Puppy Advice

Puppies for sale online

If you’re thinking about getting a puppy, an online search may be an obvious starting point. But with so many scams it comes with a risk. Here’s what you need to know when looking at puppies for sale online.

Five young collie puppies resting on wooden barrier staring at camera

Finding puppies for sale in your area

There’s never a shortage of puppies for sale on classified websites. However, the growth in classified websites has coincided with a rise in the number of puppy scammers and unscrupulous traders. This makes it difficult for buyers to identify a good dog breeder from a rogue trader. 

Puppy buying scams

Once you hit the search button on Google or start scrolling through the classified advertisements you will be presented with lots of images of cute puppies. These images can be hard to resist, and emotions can easily take over. Before you know it, you’ve clicked on an advertisement, made an enquiry and are being told by the seller that they only have one puppy left, and it’s yours if you pay in full. 

Sadly, this scenario is all too common when people buy puppies online. Often puppy buyers discover that they have bought a very sick puppy, or there may have been no puppy at all and have been scammed out of lots of money. Puppy scammers use the ‘cute’ appeal of puppies to target you.  

You can avoid being a victim of a puppy scammer by: 

  • Always seeing a puppy with its mother in the place where it was born.
  • Not parting with any money until you have seen a puppy
  • Never arranging to meet someone part way to pick up your puppy. This is a common scam. 

Read more about warning signs for puppy buyers and how to avoid falling prey to puppy scammers.

How to report puppy scams

The Pet Advertising Advisory Group has been set up to tackle the problems associated with the online advertising of pets for sale. It works with classified websites, government bodies and animal welfare organisations. If you come across an advert selling a pet which concerns you, you can report it to PAAG.

What to look for when buying a puppy online

The first thing to look for when buying a puppy online is to see if they are a licensed breeder. By law, the breeder’s license number must be displayed on the advertisement. If there is no license number, look for evidence that the advertiser has bred the puppies themselves. Under Lucy’s Law, puppies must be sold directly by the breeder rather than by a third party seller. 

Check to see what age the puppies are and the age at which they will be sold. Puppies cannot be sold until they are at least eight weeks old. However, to give you enough time to find the right puppy, it’s best to arrange to visit a litter of puppies when they are 4-6 weeks old, rather than when they are ready to go. You can then pick up your puppy when they are 8 weeks old, having given yourself a few weeks to get ready for your new arrival.  

Check to see if the puppies have been microchipped. By law, puppies must be microchipped by eight weeks of age, before they leave the breeder. You will then need to update the details of the microchip to show that you are the registered owner. 

Questions to ask when buying a puppy online

Always arrange to speak to the seller before you visit a litter of puppies, and ask the following questions: 

  • Will I be able to see the puppy with its mother in the place where it was born? If the answer is no, you should walk away. 
  • Have the puppies been bred in a family home or in an outbuilding or barn? A puppy that has been bred in a family home will make a better family pet than a puppy that has been bred in a barn or outbuilding. 
  • Have the puppies met different people and been regularly handled and brushed? A good breeder will have done this – it is called puppy socialisation. This will need to be continued by you, as part of your puppy’s training programme. 

Have you heard about the Puppy Contract? It is a legally binding contract of sale between yourself and the breeder or seller. A good breeder will be happy to use the Puppy Contract.

Read this advice from the UK government about how to buy a puppy online safely and avoid being ‘petfished’. 

Where to start your research online for a puppy

If you are buying a pedigree puppy:

The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme is a good place to start. You can search for breeders according to your breed of choice. The Assured Breeders Scheme has been set up to promote good dog breeding, and its members are subject to extensive checks. If you live in Scotland, take a look at the Scottish SPCA’s Assured Breeders Scheme


If you are buying a crossbreed: 

Popular crossbreeds of dogs – such as the Cockapoo, Labradoodle or Goldendoodle – are not registered with the Kennel Club. Instead, you can try one of these organisations for a list of breeders: 


If you are adopting a rescue puppy:

Don’t forget that many rescue and rehoming organisations will be looking for homes for puppies in their care. Check out the websites of rescue organisations. You can also use the Kennel Club’s Find a Rescue search facility if you would like to adopt a particular breed of dog. 

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