BBB Tip: Research and Prepare Before Buying a Puppy

Research and Prepare Before Buying a Puppy


Puppies are playful, affectionate and cute, but don’t let that distract you from doing your research and thinking it through before you adopt or buy one.

Pets are a big investment and Better Business Bureau (BBB) encourages you to treat the decision to get a puppy as seriously as you would any major purchase.  Before buying or rescuing a puppy, make sure you’re fully ready for your new friend and, also, that you’re not walking into a scam.

Planning Ahead and Important Considerations

There are many practical concerns to address before adding a puppy to your family. After the initial cost of adopting a puppy, there are also ongoing costs of dog ownership. You will need to pay for food and medical care, and may also want to pay for grooming and toys.  Make a budget ahead of time to make sure you can care for your puppy and pay your bills. Don’t forget, you are not just getting a puppy – you are committing to a dog for 10-15 years or more. 

Puppies can be time consuming, and you will need to plan to have time to walk, train, and care for your dog.  You should also think about if you have enough space for your dog to live in, including a place where you can walk the puppy.

Next, think about your lifestyle and schedule to make sure you are getting your puppy at a practical time. One of the most common problems with new puppies is buying them at a hard time for a family.  Around the holidays, near a move, or during times of financial stress, it can be especially difficult to add a new member to the family.  A new puppy can be more likely to act out if it doesn’t feel settled and safe in its new home.

You can also research different breeds of dogs before you make your decision.  Some breeds are better with children than others and some are more social.  Decide which factors are important to you and go from there. 

Find a Source You Trust and Avoid Puppy Scams

Once you’ve decided the time is right and you can afford a puppy, make sure you’re getting the puppy from a source you trust and want to support. BBB recommends you support businesses and breeders that meet standards and maintain proper living conditions for their animals. You should also check your local laws to see if there is special registration or licensing required for legitimate providers.

This can be especially important if you plan to purchase a purebred dog, which are often used as bait in scams.  If you do your research, you can avoid scams that prey on consumers who don’t know how to evaluate breeders and want to avoid paying high prices for very desirable dogs. 

In a puppy scam, the scammer’s website offers to sell purebred puppies for a fraction of their typical cost.  Then, victims are usually instructed to wire money for the puppy before the animal is shipped to them.

You should never wire money to someone you don’t know well.  After you wire money to a puppy scammer, you will have no way to get it back, and they will not send you a puppy.

Better Business Bureau has investigated hundreds of pet scams and put together a list of tips for anyone looking to give a “furever” home to a new family member:

Consider adopting or buying locally. Unless you can visit the owner or breeder before you pay and bring home your puppy personally, avoid buying a puppy, bird or other pet from out of state. When you have a pet shipped from another area, you don’t know really how healthy or young it is, or even if the pet exists at all.

Research the seller and obtain references. Visit to check the reputation of an online seller, breeder or distributor.  Ask the breeder for references and contact people who have bought puppies from them in the past. Try to talk to people who have had their dog for a while in order to check for issues that may not be immediately apparent, such as genetic problems.

Ask for medical records and pedigree. Get a written account of all medical care your puppy has received, including vaccinations and antibiotics. Take the records to your vet during the first examination, which should be within a few days of bringing your puppy home. Check with an authority on dog breeds, like the American Kennel Club, who can provide breeder search tips, questions to ask and other information. 

Verify information. Remember that paperwork from a dishonest seller may not be legitimate. Report a suspected pet hoax to BBB Scam Tracker and look for clues by searching similar scams. Take your time, do your research and consider taking home a rescue pet from a local shelter.

Don’t be swayed by a fancy website. A flashy website is not an indication of ethics or integrity. Fraudulent websites appear and disappear like a game of cat and mouse. Use a Google reverse image search to see if the same pets are advertised on other web addresses.

Make sure the price makes sense. Check several sources to find the average price of a given breed. If the asking price is unusually low, that’s a red flag. 

Never send, wire or use a money card to pre-pay people you have not met. Don’t fall for attempts to take more of your money with emergency requests to cover insurance, a special shipping container or vet bills. At that point, you’ll likely never recoup what you already paid – don’t spend another dime.

Beware of emails with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors. Many pet scams come from overseas and scammers often do not have a firm grasp on the English language.

Buying a puppy can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can be a fairly involved process. By taking your time and considering all the angles, you’ll improve your chances of finding the pet that’s right for you and getting it from a legitimate provider.

Last Reviewed:  January 24, 2017