Guide to Buying a Puppy

me and two sansorrella pups


This covers questions for both puppy buyers and breeders - courtesy of James Maulden


I have organized the following into specific categories for easier reading. However, the order in which this is presented does not necessarily mean that this is the order in which these questions should be asked nor does it signify the importance of one question over another. This is not meant to be a complete list of questions or considerations, just a starting point to get you thinking before making this long term commitment.

Ask yourself "Why do you want a dog?"

A. Pet/companion
B. Showing
C. Breeding
D. All of the above

II. Learn how to choose the right breed for you

A. Read about the breeds that interest you
B. Attend a few dog shows and observe the characteristics of the breed you have chosen
C. Find out what type of grooming or special care this breed requires
D. Talk to and visit several breeders

1. Ask about specific characteristics
2. Ask about inherited problems
3. Look at adults
4. Look at puppies
5. Remember: This puppy will be an adult longer than it will be a puppy--do you like the adults of this breed??

E. Always look at more than one litter before deciding on a specific puppy (by this I mean visit more than one breeder to view two separate litters) this way you have some basis for comparison.
F. Have you considered rescuing an older dog rather than purchasing a puppy? Sometimes, an older dog is more appropriate for your household and you work schedule.

III. Questions to ask the breeder

A. About the parents & grandparents

1. Temperament of the ancestors

a. shyness
b. viciousness
c. hyperactive
d. what are they like??
e. how are they to live with on a daily basis?

2. Known hereditary problems (ask for certification that the parents are clear)

a. Hip displaysia
b. Eye problems
c. Thyroid problems
d. Bleeding disorders
e. others specific to your breed of choice

3. Results of prior breedings (if any)

a. What type of puppies (mentally and physically) has this dog produced in the past?
b. Mental and physical soundness of aunts, uncles, etc.

B. About the puppies

1. Health record

a. What shots have they had
b. What shots do they still need
c. Have they been wormed
d. What type of food are they eating

2. Environment they were raised in (home vs. kennel)

3. Describe an average day in the puppy's life at age 6 or 7 weeks.

4. Anticipated temperament of each puppy in this litter (it is important to to know as much as possible about the siblings of your puppy)

5. If you are buying a show or breeding quality puppy, it is even more it is even more important to find out about the siblings.

6. If you are buying a show or breeding quality be certain that the littermates are free from hereditary defects (and that males have two descended testicles --- even if you are buying a bitch puppy)

7. Which puppy is breeding quality, show quality or pet quality (you don't want to get your heart set on one puppy then be told that it is a show puppy and is not for sale)

8. What type of health guarantee does the breeder give for a show puppy? or pet puppy?

9. Will the breeder take the dog back or assist you in placing the dog should you ever decide that you cannot keep it?

Questions the breeder should ask you

A. Why do you want this dog?

B. Have you researched this breed and what do you know about its character traits?

C. Do you have other pets?

D. Have you ever owned a dog? One of this breed?

E. Were will the dog be kept? Indoors or outdoors most of the time?

F. What hours do you work? Your spouse?

G. Do you have children? What ages?

H. Describe a typical week at your house now.

I. Describe a typical weekend day at your house now.

J. Project a typical week at your house after you get the puppy.

K. Project a typical weekend at your house after you get the puppy.

L. Project a typical day once he is an adult.

M. Where will the dog go when you go on vacation

N. What would you do if you could no longer keep this dog

O. To sign a contract stating specific terms and agreements of the sale of this puppy.

P. Will this dog be spayed or neutered?

Q. If you intent to breed this dog, why?

1. To show the children the facts of life
2. To recuperate the money you are spending to buy a purebred dog
3. To attempt to produce puppies better than their parents

Note: Answers 1 and 2 are not acceptable reasons for breeding.

V. If you do breed this dog, outline the process you will follow--from choosing the stud to whelping the litter.

A. Check for hereditary defects

B. Attend shows and ask breeders' recommendations for stud choice.

C. Shots current before breeding

D. Prenatal care, diet of mother, vet care while in whelp, etc.

E. The whelping

1. Where will the litter be whelped (may depend on the time of year), indoors? outdoors? the garage?

2. Where will you be during this time?

3. Alert your vet when she goes into labour (have more than one vet available if possible)

F. Where will the pups be kept (and until what age)

G. What care will the pups receive prior to being sold (at what age will they be sent to their new homes)

1. Shots
2. Worming
3. What will they eat (and at what ages)

H. How will you sell the puppies

I. How will you screen the potential buyers

J. What type of follow up will you do once the pups have been sold

K. Will you offer any guarantees

L. How will you arrive at a sales price for the pups

M. Will you provide a home for the pups for their ENTIRE lifetime (yes, even if they are sold and then returned to you for some reason)

VI. How to evaluate the breeder (not the dogs)

A. If the breeder does not ask you most of the above questions, maybe you should choose another breeder.

B. Do they seem truly interested in your home environment?

C. Have they evaluated the litter into show, pet, or breeding stock?

D. Have they priced the litter based upon their expenses for the litter or upon their honest evaluation of the quality of the puppies?

E. Are the puppies in a healthy environment?

F. How are the adults kept? Do they receive adequate attention, socialization, nutrition?

G. Speak to several breeders, if most breeders are telling you one thing and one does not, either he is ignorant of the fact or he does not care. Neither situation is good. If they cannot give you a satisfactory answer when you directly ask them about this point, choose another breeder to buy your puppy from.

H. Do you get the feeling that once you walk out the door with the puppy, you are on your own? or do you feel that you could call this breeder for help at any time in the puppy's life?

VII. How to choose your puppy once you have chosen the breeder you wish to work with.

A. Male vs. Female

B. What type of adult do you want

1. Active vs docile
2. Show vs. pet
3. Will the dog live primarily indoors or outdoors

C. Ask the breeder to project a what puppy's temperament will be like as an adult.

D. Evaluate temperament first as the dog will be your pet first and foremost. He cannot be anything else unless he is a good pet. If you cannot enjoy
living with the dog, why have it? We choose to have a dog --- it should be a pleasure not a burden.

E. Coat colour, markings and eye colour should be the last consideration after you have decided on the type of temperament you can live with and which sex you prefer. If you are adamant about specific colour or markings, wait until they are on the puppy with the appropriate temperament for you.

F. If you are buying a show puppy, attend enough shows, read enough books to have a basic idea of what you want in a show dog then ask the breeder to help project what each puppy may burn out like as an adult. REMEMBER: No one knows for sure it is just an educated guess at best!

G. If you have questions or concerns about your puppy (behaviour, physical development, etc.) at any time after your purchase -- call the breeder
immediately. Don't be afraid to ask for help! It could save you a lot of heartache in the long run.

H. Remember, by purchasing this puppy, you are committing to its care for the rest of its life. But, in the event that you cannot keep it as you had planned call the breeder immediately. A good breeder always wants to know where their pups are. They will also help you place the dog or approve a new home if you have one lined up.

I. It is very important that you maintain contact with the breeder of your puppy. If you do not feel comfortable doing that, perhaps you chose the wrong
breeder to purchase a puppy from. You buy the breeder as well as the puppy so try to be sure you get a good one of each!


Male V Female

Apart from the physical differences between male and female dogs a brother and sister from the same litter can have contrasting temperaments - even if they look similar and grow up in exactly the same environment. It's all down to hormones. While a male pup is developing in the womb, he temporarily produces the male hormone, testosterone. This masculinises his brain, so that at birth he is already intrinsically male. However, a bitch pup is not born with any female hormones and it's only when she comes into her first season and starts to produce these hormones that her female personality comes into being.

After a bitch goes into season, whether she has been mated or not, her body assumes she is pregnant and goes through a two month period when she produces the pregnancy hormone, progesterone. This affects her temperament, calming down her physical energy, but at the same time possibly stimulating maternal aggression, making her more protective and possessive.

Because a male pup is born with the hormone testosterone, there's a pre-existing hormonal influence, which means that he may grow more quickly than female siblings. However, just because a male pup tends to be bigger, there's no need to feed him any more than a bitch. Extra food and minerals put a strain on a young dog's body. Depending on the breed, age rather than size should be taken into account at feeding time. Equally, females should not be pushed harder as a result of being smaller, but should be left to grow at a steady rate.

Not everyone neuters their dogs, but it can make a significant difference to temperaments and their long-term health. A neutered dog is much less likely to mark his territory, and neutering reduces the aggression between males. Neutering also dramatically prolongs the lives of females.

Temperaments vary from breed to breed and from one dog to another, but in general un-neutered female dogs are easier to obedience train and house train then un-neutered males. Un-neutered males are also likely to be more aggressive, dominant and more physically active and destructive than un-neutered females.

Individual breeds don't follow general rules and some behavioural differences have nothing to do with the sexes. It's all a matter of getting to know your dog and understanding his unique personality.



You have now set out what you want and where to buy it from. I would recommend you visit the puppies at the very least twice, at 4/5 weeks and again when you pick up the pup. The best age to take the puppy home is 7 weeks see my Psychological Changes in a Puppies Growth. NEVER ever accept a puppy less than 7 weeks of age, it is vitally important they are with their mother and siblings up to this age, and puppies over twelve weeks should be avoided if possible, however this would depend on where they are kept, ie, if they are kept in a house not in a kennel outside without human contact, if it is a loving home with plenty of contact with the breeders family then it can be considered.

Check the appearance of the mother and puppies. Do they appear healthy; eyes clear and bright, free of any discharge? Are their coats shiny? If possible get confirmation of the eye and hip scores of both the mother and the father. If the breeder allows you, always stroke and fuss the parents, check their temperament, look for signs of aggression, fearfulness, nervousness, or ‘Neurotic’ symptoms such as chewing feet, tail, or skin damage, are the dogs pacing etc. This is especially important in the mother, as the puppies are in close contact with her. It has been shown that, it is the mother that shapes the behavioural future of the offspring, genetics may load the gun but environment fires it.

Make sure you handle the puppies if they become distressed or shy away this could mean that they have not been properly socialised. If the puppies have been socialised correctly, then they will adapt and accept situations that are potentially stressful. You should then end up with a happy well-balanced dog in maturity.

Before bringing your new dog home, make sure your garden is ‘Safe & Secure’. Purchase a collar, lead, bowls, and dog tag with name address and telephone (law max £5000 fine) bed, toys and treats etc, check with the breeder what she is feeding the pups, a good breeder will supply you with some food and give you a feeding chart. Leave a small blanket or towel on your first visit, so that it gets the mother and the litter smell on it, this should provide some comfort in the first week or so at home. Check with other dog owners as to the best Vet in your area. If you live near me check on the local links section, as I have recommended what I believe to be the best Vets in our area.

When you pick up the pup take a crate/indoor kennel or a cardboard box with you and line it with newspaper, take spare newspaper with you as the pup may be sick and will almost certainly urinate and defecate on the journey, especially if it is any distance.

When you get home place the bed or crate near somewhere warm, if you are using a crate and I heartily endorse them, cover the crate with a blanket or sheet to make it more den like introduce the puppy to the crate gradually and positively, see my article on Toileting With a Crate.

If you have a loud ticking clock put this near the bed or crate, you can also put in a hot water bottle; it mimics the mothers and siblings heat and the tick of the clock the heartbeats, leave a radio on in another room, make sure it is tuned into a talk not a music station. 97.3 LBC is my favourite and the one I choose every time. Not sure about what the pup thinks though?

If the puppy continues to get distressed you can take it into your bedroom, though I would only normally advise this when using a crate/indoor kennel as you can gradually move this away over a period of time, once the puppy has settled in. You can also put in a hot water bottle; this will mimic the heat from the mother and siblings over the first few nights. Make sure it is well covered or you may get a very wet bed/crate.

Your new puppy will needs lots of sleep, just like a human baby so too much interference in this pattern will be detrimental, rough handling by children or adults could affect the behaviour and attitude of your new puppy, and could have a long lasting effect as the dog matures. However not enough contact and gentle handling will also have a negative effect on your dog, finding the right balance is of vital importance.

A puppy can be an absolute joy or an unmitigated nightmare, which one you get, can be affected by the effort you initially put into your research, decisions, training and ongoing socialisation. It is vitally important to book your puppy into a good socialisation class, make sure that they do not have more than 8/10 dogs in any one class and that the pups at the start of the course are not over 18 weeks old, and the trainers do not allow the puppies to just jump on one another at the start of the class, integration of the puppies in the class should be careful and slow to avoid problems and long term bad manners in later life.

Puppies need lots of time, care and patience. Follow the above guidelines and your efforts will be positively rewarded with what I personally believe is the best companion in the world. "A Dog".

This article was written by Stan Rawlinson, a full time Dog Behaviourist. You can visit his website at for more articles and training information. You may freely distribute this article or save to any electronic media as long as it is left intact, including this copyright box.


More good advice when choosing a puppy

If you decide a puppy is the right choice for you, here is what to look out for when choosing one:

Check the puppy's age and immunisation record

Puppies must be at least eight weeks old and should have received their first vaccinations before they leave their mother.

Has the puppy's health been approved by a vet?

Purchase should be after, or conditional on, a satisfactory veterinary examination.

Health checks you can make yourself

Avoid skinny dogs or puppies. Also avoid puppies with potbellies, as they are quite likely to have intestinal worms.

Never be tempted to take a puppy with runny eyes, a runny nose or a cough. Teeth should be clean and white. Gums should be pink and not smelly.

Make sure the puppy's bottom is clean without any signs of diarrhoea or soreness.

Check for fleas and other parasites. Many puppies have them but they can be treated. Brown or yellow deposits in the ears are one sign of ear mites.

Check the puppy's dietary requirements

Make sure you are given a diet sheet showing how the puppy has been fed so far - moving home is enough of an upset for a young puppy without adding to it by the stress of eating unfamiliar food.



A Breeder (with a capital ‘B’) is one who thirsts for knowledge and never really knows it all, one who wrestles with decisions of conscience, convenience and commitment.

A Breeder is one who sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, fancy furniture and deep pile carpeting. She gives up the dreams of a long, luxurious cruise in favour of turning that all important Show into this year’s "vacation".

The Breeder goes without sleep (but never without coffee) in hours spent planning a breeding or watching anxiously over the birth process and afterwards, over every little sneeze, wiggle or cry.

The Breeder skips dinner parties because that litter is due and the babies have to be fed at eight. She disregards birth fluids and puts mouth to mouth to save a gasping newborn, literally blowing life into a tiny, helpless creature that may be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams.

A Breeders lap is a marvellous place where generations of proud and noble champions once snoozed.

A Breeders hands are strong and firm and often soiled, but ever so gentle and sensitive to the thrusts of a puppy's wet nose.

A Breeders back and knees are usually arthritic from stooping, bending and sitting in the birthing box, but are strong enough to enable the Breeder to show the next choice pup to a Championship.

A Breeders shoulders are stooped and often heaped with abuse from competitors, but they're wide enough to support the weight of a thousand defeats and frustrations.

A Breeders arms are always able to wield a mop, support an armful of puppies, or lend a helping hand to a newcomer.

A Breeders ears are wondrous things, sometimes red (from being talked about) or strangely shaped (from being pressed against a phone receiver, often deaf to criticism, yet always fine-tuned to the whimper of a sick puppy.

A Breeders eyes are blurred from pedigree research and sometimes blind to her own dog's faults, but they are never so keen to the competitions faults and are always searching for the perfect specimen.

A Breeders brain is foggy on faces, but it can recall pedigrees faster than an IBM computer. It is so full of knowledge that sometimes it blows a fuse. It catalogues thousands of good bones, fine ears and perfect heads… and buries in the soul the failures and the one that didn't turn out.

The Breeders heart is often broken, but it beats strongly with hope everlasting… and it's always in the right place" Oh, yes, there are breeders and then, there are BREEDERS!!

Author Unknown




"I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself".

Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

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