Puppies and Dogs

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Puppies for sale: know the dangers of buying online

Download our Puppy Checklist here to learn what to look out for in online adverts.

Are you making the right choice getting a puppy?

A puppy is cute, and having one is fun. Owning a puppy involves a big commitment of time, cost and care. Dogs can live 10 to 15 years or more depending on the breed. The likely lifetime cost of owning a dog ranges from €15,000 to €23,000 or more. That estimate also excludes vet costs if your dog gets sick or injured.

Unfortunately, far too many online adverts encourage impulse buying by showcasing a cute, fluffy puppy with as little accompanying information as possible.

Five Welfare Needs

During the time that you own a dog, it will be your legal responsibility to look after its needs. Dogs and puppies require five essential things to be healthy and happy. Under the Animal Health & Welfare Act of 2013 all owners must provide for the following five needs:

1. A suitable living environment

Your puppy or dog will need to live in an environment that doesn't endanger its health or welfare. The puppy will also need access to shelter, and the space to exercise and explore.

2. An acceptable diet

Including enough appropriate food and suitable drinking water.

3. Ability to act according to natural behaviour

Puppies and dogs need the ability to explore, play, have mental stimulation, run, dig, or exercise.

4. Companionship if necessary

Some dogs need to be the only pet in the home and may not be good with children. Others enjoy having another dog to pal around with and adore any human company. You will also need to socialise your puppy with other dogs and people as appropriate.

5. To be healthy and protected from pain, injury or disease

If your pet becomes sick or injured, you are required to seek vet treatment. It is also vital that as a pet owner, you ensure your puppy or dog is properly socialised and trained, so it is protected from situations that will cause intense anxiety or fear.


Deciding what type of dog to get

Dog breeds have varying  requirements. If you are looking for a specific breed of puppy,  do your research to make sure the dog is the right fit for your lifestyle. If you are looking for expert advice, try talking to somebody at your local vet practice or animal welfare organisation. 

Make sure your home is appropriate for a dog of a certain size, and ensure you do good research about health issues associated with certain dog breeds.

Should you get a puppy for Christmas?

While a tail-wagging puppy with a bow under the tree is a special, heart-warming idea, it is important to remember that this is a gift that will need your attention and care for the next 10-15 years or more. Once the excitement of Christmas morning wears off, the puppy—and its accompanying needs and expenses mentioned above—is yours for life.

Many animal welfare organisations warn that the holidays are not a suitable time to introduce a puppy into your home. Puppies require round-the-clock attention and training, which you may not have the time to give during the busy Christmas/New Year’s period.

Puppies need critical socialisation, routine and training in their first weeks of life. If they are introduced into a loud, busy and erratic environment around Christmas, this can have lasting effects on their behaviour and health. It is better to get a puppy during calmer periods, when the house is quiet and you can give your full attention to training and care.

Finally, many rogue breeders will take advantage of the demand for puppies around Christmas time. It can be even more challenging during this period to avoid getting a puppy from a bad breeder, and most reputable breeders won’t allow their puppies to go to a new home around Christmas. Buying a puppy for Christmas only fuels the trade for illegal puppy farms. You also run the risk of having a puppy for Christmas day, only for it to become ill or die within days afterward.

IPAAG advises that you don’t get a puppy for Christmas. Instead, wait until things calm down after the holidays. Then, spend time doing research and download the puppy checklist to avoid buying from unscrupulous breeders.

Where should you get a puppy?
  • Consider adopting a dog instead of buying one. Shelters are constantly full with gorgeous dogs and puppies looking for homes.
  • Talk to your vet about where to find a reputable breeder; most reputable breeders have waiting lists for their puppies, and don't need to go online to drum up business. They get by on word-of-mouth.
  • Avoid buying a dog from third-party sellers such as a pet shop or garden centre.
  • If you are searching through online ads, ensure the website has signed up to the IPAAG minimum standards, and follow our advice below regarding what to look out for in online adverts.


Online puppy adverts: are they safe?

Download our Puppy Checklist to view the top red flags to look out for in online adverts. 

Unscrupulous breeders go to extraordinary lengths to hide where their puppies come from. They even go as far to set up "fake houses," and trick potential buyers into thinking they've reared and cared for a litter of puppies in their family home. Being able to use unregulated online ads makes it easier for them to set up these elaborate cons.

Therefore, we strongly urge potential new owners to do extensive research, and to halt a sale if they have any suspicions.

While there’s no way to be absolutely certain that a puppy advertised online comes from a responsible breeder, here are some things to be wary of when viewing online ads:

Puppy adverts should include:

  • A picture of the puppy
    • Beware of stock photos or if you see the same photos in multiple adverts
    • Right-click the photo and select ‘search Google for image’ to see if pictures used come up on other ads
  • The puppy’s age
    • Puppies need to be at least 8 weeks old before leaving their mothers
  • The puppy’s vaccination status
    • Most vets won't vaccinate a puppy before 6 weeks of age. Puppies should be fully vaccinated by 10-12 weeks. 
  • The puppy’s microchip status
    • It is a legal requirement in Ireland that puppies must be microchipped by the time they reach 12 weeks, or before they permanently leave the land or premises where they were born, whichever comes first
    • View a sample dog microchipping form.
  • Whether the puppy has been treated for parasites
    • The breeder should be able to tell you the specific treatment that was used
  • Should say the puppy can be viewed at the breeder's property
    • Never allow a puppy to be sent to you, or agree to meet in a neutral location such as a car park. Always visit the property
  • Must include that the puppy can be seen with its mother
    • You should be able to see a puppy and his/her mother interacting. A mother will not interact with a puppy that isn't hers.

Other Red Flags:

  • The same phone number/email on multiple ads
    • Some unethical breeders use multiple mobile phones—one for each breed. If you can, ask for a landline number
    • Try typing the listed phone number into the website search to see whether there are multiple adverts from the same seller
  • Be wary of trendy or designer breeds
    • A breeder may try to capitalise on popular terms like “teacup”, or sell trendy mixes such as pomsky, cockapoo, maltipoo, cavachon, etc. 
  • Look out for these visible welfare issues in ads:
    • Dogs with visibly docked tails or clipped ears (this is illegal and should be reported to the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515)
    • Puppies that are too young to leave their mothers
    • References to dog fighting
    • Dogs and puppies that appear underweight, unclean or display any clearly untreated health issues
    • Dogs or puppies in excessively small crates, chained or tied up
    •  If you see any of these issues, please report the ad both to the website and to a relevant local authority
What should you do when meeting a puppy?

Ask to visit the premises and puppy more than once. A reputable breeder will be more than happy to let you visit and meet the puppy before taking her home, and will want to make sure that their puppy is going to a good home.

To bring with you:

  • A photo of the puppy
    • Make sure the breeder gives you the same one
  • ID and proof of address dated within 3 months
    • The seller needs these to complete a change of ownership form. If the seller doesn't ask for these documents, be suspicious 

When you meet the puppy:

  • Ensure the puppy and litter are healthy
    • They should have bright, clear eyes, a clean nose and rear
  • Ask to see the puppy with its mother
    • They should be interacting with one another
    • If you can’t see the mother, no matter the reason given, be suspicious
  • Ask to hold or interact with the puppy under supervision
    • It would be a major concern if you can’t
  • Ask to see the puppy in its breeding environment and view the rest of the kennel
    • A reputable breeder should be happy to show you the property
  • If the puppy wasn't born at the place of purchase, ask where it came from and try to obtain all of its history
  • Note whether the breeder asks you any questions
    • A responsible breeder will have a clear interest in the family and home where the puppy is going. If they have no questions for you, that is cause for concern
  • Ask if you can contact them again with any questions, or return the dog if things don’t work out
    • Reputable breeders should be okay with this, provided that the returned dog does not pose a health risk
What documents should you get along with the puppy?

Don't leave the breeder's without:

  • A contract of sale
  • Written advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and vaccinations
  • Dog microchipping certificate
    • This is a requirement when a puppy transfers ownerships, or from 12 weeks of age (whichever comes first)
    • It is the buyer's responsibility to update their details on the database
  • Medical records, including records of worming and flea treatment
  • Vaccination certificate
    • Should be available from 6 weeks
    • Should detail which vaccinations your puppy has had, and which ones he still needs
    • Must be signed and stamped by a vet with an address of the practice included (if this isn't included, the certificate may be fake!)
  • Pet passport if the dog was not born in Ireland
    • If the dog came from abroad and doesn’t have this, it was brought to Ireland illegally

If you are buying a pedigree dog:

  • Irish Kennel Club registration papers
  • Parents’ hereditary screening certificates
  • Copies of any additional health certificates for the puppy's parents
For more information and advice contact:

Dogs Trust – https://www.dogstrust.ie/

ISPCA & local SPCA’s – http://www.ispca.ie/

Irish Blue Cross – http://www.bluecross.ie/

Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue & Adoption http://www.madra.ie/

Orchard Greyhound Rescue – http://www.orchardgreyhoundsanctuary.com

Veterinary Ireland – http://www.lovemypet.ie/

The New Puppy Owner's Information Pack:
Breeder's Information Pack