Puppies & dogs checklist: before you buy

Things to consider before buying a puppy or dog.

Learn as much as you can about your breed.
What was it bred for? Hunting, chasing, herding? Which breeds were used to make the breed. The more you know of the background the more you will know of what to expect of the breed.

Example: some dog breeders advertise “teacup” breeds. These puppies are much smaller than their normal breed standard, and people will pay more just to get their hands on these tiny puppies. However, some breeds of this size have more fragile bones, mouth problems (their mouths are too small for all of their teeth), joint problems, and can be susceptible to overall poor health.

Example: Great Danes have a tendency to develop hip dysplasia, a painful disorder that is expensive to correct. Reputable dog breeders often have their dogs and puppies certified to show that a particular birth line is free from incidents of hip dysplasia.

Seek out several breeders.
If at all possible look for several breeders. Don't settle for one just because it is close to your home and don't settle for the one with the cheapest prices. The best dog breeders don't advertise in newspapers. Check the AKC breeder referral page or ask veterinarians for suggestions. Note, in many cases, local dog breeders who advertise in the newspaper are the sort of dog breeders you want to avoid. Be careful of what you find online!

Visit the breeders, check them out carefully.
Visit the location where the puppy or dog has lived and get a look at both parents (at least one). Look for healthy happy dogs and puppies. Look for a clean maintained area where the dogs and puppies live. Be certain they had a chance to be socialized with other animals and people.

A red flag that something is wrong with a breeder, is when they avoid letting you near their location. This could mean the puppies are not being well cared for or that these local dog breeders are running a puppy mill. Ask to see the parents, because poor health and bad temperament can be passed down genetically. Ask lots of questions, be thorough. Do the breeder use contracts - Do they provide health guarantees - Are there health problems in this breed - Do they certify their breeding stock clear of these problems?

When visiting be objective.
Don't fall in love at first sight. Use your first visit to the breeder as a time to observe all the dogs and puppies and get a feel for how they are cared for.

Walk away if things don't seem right.
Look and listen carefully. If the breeder is trying to push a puppy on you be suspiscious. If you have made an appointment, the breeder should be willing to spend the time with you and answer your questions. Don't feel pushed into something you are not ready for.

Good dog breeders want you to feel comfortable
They expect you to ask them questions, such as “Has the puppy been to the vet yet? If so, which vet and can I have a copy of those records?” They also don't mind answering questions about themselves, including “How many litters has the mother given birth to?” and “How long have you been breeding this particular breed?”

Good dog breeders are cautious about who takes their puppies home.
The best dog breeders put the needs of those puppies first, and they try to ensure that each of them gets a good home. These breeders may ask you lots of questions about your home, such as where the dog will sleep, do you have a backyard, and how many other pets do you have. Some local dog breeders may even want to inspect your home first. Remember, they're not doing these things to make it hard for you to take home that puppy you've fallen in love with - they just don't want to see that puppy end up in poor living conditions or abandoned at a shelter a few months later.

Don't feel you must be the saviour.
If the facility is unfit and the puppies don't seem healthy or happy, make the proper phone calls and alert the county, city and state about this unfit place.

Do not buy a puppy for someone as a surprise gift.
Never buy a puppy as a gift for someone without their prior knowledge and consent. This is far to important a decision to make to not be a part of that decision. A puppy is a lifetime commitment and a lot of consideration must go into its purchase.

Ask to see the puppy's parents and siblings.
Always ask to see at least the mother of the puppies. You can tell a great deal from her looks and behaviour as to how her pups will be. If at all possible check out both parents and the entire litter of pups... observe all of them not just the pup you are interested in.

Observe the other dogs in the kennel or home.
Try to observe all of the dogs living in the household or kennel. Are they all well taken care of....do they all seem to be happy and healthy...are they all even tempered and well mannered? The overall appearance of the dogs and kennel or household will give you great insight on whether the puppy you choose will be what you are looking for.

Never buy a dog just for its looks.
Don't buy a dog just because you think it is cute or pretty. Soundness and temperament are far more important in your family companion than beauty.

Never buy a dog from aggressive parents.
Aggressive dogs will surely produce aggressive puppies. A breeder who knowingly breeds aggressive dogs should be avoided. Be sure to check temperaments of both parents along with the temperament of the pup you have chosen.

Do a temperament test on the puppy or dog you choose.
Take along a copy of the "Puppy Temperament Test" or the "Dog Temperament Test" and evaluate the puppy or dog you have chosen so that you will know what you are getting. If it does not pass the test as you feel it should...move on to another puppy or another breeder.

Read the Puppies: things you should know, page