London Puppy Buying: The Pitfalls
January 9, 2012 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Looking to buy/acquire a puppy in (North) London. I am worried about vaccinations etc. and have some questions about ethics of the whole thing. Can I get a puppy from a shelter? Or should I feel happy about paying for one from a 'good' home through a website?

I have looked on websites such as Gumtree and Although these methods feel dodgy sometimes, I feel that they take the place of the old 'look in the local paper' method quite well. I will of course visit the animals before I think about buying.

I would be quite willing to take a dog from a shelter, but I do want to have a puppy, rather than a grown dog. This is for training purposes, and because I feel it fits better with the nature of the home it will belong to (i.e. me and my girlfriend).

Are puppies readily available at shelters? I am thinking Battersea dogs home, but as I said, I live in North London and something closer to here might be better.

A lot of the puppies are assured to have had 'both sets of injections'. Is this standard before a puppy leaves mother?

A particular puppy I have my eye on has NOT had these injections. Should I insist? Is that my problem? How much do injections like this cost for new puppies?

Just to let you know. I live in a 2 bed house, with outdoor space/smallish garden. Lots of green spaces nearby. Me and girlfriend have a history of family pets and I believe we are 'ready' for one of our own. I have given this a lot of consideration and believe we could give a very loving home to a dog longterm.

Thanks in advance for your advice!
posted by bollockovnikov to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lots of us think its best to adopt from shelters for the obvious reasons, including: they have well-documented medical history, and often will have paid for neutering, vaccinations, etc., and: homeless animals need homes!

It's a great service to rescue an animal who's about to have a long life living in a cage.

There's a slight division in peoples' thinking about shelters. Some believe in adopting from no-kill shelters, to support the mission of that shelter. Some believe in adopting from kill shelters, to, well, save the animals from being killed. You can make up your own mind on that.

And yes, puppies are available at shelters! They just get adopted much more frequently and earlier.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:37 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my limited experience puppies are available from dog shelters but are often quickly spoken for, as the demand for pups is greater than that for adult dogs. Also, certain breeds seem to predominate in the supply of puppies to shelters: Bull Terriers appeared to be commonest.

The one time I adopted a puppy (a Stafforshire Bull terrier cross) from an RSPCA shelter (10+ years ago) he had already had both sets of shots. We were also able to claim back the cost of neutering when the time came. My current dog (who I acquired privately) had had just the one set, and I arranged and paid for the second (and will be footing the bill for the neutering).

I think the last set of doggie booster shots I got cost £32 - can't remember if it was more for his initial vaccinations as a pup.
posted by misteraitch at 8:52 AM on January 9, 2012

Thirding puppies at shelters. A bonus feature is that they're already a bit more used to being around other dogs/people as they are anything but isolated.

Please adopt. Supporting backyard breeders, even to a somewhat removed degree, is something I just can't reconcile internally.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Off the top of my head, as well as the RSPCA and Battersea, you might want to contact the Dog's Trust and Wood Green Animal Shelter (who are not just based in Wood Green). There will be other charities out out there as well, some bigger than others. There's several websites which help you find animal shelters in your area.

Puppies are harder to find at kennels, but on the other hand they are very keen to place animals in good homes, and if you can provide that it will be in your favour (especially if you have a garden and no children, it will increase the number of dogs that will be suitable for you).

I haven't adopted a dog for 10 years, but I did get two adult cats from the RSPCA last year, and it didn't seem like things have changed much. They will be vaccinated and neutered before coming to you. I paid for my cats' injections as the RSPCA were not charging a fee for adopting adult cats (if there is any room at all for you to get an adult animal rather than a puppy, then you will be giving an animal a much needed home, the shelters are swamped).

It seems that there are a lot of homeless staffies and staffie-crosses at the moment, so if you are willing to have one of those, I think that will increase your chances of adopting a dog.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: I have looked into shelters a little more. Searching for a puppy that is happy around children and other dogs is important. We have very young children in close family, and also well loved dogs our dog will come into contact with a lot.

The children friendly dogs get snapped up instantly from shelters.

The guy I am thinking of buying a collie/alsation cross from is himself a vet, which gives me confidence. Is £200 a fair price to ask?

I will keep looking into shelters. It is what I would prefer also, I think. Thank you
posted by bollockovnikov at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: One of the sadder results of the credit crunch is a huge increase in all types of animals at shelters so yes, you will definitely be able to adopt a young, child-friendly pup from a shelter. Go and talk to them! Rescues vary wildly but I've had best results from small, independent rescues such as Friends of the Animals (they're based in Wales but we were lucky to be able to adopt a 16 week old english sheepdog from them and they were absolutely wonderful).

The Dog Pages forum is a mine of information, including a list of rescues by breed and location (here are rescues in the South East).
posted by humph at 9:35 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: Are puppies readily available at shelters? I am thinking Battersea dogs home, but as I said, I live in North London and something closer to here might be better.

There are probably puppies available at shelters. They will likely go quickly and they will be disproportionately from whatever set of breeds/mixes tend to go into shelters -- in the US, this would tend to be lots of bully breeds/mixes, and misteraitch says that this is also the case in the UK. So if you want a Havanese or a weiner dog, you will have a harder time.

I don't mean this to be snarky, but surely the most appropriate answer is to go to whatever you think of as a local shelter and look for yourself.

I do want to have a puppy, rather than a grown dog. This is for training purposes, and because I feel it fits better with the nature of the home it will belong to

What about the nature of your household predisposes it towards what amounts to a 2-year-old with sharp teeth and a lot of hair? Puppies are cute, sure. But puppies also poop constantly, chew on everything under the sun, and when they're not asleep they're going Mach 5.

I get where I think you're coming from. When we had a litter here, sitting down in the puppy pen with seven 4-6 week old puppies was like the best therapy ever. Chasing them around to scoop them back into the pen after zoomie-time was over is less fun. Dealing with the poo even less fun than that. Having to constantly supervise them, or even the one we kept, was also less than fun.

A lot of the puppies are assured to have had 'both sets of injections'. Is this standard before a puppy leaves mother?

There are sets of immunizations that are given at more or less standard times. It's also the case that puppies shouldn't leave their litter until at least 8 weeks. Obviously, shelters don't have much control over how old the puppies they get are, but if you're talking to a "good home" that wants to send 4- or 6-week puppies home with you, run away.

A particular puppy I have my eye on has NOT had these injections. Should I insist? Is that my problem? How much do injections like this cost for new puppies?

(1) Depends on how old it is. You shouldn't insist that a puppy receive vaccinations that it's not really time for yet.

(2) If it's not time yet, it's going to be your problem.

(3) It won't cost a lot. On the other hand. Dogs are living things that require ongoing medical care, and nobody is requiring you to take one into your house. You should expect that you're going to drop GBP50-100 on preventative and routine care every year, spend money to bring the dog in for an occasional checkup even though nothing seems wrong, and you should expect that you're going to have to drop GBP500-1000 at some point in the dog's life, probably unexpectedly. If that's not acceptable to you, don't get a dog.

should I feel happy about paying for one from a 'good' home through a website?

The phrase you're looking for here is not "a good home" but "an ethical breeder." While it can be hard to actually find an ethical breeder -- the overwhelming majority of purebreds are not from ethical breeders but rather from casual/backyard breeders or puppy mills -- knowing that one is ethical isn't hard. They'll bombard you with information about the health history of the sire and dam, grill you mercilessly about your plans for the dog, will offer some sort of health guarantee, will require you to send the dog back to them if you can't keep it, will invite you to come see where the dam (and maybe sire) live (which is probably their house) and so on.

No, there's nothing wrong with buying from an ethical breeder (but I would say that, because biscotti is one). It's worth thinking about what your reasons are, and good reasons often boil down to having a good reason to think that some breedable traits are better suited to your household and your plans for the dog than others are. Any dog is always a roll of the dice as to what you'll get, but an ethical breeder is a good option for you if for whatever reason you want that roll of the dice to be heavily loaded.

Going with an ethical breeder will be a two-stage process. First, you should think about what breed(s) you're interested in and why, which is mostly a matter of going to dog shows or similar to meet several dogs of that breed and talk to their owners about them. The second stage is just finding an ethical breeder of that dog.

I will note that if you want to talk to an ethical breeder (as opposed to a casual breeder looking to get rid of puppies or a puppy mill out to make money), you have some self-education to do. I'm honestly not trying to be insulting, but some of the questions you've asked here would probably be red flags to biscotti. A lot of this can be dealt with by just being around dogs more and learning what care they need, and a lot can be dealt with by being up-front about not knowing much and showing a willingness to learn.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Searching for a puppy that is happy around children and other dogs is important.

You can't know this about any puppy with any high degree of reliability.

We have very young children in close family, and also well loved dogs our dog will come into contact with a lot.

This is a good reason not to get a puppy, and instead adopt an adult dog whose temperament is known to be child-friendly.

The guy I am thinking of buying a collie/alsation cross from is himself a vet, which gives me confidence.

It should not give you any confidence. Vets are not trained in ethical breeding practices any more than oral surgeons are trained in good parenting practices. Outside of some very rare circumstances*, anyone intentionally breeding a cross is not ethical**, and anyone negligent enough about their bitch's heats that a cross-breed accidentally results is unlikely to be ethical.

I would not touch this dog with a ten foot pole. If you want a mix, go to a shelter.

Is £200 a fair price to ask?

I'll put it to you this way. I think biscotti really is an ethical breeder. When we had our first litter on the ground a couple of years ago, we had to think about prices. We don't particularly want to make money off them... that way sinister temptations lie. So we sat down and tried to ballpark a price that would make the dogs basically revenue-neutral -- cover getting the sire and dam OFAd and CERFd, cover the costs associated with the litter, cover the dog agility (from a buyer's point of view this is evidence that the dam is sound and trainable), and so on. We figured that cost out to be about $1000-1200/puppy. We actually charged $1500 since we have several clawbacks -- get a performance title on your dog and we send you $X back, get your dog OFAd or CERFd and we send you back $Y, etc.

Anyway, GBP200 is a signal that they don't have many costs to recoup (but they should), or that they're trying to make a little money off of their bitch randomly mating with whatever dog.

*People involved in founding new breeds, mostly.

**Because it's not going to serve any purpose other than to create dogs with more or less random traits, and that need is already well supplied by shelters and other idiots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Indeed, many of my questions may seem naive, but to be quite frank, I have not come here for every piece of information I need. AskMefi, you have re-assured and educated me in equal measure! I thank you

This is a HUGE decision to make. I know that. That's why I am here, for backup and extra avenues of research I hadn't thought about.

I have grown up with dogs. My own family had three (from my childhood until very recently). A close family member of my partner has brought up a new dog recently. All in all, I have been part of the lives of three puppies over the years, and know the ups and downs. I've never lived on Earth and not been close to a dog of some kind.

I just believe that the bond one makes with an animal is much stronger if you have had a hand in bringing it through its puppy stage. That's a personal opinion, but one based on past experience. The chewing and sh*tting is part of this.

I have a bias towards non-thoroughbred dogs, again from past experience. I have found mongrels / mixes to be much more well rounded dogs. This is a bias forged only from subjective, personal experience, but... Perhaps, in response to your kind comments, I am re-thinking the 'thoroughbred' option.

Again thanks. The search continues!
posted by bollockovnikov at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2012

Although these methods feel dodgy sometimes, I feel that they take the place of the old 'look in the local paper' method quite well.

Just FYI, the local paper was a pretty dodgy place to find a dog as well; it encouraged backyard breeding and those ads are still often fronts for puppy mills. If your erstwhile vet is not hitting the high marks on Rou_Xenophobe's list, don't buy from him or her - to be honest, that vet cross-breed sounds more dodge, not less dodge, to me.

Regardless, "thinking of buying from" is premature. You should be thinking about meeting dogs and puppies. You can do this in the home of an ethical breeder or at the Dog's Home, but you need to pick an individual animal as well as an acceptable source for that animal.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:58 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: Actually sounds like an adult dog with a known personality would be a better fit if you are worried about it's behaviour around children.

If you talk to the people at the shelter and explain you have a small garden, x number of hours a day to exercise the dog, are willing to put in x amount of time grooming and you have a small child/ren they will know their dogs and be able to recommend which dogs temperament would suit what you want. Look at it this way it doesn't hurt to at least visit a rescue and talk to the people and see what's available and there are a lot of different rescues to pick from. Also most rescues have areas you can take the dog to play with it and really get to know its personality, and if for some reason it doesn't fit in with your home, a good rescue would rather you returned the dog and help you find one that does fit in, so it's a lot more risk free than those adverts in the paper.

Most rescue dogs have are up to date on their shots, have had at least a vet check of some sort and many are already desexed. You can also take any children that might be around the dog with you before you adopt to see how they interact as well.

If you buy this dog for 200 pounds you then have easily a couple of hundred pounds for vet checks, shots, desexing etc on top of that. Also just to add to mention it a Collies/Collie Crosses are a LOT of work, great dogs but a LOT of work, think 2 or more hours a day at least of exercise, and mental stimulation it needs not to mention grooming, but you said you've had dogs so that might be a good choice for you, me, I get tired just watching a collie.

Having said that my brother got both his dogs from a "guy he met at the pub" sort of deal and they worked out fine, and I am a completely biased owner of 2 rescue dogs.
posted by wwax at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: Certainly getting a puppy from a shelter is possible. As others have said, they often go fast at shelters, but you can get a puppy from a shelter you just have to be diligent. That being said, I got my first dog about a 2 years ago from a breeder here in the US. My wife and I did a lot of research on dog breeds and when we finally decided on a breed of dog we could never find that breed at a shelter. We started looking for reputable breeders. It was tough to find them, but eventually we did. All I can say is, my dog is amazing. He comes from a line of champion dogs and man....the gentics get passed along. It's as if he came pre programmed to be well tempered, non aggressive, smart, and healthy. So am I saying that you should only buy a dog from a breeder? No, but if you really want a puppy, and can't find one at a shelter, get one from a reputable breeder and hopefully it'll work out. Don't buy a dog from a pet shop, that's were unethical breeding rears it's ugly head the most. Not always, but a lot the time. Also, a good breeder will work as your guide...educating you on the breed, getting shots, and training. A good breeder will also demonstrate that they are interviewing you as much as you are them. They want their puppies to have a good home. So you'll know a good breeder when they tell you they don't just sell their dogs to anyone. Good luck! Having a dog is great!
posted by ljs30 at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2012

The guy I am thinking of buying a collie/alsation cross from is himself a vet, which gives me confidence.

um, your vet is not breeding ethically. in fact, he is creating, essentially, a mixed breed, aka: a mutt and then selling it you for £200. this is completely irresponsible, and especially egregious considering that he is a vet. you might as well go to the shelter and get a mixed breed for far less and you'll be rescuing a dog that needs a home rather than encouraging people, like your vet, to breed unnecessarily and unethically.

ROU_Xenophobe has brought up some excellent points and give great advice.
posted by violetk at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: Indeed, a lot to think about.

Your advice has been superb.

How does one go about contacting 'ethical breeders' in London?
posted by bollockovnikov at 10:26 AM on January 9, 2012

There's the Mayhew Animal Home in Kensal Green in NW London - looks like they have dogs to adopt.
posted by mairuzu at 10:26 AM on January 9, 2012

Given the population of Battersea et al, I'd go further and say there is no such thing as an "ethical breeder", other, perhaps, if it's for guide dogs or sheep dogs. The world would be a much finer place, for the dogs themselves, if a lot of breeders just didn't.

Anyway, given what you're looking for, being in town, regarding small kids and so on, I'd suggest very heavily going for an adult retired greyhound. Battersea has many, as does The Retired Greyhound Trust. They're perfect city dogs, don't need exercise, don't shed, and are fabulous with kids. And there are very very many who need homes.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: i am not in the UK, but i imagine the route to finding an ethical breeder is similar to the US. my first dog is a purebred weimaraner dog (my recently adopted dog is actually a purebred miniature dachshund puppy i adopted from the humane society, most likely an accidental breeding bc there was a small litter of them when i got her), which is the breed i'd known i'd wanted for awhile, based on temperament and lifestyle. i started off by doing a shit-ton on research because i had no clue regarding the first thing to getting a dog. i went to the national breed club's official website (in this case, the weimaraner club of america). they have a page listing local club chapters as well as breeders by state/region. i contacted those breeders, went to weimaraner shows to meet them, and inquired about puppies. none of them had any at the time but i did get referrals to other breeders and found my puppy that way. i found my puppy rather quickly (althought he was in another state—i ended up driving there and staying over night with the breeder in fact), within a couple of months, but sometimes, depending on the breed, it's popularity, and whether any breeders have litters available at the time of your inquiry, you may be put on a waiting list for months.

the ethical breeder is one who is breeding to improve the breed standard. that means, the majority of their puppies will go to homes who are interested in showing the puppies. that breeder is well familiar with the dogs s/he is breeding to produce a litter. breeders may seem like they are charging a lot but in fact, they are just breaking even—it's not something they are doing to make a profit. they do not breed just to breed and have puppies to sell. they may have a couple of puppies who, while perfectly fine specimens of the breed, will not cut it on the show circuit. these will be their "pet" quality puppies. i was required to fill out a detailed questionnaire about my lifestyle so that the breeder could match me to a puppy who exhibited a temperament to match it, and i was required to sign documents stating that should anything happen to me, my dog—regardless of age—would be returned to the breeder, unless she agreed that whoever i wanted the dog to go to would have a more suitable home. i was also required to neuter my puppy (so that i, myself, would not be backyard breeding him), have him chipped, and keep up with his AKC registration—and a number of other things to ensure the dog would be going to good home. i correspond with my breeder at least once a year to update her about my dog. she is available to me with any questions. the network of weimaraner club owners in my area are also familiar with my breeder and are a good resource as well.

that said, you say you have small children. kids are exhausting. so are puppies (and i say that despite the fact that my new puppy is relatively easy). i'm nthing others who ask that you consider an older dog whose temperament is already known, and whose training will be minimal.
posted by violetk at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: Agreed... There are sooooooooooooo many dogs out there. Giving any of them a home seems ethical to me. Just weighing the number of staffordshire terriers over the other breeds is stomach churning. London has had an explosion of these it seems!
posted by bollockovnikov at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2012

How does one go about contacting 'ethical breeders' in London?

(1) Find breed(s) you are interested in
(2) Find web page for the UK breed club to locate breeders within an acceptable distance of you, or google.
(3) Contact them. You will discover whether they're ethical or not through their behavior.
(4) If you want, look at web pages (if avail) for breeders outside your acceptable travel area. Find ones who seem ethical. Ask *them* who might be good breeders that are closer to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 AM on January 9, 2012

There are sooooooooooooo many dogs out there. Giving any of them a home seems ethical to me.

Not if you end up funding someone who is one of those creating more dogs for selfish reasons.

Don't get me wrong, you seem to have your heart in the right place and your ideals seem awesome as well, I'm just saying that paying X dollars/pounds/euro to the wrong people doesn't help the problem of 'so many dogs don't have homes' it actually hurts.

I wonder if you've tried talking to the people at the shelter and saying something like "When you get a litter of puppies dropped off could you please call me? I really prefer to adopt for X, Y, and Z reasons and I want to support my local shelter rather than someone online/in the papers". I find it hard to believe they wouldn't immediately take your name and number and call you when the pups arrived. That's how we adopted our second dog (younger, very much still in the cute/trainable phase but not a puppy either) here in the states.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: One thing I discovered about our local shelters (RSPCA and various pet rescues), when looking for a kitten, was that their websites do not reflect the number of kittens and puppies they actually have. You go to their websites and they list heaps of adult cats and dogs, and one or two kittens and puppies. If you actually call them, or go in person, though, they have 20 or 30 kittens and puppies at any given time. They don't list them because
(a) they get adopted so fast they don't have time to take photos and make listings even if they wanted to (but there are constantly more coming in, so quick adoptions DON'T mean there aren't any available
(b) they don't need to list them. People will come in and ask for them anyway. They list the adult animals because they hope that someone looking on the website for kittens or puppies will see a cute adult and rethink.

So if you are assuming there are no puppies available at your shelters because of browsing their websites, this may not be an accurate source of information.
posted by lollusc at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2012

Just wanted to address the 'bonding' issue with an anecdote. My last three rescues and I have been extremely connected. They have all been extremely different ages. One under a year, one 3 1/2 years, and one a very grateful senior. We were all connected like the Borg. None of their ages made a difference. Good luck. You sound like you are compassionate and will make the right decision for all involved.
posted by Vaike at 4:47 PM on January 9, 2012

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