Want to buy a puppy? Take a second!
Before you rush down to the pet store, before you scour the ads in your local paper or on one of the many big online puppy sales sites. Please, just take a second.
There is a very important decision you have to make.
It may be one of the most important decisions you ever make in your life. And there is a right way, and several very wrong ways, to do this.
If you are about to buy a Labrador puppy, you need to answer this question “Where will my puppy come from?”
And you need to get the answer right.
Does it matter where my puppy comes from?
Yes, it really does matter where you get your puppy from. Every year, thousands of new puppy owners go through the devastating process of learning that their young dog or puppy has an unpleasant disease.
Often one that will permanently affect the quality of his life, and make huge holes in the family’s finances.
Many more owners struggle with poor advice and no support from the puppy’s breeders. Ending up with a sickly puppy that fails to thrive, or that has behavioural problems.
There is nothing on this planet that can guarantee you a healthy puppy, but you can hugely sway the odds in your favour simply by the choices you make before he is purchased.
People are often surprised to discover that the way their puppy is bred, can effect not only his physical health, but his temperament too. Every year, thousands of Labrador owners struggle with behavioural problems in their dogs that could have been avoided. Let’s look a little closer
Places to get puppies
Here are some of the places where you can buy Labrador puppies
- From a friend
- From a newspaper advert
- From an internet puppy sales site
- From a pet shop
- From a puppy farm
- From a reputable breeder
You can probably think of others. But the very best place to get your puppy is the last of these.
Why buy from a breeder?
There are many reasons to buy a puppy from an experienced breeder. Here are a few of them.
A reputable breeder will have health tested her breeding stock. The father and mother of her puppies will have excellent health test results and therefore a lower (or in the case of some diseases no chance at all) of developing certain health problems.
Young puppies need to be socialised in order to ensure that they grow up friendly and good tempered. This process starts in the breeder’s home and is well under way by the time you collect your puppy at eight weeks old.
A reputable breeder will be ‘set up’ for caring for puppies.
She won’t try and offload them on you at six weeks old because she can’t cope with the mess any more. She has a reputation to maintain and will fall over backwards to make sure your puppy leaves her at the right age, in great health and with socialisation properly started.
Friends and family
Buying from friends is risky. This applies to all manner of expensive purchase from cars, and houses, to dogs.
If things go wrong, friendships can be ruined. Your friend may have done everything right, chosen a great stud dog with full health clearances and a wonderful temperament. Or she may not.
But will you feel comfortable questioning her about it? Asking for health certificates? Or asking for your money back if she lets you down? Unless she is also an experienced, reputable breeder, you could be in trouble.
Buying puppies from adverts is risky. Reputable Labrador breeders do occasionally advertise, but this would usually be on The Kennel Club website, or on specialist sites. Such as Labrador clubs, and the Gundog Club website.
General ‘puppies for sale’ websites are best avoided as some of the advertisements on them are placed by puppy farmers (see below)
Please don’t ever consider buying a puppy from a pet shop or a market. This is one of the worst places to purchase your companion. Puppies need to have been raised in a family environment.
Even if they sleep outside in a kennel, they need to spend time every day with a family. This is crucial for their mental development and to ensure that they grow up confident and free from aggression.
There is usually no provenance with a pet shop puppy.
You won’t know where he came from, his parents won’t have been health tested and he could have all kinds of problems. These will become your problems.
You may have heard that puppy farms are squalid places where dogs are kept in terrible conditions. But this is not strictly true. Many puppy farms are licences by the local authority and the dogs in them will appear to be healthy and well kept.
Just because the premises you visit are clean and tidy, does not mean it is ok to buy a puppy from a puppy farm
For a number of reasons. Both ethical and practical.
Puppy farms are in the business of making money. Lots of it. The condition of the animals kept in them is aimed at meeting standards that ensure they can keep trading.
Unlike a reputable breeder whose standards will be aimed primarily at the welfare of her dogs.
There are differences that may be subtle.
Puppy farmed puppies may be less well handled and socialised than they should be. Expensive health tests are unlikely to have been carried out as these undermine profits. Veterinary attention may have been minimal, and defects in individual puppies are unlikely to be pointed out to you.
Aftercare on puppy farms does not exist. If you return the puppy because it is sick, it will simply be destroyed. Everything is about profit.
Spare a thought also for puppy farm bitches. No walks in the countryside for them. No family life. They are breeding machines from start to finish.
Spotting a puppy farm
But if puppy farms are sometimes well kept, how can you spot one?
One clue is that the establishment will have more than one breed. There will be several litters of puppies on the premises at one time, and the mothers of the puppies will not live with a family.
The puppy farmer is probably not interested in working or showing his dogs. He is far too busy breeding puppies.
What about rescue?
Rescue centres can be a great place to find an older dog. Check out our information here. But only occasionally do very young puppies come up for adoption.
If you get an opportunity to adopt a rescue puppy, try and find out as much as you can about the puppy’s background and experiences so far.
Read up on socialisation and consider whether or not you have the time and experience to off any extra help that the puppy may need in adjusting to family life. This is a good time to take advice from an experience breeder or canine behaviourist.
But he is a pedigree puppy!
Some people think that if their pedigree puppy is Kennel Club registered, he will be a ‘good buy’. This is not necessarily the case at all. Many puppy farmed labrador puppies are Kennel Club registered. There is nothing to stop a puppy farmer registering his puppies with the Kennel Club.
So, if a reputable breeder is really the only place you should consider buying a Labrador, how do you find one? Where do you start?
We’ll be bringing you a brand new series shortly, taking you by the hand through the whole process of choosing and buying a Labrador puppy.
Meanwhile, check out these two popular articles to make sure you get off on the right foot.
If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.