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.

What should you consider before getting a puppy?

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

A puppy is cute, and having one is fun. However, when you buy a pup it is yours for life. 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, and that estimate excludes vet costs if your dog becomes sick or injured. 

During the time that you own a dog, it will be your 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
  2. An acceptable diet
  3. Ability to act according to natural behaviour
  4. Companionship if necessary
  5. To be healthy and protected from pain, injury or disease

Additionally, 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.

After you've decided to get a puppy or dog, here's what you need to know about where to get one:


  • 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
  • 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
What must you 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
    • Tip: 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
  • 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

Red Flags:


  • The same phone number/email on multiple ads
    • Tip: Some disreputable breeders use multiple mobile phones—one for each breed. If you can, ask for a landline number
    • Tip: Type 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)
    • 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?

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
    • 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?
  • A contract of sale
  • Written advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and vaccinations
  • 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
  • If buying a pedigree dog:
    • IKC registration papers
    • Parents’ hereditary screening certificates
    • Copies of any additional health certificates for the puppy's parents
  • 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
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