How to find a responsible breeder

A step-by-step guide to help you find your perfect puppy 


Before getting your new puppy or dog there are many things you need to keep in mind. From the high costs involved, and the time you need to dedicate, to the list of items you need to purchase and even the type of food you wish to feed them. But one of the most important considerations should be: where to get your new best friend from.  

There are several different routes you can take.  

Adopting a dog from a local rescue centre will always be our preferred choice of getting a puppy or dog. Many dogs, including puppies, are in rescue for no other reason than they are no longer wanted by their owners – often because they were purchased on impulse. Adopting a dog is a very rewarding experience and you will receive lots of unconditional love in return! There are rescue centres all over the UK. Get in touch with your local one to see who they might have available for you! 

Nevertheless, if you want a puppy of a specific breed with certain characteristics that you cannot find elsewhere, you might decide to look for a breeder to purchase a puppy.

If this is your case, you can find helpful tips on how to find a responsible breeder here: 

1. Don’t rush into buying a puppy.

Take your time and conduct research on the type of dog best suited to your lifestyle. This means considering different breeds, sizes, breed specific traits and behaviours, activity levels, and grooming needs. Each recognised dog breed in the UK will have a relevant “Breed Council”. They should be one of the first places you look at when beginning your puppy finding journey. They’ll be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have and will help you determine whether your breed choice is the right fit for you. Breed Councils will also have a list of Breed Clubs, which will be scattered around the country. These clubs will hold meets throughout the year that are an excellent opportunity for you to meet with the breeds you are interested in beforehand and speak with existing owners and breeders about their experiences to avoid any surprises further down the line. 

After this initial research, you might find a puppy isn’t ideal for you and decide to adopt an adult dog instead.

2. Search for a reputable, responsible breeder

The search for a reputable, responsible breeder might take some time. The Kennel Club’s Find a breeder page may be a good place to start. Some breeders are members of the Kennel Club Assured Breeders scheme, where the Kennel Club assesses breeders regularly to ensure their breeding standards are sufficient, including ensuring their dogs have had the required health tests and assessments. 

Sometimes it is beneficial to get offline and meet with breeders in person. The previously mentioned Breed Clubs are an excellent source of knowledge and experience, and members will be more than willing to chat with you and recommend breeders where they have got their dogs from. Breeders attend these meets too to show their dogs, which should also give you a better understanding of the breed you are interested in. Your chosen breed’s council will also have a list of trusted breeders that they may be able to put you in contact with to help you on your search for a puppy.  

Many responsible breeders will have wait lists for their puppies.  Responsible breeders do not have puppies available all the time. A waitlist helps breeders to gauge interest in their puppies before they are even born. These waitlists also give the breeders a chance to get to know you and see whether you would be a suitable match for one of their dogs. Do not be put off by being added to a waitlist – it’s not a bad thing to have to wait for your ideal puppy.

3. Be careful if buying a puppy online.

Many illegal puppy dealers use Classified Ad Sites, Facebook and Instagram to sell illegal imported puppies from puppy farms, often from Eastern Europe. They will pose as responsible breeders and say that the puppies are ‘homebred’ and provide falsified documents. Refer to our article on how to spot an unscrupulous puppy dealer.

4. Contact the breeder and ask questions.

Contacting a breeder directly can give you the opportunity to ask questions to help you identify whether the breeder is a responsible one. You can find a full list of questions to ask the breeder here. A responsible breeder shouldn’t be afraid to answer any questions you have. 

5. Ask about visiting the puppies before you buy.

A responsible breeder will allow you to visit the puppies before you decide to buy one and they will also want to meet you and check that you are a good match for their puppies. It is best if you can meet the puppies at least once before deciding to buy and take one home. You will also be able to meet the mother and possibly the father dog and have a better idea about living with the breed, as well as using this as an opportunity to ask the breeder lots of questions. Do not be surprised if you cannot meet the father, as many breeders opt to use a stud dog owned by another breeder. A responsible breeder will, however, be more than happy to provide you with the details of the stud dog and their owner should want any more information. Do not buy a puppy if the mother is not present. Look out for ‘fake mums’ - the mother should be gentle and caring towards their puppies and not distant. If the breeder does not allow you to visit the puppies in their own home, this is another warning sign, and you should walk away.

Also, be cautious of breeders offering to deliver puppies to your door without meeting them beforehand. As per Lucy’s Law, it’s a legal requirement for the breeder to sell the puppy in the home it was bred and reared in. Legally, the breeder must also show you the mother dog interacting with the puppies too. You can find out more about signs of a dodgy breeder here. 

6. Step away from strange offers.

If a breeder you called says “I do not have a puppy available for you right now, but I will have more puppies in a couple of weeks’ time”, “I do not have a male/female in this litter, but I have more puppies coming in a couple of weeks” or “I can get you a puppy in the colour you want” – these are all indications that this may be a dubious breeder.

7. When buying the puppy insist that you do so at the breeder’s house.

It is important that you collect your puppy from the breeder’s house and not from another location or have the puppy delivered. By visiting the breeder’s house, you will be able to see the puppy interacting with its mother and with the other puppies. Do not buy the puppy if the mother is not present or if the breeder offers to deliver the puppy. Look out for ‘fake mums’! The mother should be gentle and caring towards their puppies and not distant.

7. Watch for certain signs during the visit.

How is the hygiene in the home? Does the mother dog look well cared for? Does the mother dog have a good connection to the puppies (checking in on them, licking them)? Check if the puppies look healthy and active. If the puppy you have chosen has runny eyes or nose, dull, matted coat, or even signs of diarrhea, or is sitting in the corner looking lethargic or scared, there may be something wrong. If the environment feels strange for you, trust your instincts and leave. You can also report the breeder to the local council if you are concerned.

8. Responsible breeders will want to ask lots of questions to ensure a good match.

A responsible breeder will always want to ask lots of questions to ensure that their puppy is going to a responsible home. Some breeders may carry out home checks or hold an online video meeting with new owners to see the home that their puppy is going to in the future. If the breeder asks you minimal questions, is only interested in selling the puppy or is applying pressure for a quick sale, then walk away.

9. Puppy Buying Contracts are important: a responsible breeder will insist on the new owners signing a contract.

A puppy contract aims to protect both the breeder and the new owner. The contract should state the name, address, and contact details for both the buyer and the seller of the puppy and include information on the puppy itself including their microchip number. There should be a health and welfare declaration where the breeder declares that the puppy is healthy, well and has been properly looked after prior to the sale. There should be a section on the rights of return which outlines what rights of return the buyer has for the puppy, and under what circumstances the breeder agrees to take the puppy back and return the purchase price. Additionally, the breeder will usually add a caveat that they must be informed and given first refusal to buy the dog back if the new owner is unable to take care of the dog. This section usually states that the breeder will make reasonable efforts to help rehoming the dog if needed. Finally, there should be included in the contract, the purchase amount of the puppy, with both parties agreeing that the fee has been paid and the puppy handed over and that both agree to the terms of the contract. 

10. Insist on a copy of all vaccination and health documents at the point of sale.

You should receive microchip details, a pedigree certificate if applicable, health certificate from a vet and check the details to ensure that the documents provided are complete, and no important information is missing. A responsible breeder will also provide new owners with lots of information on how to care for their puppy, including what vaccinations the puppy has or hasn't had yet and what they would recommend you give to the puppy.

11. Ensure that the puppy is at least 8 weeks old before collection.

Legally, puppies must be at least eight weeks old when sold. Some breeders may opt to hold onto their puppies until they are up to 12 weeks old. Any breeder offering to let you take a puppy home that is younger than eight weeks old should be avoided and is breaking the law.

12. Check the puppy’s pet passport.

For puppies born and raised in the UK, it is not a legal requirement for them to have a pet passport prior to being sold, providing they are to stay within the UK. If a puppy is advertised as coming with a pet passport, this is an indication that they may have been imported into the country. In the pet passport you may be able to check if the puppy has been imported. Check the origin and ownership details of the puppy, for example: Is the breeder the actual owner of the puppy as stated in the passport? Check the vaccination details, for example where is the vet located who gave the puppy their vaccinations, are they located in a different country? Do the details of the puppy match the puppy description for example their colour and age? Do the microchip details in the pet passport match the details of the microchip information you have been given by the breeder?

13. Follow up.

A responsible breeder will want to keep in touch once the puppy has gone to their new home and will be happy to answer any questions the new owner has regarding the puppy after purchase. They will want to know that their puppy has settled in well in their new home and with their new owners. A responsible breeder should be willing to stay in touch with you and should be available to offer advice for the lifetime of your puppy, not just during the sale.

Puppy Buying Contract

Puppy Buying Contract

Have a look at this example of how a contract of sale for a dog should look like

Don’t give up

It can take time to find a good breeder and you may have to wait for your puppy, but remember a well-bred puppy is worth waiting for and it is possible to join waiting lists if you wish to have a certain breed of puppy or from a certain breeder. Be patient and use this time to continue your research and ensure that you and your family are fully prepared for the arrival of a new puppy. 

Commit to buy a puppy responsibly

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