1. Be clear about what you are looking for and what you have to give. Having a puppy is huge commitment. They will need lots of time with you in the first few months as well as basic training classes. After that there is insurance, food and ongoing need to provide a space in your life for them. Think about how much walking you really want to do when it’s wet and cold. Ask yourself if you want to engage in ongoing training or dog sports. What will you do when you go on holiday? Good dog boarding needs to be booked in advance and adds to the costs of your time away.
  2. Ask for personal recommendations from any owners of ideal dogs or puppies that you know. If you are looking for an agility dog then go to agility events and ask around. If you want an assistance dog then find some facebook groups and ask for recommendations.
  3. Find out about the temperaments of both parents. It’s not enough to just meet the mum. Dad’s temperament is just as important. Look for evidence of working dog champions or assistance dog work.
  4. Find out about previous litters. Some breeders have facebook groups for all their puppy owners. And siblings of your pups parents are a good indication of potential breeding so they are worth asking about.
  5. You should have a contract with your breeder which sets out your mutual responsibilities which will usually require you to surrender the puppy back to the breeder if things don’t work out. If the breeder doesn’t require this then you have reasons to be concerned.
  6. Expect to be screened and interviewed. The breeder should check how suitable you are going to be as an owner, how much you are going to with your puppy, whether you have a garden and whether you intend to go to puppy training.
  7. Check that both parents health screening tests. All puppies should come from health screened parents, and you should check the results of these tests.
  8. Find out what paperwork you’ll get with your puppy. A good breeder should send you home with much more than a puppy blanket and a bag of food. Ideally you should get a socialisation checklist so that you can carry on the good work that the breeder has already started.
  9. Find out what early experiences your puppy will be having. Ask about exposure to other dogs, access to the outside and exposure to a range of domestic stimuli such as a loud TV and children. Ideally puppies should be gently handled every single day for a few minutes.
  10. What support is available to you during your puppies first few weeks. You shouldn’t feel alone if things don’t work out as planned. The breeder has an ongoing obligation to ensure that their puppy is well cared for and should continue to stay in contact.