Research the parents' health
All dogs are at risk of inheriting diseases, whether they're pedigree or not. Breeders can reduce the risk of producing puppies with inherited diseases in several ways:
- DNA tests and health screening schemes can help breeders eliminate or reduce the risk of specific known health conditions
- Avoiding mating closely related dogs can reduce the chances of unknown genetic disorders that are hidden within the genes
Health should be a priority
Once you’ve found your breeder, it’s important that you find out about the health of your potential pup's parents. Having healthy parents is the best start to life a puppy can have. You should always find out what steps a breeder has taken to produce healthy puppies and how this compares to the steps that we recommend.
A responsible breeder will want to improve the health of the breed by breeding from only the best and healthiest dogs. Both the mother (dam) and father (sire) should have been tested or screened before mating and the results should have been carefully considered.
Always meet the puppy's mum!
Our survey of recent puppy buyers showed that more than 34% of puppy buyers failed to see the puppy with its mum – a classic sign of a puppy farmer. More than 41% of those who suspected that they did not see the puppy with its real mum said that their pup suffered from serious health problems in the first 6 months, including problems resulting in ongoing veterinary treatment or death.
Assessing general health and personality
The mother of the puppies should appear happy and healthy. Any sign of illness should be a warning sign, as this may suggest sick puppies too, or could indicate that the mother has not been cared for by the breeder. If you suspect that the mother is unwell, question the breeder.
If the mother appears nervous or aggressive, these tendencies may also be seen in the puppies. The puppies may not show signs of behavioural problems until they are older, so the mother’s personality may give you a better idea of how your puppy might behave once they have grown up.
Checking physical characteristics
- Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes, but regardless of what each dog looks like, it should be able to lead a happy and healthy life, which means being able to breathe, walk, hear and see freely and without discomfort
- Some exaggerated features can lead to health problems, such as some dogs with wrinkles developing skin infections, prominent eyes resulting in eye problems or flat-faced dogs having breathing difficulties
- When visiting a breeder, you should ensure you’ve already done your research on the breed and should always ask if the parents have had any major health problems
Which health tests are relevant to my breed?
A responsible breeder will always be willing to discuss relevant health issues with you.
Each breed will have different health priorities. It's important to see which health tests, screening schemes and other considerations are relevant to the breed you have chosen. This information can be found through our Breeds A to Z.
How do I know if there are any conformational concerns within my breed?
In 2009 The Kennel Club launched the online health tool, Breed Watch. Breed Watch information can be found in our Breeds A to Z section, providing up-to-date information on breed specific visible health concerns that may arise from exaggerated conformation.
What puppy buyers can do to help eliminate inherited conditions
Puppy buyers are encouraged to bring about change in the dog breeding world by only buying from responsible breeders. There is no legal requirement for breeders to health test their dogs but The Kennel Club strongly recommends puppy buyers to only go to breeders who do so.
The Kennel Club Assured Breeders is the only scheme in the country that sets standards for and monitors breeders. The scheme requires its member breeders to health test their dogs for any relevant conditions. The Kennel Club is lobbying the government to make such requirements mandatory for all breeders. Puppy buyers are strongly advised to always buy from an assured breeder. Find an assured breeder near you.
How can I find out about the health of the puppy’s parents?
Our Health Test Results Finder service allows you to check the parents' health, including:
We’re unable to record the results for all tests and screening schemes, so for any results that we don't have, you should ask the breeder to see the health certificates of the puppy’s parents.
If the breeder has not carried out some, or any, of our recommendations you should ask why not. If a reasonable justification cannot be provided, then you may want to find an alternative breeder.
General rule of thumb
If you would not be happy to take home the mother of the puppies, then it may not be advisable to choose a puppy from the litter. The mother (and father) will pass various traits on to their puppies and the traits that you may not like may also appear in the puppies when they are a little older.
Next step - visit the breeder
After making initial contact with the breeder, the next step is visiting the breeder. This is important, as it will give you a chance to meet them, ask any questions you have and see what conditions your puppy has been bred in.