What To Ask When Buying A Puppy

Cocker spaniel puppy

A Full Checklist of Questions To Ask Your Breeder Before Buying A Puppy

I’m a big supporter of adopting when it comes to getting a dog. A few years back I adopted an oldie called Wilson and shared the last wonderful 18 months of his doddery old life with him.

A year after Wilson passed I decided I was ready to welcome another dog into my life, but this time I wanted to start from scratch with a puppy to raise myself.  I’d read my puppy books from cover to cover (I’d HIGHLY recommend picking up a copy of this before your furry bundle arrives) and I had so much love and time to give to a puppy, so I set about researching breeds. I wanted a dog with lots of energy, a cheeky personality that would be gentle and friendly around everyone so I settled on a working cocker spaniel…and I haven’t looked back since!

READ: 6 Essentials For Your New Puppy

Pedigree puppies aren’t cheap. They can range from around £900 – £3,000 depending on your breed, so unfortunately there are some breeders out there who use female dogs to simply make money and don’t treat them well at all.

Finding a reputable breeder can be a minefield. But there are some wonderful breeders out there who love and care for their dogs more than anything – these are the litters you want to buy your puppy from.

So I’ve put together a list of what you need to ask when buying a puppy!

Group of puppies

What to ask when buying a puppy

Pedigree Certificates

Number one on my list of what to ask when buying a puppy. If your breeder is claiming that the puppy’s parents are pedigree breeds then ask to see evidence of their certificates. Make sure to triple check the details.

Health Certificates

Your breeder should have the parents checked for hereditary diseases. Research the health problems your breed is susceptible to and ask your breeder to provide evidence that these have been tested for. For example for my cocker spaniel Toby I asked to see hereditary tests of PRA (Eyesight), hips, kidneys, FN, and AMS – all of which my breeder could and was happy to provide.

Vet Check Certificate

Your breeder should have had the puppies seen by a vet and checked for everything essential. They should have been wormed, vaccinated and microchipped and you must ask to physically see the certificates for these. If the vet hasn’t provided evidence of the health checks (which they should!) then get the vets contact details and give them a call to confirm.

Puppy Socialisation & Feeding Plan

Puppies need to be socialised and handled right from the off. They won’t leave their mum until they are weaned and not until they’re at least eight weeks old but there’s a lot of developing being done in those first weeks that it’s essential your pup doesn’t miss out on. Ask about your breeders socialisation plan – a good one will include things like daily handling, being around people and starting toilet training. It’s also good to ask what the puppies are eating – find out the brand and their feeding schedule. A good breeder will have puppy specific food and be sticking to a schedule.

Will They Take the Puppy Back

Now this isn’t something we want to think about at all. We’re not going to go buying a puppy unless we are 100% sure we’re ready for one because they are NOT easy. However, asking your breeder if for any reason they would be willing to take the puppy back is a good way to gague if they actually care about their litter. Those who do will want the best for their puppies and if it’s not in your home, they will be willing to take it back to help find the perfect owner.

Meet The Parents 

You must ask to see both parents. Some breeders may use a stud dog and therefore not own the father of the pups – this is fairly normal, but always dig deeper. Who’s is the stud? Is it a friend’s dog? What’s their temperament and health like? A good breeder won’t want their bitch breeding with just any male dog, and mum should always be around with the puppies so make sure you meet her and give her a fuss.

Where Will the Puppies be Kept

Look for food bowls, used toys and blankets as evidence that the puppies are actually living here. Dodgy breeders may use a friends house for visits from potential buyers when in actual fact the puppies may be living in poorer conditions elsewhere. Look for signs that the house you’re visiting has dogs in it and that your litter hasn’t just been brought here for show.

How Old Is Mum

A bitch should really be older than 1.5 – 2 years old before she has her own litter. Ask how old mum is and take a look at her temperament and how she looks. Is she well looked after, groomed and happy? See how the breeder interacts with mum too, is she a well loved puppy mum?

How Many Litters

And finally, always ask which litter this is and how many more the breeder is planning on having. It is illegal to breed a bitch more than six times in their lifetime. Toby came from the third litter of my breeder and the last. They kept a puppy from each litter which were all running around the farm and they knew exactly where all their puppies had gone. Reputable breeders do sometimes have more than one litter, but just be mindful of how they talk about their puppies and future plans for more.


The final question on my list of what to ask when buying a puppy should come from the breeder. A reputable and caring breeder won’t want to sell their pups to just anyone so they should be asking you questions back! Be prepared to answer questions on your experience with dogs, your home life and more. They should give you a jolly good grilling but don’t worry, if you’ve got to this stage you’ll seriously know your puppy stuff. You got this.

READ: All Natural Apple and Cheddar Dog Biscuit Recipe

What to ask when buying a puppy


So you’ve done your breeder checks and you’ve found a litter you love. But how do you choose your pup?!

Here are some tips I picked up on how to pick the perfect puppy for you out of a litter and a few checks you need to do:

Pick Them Up!

Pick up your puppy and touch it everywhere to see how they react. Gently squeeze their paws, rub their ears, gently pull their tail, rub their tummy, lift their lips and touch their teeth. This will give you a really good idea how how well they’ve been socialised so far. They’ll be wriggly but they shouldn’t mind you touching them.

Call The Puppy To You

Most of them will come running because they’re adorable little pupsters but you want to see if your chosen pup has a natural connection with you. You’ll feel a pull towards certain pups in the litter. Go with your gut!

Check Hearing and Sight 

Triple check your puppy can see and hear you ok. Take a ball with you and see if the puppy tracks the toy with it’s eyes. Also give a little clap near their heads to see if the puppy reacts and turns to the noise…but don’t scare them!


Observe how your puppy is walking, are they standing up straight and walking normally? Check for any abnormalities in their gait (the way they walk) which could indicate poor bone growth.


Pick up your puppy and listen to his breath (and breathe in that lovely new puppy smell while you’re there!). Are they breathing normally without wheezing? Another good health check to do when choosing your pupster.

Eyes, Nose and Ears

Check for any crust around the puppies eyes, nose and ears…and bum! This can be a sign of poor breeding conditions or an infection. My pup had a watery eye when I picked him up that has got better as he’s grown – this can simply be a sign of the tear ducts not yet developing properly as the puppies face is still growing, or it can be harmless allergies if you’re picking them up in the summer. Just make sure it’s only ‘tears’ and not gloopy puss. Ew.

The OUCH Test!

Puppies nibble and those teeth are sharp! Put your finger in your puppies mouth and let him bite you. When they do, pull back your finger and squeal ‘ouch’ and whimper a little. Take note of your puppies reaction. They should stop a little and think about what’s just happened – this shows a real understanding of human interaction and a good level of emotional intelligence.

questions to ask your breeder before buying a puppy

So there you go – my list of what to ask when buying a puppy. A lot to think about huh?! Why not bookmark this page or copy my tips into a note on your phone so you can tick them off one by one. When I was looking for Toby I had a set email with all my questions ready to send out to all the breeders that caught my eye. You soon get a feel for whether someone is genuine or not – just have your wits about you and don’t forget you can also find puppies in your local adoption shelter too!

One year on and I’ve got the happiest (and cheekiest) puppy there is which I like to put down to all my research, care and training in those vital early months.

I wish you the best of luck finding your new pup, enjoy every single minute!

WATCH: A Day In The Life of My Puppy Toby!


Questions to ask your breeder before buying a puppy

Before You Go –

READ: The Carpet Cleaner That Saved My Puppy Stained Carpet!


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