Golden retriever puppy outdoors on a sunny day

10 Tips to recognise a Responsible Puppy Seller 

FOUR PAWS advice on what to look out for when you are buying a puppy 


Adding a dog as a new member to the family is an exciting time. Although we always encourage adoption as a first choice, we understand some people are looking for a specific breed or want to have the dog from puppyhood. There are many pitfalls when you are looking to buy a puppy that can be avoided. Read our 10 tips here!

Anonymous and dangerous: illegal puppy dealers

The illegal puppy trade is rife with animal cruelty, deception and risk of disease. Thousands of puppies are bred in hidden breeding facilities around Europe in unsanitary conditions, taken from their mothers much too early, and transported illegally across borders without the necessary vaccinations. Online classified ad sites have become the main way to sell and buy puppies. However most classified ad sites allow anyone using them to remain completely anonymous. This means if you buy a puppy and after purchase you find out they are sick; you may never be able to reach the seller again. They could have changed their phone number, deleted their website account, or created a new one under a different name.  

Many new dog owners end up with a puppy that is too young, poorly bred and sick. Some of the puppies even sadly die, shortly after having arrived at their new home – leaving the new owners traumatised and with high veterinary bills.

It is very difficult to recognise a bad seller or breeder. Many of them are experienced in presenting themselves as responsible breeders, or state their puppies are ‘homebred’ or need to be ‘rehomed’.  So how do you recognise a genuine and responsible puppy sale from an unscrupulous one? 

FOUR PAWS advises to look for a new pet first in a local animal shelter and to adopt rather than to buy a puppy.  But if you decide to buy, here are 10 tips on how to be a bit safer when buying a puppy

  • Research reputable breeders: Do a lot of research on possible breeders in your area. Your national kennel club is a good place to start your research.  
  • If you found a dog you are interested in on an online marketplace, make sure that the seller does not offer more than one breed – check the other ads of the seller, or google the phone number. Keep a copy of the original advert saved offline or printed. 
  • Before you visit the puppy, have a phone call with the seller, ask a lot of questions about the puppy’s parents and siblings, the breeding history of the breeder and veterinary checks that the puppy should have. A responsible seller should also ask the buyer lots of questions: they will want to make sure you will be a good owner and are a right fit for the puppy. 
  • Never pay a deposit without having visited the puppy. 
  • Meeting the puppy for the first time should take place at the breeder’s house. There you can see where the puppy grew up, meet the mother, and see how the environment is. Note: illegal puppy dealers have all sorts of excuses to meet you in public areas such as parking lots or outside houses. They might ask you meet at one house, then drive to another location nearby. Take down any identifying details, such as addresses and vehicle registrations, in case something goes wrong, and you need to report the incident.  
  • Ask whether the puppy is already microchipped and if it is already registered to the breeder. The pup should be registered to them and then transferred to you. 
  • Make sure you pick the puppy up from the breeder’s house, do not get the puppy delivered. 
  • Meet the puppy at least twice. After the first visit, go home and let the experience sink in. Do you have a good gut feeling about the situation? More visits with the puppy are even better. That way the puppy gets to know you a bit before you take them home. Allow the breeder to do a home check at your house if they want to.  
  • Make sure that you get all the necessary paperwork. A purchase contract, with personal information about the breeder as well as the dog, and the vaccination papers where the microchip number is documented.  
  • If you have any doubts – walk away and contact the relevant authority (RSPCA / police). Although it is very tempting to ‘rescue’ the dog from unethical sellers, please try your best to walk away. Buying the puppy only allows these dealers to continue their work.

Make sure you update your new puppy’s registration details, adding yourself as their owner, immediately after the purchase and keep the registration up to date. You will not only ensure you get your dog back in case they are ever lost, but also help to ensure up to date pet registration data across Europe, needed for statistics and for regulating the online pet trade.

Did you know? 

FOUR PAWS want to block illegal puppy dealers from advertising on online marketplaces. We have partnered with Europetnet to offer a technical solution to only allow microchipped and properly registered puppies to be advertised. Find out more about #TracingTheTrade

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