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October 18, 2023

How to spot a puppy farm

As someone who loves dogs, you’ve probably already heard of “puppy farms” and know you want nothing to do with them. But are you sure that you can spot one when you see it?

What does a puppy farm look like? You might imagine rows of cages, multiple litters at the same time, and sad, unhealthy-looking mothers. Unfortunately, puppy farm owners can go to great lengths to hide the reality.

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, here are some hidden signs of puppy farms.

How to spot a puppy: 3 ways to check

1. Start with the advert

No one will state that they are a puppy farm in an advert, but there are subtle signs you can look for.

How many adverts has the seller posted? Look back at a seller’s history and see their previous posts and sales. No ethical dog breeder will be posting new litters every few months.

Breeders usually specialise in one or two specific breeds. Again, look at the seller’s history to see how many different dog breeds they’re advertising. Lots of different types of puppies is a red flag.

Some puppy farms create new profiles regularly to make it more difficult to spot them. Luckily, many will use the same phone number on all accounts. A simple online search for the breeder’s number can be enlightening.

Think about the wording of the adverts. Does it feel like it was written for this specific litter? Some puppy farms will have a single template advert that they use for all of their different litters.

If the advert doesn’t feel right to you, always do a few extra checks. If you’re still not 100% reassured, it’s better to walk away.

2. Pay attention to the breeder

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we won’t be able to spot a puppy farm from the advert. Our next chance comes when we meet the breeder.

Ask whether they have a breeder license. Any reputable breeder will be happy with you for asking about licenses. Ethical dog breeders will be just as keen as you are to eliminate puppy farms.

Not all breeders need a license, but all breeders should be able to either show you their license or be able to explain why they don’t need one. Learning the facts about dog breeder licenses will make it easier for you to spot whether your breeder is being honest.

Anyone carrying out ethical dog breeding should know about the breed they’re selling. Ask questions about common health problems or the typical temperament and personality.

Try asking how typical their dog is of the breed. Many owners/breeders will have a few examples of how their specific dog differs slightly.

Meeting a breeder shouldn’t be a one-way interview. Ethical dog breeding doesn’t end when the puppies are born. Good breeders will want to know about you to ensure their puppies are going to a suitable home.

At the minimum, breeders should want to know about your home, any children, and how much time you can typically spend with the dog.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t let you have a dog because you live in a flat or work full-time, but they should discuss whether their puppies will be a good fit for your life.

3. Check the dogs themselves

Both puppies and mum will undoubtedly be cute but look beyond the superficial. How do the dogs react to the breeder? Do they seem confident and secure? How do they react to each other?

Puppy farms will often misrepresent breeds. Check carefully that the puppies fit your expectations.

Do they look like their mother? If something doesn’t look right, ask more questions and don’t be afraid to walk away.

Paws in Work supports ethical dog breeding

Puppy farms are illegal and unethical. We believe in the collective responsibility to eradicate exploitative breeding and are ready to play our part.

We only work with ethical breeders at our puppy therapy events, so you can be sure that any puppies at our events are healthy, happy, and well cared for. But we’re not content to stop there. We want to ensure everyone knows about the dangers of unethical breeders.

To learn more, check out our blog and read posts like our guide to ethical dog breeding. You can help us promote puppy welfare by sharing these posts with friends or family who might be considering getting a puppy.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Paws in Work newsletter to hear more about puppy welfare and mental health.

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