaranteed check that the breeder is operating in a safe, healthy and responsible manner.

All responsible breeders will want to be licensed, whether they breed pedigree or crossbreed dogs and regardless of the number of litters that they breed. Indeed they may be deemed to be obliged to be licensed, depending on how their local authority interpets the regulations. The licence must be displayed on the premises where they are breeding and on any website where they are advertising puppies for sale. Cross check the licence – no doubt there will be fakes created.

Licensed breeders can only sell dogs that they have bred themselves and must show them with their mother. It is illegal to hand over a puppy before it is 8 weeks old, even if the sale has been agreed earlier, and all dogs must be microchipped and registered. Puppies will be registered to the breeder. It is the new owner’s legal obligation to update the details when buying the puppy and to keep them up to date thereafter. The breeder must also provide you with a written socialisation plan and guidance for looking after your puppy.

The Government’s guidance document that accompanies the legislation requires licencees to adhere to at least the minimum standards which include suitable housing, exercise, feeding, health, socialisation, provision for emergencies and the employment of sufficient qualified and numerous staff. The breeder’s compliance history with previous legislation will be assessed to determine the risk level at which the license will be set. Breeders must demonstrate that they have been maintaining acceptable standards for a minimum of three years to obtain a low risk rating and will be assessed on the nature of any complaints received and how they were dealt with and the quality of their record keeping. Compliance history must have been obtained through local authority licensing or through a UKAS accredited scheme such as the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.

New breeders without a breeding licence history and who have not been members of a UKAS accredited scheme for a minimum of three years will be categorised automatically as high risk and can only obtain a one year licence. Breeders deemed to have an acceptable history and who can demonstrate the higher standards of operation as laid down in the guidance notes can be licensed for up to three years. Each licensed breeder will be allocated a star rating of between 1 to 5 stars, with breeders deemed to deserve 5 stars reaching the higher levels of standards. Fewer inspections will be made with higher starred licences.

Licensed breeders are legally obliged to protect their dogs from pain, suffering, injury and disease. Most importabntly the law states that:

“No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype or state of health that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.”

This is potentially the most important aspect of legislation regarding dog welfare that has been published in recent times. This legislation effectively makes it illegal to breed dogs that can’t breathe or regulate their temperature, have difficulty walking because their legs are too short, their bodies too stout and their backs too long or too sloping, have bulging eyes, blocked throats and squeezed brains because their skulls are too small or heavy folds of skin that harbour infections and a myriad of other health problems that many breeders and show judges seem to think represent perfection. It is now illegal in England to breed from a dog that has had corrective surgery for such a deformity.

It’s now up to potential owners to see that it is enforced by reporting breaches where breeders are not licensed and where licensed breeders are continuing to produce unhealthy dogs.

What Happens When You Have Found a Good Breeder

When you contact a breeder, prepare your questions and be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Responsible breeders will always want to know about you before they will agree to putting your name on a waiting list. Good dogs are rarely available quickly; breeders may have long waiting lists and often pre-sell litters well in advance. A good dog is worth the wait.

Always check both parents when buying a puppy; you may have to make a separate trip to see the sire or rely on written information. Pay attention to the setting and atmosphere and the demeanour of the mother and, if possible, the father. If you suspect that either parent is not genuine, ask for a DNA test before you buy. You can get a good idea of how your puppy will look by seeing the parents and, more importantly, you can assess the temperament. Poor tempered parents produce poor tempered puppies.

There was a fashion for undertaking so-called puppy temperament tests. These have been largely discredited. All they tell you is how the puppy is feeling at the time in those particular circumstances.

If you do not feel sure about what to look for, take an experienced person with you and do not be afraid to ask questions.


Pedigree Dogs

So you want to buy a pedigree dog? Many people buy a pedigree dog because they feel that they “know what they are getting” in terms of size and temperament. However, it is worth bearing in mind… Read more

Crossbreed Dogs

Is a crossbreed better? Generally speaking, crossing animals can result in heterosis (also known as hybrid vigor or out breeding) which results in fewer genetic problems and a healthier animal. However, this only pertains if both parents are from healthy stock…Read More

Rescue Dogs

Want to help a dog find its “forever home”? Rescue centres are full to bursting with rejected dogs, so it may seem better to re-home rather than buy a purpose-bred dog…Read More



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