How to buy a puppy online

You’re ready to bring home a new canine family member but you want to do it right. Learn how to choose the right breed for your family and how to avoid scams, puppy mills, and unethical breeders.

All my life I have had rescue dogs and went to any length to provide them with a good home. Buying a dog was never a consideration for me until recently. I am now part of a bigger family with young children so I can’t have dogs in the home with unknown temperaments or who are known to bite. I’m not saying that all rescue dogs have issues but they could, especially when adopted as adults. After a lot of thought I decided, for the first time in my life, to buy a puppy.

Most of my dogs have come to me by accident so there was no thought for breed. I like many different kinds of dogs so getting to pick one took me a minute. Big, small, active, less active, furry, short haired? At the time I was training to be a groomer so I put my attention on a breed I had scoffed at for years – the Doodle.


As a “humaniac” as we jokingly call ourselves, the idea of breeding dogs and creating new breeds is crazy. Why would anyone do that? As I began my search for a puppy I began to understand. Many “pure” breeds have been selectively bred into extreme forms which give them significant health problems and short lives. Golden Retrievers and Boxers are prone to cancer that can take their lives at a young age. Highly popular Frenchies have such a flat face that they can have difficulty breathing. Many require surgery on their nose just to live a normal life. Adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to seizures, and the list goes on.

Hybrid vigor

Pure breeds also have an alarmingly small gene pool due to selective breeding which predisposes them to poor health and recessive gene-caused diseases like cancer and seizures. I learned about hybrid vigor from my mule friends and the concept makes sense. Breed two genetically different animals like a horse and a donkey and you get an offspring which is often bigger, stronger, and healthier than both parents. Troubling recessive genes must be carried by both parents, and if they are not, the offspring are unlikely to develop those health problems.

In the past dogs were “purpose bred,” that is, individuals were selected who could do their jobs well like herding sheep, hunting pigs, or following a scent trail. There was little concern for the appearance of the dog beyond what was important for doing the job. Over the generations as we developed machinery to do the work of dogs the focus shifted to appearance: pretty colors, a cute face and head, long plush fur, tiny or giant size.

Where to start? I looked online like I do for everything else and discovered some things to be aware of.

Join a Facebook breed group

One of the first steps I took was to join Facebook groups focused on my chosen breed, the Bernedoodle. I find the groups to be very useful in terms of learning about behavior, grooming, diet, and other breed-specific information. This can be very helpful before you pull the trigger and commit to buying a puppy.

Many things can seem like a good idea in theory but not so in reality! For example Bernedoodles grow very large, up to 100lbs. Even the “mini” Bernedoodles can be 50lbs so while smaller than a standard they are not exactly small. Some breeds like Doodles of all varieties have expensive grooming needs that could run you $100-$200 every six weeks depending on where you live. Some dogs have high energy and drive like Border Collies and Malinois. If you aren’t super active it won’t be a good experience for you or the dog.

Purchase ethically

You’ve probably heard of puppy mills and you’ll want to avoid them. How do you know if it’s a reputable breeder or a puppy mill? The purpose of this article isn’t to argue whether or not people should breed dogs but to determine if you are going to buy a dog how to do it right. You want to patronize an ethical, humane business and you probably want a puppy that is mentally and physically healthy. You also want an actual puppy and not a scam as we’ll get to in a minute.

What constitutes a puppy mill? While some breeders may have a lot of dogs and produce many litters, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a mill. It’s more about conditions and care of the dogs. If the dogs are well cared for, fed, groomed, and part of the family, it’s not a mill. If the dogs live in cages, are unsocialized, and are not well cared for, it’s a mill. How can you determine these things to filter out undesirable breeders with an internet search?

Puppy brokers

One thing I noticed right away was the websites of puppy brokers. These glossy sites show adorable photos of puppies of every kind available with the click of a button. They rank high in search engines because they spend a lot of money on marketing like Google ads. Chances are when you start searching for the puppy of your choice these sites will come up.

I looked at these sites with caution and saw some things that were odd. Every picture showed a perfect puppy, 8 weeks old, tri-colored which is the most desirable for a Bernedoodle. When I compared this with other sites for individual breeders, there was a startling difference. The breeders listed one or two litters or a few individual puppies available at that time with notes like “standard litter available in August.” Some said no puppies available at this time, check back at some future date. This seems more realistic as all the puppies won’t magically be the same age at all times.

After comparing sites I did a search for website name + scam or puppy broker + scam and found some interesting information. In the worst case scenario, some buyers sent money to these brokers and never received a puppy. In fact, there were no puppies, only pictures. Think about it. You could post pictures of puppies you got from the internet and tell people to send you money. Hopeful puppy owners sent hundreds or thousands of dollars only to be ghosted by the so-called breeder. In other cases buyers did receive a puppy but it was not as advertised.

Shop local

While the puppy of your dreams may be in another state, you are taking a chance purchasing sight unseen. One of the best ways to determine if a breeder is someone you want to do business with is to visit their premises. That way you can meet the family, the dogs, and the puppies. You can see if the housing is clean and appropriate, and if the puppies are healthy and social. Once you have taken your new puppy home, you will become attached and you will not want to return him or her even if there are health or behavior problems. Set yourself up for success, not disappointment, with good research and planning.