What Are the Signs You Are Buying from a Puppy Farm? (11 Clues Explained!)

The telltale signs of a puppy farm, also known as a puppy mill, include generic advertising, an unwillingness to show the puppy at home or with its mother, a lack of cleanliness and health in the puppy, and an indifference from the seller about the welfare of the puppy.

The rest of this article will explain in more depth what signs to watch out for when buying a puppy to make sure it is not coming from a puppy farm.

1. Is the ad for the puppy overly generic or nonspecific?

If you see an advertisement for a puppy that uses stock photos or has a vague description, this could be a cause for concern. Contact the seller and ask for pictures of the puppy and check for other ads from the same breeder to see if the description for the dog you are looking at appears to have been copy-pasted.

2. Is the seller offering more than a couple of breeds of puppies at once?

Legitimate dog breeders typically only breed one to two types of dogs at a time, whereas puppy farms are likely to raise and sell several different breeds at once. If you see multiple ads for different breeds from the same seller, or if you observe several breeds at the seller’s home, you are possibly dealing with a puppy mill.

3. Is the seller unwilling to let you meet the puppy at the seller’s home?

You should be allowed to see the puppy at the home where it was born before making a purchase. If the seller refuses to meet you at his or her home and instead insists on having you meet the puppy in a public place such as a parking lot, this is a huge red flag.

4. Does the exterior of the seller’s home show any potential signs of being a puppy farm?

While it is possible for a seller from a puppy farm to rent out a nice-looking home that is separate from the farm’s breeding facilities, sometimes a puppy farm does look like a puppy farm. If the seller’s home has an unusual number of outbuildings or sheds, this may be a sign that it is a puppy farm.

5. Does the interior of the seller’s home show any potential signs of being a puppy farm?

Even if the outside of a seller’s home does not seem to be suspicious, be wary if there are any “off-limits” areas of the house that could potentially be housing other breeds of dogs. In addition, if you hear whining, barking, or other indications of the presence of dogs apart from the litter you are looking at, this may be a puppy farm.

6. Does the puppy for sale appear to be unclean or unhealthy?

Unfortunately, dogs that have been bred in puppy farms are often kept in poor condition and treated with minimal care, so check the puppy for sale to make sure that it has a healthy coat, clear eyes, clean private parts, and high levels of energy. If it is dirty or droopy, it is not being properly cared for.

7. Is the seller unwilling to let you see the puppy with its mother?

One of the clearest red flags when buying a puppy is the seller refusing to let you see the puppy interact with its mother, which a legitimate breeder would have no problem with. Likewise, you should be allowed to see the puppy and mother with the rest of her litter, even if the other puppies are already reserved for sale.

8. Are the puppies uncomfortable with the dog that is being presented as their mother?

Pay attention to the dog that the seller presents to you as the mother of the litter. She should be visibly comfortable with her young, and the pups should be happy to play with her and try to suckle her teats. If the mother and puppies seem nervous around each other, the seller is probably providing an unrelated dog instead of the actual mother.

9. Do the puppies appear to be nervous in their present environment?

Puppy farms sometimes breed dogs at a separate location and then move them to a house in order to appear legitimate. Look around for dog toys, food dishes, and other indicators that the dogs actually live there, and watch the litter of puppies to see if they appear to be acclimated to their surroundings, or if they appear to be unfamiliar with the home.

10. Does the seller appear to be indifferent to the welfare of the puppy for sale?

Because puppy farms focus on quantity of puppies bred and sold rather than quality of life for the animals, a seller is unlikely to ask you thorough questions to vet you as a suitable pet owner. Make sure the seller that you are buying from cares about the welfare of the puppy, including being able to provide written confirmation of any vaccinations.

11. Is the seller willing to let you separate the puppy from its mother too soon?

According to the Sykesville Veterinary Clinic, a puppy should never be separated from its mother prior to eight weeks old. Doing so could result in permanent psychological damage to the puppy, and a genuine breeder will care enough about the welfare of his or her dogs to make sure that the puppy is old enough before letting you take it.

What should you do if you suspect that you are dealing with a puppy farm?

If the seller gives off too many red flags and you feel uneasy with buying a dog from what could be a puppy farm, ask for more time to consider. A genuine breeder should be willing to let you think your choice through, whereas a puppy farm is more likely to use pressure tactics to get you to decide on the spot.

How should you report a suspected puppy farm?

Report the seller’s ad wherever it is posted, such as reporting an online ad to the website hosting it. Next, report the seller to a relevant animal welfare organization, such as your local humane society. Finally, if you directly witnessed animal cruelty in the form of abuse or neglect, report the matter to the police as well.