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how to buy a healthy puppy – by Dr Katrina Warren

Welcoming a new puppy into your life is a really exciting time.  The adorable bundle of fluff that you choose to take home will be your companion for up to 16 years and will provide you with more love and affection than you can possibly imagine. It is important, however, that you are armed with the skills to choose a puppy that is a happy and healthy.

There are some important things to consider
before you even start to look for your puppy.

Are you prepared for the long term commitment of dog ownership? Super-cute puppies grow into active adults that need feeding, training, medical care and daily exercise- for up to 16 years- that is a long time. Pets are a huge responsibility.

Do not buy on impulse –  all puppies start off cute and adorable but you need to think long and hard about the breed you want, your situation and take steps to buy your pup from a reputable breeder.

Choose the right breed for your lifestyle- spend time researching what type of dog is going to suit your situation and  lifestyle.Consider the following

  • the type of lifestyle you lead

  • the age of your children (if any)

  • the type of accommodation you live in

  • do you have other pets?

  • the amount of time you spend at home

  • the amount of exercise you are prepared to give

  • the amount of time you are prepared to spend on grooming

  • how much money you’re prepared to spend on your pet. 

Where will you get your puppy?

My advice is this. If you are prepared to commit to the responsibility that comes with owning a dog for up to 16 years, then you should be prepared to take all measures to make sure that your puppy has been raised in a healthy environment. This means visiting the breeder’s property where the puppy was raised and if the breeder will not allow this, then buy your puppy elsewhere.

Nobody wants to buy a pup that has come from a ‘puppy farm’ and the best way to ensure that you are not supporting this industry is to take steps to find a reputable welfare organisation or a registered breeder and view the property where the pups were bred. If you buy a puppy on the internet, you have no idea of the health of the puppy or the conditions it was raised in and you may be inadvertently supporting a puppy farm.

As most people are looking for an indoor family pet, I recommend looking for a breeder who allows their puppies to spend substantial time indoors. Socialisation in the early weeks of life is very important and all puppies should have individual time spent with them. Remember, people breeding multiple litters may not have the time to effectively socialise each pup properly.

Remember, physical
and behavioural traits can be inherited so where possible ask to meet both the parents. At the very least, meet the pup’s mother and be happy with her temperament and condition.

How do you tell a good breeder ? 

It is important that you are confident that your puppy has been raised around people and socialised adequately. 

A good breeder:

*should provide a high standard of care and living conditions for all their puppies and dogs.  You must be satisfied with the level of cleanliness and health of the dogs or else walk away.

*should genuinely care about the pup’s welfare and ask you questions to see if you are the right kind of owner for their pup.  They should ask you questions about your circumstances and how the pup will fit into your lifestyle.

*should answer your questions and provide ongoing support and guidance. They should offer you information about diet, vaccinations, microchipping etc You should not be afraid to ask questions and if the breeder does not want to answer them, walk away.

*should breed to produce healthy pets, free from known genetic disorders.   They should provide you with the history of the puppy, registration papers and any veterinary records associated with inherited disorders.

* provide references on request and a puppy guarantee


To find registered breeders, contact the Australian National Kennel Council and they will be able to give you the name of the Canine Control organisation in your State who can provide you with a list of registered breeders.Once you have found a registered breeder, it is important to still go through the check list above.

If you have your heart set on a particular breed, be sure to do thorough research into the common inherited diseases of that particular breed. Your vet can advise you and indicate what medical records the breeder should provide.

‘Designer dogs’

These dogs have risen in popularity over the past ten years and include the Maltese Shih Tzu, Spoodle, Cavoodle, Labradoodle. They are essentially a cross between two breeds with the pups usually showing blended characteristics between two parents, so you need to make sure you like the traits and personality of the two parents.
The breeding of mixed dog breeds is less regulated in Australia than purebred dogs, so finding a reputable breeder is important.


You can avoid the issues of finding a good breeder by adopting a puppy from an animal shelter – you are potentially saving a life and giving a home to an animal in need. There are thousands of abandoned puppies and kittens around the country all desperately waiting for someone to love them.

Staff at the shelter should interview you to make sure they match the right puppy to you. Shelters such as the Animal Welfare League, health test and assess the behaviour of all their pups before putting them up for adoption. Pups are vaccinated, microchipped, wormed, desexed and registered before they go to a new home.

Many of the puppies are cross-breeds but shelters do receive a lot of purebreds too.