Puppy Buying Guide: How to Buy a Puppy Online Safely

Buying a dog or puppy online

When I decided to share pet content on the web, the majority of the emails I started receiving are mostly questions about where to find reputable dog breeders or how to safely buy a puppy online.

This is understandable since people became warier of puppy scammers hiding behind screens.

If you are one of these people searching for a dog companion, let me help you by offering some tips on how to identify red flags and be more vigilant about fraud breeders.

As a bonus, I’ll also share how you can assess whether you are really ready for pet-owning and how you can seamlessly transition your pup from the kennel to your home.

Chapter 1 – Preparation Before Buying a Dog: Are You Ready to Own a Dog?

Dog owning is both rewarding and taxing. The responsibility of looking after a puppy is almost similar to that of tending to a child – you have to take careful measures and devote a lot of time so they’ll grow properly.

Yes, there are rescues and shelters where you can surrender your pet once everything gets out of hand. But would you want to? Isn’t that heartless?

To prevent this from happening, it is crucial that you first evaluate yourself if you are really cut out for dog ownership. You also have to take time choosing the breed that fits your lifestyle and character.

Below are some questions and tips to get you started:

17 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Your First Puppy

Puppies are not some home items that you can “add to cart” and check out without giving much of a thought. You should be a hundred percent sure that you are physically, emotionally, and financially ready before getting in touch with professional breeders.

Here are some questions to assess your readiness:

1. What are your plans for the future?

Where you will be 5 or 10 years from now will directly affect your dog’s life. If you plan to move to another state or take on another job that won’t allow you to take care of your furry companion, it would be a big problem.

2. Can you afford the breed you like?

This does not only include the initial cost of buying a dog but also the ongoing expenses of maintaining one.

Aside from food, you would also need to have them trained, vetted, spayed/neutered, microchipped, and enrolled in pet insurance. This accumulates to a few thousand dollars in the long run when you include all of their basic needs.

3. Are dogs allowed in the area where you live?

Some states do not allow specific dog breeds, so you have to research that. On another note, certain apartment complexes aren’t fond of allowing their tenants to live with dogs. Better consult your landlord first before purchasing.

4. Can you devote time to your dog?

Dogs need your attention and companionship since they develop one of the most common behavioral problems – separation anxiety.

Also, their temperament is primarily honed through their interaction with their owners. Thus, failing to give them time can lead to aggression and other behavioral issues.

5. Do you have the patience and resources to train your dog?

The first few months with your dog should be dedicated to training them. This is to establish that you are the alpha between you two.

You must be knowledgeable enough to teach them some basic obedience tricks through the aid of certain resources such as clickers, collars, treats, etc.

6. Can you find time to give them exercise?

If you want to prevent your dog from growing overweight as they mature, you should be able to schedule some time to exercise them.

This is a primary requirement for active dogs since they may resort to destruction due to high levels of pent-up energy.

7. Do you have children at home?

Having small children at home is a deal breaker especially if you are looking into buying a Great Dane and other gigantic breeds. They may accidentally harm your child due to their size if left unsupervised.

Conversely, living with a child may be an issue if you are after teacup dogs. Since kids are inherently careless, they may hurt your pup unknowingly.

8. Do you have enough space for the dog to play?

You can’t expect your dog to stay in his crate all day long. Of course, they would be goofing and playing around since that’s in their nature. Hence, you should have enough land area for them to exhaust themselves.

9. Do you have other pets at home?

There are dog breeds that don’t do well with other pets like the Akita Inu, Doberman Pinscher, and Cane Corso. It is either because they are very dominant or they are simply protective of their owners.

If you have a cat or some other pets at home, better think this over to avoid physical conflicts among them.

10. Are you already acquainted with a veterinarian?

If there are no expert veterinarians in your area, it would be a major problem.

Dogs need to be brought to the vet from time to time to check if they have no underlying conditions or if they are updated on their vaccines and preventive medications. You must choose a vet early on even before considering buying a dog.

11. Are you going to buy a dog for yourself or are you sharing it with your partner?

I’ve seen a lot of couples fight over their dogs because one of them isn’t happy with the idea of having one.

If you don’t want this to be an issue, better check on your partner if they are completely okay with dog-owning. Your dog’s welfare depends on its owners, thus both of you should be in it 100%.

12. Can anyone help you with your dog in case you are busy or have to be away?

Don’t shrug this question off saying that there are dog walkers and daycare services you can employ. In case you cannot get help from them, who will you rely on? Do you have relatives that you can ask for some support from?

Again, dogs cannot be left alone for a long time since they may develop separation anxiety. You must really plan this through before making your purchase.

13. Can you tolerate some level of household destruction?

Dogs love to chew, may it be a treat, your newly upholstered sofa, or any furniture that looks interesting to them. Can you live with this behavior?

If not, maybe you should consider turtles or birds instead. And no, I’m not entirely kidding here. This can save you from lots of stress and financial woes, too.

14. Are you aware of common dog hazards?

If the only thing you know about dogs is that they shouldn’t be fed chocolates, it’s high time you brush up on your dog-owning knowledge.

There are a lot of hazards you should keep your dog from like caffeine, cleaning solutions, medicines, insecticides, to name a few.

15. Are all your housemates on board with the idea of a new dog?

No matter how friendly and loyal most dogs are, there will always be some people who aren’t comfortable having them around. You should ask every single member of your household if they would love a dog companion before you surprise them with one.

16. Do any of your housemates have allergies?

Of course, if there is, then it is impossible for you to buy or even adopt a dog. Your housemate’s health should be your number one priority especially if their allergy is severe.

If you are dedicated to owning a dog, then you wouldn’t have any other option but to change residences.

17. Can you deal with your dog’s potential health problems?

As your dog ages, it might show signs of life-threatening health problems that can put you and your bank account in distress.

As you buy your dog, consider how prepared you are emotionally (to deal with possible ailments they may suffer from) and financially (to provide for their treatment).

How to Identify the Right Dog Breed for You?

Even though there are many available dog breed selector tools online, it pays to be more thorough in identifying the perfect breed for you. As such, I have listed the top factors that should be your basis in finding your pet match:

  • Size: You may already have a particular breed in mind. But the question is, can they fit inside your home, or do you have a backyard big enough where they can run freely? If you choose Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, or Great Danes, you must be aware that they take up so much space. On another note, if you already have larger pets at home and you are eyeing to add a teacup breed, it might not be a good idea since they can get easily preyed on.
  • Breed Group: Each dog breed belongs to a certain group. They can be tagged as working, herding, sporting, non-sporting, hound, toy, and terrier according to the American Kennel Club. This means that they exhibit different traits and personalities which can either work for you or not. Thus, carefully studying each group depending on your lifestyle and needs is essential.
  • Activity Level: When it comes to activity level, “opposites attract” does not apply. A lax owner shouldn’t go after a highly energetic breed. Similarly, if the owner is highly adventurous, he cannot be paired with a dog that is a known couch potato. Your dog’s needs must be similar to yours for you to get along.
  • Grooming and Shedding: Every breed needs maintenance in terms of grooming due to their coat and shedding tendencies. However, there is a difference between the demands of each. Poodles, Bichon Frises, and other similar breeds need constant brushing and trimming so they aren’t fit for busy or lazy owners. I suggest that you go for Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Pugs, and similar short-coated dogs if you aren’t sure if you can handle intense grooming needs.
  • Compatibility With Children: A child’s presence at home, as discussed a while ago, should be one of the considerations not only in deciding to buy a dog but also in choosing its breed. Children have high energy levels that do not match laid-back and passive dogs. On the flip side, the size of the breed you’re eyeing should not pose harm to your child.
  • Cost: Have you checked your bank account recently? Can you afford a Samoyed which costs roughly $15,000 or a Dachshund which costs around $500 according to Newsweek? Aside from the puppy’s pricing, the monthly, annual, and even lifetime expenses of maintaining a dog can change your mind regarding the breed you want to own.

Chapter 2 – Purchasing Your Dog: How to Buy a Puppy Online Safely?

Purchasing Your Dog  How to Buy a Puppy Online Safely

Now that you have already chosen a breed and are confident that you can handle being a fur parent, it’s about time we talk about finding your dog online. Yes, online!

The internet offers a convenient puppy search especially if you don’t have much time to visit various kennels due to your schedule. Below are some tips to get you started on your pet-owning journey:

Finding a Reliable Breeder Online

I know I made it sound that finding a breeder is as easy as a single Google search, but trust me, it’s not. It involves verifying if they are legit, evaluating the quality of their pups, looking at the guarantees they offer and so much more.

To assist you in finding a professional breeder online and checking if they should be trusted, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Search for breeders near you

Prioritizing breeders near you in your online search is advantageous since you can drive and visit their facility at any time (of course, following proper protocols).

This means that you can see firsthand if they keep their dogs in a clean and sanitized area and if the puppies are being socialized.

You would also figure out if they are a puppy mill since you will see the signs right before your eyes – cramped crates, presence of multiple breeds and litters, etc.

2. Utilize the marketplace and breeder directory of known kennel organizations

The AKC Marketplace is one of the safest places to search for dogs of any breed. The only breeders who can post on this platform are the ones recognized by the club itself. Thus, you are assured that they are legitimate professionals who follow ethical standards for breeding.

Apart from this option, each breed has a specific parent club dedicated to promoting and furthering their lineage. These organizations have directories that feature breeders associated with them.

3. Get referrals through posting on groups or contacting kennel clubs

Posting on groups and reading threads that specifically focus on the breed you like is one of your best options in finding a breeder online. You can also get in touch with veterinarians and dog owners through messaging apps and ask them for a recommendation.

Another tip that you can apply is directly calling breed-specific kennel clubs. For instance, the American Pomeranian Club has a designated breeder referral staff who can assist you in finding Pomeranian breeders near your area.

4. Get in touch with the breeder through phone call or video call

If you’re done searching the web and have already listed contact numbers and socials of the breeders near you, you must make time to call them one by one.

An ethical breeder would be glad to accommodate your queries instead of asking you to do transactions through unmonitored messaging apps.

In case the breeder doesn’t respond to your calls, just look for another as it may be a sign that the former has given you a fake number. Double-check if the area code on their contact details is accurate considering their location. If not, just remove them from your list.

5. Make sure the breeder asks you questions

One of the telling signs that you are transacting with a professional breeder is when they keep asking you questions to the point that it is already annoying. Yes, the exasperation they’ll cause is a good sign!

Their questions would mainly focus on your readiness to be a pet owner including your emotional and financial stability. You have to answer their questions truthfully as this is a way for them to assess if you are fit for their dogs or not.

6. Ask for the dog photographs

Do not settle for puppy images posted on the breeder’s website. Ask for a detailed series of pictures that show their growth from birth to the present age.

Why is this important?

Fake breeders often download pictures from the web and claim them as their own. If they can present not just one picture of the pup, that means they were really there to monitor its growth.

One trick that I can also teach you is to ask for a specific picture that isn’t usually posted on breeder websites (ones they cannot grab anywhere).

For instance, the puppy with the breeder striking a wacky pose or the puppy and the breeder’s watch side by side. If they can take these weird and personalized shots for you, then they are most probably legit.

7. Ask if there are testimonials you can read to verify their reputability

Asking for testimonials is another proven way to verify a breeder’s reputation. Often, you’ll see testimonials on their webpage. These are the ones that they have published themselves after asking their former clients to draft them one.

If you aren’t confident about these statements, check their Facebook page for reviews. They can’t edit these so you’ll get to know how they work. You can also check the comments on their posts if you want to.

8. Contact vets, rescues, and shelters who might know the breeder

This may sound like going overboard, but it actually isn’t. This is just a necessary measure to protect yourself from fraud breeders.

If you can get in touch with veterinarians near the breeder’s location, ask them if they know anything about their reputation or if they have directly worked with them.

Similarly, you may contact local rescues and shelters to ask if they have dogs that were originally bred by the person you are transacting with. You might just discover something that would save you from purchasing a low-quality puppy.

Avoiding Online Puppy Scams

Despite being easily accessible, the internet is not the safest place to make transactions involving money. Hence, if you decide you find a breeder online, you should be mindful of puppy scams.

Here are some detailed tips on how you can avoid these online scammers:

1. Double-check ads

The internet is teeming with puppy advertisements that are meant to convince you to purchase puppies from a breeder that you haven’t heard of before. While most of these ads can connect you to your next canine companion, some are solely made to fool you.

Read every ad carefully and double-check every piece of info that is stated in there. If something sounds off (maybe the way it was written or how the purchasing process is described), just close that tab and continue your search for a professional breeder.

2. Make sure that the dogs available are real

Scammers are experts in grabbing photos from the web and claiming them as their own. Thus, if a breeder says he can send you photos of the available litter, ask for more personalized photographs like what I have discussed earlier.

Maybe a picture of the dog with a tennis ball or one where they are next to a newspaper that is dated on the day you asked for a photo. A legit breeder can easily do these kinds of requests because the dog they are advertising is “real.”

3. Check the breeder’s website

One of the indicators that a breeder’s website is fake is if it uses http:// (no S) in the address bar instead of https://. This means that the site is not secured and may have been put up to scam people.

Another thing that you can do is to check the domain age. Most scammers set up a real-looking website, but their kennel’s establishment date didn’t match when the domain came live.

Of course, some breeders are not that knowledgeable in using the web to connect to people so they may have only recently made a presence online. However, this kind of discrepancy is something you should watch out for.

4. Beware of prices that are way below market value

Research the average price of the breed you are after and compare it to the quote the breeder has given you. If it is too good to be true, then it might be a strategy to lure innocent pet lovers like yourself.

No professional breeder would offer their litter at a very cheap price because they have invested their time and effort in producing those pups.

If they claim that they are connected to a certain canine organization and have been in the business of selling cheap dogs for quite some time, then give that org a call to confirm their reputability.

5. Ask for a breeder registration information

A scammer would do everything for you to fall for their bait. They would associate themselves with the most esteemed and creditable groups out there just so they’ll sound believable.

Once they say that they are associated with the AKC, take advantage of this information and verify it from the kennel club itself.

Similarly, if they told you that they are affiliated with a local rescue or shelter, ask the staff of these adoption centers if the breeder’s claim is true.

6. Consider poor grammar in email communications as a red-flag

Some scammers prefer communicating through email instead of contacting you via Skype, Zoom, Messenger, and other similar apps that allow video calling. This, in itself, is already a red flag.

But another thing that should put you off is if they do not bother fixing their grammar and the spelling of their message.

A reputable breeder would never commit these kinds of mistakes since they devote time to communicating with their prospective buyers (even though that would mean typing everything in detail).

7. Don’t trust breeders who want fast transactions

If the breeder tells you a lot of reasons why you should get the pup ASAP even though it hasn’t even reached the right age to be sold, something is sketchy.

The process you would need to undertake when buying from a professional breeder is very intensive and sometimes frustratingly slow. Thus, if a breeder tells you to pay so they can arrange to ship the very next day, just cancel the transaction.

8. Ask for the name and number of the veterinarian they are associate with

Scammers won’t be able to connect you to a vet to verify their status in the breeding business. However, “expert” scammers would give you a fake number to contact and they’ll arrange for someone they know to stand as a pseudo-vet.

In this case, you would need to be vigilant. I suggest you also verify the authenticity of the vet that the breeder asked you to contact.

Completing the Purchase Safely

Sometimes, when you are about to complete your puppy purchase online, that’s when you notice that there is something shady about the breeder you’ve been in contact with.

Up until the last few days when your dog is about to be shipped, you should never let your guard down. This means that you should be on the constant lookout for scam red flags.

Here’s how you can complete your online transaction safely:

1. Review the contract and sign

Reviewing a puppy contract shouldn’t be like reading the terms and agreements of a certain service that nobody cares about. You should thoroughly read it before attaching your signature on each page.

It should cover necessary information like breed, gender, birth, color, and other physical identification of your dog. Most contracts also have microchip data, whelping documents, registrations, etc.

This video can give you some more info about what to expect from puppy contracts:

PUPPY CONTRACTS: THE MOST IMPORTANT PAPERWORK

2. Do not forget to ask the breeder for a guarantee

Prior to finishing your puppy purchase, you should ask the breeder for the dog’s health guarantee. It would even be better if they’ll open up about it without you asking.

A puppy guarantee will make the breeder responsible if the dog shows any signs of alarming health issues after you brought it home. If they don’t offer you this service, then something’s questionable about their kennel.

3. Don’t send money through an unsecured payment method

In paying for your dog, never send it through an unsecured payment method since you cannot get your money back from this type of service in case something happens. Better use your credit or debit card where you can file for dispute.

Another cautionary action would be to check if the breeder’s merchant number is legitimate by verifying it through your credit card company.

Chapter 3 – Bringing Your Puppy Home: How to Help Your New Puppy Adjust to a New Home?

Puppy playing with a girl

As a bonus, I’m not ending this puppy buying guide without giving you some tips on how you can transition your dog from the breeder’s facility to your home. I divided this section into two parts: before the arrival and once your puppy is under your care.

Let’s start with the pre-arrival preps:

Before Your Puppy Arrives

Expect that the preparation for your new pet’s arrival echoes that of a newborn child. There are so many aspects that you should focus on – supplies, house rules, training, etc. It can get overwhelming when you don’t know what to do and where to begin.

Here are some of my personal suggestions on how you could prepare everything without breaking a sweat:

1. Buy puppy supplies

This is the easiest thing to accomplish since you can basically have everything delivered to your doorstep. From food to puppy accessories, all you need to do is tap on your phone and wait for them to be shipped.

This does not mean, however, that you won’t read labels or check descriptions. Always ensure that the items you are buying are suitable for your pet and are of the best quality.

2. Delegates tasks to housemates

Caring for a puppy can be a handful so you would need the support of your housemates. Before the dog arrives, assign tasks such as who will feed the dog, who will take it for a walk, who will bring it to the vet, and other essential upkeep duties that should not be overlooked.

3. Establish your house rules

The best way to train your pet is to establish house rules. Create one and orient your housemates regarding this so you won’t act differently in case your pet has shown disagreeable behavior. Remember that inconsistency can affect your dog negatively.

4. Plan how to be consistent in training

Write the terms you’ll associate with different commands and ask everyone to memorize them prior to your dog’s arrival. This will make a great impact on your dog’s training since everyone is in sync with their approach.

5. Dog proof your house and the whole property

Dog proofing means ensuring that every single area of your home is safe for your puppy. This involves keeping electrical cords where they can’t reach them, installing safety locks for your cabinet, and every other teeny-tiny thing that you would do if you have a toddler at home.

Once Your Puppy Is Home

You might be ecstatic that your dog is home, but don’t let that keep you from fulfilling what needs to be done for your pup to grow with a balanced temperament. All your preparations would be for naught if you don’t assume the role of a “responsible owner.”

Below are the exact things you should do once your puppy arrives:

1. Don’t let your pup get overwhelmed

Companion dogs are bred to grace your life with cuteness. However, getting too excited with their squishy face and bubbly personality can overwhelm them.

As much as possible, remain calm but welcoming when your dog arrives. You should ask your housemate to act the same because lots of loud noises and lively actions can force them to keep to themselves or be unexpectedly shy.

2. Introduce your dog to its crate

Introducing your pup to its crate is a great starting point for housetraining. You can do this after a few days when your dog arrives. However, if you feel like your new pet is adamant about following you, do not force them and give them time to warm up.

3. Start basic training

Ask a professional to train your dog if you feel like you can’t handle the task of teaching them key commands. The earlier you can start them on training, the better.

You must have heard countless times that a dog’s behavior will primarily depend on their training and not on the genes they inherited. This is an actual fact. Therefore, obedience training and socialization should be your priorities.

4. Establish a routine

For some reason, establishing a routine reassures most dogs. Thus, you must follow strict schedules like when to feed them, when to take them for a walk, when to allow them for bathroom breaks, and other routinary tasks.

5. Apply for a dog’s license

Make your pet-owning legal by registering your pup for a license. They will be given an identification tag that can help point out who their owner is in case they get lost. You can also have them microchipped for extra caution.

6. Bring your dog to the vet

Your dog would need to be checked by a professional vet to ensure that they aren’t suffering from any inherited diseases. They would also need some necessary shots that would protect them from common dog ailments.

In choosing a vet, it is best to ask for referrals from your friends. This is because there are some vets that claim they are professionals when really, they are only Youtube-taught.

Final Thoughts

I cannot guarantee that buying a puppy online would be hassle-free.

There are many cautionary tales from the internet that would teach you a thing or two about identifying scams, but remember that the people behind these schemes are always looking for new ways to fool and deceive people.

It would be better if the breeder you’ll contact online is someone referred to you by a dog owner you know or is registered in the top kennel clubs in the country.

Never buy from a breeder that seems sketchy from the very beginning. Trust your guts. It’ll save you from a lot of these scammers.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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