Puppy Advice

Buying a puppy from a private seller

It’s important to know where your puppy was bred and what to look for when choosing a family pet. Here’s some things to know when buying a puppy from a private seller.

Golden retriever puppy rests on mums head as she sleeps on floor

A private seller is defined as someone who does not breed and sell puppies as a business. If they did, they would need to be licensed as a commercial trader by the local authority.  

Lucy’s Law

Prior to 2020, lots of puppies were being sold online by puppy traders who bought puppies from puppy farms. Many were imported from countries such as Romania and Lithuania to be sold in the UK. Having been bred on puppy farms, puppies often became sick or died shortly after being sold to their unsuspecting new owners. A new law, called Lucy’s Law, was introduced to clamp down on this unscrupulous trade. 

It now means that puppies can no longer be sold via third party puppy traders or pet shops. They can only be sold directly from the breeder. At present, this law only applies in England but it is anticipated that other UK countries will eventually follow suit. 

Puppy farms are still wide spread across the UK, with new puppies being purchased online by new owners who are unaware. Continue reading to find out how to buy a new puppy safely. 

Buying a puppy from a private seller

If a licensed breeder advertises a litter of puppies for sale online, they must, by law, display their license number in the advertisement. This helps you to make an informed decision about who to buy a puppy from. 

Licensed breeders are subject to regular inspections by the local council and have to meet certain requirements regarding the care and welfare of their dogs. However, there are different types of licensed breeders, including large commercial breeders, also known as puppy farms, as well as smaller-scale professional breeders. It’s important, therefore, to find out where a puppy was bred before you buy. A puppy that has been bred in a family home will be much more suited to life as a family pet than a puppy that has been bred on a puppy farm. 

If someone is advertising a litter of puppies for sale and is not licensed, it may mean they fall below the threshold for licensing and are considered to be a hobby breeder. Licensing requirements differ between England, Scotland and Wales. Read more about licensed versus unlicensed breeders in our guide to buying a puppy from a breeder

However, it can also mean that the puppy seller has not declared that they are operating a commercial business to avoid paying tax and being subject to licensing requirements. 

Wherever you buy your puppy from you should use the Puppy Contract. This will help you to ask the right questions and make sure you have all the information you need before you decide to buy a puppy. A good breeder and a reputable private seller will be happy to use it. You should be suspicious of someone who won’t. 

Contacting a private seller

Start off with a telephone call and arrange to ‘meet’ the puppies using video technology such as Facetime, Zoom or WhatsApp. That way you can ask lots of questions and get an idea of the personality and temperament of the puppies before you visit. Once you visit, it can be a lot harder to walk away. 

Ask lots of questions, such as: 

  • Where have the puppies been living? A puppy that has been living in a family home will be much more suited to being a family pet. 
  • Will I be able to see the puppies with their mother in the place where they were born? If the answer is no, you should walk away.
  • Have the puppies met lots of different people? What sort of noises have they been exposed to? By the time your puppy is ready to leave for their new home, they should have met different people and experienced different household sounds and objects. This is called puppy socialisation and is something you will need to continue with your new puppy. 

Read more on the questions to ask when buying a puppy

Visiting a puppy seller

If you decide to visit a private seller, spend time observing how the puppies interact with you. Do they seem happy and interested in you? Or are they worried and anxious? 

Here’s five things to look for when getting a puppy: 

  • The puppies have been bred and raised in a family home
  • You can visit the puppies with their mother in the place where they was born
  • The breeder has started to socialise the puppies (eg to get them used to different people, being handled and brushed)
  • The puppies will be microchipped and wormed before they go to their new homes
  • The breeder is happy to use the Puppy Contract

If the seller is trying to pressure you into buying their puppy, this should ring alarm bells. It’s important that you take plenty of time to decide if the puppy is right for you. It’s best to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old. This will give you time to meet the puppies – and their mum – in the place where they were born, and ask the breeder lots of questions. Once you’ve found your perfect puppy, you will have a few weeks to prepare for your puppy’s arrival.

Buying from someone who is selling their own puppy or dog

It’s quite common to see advertisements online from people who have bought a puppy but are unable to keep it. There are many reasons why someone may be selling their puppy or dog, from a change in their personal circumstances to being unable to cope with the responsibility of caring for a dog. 

If you decide to respond to an advertisement from someone who is looking to find a new home for their puppy or dog, it’s really important to make sure that you fully understand why they are being rehomed.  You should also get as much information as possible about the dog’s temperament and behaviour to help you decide if they are right for you. Spend time meeting and getting to know the dog before you make a final decision. 

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