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Where to get a dog & where not to get a dog!

A dog lives on average 12+ years – these days that means a dogs life is longer than the average marriage, so it makes sense to put as much thought (if not more!) into where you get your dog from, as you would in deciding whether to marry someone!

There are lots of ways to get a dog, but some of those carry risks and problems you may not be aware of.

The two best options for getting a dog are, a reputable rescue, or a responsible breeder – but how do you tell who are reputable and responsible?

Here is what you should look for:


-Clear evidence of their adoption practices/rules – you may disagree with some of their rules but a rescue must be run with a clear goal and clear structure in mind.
– Vetting/home checking procedure – a rescue who does not vet prospective adopters, or home check their homes is little more than a second hand dog dealer.
– Vet treatment for dogs in their care – no dog should be left without necessary treatment but a rescue should also be neutering/spaying dogs in their care, as well as vaccinating and microchipping.
– Return policy – a good rescue will insist that should you no longer be able to care for the dog, the dog is returned to them.
– Training/behaviour support/advice – a good rescue should be working with the dogs in their care to give them skills such as walking nicely on a lead, or address behavioural problems within their scope to do so. They should be able to offer you free advice and/or recommend a reputable trainer or behaviourist should you need them.
– A rescues premises (if they operate from a kennel type base) should be clean and safe – not necessarily sparkling and brand new, many rescues are run on a tight budget, but the environment the dogs live in SHOULD be clean and appropriate for the dogs.
– A good rescue should work hard to match the right dog to the right potential adopter.


– Should vet prospective adopter thoroughly ensuring that they are completely aware of the breed or breed mix’s needs and typical breed traits. They should OFFER you evidence of parent dogs health certificates in line with the breeds requirements. They should be totally open to all your questions regarding the health of parents and where appropriate, puppies.

– You should expect to visit a breeder several times before taking home a puppy – this is so that the breeder can meet you and decide if you are suitable, and so that you can make the same decisions about the breeder!
Any breeder who is prepared to sell you a puppy within minutes of your first meeting, and allow you to take the puppy home immediately likely is NOT a responsible breeder

– A breeder SHOULD either be selling Kennel Club registered puppies – whilst this is no guarantee of quality, there is NO good reason for a breeder to sell unregistered puppies, just bad reasons (for example, the puppies are not actually the breed they say, but are mixed breeds, or the parent dogs are not registered or the parent dogs have restrictions in their paperwork that do not allow them to be bred) – OR they are selling working dogs from parents with a proven working record – in which case you should be given examples of this ~(ie, video footage, certificates of assessment of working ability, records from working trials) – these pups should still be from health tested parents too!

– A breeder should be able to evidence how they have socialised and habituated their puppies from 3/4 weeks old onwards – puppies should be introduced to a range of people, to cars, to other animals, to crates, given the beginnings of toilet training and recall training. Look for breeders involved in or similar schemes designed to help puppy care providers document the work done before a puppy goes home. A breeder can tick ALL the other boxes but, if they have failed to socialise and habituate puppies to all the necessary things, you COULD find yourself dealing with behavioural problems that take YEARS to resolve, if they can be resolved

– A breeder should insist and provide a contract detailing this, that your puppy is returned to them if at any point in that dogs life you cannot keep them.

– A pedigree puppy should have his or her pedigree endorsed, which means you have to fulfill various criteria (typically, getting the relevant health tests done, achieving a particular level in training or working ability etc) before the endorsement can be removed and you can breed from that dog. This is to ensure that only the best puppies and the most conscientious owners breed from their dog – a really good breeder will encourage you to neuter once your puppy reaches maturity.

– A good breeder will want to keep in touch with you and will be interested in your puppy for life.

– A good breeder will only be breeding one or two breeds, and will only be producing a litter of puppies when THEY want a puppy to keep for themselves, not to supply a demand.

– A good breeder will get to know you very well and will pick the puppy THEY think suits you the best, it is very unlikely you will get much choice, if any!

– A good breeder raises puppies in the house for most if not all of the time the puppies are with them – some breeds are not suited to being in the house full time but they SHOULD be brought into the house regularly.

– A good breeder will introduce you to the puppies mother, the father is rarely present but if you wish to meet him, the stud dogs owner should be willing to arrange a visit. Beware the breeder who states that they own both Mum AND Dad, it is extremely rare that a breeders own stud dog will be THE most suitable mate for the bitch. It happens occasionally, but it is usually an indicator that the breeder is saving some money in using their own dog rather than travelling and paying a stud fee for a more suitable dog!)

– A good breeders puppies will be confident in their environment. They will be clean, as will the room they are in, have plenty of toys and access to water. They will NOT behave as if they have never been in that room before, they should be confident and happy to approach you.

– A good breeder spends the first 2 or 3 weeks with the puppies 24/7 and they are closely supervised from there on. A good breeder will NOT be going out to work or for periods longer than half an hour during the whole time the puppies are with them, unless of course they have arranged someone else to be with the puppies!

What are the signs of a bad breeder

– Offering to deliver puppies either to your home or a pre-arranged meeting point (ie, layby, motorway services etc). This breeder has something to hide, usually that they are not the breeder and these pups originated either in a puppy farm, or were shipped from abroad.

– Allowing you to turn up and pick the puppy of your choice and take it home straight away – a good breeder wants to meet you several times, and will want the pick of the litter for themselves and probably for the stud dogs owner too. They will want to choose the puppy who suits YOU best and they should know the puppies better than anyone.

– The words ‘licenced breeder’ are a huge red flag. A licenced breeder is one licenced to commercially produce puppies, that means that they breed several litters a year from several bitches and are considered a business. Licencing by the local authority does NOT mean that this person is producing quality puppies, nor that they are in any way reputable.

– The words ‘registered’ or ‘DLRC’ or ‘with paperwork’ do NOT necessarily mean the dog is registered with the Kennel Club on the breed register. DLRC is an alternate registry and any dog can be registered, no checks are made to ensure that these animals are who they are supposed to be. Cases have been found where dogs long long dead have been registered as parents!
Some very dodgy breeders (particularly those breeding mixed or designer crossbreeds) have been selling pups as KC registered but it turns out the puppies are on the Activity Register, which is open to ANY dog, crossbreed or mongrel and is NOT a sign that the pup is a pedigree or the designer mix is a recognised breed.

Some dodgy breeders have also been marketing mixed breed pups as ‘from KC registered parents’ which they may well be.. but a KC registered Poodle and a KC registered Labrador will never produce a puppy that is a recognised, KC registered breed!

– Puppies sold in huge pet shops or puppy supermarkets do NOT come from reputable breeders. These puppies will have had some horrible experiences in their lives, will have missed out on vital socialisation and habituation in their first 8 weeks, and may have been shipped in from abroad, potentially carrying diseases.

-Puppy farms – its not always easy to tell a puppy farm for what it is – puppy farmers will typically advertise that they have multiple breeds, puppies available right now etc. They may not though, they can and do use people to pose as owners, and present puppies in their own homes. Frequently in this case the mother of the puppies will not be available and you will be told that the mother was ill or died. Sometimes another bitch will be used to pretend to be the puppies mother, and if you are not dog-savvy it can be hard to tell (a bitch with a litter should have pretty obvious teats!)

– Anyone who gets annoyed at being asked about health testing, or tells you the puppies were checked by a vet and are fine (this is NOT health testing, the parents should be tested prior to breeding, for various conditions, not just looked at by a vet!) has something to hide. Do not be fooled by people saying ‘oh the mothers always been healthy’ or ‘she couldn’t have won xyz event if she had hip dysplasia’ etc.

Buying a puppy from a breeder is a serious commitment, as is getting a dog from a rescue. Plan for it to take at LEAST six months to find your dog whichever route you take.

It is not likely that you will find THE ideal breeder OR rescue right on your doorstep. Be prepared to do a lot of homework – buying a puppy or adult dog on a whim is never a good idea!”

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