Getting a dog

Getting a dog can be a really exciting time for you and your family but it’s important that you don’t rush the decision. There are lots of things to consider first:


The right dog for you

One of the most important things to do before you buy a dog is download the free Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack. Supported by PDSA, veterinary organisations and other charities, these will help protect you against getting an unwell or illegally imported puppy, and make sure you get a dog that is healthy and happy.

First, ask yourself:

  • Can you meet a dog’s 5 welfare needs and be a 5* dog owner? Read more about welfare needs. 
  • Different breeds have very different temperaments, traits and energy levels. Read our information about different dog breeds.

If you’d like to find out which pet we recommend for you, take our Get PetWise quiz.

It is also really helpful to speak to your local vet or vet nurse before you get a dog. They can help you make some important decisions about which breed is right for you and talk though your new pet’s welfare needs. You can also download our Get Petwise leaflet.

Why where you get your dog from matters

After you choose a breed, you need to choose where to look for a dog. This can have an enormous impact on the lifetime health and happiness of your dog so it’s a really important decision.

If your dog hasn’t been raised in the ideal environment, they are more likely to be carrying diseases, and the parents will not have been screened for genetic diseases. This can have an impact on your dog’s health and behaviour in later life.

Often, when dogs are not brought up with families and gradually exposed to normal, every-day noises and people during their critical socialisation period (3-8 weeks), they can become fearful, anti-social and even aggressive.

Additionally, if dogs have been brought up in a puppy farm environment without proper attention to their health and hygiene, it is likely the puppy could already be seriously ill when you bring them home.

Doing your research

Try to do as much research as you can before buying or adopting a dog. Ask lots of questions and be sure to choose a breeder or rescue centre carefully.

If you are adopting a puppy, please visit our puppy adoption page for more advice on adopting or buying a puppy. Download the free Puppy Information Pack and Puppy Contract to help you find a healthy, happy pup.

Speaking to your vet and vet nurses

Your local veterinary team will be able to give you a wealth of advice if you’re thinking of taking on a new pet. If you have decided to get a particular breed, they will be able to advise you on their predisposition to genetic diseases, the recommended genetic tests the parents should have, and they may have local knowledge on reputable breeders who are raising well-socialised puppies with the necessary preventive care such as vaccinations and parasite control.

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Where to get a dog

We highly recommend

Rehoming centres

Why buy a dog when there are already hundreds of wonderful dogs waiting for loving families in rehoming centres all over the country? The benefits of rehoming include:

  • Good rehoming centres have rigorous adoption procedures, including homechecks and adoption contracts.
  • Rehoming centres have pedigree, crossbreed and mongrel dogs of all types, ages and sizes.
  • They carefully match their dogs to adopter’s lifestyle and circumstances.
  • Dogs are often "temperament tested" and health checked before adoption.
  • You will get good advice on adoption and caring for your new dog.
  • Dogs are usually neutered as part of the adoption process.
  • You’ll be helping to reduce the number of unwanted and stray dogs in the UK.
  • Reputable rehoming charities will always provide you with post-adoption support.

Here are some animal charities with pets in need of loving homes:

If you choose to buy your puppy from a breeder, we recommend:

Kennel Club Assured Breeders Scheme

Kennel Club Assured Breeders are different to breeders whose dogs are Kennel Club registered. Kennel Club Assured Breeders adhere to additional Kennel Club breeding practices, giving owners a higher chance of getting a healthy, well adjusted, puppy. It's important to research your chosen breed carefully as some breeds are more likely to develop health conditions that will affect them later in life.

Even if a breeder is part of the Assured Breeders scheme it is important to do your research and make sure they have tested the puppy’s parents for any genetic diseases common to the breed.

It’s important to visit the breeder before committing to buy one of the puppies. You can check they are rearing puppies in healthy, home environments where the welfare of the parents and puppies is paramount.

Even though some people find them really cute, avoid dogs with flat faces, such as French bulldogs, Pugs or English Bulldogs as many suffer from serious and lifelong health problems including breathing difficulties, eye disease and skin disease. Similarly, exaggerated physical features such as wrinkly skin, very large or small size, short legs and long backs all have the potential to cause welfare issues for dogs. Breeds affected by these physical exaggerations should be chosen with caution. For more information on genetic diseases please see our breed information.

We recommend with caution

Other animal rescue centres or sanctuaries

There are many rescue centres and sanctuaries that are not run by leading animal welfare organisations. They are mostly run by committed, well-intentioned people or groups.

Unfortunately, animal rescue centres and shelters are unlegislated in the UK and it is important to check the health standards and living conditions before rehoming one of their dogs. Make sure they:

  • Run homechecks for potential adopters.
  • Health and temperament test dogs before adoption.
  • Include neutering as part of their adoption process.

Other Kennel Club registered breeders

The Kennel Club register pedigree dogs and whilst this is a record of lineage, it is not a guarantee of health or breeding welfare standards.

Kennel Club registered breeders do not have to follow any health or wellbeing guidelines to register their puppies as pedigrees. These puppies may not have been bred responsibly and their parents may not have been tested for genetic diseases prevalent in their breeds. There are also no welfare requirements for the parents or puppies in order to register puppies as pedigree.


We do NOT recommend

Pet shops:

  • Pet shops are inappropriate environments for puppies.
  • This unsuitable environment may cause them to develop behavioural problems as adults as they miss out on experiencing every day sights and sounds at a crucial stage in their life.
  • Puppies in pet shops may have come from puppy farms.
  • If you buy a pedigree puppy form a pet shop they're unlikely to have had any genetic checks or tests. This might mean you unknowingly buy a very poorly puppy. 

Puppy farms:

  • In puppy farms, the puppies are bred simply for profit.
  • There is little consideration for the dogs’ welfare and they often don’t have the basic health care and minimum standard of life every dog is entitled to.
  • Living conditions are often dirty and unhygienic.
  • Often there can be overcrowding due to dozens of dogs cramped into a small space which is stressful for the animals and also makes these farms a haven for infectious disease.
  • There will be no considerations for health when choosing which dogs to mate or any attempt at eradicating genetic diseases.

Newspapers and websites:

  • Buying a puppy from a newspaper advert or via the internet may not let you make important checks on their welfare.
  • These puppies may have come from puppy farms or have been illegally imported.


Imported puppies

The UK has importation controls for pets to stop rabies and other exotic diseases from entering the UK. The UK has been free from rabies for many years but it’s still present in many countries around the world.

Illegal importation of puppies is a growing problem. These puppies often haven’t had the required vaccinations and haven't been socialised so put both us and other animals at risk.

If you’re worried that your puppy may have been illegally imported, we’d recommend taking it along to your vet for a check-up. They can do a full health check and make sure any paperwork you have with your puppy is valid.