Over recent months my mum has been talking a lot about buying a dog for the first time. My brother and I spent most of our childhood begging for a puppy and so this is obviously an exciting time for us all.
With her heart pretty much set on a cross between a Cavalier King Charles and a miniature poodle (or something similar), we started looking at rescue dogs in our area. Finding a cavapoo puppy that needed a home proved difficult, and most of the dogs we saw were older and a different breed. As a result, we decided to look into giving a new dog a home instead and buying a dog from a breeder.
Last night mum spotted a breeder that was selling 9-week-old cavapoo puppies a short drive away. So, armed with a deposit, my dad drove us over to visit the dog. When we arrived, we were invited into the living room where we were immediately greeted by the adorable little puppy. She was so sweet and as soon as I sat down she started untying my shoelaces and playfully nibbling my fingers every time I stroked her. I was in love.
But as my mum pulled a piece of paper out her pocket filled with questions for the breeder, alarm bells started to ring. When we asked to see the puppy’s mother, the breeder told us that she belongs to his Grandma who lives an hour away. The father, a stud dog, wouldn’t be meeting us either. Obviously meeting the father is less common, but it was worrying that the mother didn’t even belong to the breeder.
We were told that the puppy had three siblings that had already been sold. This may have been true, but the photos he showed us of the alleged dogs on his phone did little to ease our nerves. He also couldn’t provide us any documentation about the dog’s parents and had no information about any visits to the vets. We just couldn’t do it. But looking back we know we did the right thing. We’re also so relieved that we did our research before going to meet the breeder. If we hadn’t, we probably would have taken one look at the cute little dog and screamed “We’ll take it!”
As I sat there cuddling the little puppy, I felt sad that we weren’t taking it home but I knew it was the right thing to do. I also felt relieved that although the situation did seem a little bit suspicious, the dog didn’t appear to be mistreated. Of course, a 15 minute visit obviously can’t guarantee that these are the conditions the dog always lives in, nor can it prove the dog was given the love and attention it needed at an early age, but we didn’t feel guilty when we walked away.
I can understand why someone might buy a puppy after seeing it in awful conditions, but having researched the issue of dodgy dog breeding and puppy farms, I’ve realised that handing money over to these people is not the answer. Of course, the breeder we met may not have been up to anything dodgy at all, but I think we were right to be careful.
If you’ve already looked into adoption but you’ve decided to buy a dog from a breeder instead, here are a few questions you should ask before handing your money over:
How old is the puppy? Ideally, a puppy should not be taken away from its mother until it is 8 weeks old.
Are the puppy’s parents certified? If a dog is certified, this means a vet has tested it and declared it has no diseases
Can we meet the puppy’s parents? It’s widely recommended that you at least meet the puppy’s mother when you buy one from a breeder. This can help you gain an understanding of where the puppy has come from. If the breeder cannot show you the mother, walk away and consider buying from a different breeder.
Has the puppy socialised with other dogs and people? Puppies need love, care and attention from a very young age and as a result, socialisation is critical. Besides, if a breeder has left a puppy on its own for a long period of time, you should question why.
How long has it been away from its mother? (If the mother isn’t present)
Has it had any vaccinations? Different people will tell you different things, but according to the RSPCA, puppies typically need vaccinations at 8 and 10 weeks.
Has it been dewormed? All puppies are born with worms and it is widely recommended that they are dewormed at a young age.
Has the puppy been to the vets? Even though your puppy is young, it’s vital that you know of any vet visits it has had.
Have the puppy’s parents had any illnesses? It’s also crucial that you are aware of any illnesses or diseases that your puppy’s parents might have had.
How long have you bred dogs for? This can give you an insight into how experienced the breeder is. If this is their first litter, there’s no reason to be alarmed, providing they meet other criteria and seem to be breeding their dogs responsibly.
The best breeders out there will probably ask you questions too. By asking you questions they can weigh up whether you’ll be a good fit for their dog and whether you’ll take good care of it.
It’s important not to let your heart overrule your head when buying a dog. It’s easy to just think “we’ll take it” because the dog is cute, but if you soon find out that it has any underlying medical conditions or has inherited an illness from its parents, you may end up with hefty vet bills and a broken heart. If you buy a dog from an irresponsible breeder, you’ll also be funding an industry that cares very little about the welfare of animals.
If, like me, you’re big on saving money and being frugal, buying the cheapest dog you can find may seem like the right option. But it really isn’t. By paying a little bit extra to buy your pet from a responsible breeder who has no interest in cutting costs, you’ll not also be doing the right thing for your new dog, but you may end up saving more money in the long run.
Header image: Derek K. Miller
Cavapoo: Nicki Mannix