Thinking of buying a puppy? Here are some top questions to ask breeders to avoid heartache

Posted on April 16, 2019 by Daniella Dos Santos

Vets frequently see puppies bred in poor conditions by irresponsible breeders or bought without a proper understanding of their welfare needs, leading to poor health or behavioural issues and ultimately heartache for unsuspecting owners. That’s why it is important to always consider how the puppies have been reared and cared for in their first few weeks. Anyone thinking of buying a puppy should always use The Puppy Contract and ask several important questions of the breeder first.

What is The Puppy Contract? 

The Puppy Contract is a free, downloadable tool-kit developed and supported by leading UK animal welfare charities and professional bodies to help anyone buying or breeding puppies to do so responsibly. It consists of two parts: an information section about the puppy and its parents, to be filled out by the breeder, and a legally binding contract for sale between the buyer and the breeder. It can be used by any breeder and is not restricted to pedigree dogs or professional breeders.

Top questions to ask a breeder

A responsible breeder will not only be happy to answer your questions - as this example shows - but will want to ask you questions about your lifestyle, home environment and experience with dogs to ensure that their puppies are going to a good home.

Here are a few of the top questions you should always ask a breeder before buying a puppy:

Puppy held in arms (main)Did you breed the puppies? 

If the answer is ‘no’, walk away regardless of the answers to the other questions. A seller who hasn’t bred or reared the puppy won’t be able to give an accurate picture of the puppy’s medical and socialisation history. More importantly, puppies from puppy farms are often sold via third-party sellers. Always buy a puppy directly from the breeder.

Where are the puppies kept? Have you started to house train and socialise the puppy? 

It’s important to know if the puppy has had lots of human interaction or only at particular times, such as during playtime and feeding. If puppies are not kept in a home environment, they will have reduced human contact and they may have socialisation issues or trouble adjusting to life in a home environment. Ask to see it socialise with its mother and littermates. It is also a good idea to visit the puppy more than once to help you identify potential problems more easily. 

Were both the puppy’s parents screened for inherited diseases that can be tested in that breed? 

All dogs, whether pedigree or crossbred, can suffer from inherited diseases which are passed on from parent to puppy. Health testing and screening, such as the BVA/The Kennel Club Canine Health Schemes, allow breeders to screen for inherited diseases, and the results can then be used to help ensure that only healthy dogs are bred from. Ask for health screening certificates and run the results past a vet to make sure the breeder has interpreted the results correctly.

Will the puppy be microchipped and given its first vaccinations prior to homing? 

Puppies must be microchipped by the time they are eight weeks old, and before they go to their new home. The breeder should supply you with microchip paperwork which includes your puppy’s individual identification number and the database they are registered with. Vaccination records should be stamped by a veterinary practice and signed by a veterinary surgeon.

Has the puppy or its parents had any health problems?

It’s important to be aware of any health problems the puppy or its parents have had as they could have been passed on to your puppy. If your puppy has been checked or received any treatment, the breeder should provide details of anything abnormal that the vet noted. Talk to your vet if you are unsure about any of the information provided.

Have you used any routine veterinary treatments for the puppies, such as wormers? 

Regular worming is important for the health of puppies and humans. Ask your vet about the products mentioned and avoid buying from breeders who have not treated their dogs for worms at all.


This blog was co-authored by Chris Laurence, Lisa Hens, and Daniella Dos Santos.


Chris Laurence is the Chair of Trustees of the Animal Welfare Foundation. A Bristol graduate, Chris worked for 30 years in a predominantly small animal practice in Chippenham. In 1998 he joined the RSPCA and the following year became the charity’s Chief Veterinary Officer. Chris was subsequently Veterinary Director at the Dogs Trust from 2003 until 2011. He was awarded an MBE in recognition of his work on the Animal Welfare Acts of 2006. Chris is also Chair of the Canine and Feline Sector Group of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England.

Lisa Hens studied zoology at university before joining the RSPCA as an animal care assistant at Gonsal Farm Animal Centre in Shropshire. She joined the charity's companion animals department in 2009 as a scientific officer and was promoted to a senior position in 2015. She's one of the RSPCA's leading dog welfare experts and specialises in issues including the breeding, dealing, and trade of puppies and Dogs Die in Hot Cars.

Daniella Dos Santos

Written by Daniella Dos Santos

BVA Junior Vice President and AWF trustee

Daniella is currently studying towards a CertAVP Zoological Medicine and is the Principal Exotics Vet at Park Vets Hospital. She is also BVA Junior Vice President, the current Chair of the BVA Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel and a trustee for the Animal Welfare Foundation.