There’s no denying that waking up to a puppy on Christmas day is a dream that many children and adults alike have long hoped for. It’s the kind of gift that you’d see on a Disney or Hallmark film, but as lovely as the idea is, what does the reality of a puppy in time for Christmas actually look like?
With the run-up to the big festive holiday, the RSPCA has called for tougher puppy trading regulations and with the Euro Tunnel banning more than five dogs from entering the UK, such drastic actions leave you wondering what’s going on behind the scenes of that picture-perfect Christmas dream.
RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood has stated that ‘every year sees a spike in online searches and adverts for puppies in the run-up to Christmas’ and with people feeling especially stressed about the pandemic and being limited in the activities they can do, he expects ‘more demand for puppies than ever before’. To meet this demand, it’s more likely than not that corners will be cut at the expense of the animals’ welfare.
While there are many breeders that are responsible and caring, there will also be a huge influx of breeders that are more concerned with cashing in on the Christmas period rather than the health and happiness of the puppies and their mother.
So if you are thinking about buying a puppy this Christmas, then it’s not only important to consider the long-term responsibility, but it’s also important to know what to look out for to ensure you don’t end up giving profit to bad breeders.
We’ve listed 8 things to look out for and to keep you safe in your search.
1. What do you know about the breeder?
Ask for genuine documentation for microchipping and vaccinations from the breeder. Try googling the contact number they give you to see if it has been involved in any other puppy adverts. If they’re doing it as a business, then they should be happy to show you their Local Authority license as well. The RSPCA also provides a puppy contract which any safe and responsible breeder should be happy to complete. The breeder should be asking you questions as well, so look to see if they are concerned about where the puppy is going rather than making a sale.
2. Is the mother healthy?
A responsible breeder will let you see the mother anyway but in the initial online browsing stage, check to see if the mother is in the pictures with the puppies and what kind of environment they are in. Are they in a house in a warm cosy bed? Is the mother healthy with a shiny coat and is she a healthy weight? If the mum isn’t available then the puppy wasn’t bred there. Puppies are not supposed to be away from their mother before 8 weeks old so be wary of the absence of a mother when viewing the pictures and when visiting.
3. How to spot a puppy farm
If they have multiple litters, then the owners are trying to breed as many puppies as possible and this doesn’t always make for the best care. Are they caged up? Puppies should be able to roam free and socialise. If they’re kept in the cramped space, there is a risk they’re going to experience emotional issues down the line. Many puppy farms will buy cheap from other breeders or from abroad and the tell-tale signs of are little or no documentation, the mother isn’t present and the breeders don’t have a trusting relationship with the puppies.
4. Buying a puppy from abroad
The Euro Tunnel has issued a new ban that ensures only DEFRA approved, registered charities can transport more than five dogs into the country – this is instrumental in preventing inhumane puppy farms from trading dogs in the UK. If you’re buying a pup from abroad, choose from the UK registered charity such as Barking Mad Dog Rescue for Romanian dogs and Dogs 4 Rescue that works on behalf of Street-Hearts Bulgaria.
5. Check to see if they are legitimately Kennel Club registered.
If they are registered, they should be able to provide a number which you can then check out on the Kennel Club website. It’s always important to learn as much as you can about the breeder.
6. What is the advert like?
This takes a bit of digging around but it’s really important to check that the photos aren’t stock photos. To check, right-click on the photo, select ‘search Google for image’ and see if it has been used on other ads.
Also, copy and paste the description into google to check it’s not a stock description that has been taken from another site. If it looks like they’re over-using words in an unnatural way, they’re probably trying to capitalise on popular terms as well.
A puppy cannot be vaccinated before 4 weeks so be wary of any breeder claiming the puppy has been vaccinated before this age. They should also have documentation of any micro-chipping, worming and health checks.
When visiting, be aware not only of the environment the dogs are living in but of the way the mother acts as well. While she’s naturally going to be protective of her pups, is she friendly and relaxed when she’s away from them and with you? Many good breeders will keep the mother away from the pups while you’re entering the house because it’s distressing. However, if you can see from a distance that the mother interacting with the pups or you can see the mother on their own and how she interacts with you and the breeder, then this will give you a better indication of the mother’s temperament and whether it’s a happy and safe environment for her.
Bad breeders will do whatever they can to cover up malpractice, so it’s good to be as knowledgeable as possible when going into this process. There’s also the temptation to save a puppy from this environment which we sympathize with all too much but buying a puppy will, unfortunately, help the business of the poor breeder and the puppy you save will just get replaced by another one.
If you’d like some more guidance on how to choose a good puppy breeder, you can get more information on the RSPCA website as well as our helpful page on things to consider if you’re buying a puppy.