14 Questions to Ask When Buying a Puppy
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Are you considering adding a new furry member to your family?
This is an exciting time, but also one that should be taken seriously.
After all, buying a puppy is a major decision that involves a long-term commitment.
Before you go and search “where to buy a puppy near me” on your favorite search engine, there are a few essential things to consider.
To help you find that perfect fit for your family and lifestyle, I have put together a list of important questions to ask when buying a puppy.
As you work through these questions, from the very broad to the much more specific ones, you will narrow your focus and better understand what to look for in a puppy.
A little research and preparation now will set you up for success in the years to come!
Where to Purchase a Puppy
Before we dig into the questions to ask, let’s take a moment to look at the best places to buy a puppy. You will find that many people are very passionate about this decision.
The truth is that there are pros and cons to consider whether you buy a puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue one from your local shelter.
Both are responsible choices that you should feel good about. But you need to be careful, as there are people with questionable ethics looking to take advantage of others and make money at their expense.
There are several ways to find your new puppy, including:
- Buying a puppy from a breeder: Connect with a responsible breeder in your area. Unlike backyard breeders, a reputable breeder’s first focus is the health and well-being of the dogs and puppies in their care. This includes continuing to support you if you have questions after you bring your puppy home. Reputable breeders are experts with their specific breed and will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have about whether their dogs are a good fit.
We bought our black Labrador Retriever, Elsa from a responsible breeder in San Diego. We did a ton of research before buying her and got referrals from several people endorsing the kennel she came from.
- Buying a puppy from a pet store: Many areas are now banning the sale of puppies in pet stores. These puppies often come from a backyard breeder focused more on the money than the health of your puppy. While the puppy may look like a good deal now, vet bills can add up quickly. The one exception is the use of pet stores to showcase puppies from your local rescues.
But be careful. We’ve seen pet stores at our local malls advertise puppies from local shelters when they are actually coming from puppy mills.
- Rescuing a puppy from a shelter or rescue organization: Speaking of rescues, these organizations work to help puppies that come from a variety of different situations find a loving home. Rescue puppies can include both purebred and mixed-breed puppies. Organizations that use foster homes generally understand the puppies’ personalities better. There are both excellent rescue organizations and those classified as “retail rescues” that quickly adopt puppies with a focus on making money.
We volunteer as fosters for one of our local rescues. The organization we work with provides a lot of care to their puppies including initial vaccinations, deworming, microchipping, vet wellness checkup, and a minimum of two week evaluation before puppies go to new homes. The $300 adoption fee doesn’t even cover the cost to care for the puppy.
- Buying a puppy online: If you find a puppy you love online, take a moment to consider the source. Many reputable breeders have their own websites and social media platforms. Shelters and rescue organizations also use the internet to help spread the word about pets in their care. If you see a puppy on a website like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, you will need to ask questions and do some detective work to find out where they are coming from.
You really need to do your due diligence if you’re thinking about buying a puppy online. I’ve had friends (even readers from this site) contact and tell me that they sent their deposit for a puppy and never heard back. There are many scams going on out there so please, please be very careful.
The best place to buy a puppy may depend on several factors. Responsible breeders will sell their puppies at a higher price than the average shelter or rescue puppy.
However, you will better understand what you can expect from a well-bred puppy.
Rescue puppies usually trigger warm feelings of knowing you are giving a puppy a better life.
All 3 of our dogs are rescued.
But you need to be prepared for the fact that you don’t know their past or their parent’s medical history. This could lead to unwanted expenses.
Our little man Lucifer, for example, came to us looking great to everyone, including the veterinarian.
However, it was discovered that he had suffered injuries before being rescued, which we are still working to help him overcome.
14 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Puppy
These questions are divided into three categories. The questions to ask yourself will help you narrow down which breed(s) you should consider.
Next, depending on where you are buying a puppy, there are questions to ask the breeder or the rescue.
Each of these questions will help to confirm that the puppy you are considering is a good fit for your family and lifestyle.
They will also point out any concerns you may need to consider when bringing that puppy into your home.
Questions to Ask Yourself
#1 – Is your lifestyle active, or do you have a calmer daily routine?
Some dogs are very high-energy. This can easily be “too much” for those that aren’t prepared to meet their exercise needs.
On the other hand, some breeds are quite happy with less exercise and more snuggle time.
Our youngest boy Lucifer is a ball of energy all the time.
As a German Shepherd/Australian Cattle Dog, he needs significant daily exercise to keep him from becoming destructive out of boredom. But our older boy Indiana is the opposite.
As a Flat-Coated Retriever mix, he prefers moderate exercise and playtime followed by a snuggle on the couch.
Be honest with yourself when asking this question. This isn’t a test, and no one lifestyle makes you a better dog owner.
By honestly answering this question, you can find a puppy that meshes well with your family and fits nicely into your daily lives.
#2 – How much grooming are you prepared to do (or pay for)?
There are dog breeds that will need daily grooming and maintenance at home. This is often in addition to professional grooming appointments every 1-2 months.
Not keeping up with their grooming can lead to painful and costly tangles and mats.
If you aren’t ready to commit to this, you may need to consider a different breed for your new puppy.
Ensure that you set realistic expectations for what you and your family can keep up with.
#3 – How much space do I have for a puppy?
If you live in an apartment downtown, you have less space for a puppy to run than a farm out in the country.
This doesn’t mean you can’t offer a puppy an incredible home. But you should keep this in mind when picking a breed.
Working breeds like the Siberian Husky have a lot of drive and energy.
They need to have the opportunity to burn off some of that energy in a positive way, and it will be much harder to meet their exercise needs in an apartment setting.
On the other hand, a Yorkshire Terrier or Teacup Yorkie would thrive on daily walks followed by cuddle time in the apartment.
#4 – Are you prepared for a 10–15-year commitment (or more)?
When buying a puppy, you are committing to caring for and protecting them for their entire life.
The average lifespan of a dog is 10-15 years, but many dogs live far beyond that time.
My oldest girl is a German Shepherd mix, which usually has a lifespan of 10-13 years.
We are getting ready to celebrate her 15th birthday next month, and she’s still a spunky ball of energy!
Take a moment to think long and hard about the coming years. A puppy can be a beautiful and heartwarming addition to your life.
But it will also mean making changes or sacrifices occasionally for your dog’s needs. Make sure you are ready to stick it out for the long run.
Questions to Ask the Dog Breeder
#1 – Can you meet and handle the puppy before committing to buy?
This is an opportunity to see the puppy’s personality firsthand. If there are multiple puppies in the litter, it can also help you decide which would be the best option for you and your family.
After all, two puppies can come from the same litter and have very different sizes or personalities.
This could be a big red flag if the breeder is unwilling to allow you to see the puppies. Ask why the puppies can’t be seen and proceed with caution.
#2 – Are you able to see the puppy’s parents?
Your puppy’s parents aren’t going to be a carbon copy of their parents, but they are a good indication of what you can expect.
While the dad may not always be available, no responsible breeder should shy away from letting you see the puppy’s mother.
Take note of the parents’ size, overall demeanor, and any health concerns that may arise. If the mother exhibits high anxiety, there is a good chance the puppy is prone to anxiety as well.
#3 – What kind of socialization have the puppies had?
Proper socialization is very important for a healthy, happy dog later in life. This needs to start with exposure to people at a young age.
The bare minimum would be that the puppies have been touched and handled by the breeder and their family or employees.
Many responsible breeders will go further by introducing basic obedience commands or new sounds while keeping them safely contained.
#4 – What medical care have the puppies had?
The standard puppy vaccination schedule states that the first vaccinations should be received between 6 and 9 weeks old.
Puppies are usually allowed to leave the breeder around 8 to 10 weeks when they should have had their first vaccinations.
Other treatments your puppy may have received include deworming or flea/tick prevention.
Finally, check to find out if your puppy can be returned if you discover medical problems shortly after bringing them home.
A responsible breeder should be willing to work with you towards a resolution, such as a refund or offering another healthy puppy instead.
#5 – Is there a contract for buying a puppy?
Responsible breeders should be willing to provide you with a contract laying out rules, restrictions, and responsibilities.
This contract will differ from breeder to breeder. So, take the time to read through and ask any questions.
Some breeders will require that the puppy returns to them if you cannot care for them and are forced to rehome in the future.
Others will restrict your ability to breed the puppy in the future.
Questions to Ask the Rescue
#1 – How did this puppy come into their care?
Understanding where a puppy came from can help you prepare for what they may need in training and care.
A puppy born in a loving foster home will be raised with the care and love a puppy from a breeder would have experienced.
But a puppy picked up as a stray on the streets or rescued from a backyard breeder may have some behavioral problems to overcome.
Rescues don’t always know a lot about a dog’s past, but they will provide you with any details that they have about the puppy’s life experiences to date.
#2 – Does the puppy have any health concerns?
When a puppy comes into the care of a rescue or shelter, they are often vetted, including vaccinations, deworming, and flea/tick treatment before adoption.
If the puppy is old enough, they may also be spayed/neutered.
During vetting, they will do their best to test for or identify any medical problems that the puppy may have.
Often, if a puppy is undergoing active treatment, they will either be kept in foster care until the treatment is done or adopted out with the treatment costs covered by the rescue.
There are occasionally situations where an injury or medical issue is overlooked.
Ask how this is handled and if they will support you with any medical problems identified shortly after bringing your puppy home.
#3 – What is the personality and temperament of the dog?
Just as you would ask a breeder questions to better understand each puppy’s personality in a litter, you should ask the rescue for this information.
You may also wish to speak with the foster parents if the puppy has been kept in a foster home.
These people have spent the most time with the puppy and best understand who they are when settled in their “home” environment.
Foster homes often test the dog in different situations.
This allows them to make recommendations for whether the puppy will do well in a home with other dogs, cats, or young children.
#4 – Has the puppy had any obedience training?
The level of training that you can expect from a rescue puppy will vary significantly from rescue to rescue and puppy to puppy.
Some puppies will have basic socialization, while others will still be working on their reaction to people.
A puppy may be familiar with some basic commands like sit or down. Or they may be working through some behavioral issues before being able to move to these commands.
#5 – Will the rescue take the puppy back if it doesn’t work?
While no one wants to admit that an adoption is unsuccessful, there are some situations where you may not be able to provide a puppy with the care they need.
If you adopt a puppy and find out they have behavioral problems you can’t overcome, will the rescue be willing to take them back?
Do they have other resources to help you through these challenges, like a connection with a local trainer?
Is Buying a Puppy Online Safe?
This is a topic that needs a little more attention. Why?
When you buy puppies online, you risk more than just supporting a backyard breeder.
Many con artists and scammers use cute puppy pictures to make a quick buck.
If you are asked to pay a deposit upfront without being allowed to see the dog, this is a major red flag! It is one of the more common dog-related scams.
They often don’t even have the puppy they are “selling” and will block you or disappear after collecting the deposit.
Don’t be afraid to walk away and look elsewhere if you get a bad feeling at any point in your conversations.
Should I Buy Two Puppies from the Same Litter?
You may find yourself interested in more than one puppy when meeting the litter, especially if you notice that two puppies play together regularly and appear to have a tight bond.
But buying two puppies from the same litter may set you up for trouble. This often leads to the development of a condition known as littermate syndrome.
Also known as “Sibling Aggression,” littermate syndrome refers to behavioural problems commonly developed when two littermates are raised in the same household.
This includes aggression, co-dependency, and difficulty bonding with their human family.
Professional dog trainers and behaviorists often recommend against bringing home two littermates.
Many breeders won’t allow two littermates to be adopted into the same home.
My first puppy, Linus was sharing a kennel with his sister (Lucy?). I was very close to adopting both puppies but I’m glad I didn’t. Linus formed a very close bond with me and became my best friend for almost 14 years. He was my heart dog.
What Age is Best to Buy a Puppy?
Most veterinarians, breeders, and canine behaviorists recommend that puppies shouldn’t leave for their forever home until the age of 8-10 weeks, sometimes a little later for smaller breed dogs.
The early days with their mother and their littermates are essential for learning life skills.
This includes bite inhibition and impulse control. Additionally, responsible breeders are familiar with the critical socialization needs of a young puppy.
While there will be situations in the rescue world where a puppy may be available for adoption a little earlier, be weary of a breeder willing to send home a puppy before eight weeks old.
If you are considering adding a puppy to your home, congratulations! I can’t imagine my life without the three dogs we affectionately refer to as our “pack.”
But owning a puppy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
There will be struggles, frustrations, and challenges along the way.
While there is no way to avoid these hurdles altogether, you can reduce the risk of trouble by researching and asking questions every step along the way.
Don’t forget to prepare for your new furry family member with our New Puppy Checklist!
Have you gotten a puppy recently?
Did you ask any questions that aren’t on our list?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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Top Picks For Our Puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs – Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
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We Like: Bones & Chews Bully Sticks – All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats – We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer’s Dog – A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer’s Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.