Buying a puppy can be overwhelming, regardless of whether you’re a new puppy owner or already have dogs at home! You might be asking yourself, “How do I know this is the right breed for me?” or “Is the puppy going to be healthy?” There’s so much to know! But where do you even start when considering what to ask when buying the right puppy? I’ve come up with a list of 29 questions to ask when buying a puppy to help you get started!
What to ask when buying a puppy
To make it easier I have broken it down into four categories to ask when buying a puppy. These are:
- Questions about the puppy’s parents
- Questions about the puppies themselves
- Questions about the breed
- Questions regarding the process of purchasing the puppy
Let’s get started!
All about the parents
1. Can I meet the dog’s parents?
One of the first questions you should ask is if you can meet the puppy’s parents. This question is the best way to ensure the health of your puppy and the quality of your breeder. You’ll want to see that the dogs are well-adjusted and in good health. You will ideally be able to view the home or facilities they are kept in and make sure the dogs are not scared, reactive, dirty or unhealthy.
2. What is the temperament of the parents?
What is the mom like? Is she friendly? You may or may not be able to meet the stud dog (many breeders use sperm and artificial insemination, or the stud is not theirs) but it is great if you can find out a little about their personality. Many temperament traits are inherited from the parents and you want to avoid a nasty or highly anxious stud.
3. What preventative care do you provide to the parents?
The care, love and attention given to the parents (or mother if the breeder does not own the stud male) is a big clue to how reputable they are. At a minimum, the parents should have annual exams with a vet, including a fecal examination, vaccines, and be on flea, tick and heartworm prevention.
4. Have the parents had any health problems?
If the puppy’s parents have had health problems, ask your breeder questions like when the problem occurred, how they treated it, and how you can help prevent it in your puppy. A reputable breeder will happily answer these questions.
There are some health problems such as environmental allergies that are highly heritable so it is worth asking this question!
5. Are the puppy’s parents “Certified”?
Suppose you are considering adopting a breed that may be more prone to genetically inherited health concerns? A responsible breeder will have their dogs evaluated and tested for genetic diseases and common health issues.
Common genetic diseases that can be tested for include elbow and hip dysplasia, persistent retinal atrophy (PRA), mitral valve disease, and dilated cardiomyopathy to name a few. Each breed is prone to certain hereditary conditions. You need to do your homework on what those are and if they can be checked out in the parents or puppies.
6. What are the individual sizes of the puppy’s parents?
Many dog breeds can have a significant disparity regarding their weight and height for their breed standard. For example, a Chow Chow can be anywhere from 45-75 lbs. Knowing the parents’ sizes will help you estimate how big you can expect your puppy to grow.
7. How many dogs do you own?
Ask the breeder about the size of their operation, how many dogs they have, and how the dogs are taken care of when they are no longer breeding age.
Also, ask how many different breeds they breed. It is a red flag if the breeder has lots of dogs, or various different breeds as this can often mean they are running a puppy mill.
8. What is the dog’s family history?
How long have their dogs lived for? Ask about past litters, too. Do they follow up with the puppies they sell? And what disease caused their death?
Save this information for when your dog is older, as it can help your veterinarian determine prevention and treatment plans. Can you contact previous puppy buyers to see if they are happy with their dogs?
Common Questions about the Breed
Forearmed is forewarned as they say! These questions to ask before buying a puppy can help you prepare before taking them home.
9. What grooming does this breed need?
Use your breeder as a resource and do your own research into the breed. Ask them if there are any special tips or tricks they know of to keep the dog well-groomed. Maybe they know of a particular brush that helps get the tangles out!
Or perhaps they know a groomer local to your area who is knowledgeable about the grooming needs of your breed. Some breeds can be hard work or more challenging than others and a great dog breeder should be eager to answer these types of questions and share their knowledge!
10. What is this breed’s temperament and energy level like?
This question is critical if this is a newer breed for you. Responsible dog breeders breed their dogs because they love the breed. So they will want you to love the breed just as much as they do!
Because of this, a good breeder should tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about the breed. Maybe they have endless energy, or maybe they are exceedingly stubborn. A breeder can be an excellent resource for you.
11. Do they have any training tips that have worked well for their puppies or dogs?
Do they have any tips or tricks that work for their puppies? Or suggestions for training the specific breed in particular? Maybe they have some resources to recommend that you can check out yourself! or a trainer they highly recommend.
The Puppies Themselves
12. Can I meet the entire litter?
Meeting your puppy’s entire litter is an essential step when picking out the right dog for you and ensuring that it is also the right breeder for you. It is a red flag if they don’t allow you to meet the parents or the puppies themselves.
When you are visiting your puppy at the breeder you’ll want to see the cleanliness of the environment and where the puppies are kept.
When meeting the puppies assess the following: How big and robust are they? Even without experience, you should be able to tell that they are well-nourished and interactive with each other and with people. They should be excited and interested in their surroundings and people.
13. How old are the puppies? What age can I take my puppy home?
Puppies should go home between 8 and 12 weeks old. Taking them away sooner than this can cause socialization problems. Also, being around other puppies in their little for longer than 12 weeks can be problematic for their development.
14. Have the puppies been socialized?
Proper socialization, especially between 6 and 16 weeks of age, is crucial for behavioral development. Your puppy is rapidly absorbing information during this time, and you don’t want the puppy to learn the wrong thing or develop bad habits. I know some breeders that got to great lengths to have their puppies experience different environments and situations to get them ready for the big wide world.
15. Have vaccines been administered to the puppies?
What shots or treatments have the puppies received so far? And when are they next due for continued treatments/ vaccines? Puppies typically start getting vaccines between 6 and 8 weeks of age from a licensed veterinarian. There are some serious life-threatening diseases such as Parvovirus your puppy can get if not vaccinated.
16. Have the puppies been dewormed?
Worm infestations can be a common problem I see in practice, so routine deworming is a must. Puppies can be dewormed as early as two weeks of age. They for sure should have had at least one dose by six weeks old.
17. When do I need to go for the first vet visit?
Some breeders might require that you take your puppy to your own vet within a set timeframe. Usually, 3-14 days from acquiring the puppy. They want you to ensure that the animal is healthy with your own vet and not just theirs.
They also want to make sure that you are committed to providing proper care for your puppy. Also, make sure your breeder provides you with relevant information your vet may need, such as the date of last shots and types of shots, dates of deworming, puppy’s weights, etc.
18. What are you currently feeding the puppies?
Knowing what food your puppy is eating is essential. You will want to continue to feed the puppy the same food, at least for a little while till they are settled in and to avoid tummy upsets.
Going to a new home is a big deal for a puppy, so it is important not to upset its tummy. Ask your breeder for 3-4 days’ worth of food (most will supply it anyway). Then you’ll be able to slowly switch the food to your preferred brand without causing too much upset to its digestive system.
19. Which puppy do you recommend for me?
Exceptional breeders socialize their puppies and monitor them closely to watch for their personalities to start shining through. Tell your breeder about your lifestyle and what kind of relationship you want with your puppy. They should help choose the best one for you.
Maybe you want one that’s more laid back and reserved or one more active and outgoing. Your breeder spends a lot of time with these pups so ask for their recommendation!
The Process of Purchasing a Potential Puppy
20. Do you offer support?
Is the breeder willing to stay in touch? If you have questions, can you contact them? Do they want to interview you? (They should interview you to ensure their puppies are going to safe new homes.)
21. Will you take back the dog if I’m no longer able to keep them?
Any good breeder will expect that they are the first person you turn to if you can no longer keep the dog. They should either take it back or help with rehoming the animal.
22. Have you ever turned down a sale?
You’ll want to know that your breeder cares about their puppies and will only sell if they think the buyer will be a good owner and a good fit for the puppy.
23. Do you belong to a breed club?
A breed club is an organization that supports the education and training of the breed and ensures the breed’s overall well-being. If your breeder belongs to a breed club, ask for the name and people to contact.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has a kennel club assured breeder scheme that breeders have to abide by. Although just because they are part of the scheme does not mean you should skimp on your due diligence.
24. Will you supply a health certificate and certificate of sale?
Ask the breeder if they will provide a certificate of health and a certificate of sale or a receipt. Also, consider looking into the laws of your state if transporting a puppy across state lines. Your state may require receipts and health certificates.
25. What is your guarantee?
Ask the breeder if they have a guarantee for their puppies. What if the puppy develops a sickness or disease that the puppy was guaranteed not to have or develop? How will they compensate you?
26. Do you require a breeder’s contract?
What is in the puppy contract and why? What are the breeder’s expectations of you as an owner? If your situation changes, will the breeder take the puppy back? Or are you required to give the puppy/dog back to the breeder if you cannot keep it? What else does the breeder require?
27. What does the breeder provide with the sale of the puppy?
Things to expect:
- All of your puppy’s medical records
- Any genetic or health certifications
- Pedigree information/certificate (if applicable)
- Breed club information (if applicable)
- A receipt of the sale
- A contract of sale (if there is one)
- 3-4 days’ worth of food
- Contact information (email and phone number)
- Information about any guarantees
- Any specific instructions about care or continued treatment
- Any medications and instructions
- A small item like a towel that smells like litter and mom
28. Do you require puppies to be spayed or neutered by a certain age?
Spaying and neutering are quite standard procedures nowadays, but it can still be controversial as to when the animal should be spayed or neutered. Some professional breeders may require you to get your puppy spayed or neutered as early as veterinarians recommend. While on the other hand, they might make you wait until after the first heat cycle of a female or after a certain age (common for large breeds).
29. Do you have any references?
Ask your breeder for references from previous clients – both recent and past. Ask these people if they were happy with their experience with the breeder and happy with their pets. Also, consider asking about the long-term health of previous customers’ dogs as they got older. A respected, legitimate breeder will have plenty of glowing references.
I know this is a long list of questions! But I hope that having them broken down into four categories can help make it a little easier to keep track of what are the right questions you want to ask. Just remember, ask about the parents, ask about the puppies, ask about the particular breed, and ask about the process of purchasing a puppy!
Now that you know more about what to expect and what to ask when buying a puppy, you won’t feel quite as overwhelmed! Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an important decision and a significant commitment. Use these questions to determine if a breed, potential breeder, or puppy is the right fit for you!
Dr. Elly has always loved animals, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. After studying hard in veterinary school, she practiced in several different countries before moving to North Carolina with her husband and young family. She currently works part time as a veterinarian while caring for her 4 busy children and writing this blog. Dr. Elly genuinely cares about the welfare of her patients. She currently has three dogs, two cats, 5 chickens and 2 rabbits (yes a bit of a zoo!)