christmas puppy

Questions to ask a Breeder: Holiday Edition

So you’ve decided to get a new puppy for the holidays. Assuming that you’ve taken the time to assess your abilities to care for this puppy fully, you’re probably on to the next step of finding a puppy; either finding a breeder or looking for a shelter to adopt from. For those who wish to purchase a puppy from a breeder, the process can be a little trickier than you think. Finding the right breeder for you can be hard, especially if you’re searching for a common breed and are faced with multiple choices. Below we’ve laid out some of the best questions to ask when selecting a breeder.

Are the puppies’ parents “certified”?

Some breeds are often at risk for genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, heart disease, and diabetes. Most of these diseases are inherited, meaning the disease is passed from parent to puppy. Many breeders will have their dogs evaluated and tested for that disease and ultimately “certified” by a veterinary specialist to be disease-free. Research your puppy’s breed in our online database to determine if their breed traditionally suffers from any diseases.

What are the sizes of the puppy’s parents?

Know how big the parents are, to get a good idea of how big your puppy will be. Is that the size dog you want? If possible, meet the puppy’s parents. Notice if they appear to be in good health and evaluate their overall temperament. Are they shy, aggressive, or well adjusted?

How has the breeder socialized the puppies?

Have the pups been around other dogs? Other people? Socialization is critical for 6 – 16-week old puppies. Proper socialization consisting of positive experiences of a puppy with other puppies and a diverse range of people.

What vaccines has the puppy had?

How many shots has your puppy received and when will the puppy be due for its next puppy shot?

Have the puppies been dewormed?

Quite a few puppies can be born with worms, that’s because they can get them while still being inside their mother’s womb. Beginning a deworming treatment when young is essential for all puppies, as is continuing proper deworming procedures over the course of their lives.

Have any of the puppies in the litter been sick?

If so, what were the signs, the diagnosis, and treatment? If one puppy got sick, there is a strong likelihood that your puppy either was infected or could become infected.

What visits have the puppies had with a veterinarian? Have they been examined and declared “healthy”?

If not, what problems have they had? Have they been on any medications? Ask for a complete and itemized record of all the treatments, check-ups, and medications that your puppy has been received to date. A good breeder will have this ready to go without you needing to ask for it.

What is their guarantee?

What guarantee does the breeder give with their puppies? If the puppy is found to have a severe illness, what will they do? This is a difficult topic but one that is a lot easier to cover up front rather than later.


Ask the breeder for a couple of references from previous families that have bought a puppy within the past year. When you follow up with these references find out if the breeder was fair, if they were happy with their pups, and how any problems were handled.

Breeder’s contract?

Does your breeder require a breeder’s contract? If so, what is in it? Breeders contacts can be complicated undertakings; of you’re a first-time dog owner we don’t recommend them.

Does this puppy come with an AKC limited registration?

A limited registration means that your puppy has been registered by the AKC but any puppies that that puppy eventually creates if left unspayed or neutered will not be recognized by the AKC.

What is your puppy’s family history?

Ask if the breeder has information about the breed line. For example, ask how long the dogs have lived and what they have died from. This may be important for monitoring your pet as he gets older and can help you establish preventative care for common ailments.

What is the breeder currently feeding the puppy?

Regardless of what they are feeding, it is ideal to continue feeding the same food for the first few days at home to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal disturbances. If you choose to change the diet, do it gradually over the course of a few days.

Finding Fido

We know that it can be tempting to bring a new puppy home for the holidays, but we urge you to be realistic about whether or not you’re fully prepared to take care of another living thing. 1 in 5 puppies is given away after the holidays because their families were swayed by the appeal of giving a loved one a cute baby puppy as a present. Do your part to keep puppies out of the shelter by doing some research into the realities of owning a puppy.

For example, on average it costs around $1,270 per year to own a dog, and that price is usually doubled in the first year of a puppy’s life because of the frequent vet visits for vaccinations and check-ups and the up front cost of buying all the supplies you need. This cost doesn’t include any emergency visits that can be common around the holidays, such as your puppy swallowing decorations or getting into some holiday candy.
Additionally, when buying a puppy from a breeder, the cost of that puppy can be anywhere between $500-$2,000 dollars or more, whereas when you adopt from a shelter, the cost can be anywhere from $50-$200. If you’re still undecided about bringing a new family member home, we recommend that you make a donation to a local shelter in your family’s name as a meaningful holiday gift and then wait until a time when you’re sure that you’re ready for a puppy. Or, fostering a puppy for the holidays can be a good way of determining if your family is ready for a pet or not, plus you’ll give that shelter dog a chance to get out of the shelter for a few days.