How to Buy a Healthy Puppy

You've made the big decision to bring a puppy into your family and you're asking yourself how to buy a healthy puppy.  There are many pitfalls to avoid to help make sure you're new puppy is as healthy and happy as possible. But where is the best place to buy a puppy and make sure you are buying a healthy puppy?


Depending on what puppy you decide you want, there are a number of different options when it comes to finding out where the best place to buy a puppy is and at the same time making sure they are as healthy as possible.  Broadly speaking these are:

  • professional or regular breeder

  • private home

  • rescue center

  • pet shop

The first big step is deciding what dog breed is best for your family.  Do you want a pure bred dog or are you happy with a mixed breed, which may be healthier and cheaper in the long run?  What size is best and will their temperament and character be a good match for your family and lifestyle.  Are there any common conditions they might suffer from that you should be prepared for?  How much might these cost in treatment and how might they affect your dogs future quality of life?

So how do you buy a healthy puppy?  How do you decide where the best place is and which puppy is right for you.  After all you want them to be as healthy as possible and not come with a long list of hidden conditions.

where should you buy a healthy puppy from

Professional Recommendation

One of the first places to turn would be professional recommendations.  This might be from your local veterinarian but it could also be from a respected dog trainer or a groomer.  They may know of clients of theirs who are either breeders or who's pet dog is expecting a litter of puppies.

They will clearly not be able to guarantee that you will get a perfectly healthy puppy but if a dog is known to these people then it is unlikely they fall into the "must avoid" category.  The worst breeders generally wouldn't take their dogs to the vet, groomer or trainer although there are exceptions to every rule.

Personal recommendation

Personal recommendations from friends would be the next option to investigate.  If someone you know and trust got a healthy puppy themselves from a breeder then you could reasonably expect the same.  The alternative is that you might just find out who would be better to avoid buying a puppy from completely.

Breed Organizations

If both of these options fail to turn up your perfect healthy puppy then another option is to buy one from a registered breeder that is also a member of the Kennel Club or similar organisation.  These organisations may run an assured or accredited breeding register that ensures a minimum standard is met by the breeder.  When you are not able to get a personal recommendation then this can give you some reassurance as to how your potential puppy had been bred and looked after.

Any responsible breeder, be they professional of just the owners of a pregnant pet should also be more than happy to answer questions.  They should encourage multiple visits when a puppy is too young to be re-homed and you should be able to see the puppies with their mother in their normal environment.  To know that it really is the mother you are seeing them with you should see the puppies suckling from her and you will also be able tell by the level of interaction between puppies and the female dog.

When you visit also consider what condition the pups are in.  Are they clean?  Do they smell bad?  Are they thin?  Do they have big pot-bellies?  Are they scared or hesitant of interacting with you?  These may all be signs that the conditions they are being brought up in are less than ideal.

Don-t underestimate the importance of socialization.  It is vital:

A breeder should also be picky about who gets to buy their puppies.  Many will have a waiting list and so they do not need to worry about if someone will buy their puppies or not.  This means that they should ask you plenty of questions about your lifestyle and circumstances to make sure their precious puppies end up in the right home.  This is a sign they care and so they are likely to have bred the puppies responsibly and looked after the puppies well.

Beware of Extremes

One thing to be aware of, and this doesn't just apply to kennel club breeders, is the fact that some breeders will focus on obtaining the most extreme version of the breed standard conformation for their breed.  This is seldom a good thing with the result often being an increased risk in health issues later on in life.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the squashed nosed breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs whose bodies have become so squashed then they often suffer from breathing issues, skin disease and even spinal problems.  This is something to consider not just when deciding what breed you want but also which breeder to use.

Watch out for puppy mills

Never buy a puppy from an advert in the paper or internet ads without satisfying yourself of the puppies condition and upbringing in the same way you would with an established breeder.  How do you know you are not supporting puppy mills or puppy farms if you don't see the conditions the puppy is being raise in, talk to the owners and meet the puppies mother in person?

Also never just meet a "breeder" half way by the side of the road or in a service station.  This happens, I've seen the result and all to often the puppy is in a poor condition with serious health problems.  It is so sad to see these puppies but in "rescuing" them you are actually supporting terrible breeders who have no thought for the welfare of their dogs or puppies.

It is for this reason too that you should think again about buying a puppy from a petshop.  The vast majority of petshop puppies come from unethical puppy mills, they may come with serious existing diseases and they are often poorly socialized. It is only by refusing to buy puppies from these puppy mills that they will ever shut down.  Otherwise they will keep making money and keep breeding puppies.  Check out my other article for my 10 reasons not to buy a petshop puppy to learn more.

Adopt don't shop

My final option is to actually consider in how to buy a puppy is to buy your puppy from a shelter or rescue center.  These are dogs who find themselves abandoned. Often due to a relationship breakup, a house move, a new baby arriving.  Abandoned through no fault of their own.

In the US 6.5 million animals enter the shelter every year with around 1.5 million being euthanased.  In Australia 200,000 rescue animals are thought to be euthanased and in the UK the number is 20,000.  That is a huge number of dogs and a global issue.  While some may have to be euthanased due to medical or behavioral reasons, many are simply victims of being unwanted and abandoned.

ADOPT dont shop

This huge number means that rescue shelter dogs come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Very often they will already be vaccinated, micro-chipped and neutered (spayed or castrated).  They will probably be toilet trained and you can be matched to a dog who fits in with your family.  Shelter dogs go through vet checks and will often have behavior and temperament testing to make sure there will be no surprises and they are suitable for re-homing.  If they have been looked after by a foster home as well then you will also know what they are like in a home situation, away from the very different shelter environment.

You should ask just as many questions and a shelter will be just as eager to find out all about you.  The last thing they want is to see the dog back again because things don't work out.  You will truly be rescuing a dog and giving it a second chance and a forever home.  That will feel great!

Go into any decision with open eyes and certainty.  Having a dog is a long term commitment that may last close to 20 years in some cases.  It should not be done on impulse and a puppy should never be given as a surprise gift.  Research the right dog breed for your family.  Understand the time and energy that you need to put into them.  Make sure you have the time and a plan in the early days when socialization is so important.

Our dogs bring so much to our lives.  It's only right that we respect them as family members who deserve our full respect and commitment.

I hope this article helps answer how to buy a healthy puppy and that you find your perfect new dog.   Let me know below if you have any questions and please come back and let me know any tips that you want to pass on to others to help them find their perfect puppy.

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Our Pets Health: because they're family.