How To Find A Puppy

where to look and what to avoid

Written by: Pippa Mattinson

It isn't difficult to buy a puppy. You can find puppies advertised online, or sitting in a pet store window.  

There are many good reasons to be cautious about buying a puppy this way. I'll explain why and give you some much better ways to find your new friend.

We'll talk about online advertisements for puppies, they are everywhere and if you have googled a few breeds, or just puppies in general you'll have found many websites with puppies for sale. 

sleeping jack russell terrier puppy

I'll show you how to find your way around these, and figure out which ads are genuine and which puppy suppliers are worth contacting.

But first, let's talk about puppy mills.

About Puppy Mills

Most new puppy parents are aware that puppy mills are a bad place to buy a puppy.  But most people who do so, have no idea that they have just purchased a puppy mill puppy.

Because there are disadvantages to buying from them, it's important for you to be able to tell the difference between a puppy mill, and a reputable dog breeder.

What Is A Puppy Mill Like To Visit?

Not all puppy mills are dark squalid places full of miserable looking dogs shut in tiny crates.  Some are well-kept, tidy places, with friendly, helpful staff.  

puppy mills are often clean and may have pretty websites

Many puppy mills have smart, well designed websites that rank well in search engines and may be some of the first websites you find when you google the breed of your choice.

Puppy Mills Vs Reputable Breeders

The key difference between puppy mills and reputable dog breeders is that the primary aim of the puppy mill is to make money.  

Whereas the primary aim of the reputable dog breeder is to breed great dogs. 

There is nothing wrong with making money of course. But the problem with breeding dogs purely for money is the impact that goal has on the dogs themselves. 

What Is A Puppy Mill Like For Mother Dogs?

Female dogs on a puppy farm do not have good lives. They are not able to form a bond or friendship with a human individual or family. And may lack access to exercise, companionship or proper medical care.

These dogs are likely to be euthanazed or abandoned once they have finished their useful life as a breeding machine. 

How Does A Puppy Mill Affect Puppies?

Puppies born in puppy mills are not likely to have been born to health tested parents (health tests are expensive), and are unlikely to have had access to veterinary treatment (expensive again).

They are often sold too early (to save on feeding costs) and with a range of health issues. 

Solid Profits And Dog Welfare Are Not Compatible In Dog Breeding

Many good dog breeders make little to no profit on a litter. That is not their priority

When profits take priority, dog welfare goes out of the window

If you believe that dogs are companion animals, and should have a life outside of breeding, then puppy mills are to be avoided.

And if you want a healthy, confident puppy, that has had the best start in life, puppy mills are not the way to go.

How To Avoid Puppy Mills

 So if puppy mills are often the top ranking websites in a google search. And if they don't all look like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, how are you supposed to avoid them?

Puppies should always be purchased from someone that lives with the mother dog

Look Closely At The Website

The first clue is often in the breeder's website.  Beware of sites that have rows of posed images of individual puppies for sale.  This is a sure sign of a business trading in puppies.

Websites offering multiple types of companion dog are often puppy mills

Be cautious of websites offering several different breeds of dog for sale. Especially if these breeds do not have a related purpose (such as different types of working sheepdog or retriever). 

Consider The Mother Dog

Ask yourself if the mother of the puppies has any role other than being their Mom.  Is there any evidence that she is a family pet or much loved companion.

Remember that puppies should always be purchased from someone that owns, and lives with the mother dog.

This would normally be a reputable dog breeder that belongs to a breed club and shows their dogs or works them in some way (eg sheepdogs or hunting dogs).

Or it might be a knowledgeable individual who has had a litter from their companion dog.

Finding Reputable Dog Breeders

Reputable, responsible dog breeders can be a little harder to find, as their websites don't tend to rank highly in the search results.

One way is to contact the club for your breed.  All breed clubs have a website with contact details.  Just send them an email and ask for a list of breeders in your area. 

Many reputable breeders have long waiting lists and no have no need to advertise.  But almost all breeders have occasions when they don't sell all their puppies in advance. And some breeders just starting out may not have a queue of people waiting for their puppies. When that happens they may advertise those puppies online.

Assessing Advertisements

There are many websites that advertise pets for sale. National kennel clubs, such as the American Kennel Club  or the British Kennel Club, also place adverts from breeders on their websites. 

If you find a litter of puppies on a general pets for sale site, you'll need to assess for yourself whether that breeder seems reputable.  Very often you can click on the breeder's identity and look at the other adverts they have posted. This is well worth doing. 

Check how many ads the breeder has placed this year

If the advertiser has listed four or five other litters in the last year, that's a cause for caution. Any more than that, you are probably looking at a puppy mill. 

The breeder should list health clearance that the parent dogs have passed, and if you don't know what health tests your chosen breed needs, you should look this up on the breed club website, before you respond to the advert. 

Visiting A Breeder

Whether you find them through and ad or through a breed club, you will need to visit the mother dog and the litter.

Before you visit, a responsible breeder will ask you a lot of searching questions to make sure you are a suitable owner for their puppy. A puppy mill on the other hand will probably not ask you any questions at all.  

A reputable breeder will often have rosettes and trophies in their home

The adult dogs living with the breeder should spend time in the family home, even if the breeder has some outdoor kennel facilities. And there should be no more than three breeds of dog on the premises.  Much more than that and once again you are probably looking at a puppy mill

ten week old jack russell terrier puppy

More Information

You'll find more information and tips on this topic in Where To Buy A Dog. Once you have found a reputable breeder and are ready to choose your new friend, you'll find information to help you in the articles below

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