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A dog is for life, not just for lockdown. Tips for buying a healthy puppy in a pandemic.

The demand for new puppies has soared dramatically this year. Lockdown has meant that many people have had extra time on their hands to put towards a new puppy friend to keep them company. However, one in four of these new puppies, may have been purchased from a puppy farm.

It is no secret that our canine friends provide some much-needed comfort and distraction, at a time when covid-19 is causing a lot more stress, anxiety and disruption than normal. Ultimately though, this means that more and more puppies are being purchased on impulse, or on spare of the moment decisions, and without any prior research.

Shockingly, 25% of new pet owners, purchased their dog companion within two hours or less. 27% of pet owners purchased their pup without even seeing it first and 42% had no idea where their dog was even being bred.*

Be aware! Signs your new puppy could be from a puppy farm:

  • How many dogs does your seller have for sale? If they are selling multiple different breeds all at once, this could mean that they are running a puppy farm, so be extra aware of the surroundings and the environment the puppy is living in.
  • You should know if, and when, your puppy received their vaccination. They should not be vaccinated before they are eight weeks old and they should not be taken away from their mother before this age either. If you believe your puppy is younger than eight weeks of age, and there was no sign of the puppy’s mother when you collected them, then there could be a chance they have come from a puppy farm.
  • A breeder that puts their puppies at top priority will ask lots of questions to determine that you are indeed a suitable pet owner and will check that you are responsible to take them to their forever home. If they pressurise you to take the puppy, without doing any checks on you first, then there is a high chance the dog has not been bred responsibly itself. 
  • Does your puppy look and sound healthy? Many puppies who endured the beginnings of their life in a puppy farm, sadly suffer from multiple health issues later in life, as they have not been cared for properly or given the necessary veterinary care. If they have noticeable bad skin conditions, a dull looking coat, open wounds or sores, sniffling and runny eyes, are coughing or limping, you will need to contact your local vet immediately to get essential care for them. Sadly, many pet owners who have purchased from a puppy farm have been stung by very expensive veterinary costs caring for their new pup, or worse, lost their puppy too soon as they have been too unwell. It is unlikely you will find insurance for a puppy under eight weeks of age as well, which means if they have been bred too soon, you will be forced to pay the veterinary fees without any help from a reputable insurer.

Due to the high demand for new dogs, responsible sellers and charities have closed or halted sales, to prevent pet owners purchasing, with online warning notices informing “Puppies are for life, not just for lockdown- waiting list closed until 2021.” A sad fact is that many puppies will be returned once the pandemic is over, so by halting sales, this hopefully prevents more dogs being purchased just for lockdown. This however does mean that now puppy farms are thriving even more and can afford to up their prices.

Before lockdown, a puppy would have typically cost around £1,000, depending on the breed of the puppy. Now prices have increased to around £2,500. Some dogs are even being sold for a whopping £7,000 each, especially if they are considered a “designer breed” or have the desirable hypoallergic fur.**

What should I look out for when buying a new puppy?

  • Are you required to sign a contract before you purchase? Responsible breeders will get you to sign some paperwork that explains what to do if you ever need to return the dog to them, information on spaying and neutering them and what you need to do to appropriately care for the pup. If there is no sign of a contract or paperwork, and they just want to take your money, then they are not a responsible breeder and should not be given any more of your time.
  • If a puppy is taken away from their mother too soon, they may suffer from development and behaviour problems. They can also suffer emotionally from being separated from their litter too early. Always ensure you know their age before agreeing to anything. Reputable breeders may ask you to put down a deposit and may allow you to see the puppy at a younger age, but will not release the puppy to you until they are the proper age to go to their forever home.
  • Is your puppy clean? If the puppy is not given a separate place to use the toilet then they may run the risk of being difficult to house train as they have not developed a want, or need,  to toilet anywhere away from themselves. They essentially get stuck in the habit of going where they are, so to then teach them not to do this is even harder.
  • Happy, loving pet owners = happy puppies. Good dog breeders will always look out for happy owners. They want the best for their dogs and so will ask you plenty of lifestyle questions about the puppy and their breed, before agreeing to sell them to you. If the pet breeder does not seem concerned about their puppy’s future then this is probably a puppy farm and you should step away.  

It is important to always trust your instinct. If anything ever feels “not right” or you’re ever uncomfortable, or having an “unsure gut feeling,” always trust it, and walk away.  If you suspect the puppies are in danger, you should report your concerns to your local animal health officer, the police or a pet charity. Never try to step in and rescue the dogs yourself.

It is also worth remembering that there is an ever- growing number of puppies and dogs sadly in rescue homes looking for their forever home. If you are in the position to adopt your new furry family member instead of purchasing from a breeder, then we recommend doing so. You can find more information about rehoming a dog here.

*Survey results from The Kennel Club