Buying your first puppy can be a daunting task, and I have added some common questions to ask when choosing the right puppy... and the right breeder.

Most breeders are more than happy to answer questions related to the purchase of one of their puppies and will be just as concerned about the type of person/household they are releasing one of their puppies to. Remember, It is up to both the Buyer and the Breeder to be comfortable with one another and to ensure that the puppy has been, and will be treated properly.

The classic mistake puppy buyers make is saying - I need an puppy at the beginning of the summer or or whatever it may be. So they go out looking for litters due in May. You are best looking for a breeder that matches your criteria for breeding a puppy to suit your family, and you should expect to wait, you may be lucky and the breeder has a litter due, but it is not uncommon to wait 6 - 12 months for a puppy from your chosen breeder. But if you do ask for your name to be put on a breeders waiting list and in the meantime go elsewhere, please be courteous and tell them. There is nothing worse for a breeder than turning potential buyers away because their list is full to find out a buyer has gone elsewhere. Finding out that you had your name on four breeder waiting lists really gets breeders backs up.
Many breeders will not allow viewers until puppies are at least five weeks old, but if the breeder is keeping a puppy themself, you may not be able to choose your puppy at this time. The breeder may also have enquiries from show exhibitors and other breeders, and they are the people who will potentially keep the breed going and will generally be given priority pick. I have found that in general, puppy buyers have been more than happy to wait to know which puppy they will be getting, and I am always wary of buyers who say they want a puppy with a full white collar, and white legs, they are not fashion accessories.

When making that initial contact with a breeder, introduce yourself and your family, thoroughly. Emails sent saying 'I see you have puppies for sale or puppies due how much are they?', will generally go straight in the trash bin.

Some of the better emails I have received have been along the lines of
' Hi, my name is X and I see that you have puppies due this year. I have been doing a lot of research on this breed and feel I would love one to join our family because............I already have a dog who gets on well with other dogs. I am aware of the grooming involved with a Rough Collie and know puppies are a huge commitment. I work from home, have two school aged children who also love dogs. We have a large enclosed garden, and enjoy weekends away in our caravan, and as a dog is part of our family, it would accompany us on our weekend breaks..............blah blah blah'

It is not a good idea to bring up the price in the first contact, unless you tag it on to the end of your email/conversation and say something like 'if you don't mind me asking how much do you ask for a typical puppy, just so I am prepared'.

Responsible breeders answer buyers’ questions, responsible buyers answer breeder’s questions. A reputable breeder tries to find the best new home for their puppies and there is only one way to find out and that is by asking potential buyers some clear questions and having some clear and honest answers.

Many pet lovers find it almost impossible to resist the desire to “rescue” a puppy that may be kept in poor conditions. However, buying a poorly bred puppy supports the ongoing viability of the breeder, and simply helps to ensure that more and more puppies are bred and raised.

All adverts on Collielife are, to the best of my knowledge, from respected breeders who have one goal at the forefront of their minds, producing happy, healthy and fit puppies from much loved sires and dams that are carefully cared for and treated with love and respect for the duration of their lives, even after their breeding days are over.

Arm yourself with information and buy with confidence.


Questions the breeder may ask you before buying one of their puppies

Questions you may want to ask the breeder

A truly responsible breeder cares where their puppies will grow up, they will keep any puppies they cannot place in suitable homes and will question prospective buyers closely to determine if this buyer really deserves one of their precious puppies.

A good breeder is trying to find the best homes for the puppies, and want to ensure that you are going to be a responsible, intelligent owner who will cherish them for their entire life.

They will evaluate you as carefully as you evaluate them.

Some typical questions you may be asked...

Do you want a male or female or do you have no preference either way?

Do you have any dogs at present, if so, what are their ages, and breed?

What is your experience with this breed, and what are your expectations on the temperament and behaviour?

Where will the puppy live and sleep?

Do you work, if so, how many hours a day are you out of the house?

Do you have a secure garden?

What type of boundary does your garden have?

Do you have children or visiting relatives/friends children and what are their ages? If you have children, will they be instructed on the care of the dog?

Do you have any other pets?

Is the puppy going to be a family pet, or do you plan to do obedience/show/agility?

Does anyone in the family have allergies?

Do you intend to breed from this pet in the future at any time? (some breeders may place restrictions on the puppy to stop litters being registered if they do not want it to be bred from, but may be happy to remove restrictions at a later date when they are happy the new owner is committed to the breed).

What are your views on spaying and neutering/castration?

Have you given any thought as to what would happen to the dog if you were no longer able to look after it - all puppies bought from a reputable breeder will be returnable to them at any stage in their life, for whatever reason.

Rough Collies need to be groomed weekly, although the grooming isn't as onerous as people believe it to be, and can be done in 30 minutes with the right tools and equipment - are you able to commit to keeping the puppy's coat well maintained?

Do you have any questions you would like to ask about the Breed?

Be prepared to be told no, not every person is the right match for every breed, even if you have had one before. If a breeder says no, there is no reason why you can't ask why. If the answers make sense, don’t keep calling people until you finally get one who will sell you a puppy of that breed. Go back to the drawing board and be very humble and honest with yourself about what kind of dog really would be right for you and your family.

Very few reputable breeders will sell a dog or bitch to a potential breeding home unless they know you, particularly if you plan to cross with another breed.

Can I see the puppies mum? - (Be aware that a bitch that has just whelped a litter of puppies may not be looking her best but you will be able to see her temperament and how she interacts with the breeder and her puppies.)

How long have you been in the breed. Are you involved in other breeds as well? - You probably want to avoid anyone who has switched breeds every couple of years, from popular breed to popular breed. Look for someone that has experience with the breed in which you are interested. Be wary of people who have multiple breeds. It is not uncommon to find breeders with several breeds, but a breeder producing litters of many different breeds of dog is generally not going to be your best source of help and advice.

Will the breeder take the dog back at any time, for any reason, if you cannot keep it - This is the hallmark of responsible breeding.

How old is the puppies mum and has she had a litter before?

When were the puppies wormed?

Do you provide a diet sheet, and food to take home for first few days?

Is the puppy KC Registered? - All puppies on Collielife advertised for sale in the UK must be KC registered, in Ireland they will be registered with the IKC and if being exported to the UK they can be KC registered too.

Will the puppies be eye tested? - see more information about eye testing HERE

You may want to see the puppies sire, but this is not always possible if the breeder doesn't own him, but it doesn't stop you asking questions about the sire, finding out what other puppies he has sired and contacting the sire's owner.

How often do you breed and how often has this bitch been bred - Breeding every heat cycle is too often and may indicate that profit is the primary motive for the breeding.

When you visit the litter do not be offended if the breeder does not allow visitors before four or five weeks of age to see them. Please tell the breeder if you have been around an ill dog as they may wish to defer the visit to avoid germs being passed on and you may be asked to remove shoes and wash your hands before handling the puppies.

You may want to ask where the puppies are kept - For example, is this inside the house in a busy kitchen where lots of people come and go and interact with the puppies and they are accustomed to household noises like hoovers, and washing machines?

Note if the puppies surroundings are clean, are they bright eyed and look fit and healthy.

DO NOT buy a puppy from a pet shop, or anywhere advertising for sale more than three different breeds or if you have any doubts about the breeder or situation – even if you want to rescue it.

You may also be asked to leave a deposit for the puppy of your choice if he/she is not ready to leave the rest of the litter (which is usually around 8 weeks of age).

It is advisable not to discuss the cost of the puppy at the initial contact with the breeder, as it will certainly put a lot of breeders off potential buyers who may have a restricted budget, and therefore struggle to meet unexpected vet bills in the future. Bring up price when you feel you have made successful contact with the breeder and say something like “If you don’t mind me asking, about how much are you selling the puppies for as I just want to be prepared.” 

Most breeders know other breeders and the show breeding community is small and close knit. Please don't put yourself on more than one waiting list.


There are three recognised colours according to the UK Rough and Smooth Collie breed standards - sable & white, tricolour and blue merle. All should have typical white collie markings to a greater or lesser degree (legs and feet , full or partial white collar, and sometimes facial markings).

Any other colours not mentioned above are presently registered as ‘Colour Not Recognised By KC’, although due to the deliberate matings of sable to blue merle, and the possible consequences of such a mating, some UK breeders have asked the KC to remove this option.

It is generally considered in the UK that it is most responsible not to carry out matings between sable and blue merle parents without comprehensive knowledge. Where such matings do take place, any resulting sable merle puppies should be registered as ‘Colour Not Recognised By KC’.

It has come to our attention that although some experienced breeders have carried out sable x merle matings intentionally, these breeders would, we hope, have the knowledge to recognise sable merle offspring or take advantage of available DNA tests, and would make any buyers fully aware of sable merle status.

However, some matings are being done irresponsibly or unknowingly by breeders and these puppies may be registered as sable & white as the merle gene becomes less noticeable as the puppies grow.

Statistically, sable merle puppies are born out of sable and blue merle matings, at a 25% rate. Many factors influence the way the sable merle colour looks. If a dog is heavily shaded, the sable merle colour will appear as randomly diluted areas of dark colour, mostly on the head, back and tail. Sometimes, in light golden dogs, it is not even possible to detect the presence of merle, unless they have seen at a few days old when they are still dark enough for merle to be noticeable. A sable & white dog with blue or blue-flecked eye is most likely to be a sable merle.

Although a sable merle puppy will have no health problems relating to colour, the danger arises if two merles are mated together. The merle gene can completely destroy most of the pigment including the pigment in the inner ear and the back of the eye, which is necessary for normal hearing and eyesight. Such a puppy can only be born from both merle parents. Such puppies are usually predominantly white, and often deaf and/or blind. Although it is controversial to use such animals in a breeding programme, any puppies that survive can be mated with a tricolour and will produce a normal, healthy litter of all blue merles. Deafness and blindness, in this case, are a direct consequence of lacking pigment, and cannot be inherited separately from white colour.
Before you buy your first puppy, take this test to find out if you can cope with living and looking after your puppy
Best taken in the autumn or mid winter.
1. Buy a lead and tie it to a big stone, walk around dragging the stone behind you.
2. Get up at 5am, go out in the pouring rain and walk up and down a muddy path, repeating good girl/boy, wee wees...poo poos, quickly please
3. Stuff your pockets with plastic bags and pick up all the poo you can find, obviously not your dogs as you have not bought it yet 😊
4. Start wearing your shoes indoors, especially during muddy times
5. Collect leaves off the ground and spread them on the floor
6. Carry sticks and branches indoors and chop them up on your carpet
7. Pour cold applejuice on the rug and floor....walk barefooted over it in the dark
8. Drop some chocolate pudding on your carpet in the morning and then try to clean it in the evening
9. Wear socks to which you have made holes using a blender
10. Jump out of your favourite chair just before the movie ends and run to open back door
11. Cover all your best clothes with dog hair, dark clothes with blond hairs and light clothes with dark hairs
12. Tip all just ironed clothes on the floor
13. Make little pin holes in all your furniture, especially chair and table legs
14. When doing dishes, splash water all over the place and don't wipe it.
15. Spread toilet paper all over the house when you leave the house and tidy up when you get back home
16. Forget any impulse holidays and/or breaks
17. Always go home straight after work or school
18. Go walkies no matter what the weather, and inspect every dirty paper, chewing gum and dead fly you might find
19. Wake up at 3am. Place a correct size bag of flour on top of yourself and try to sleep, whilst wiping your face with a dishcloth, which you have left next your bed in a bowl last week.
Repeat everyday over 6 months and if you still think getting puppy sounds like a good idea, Congratulations, you might be ready to get your puppy.





You may wish to include some of the following in your contract.......

To start, you must define who the buyer, the seller and the breeder are. For any contract made in the entire world, there should be the definition of who is who. Name, address, status and contact details must be clear.

The Dog's Details

This section describes the subject of the transaction: the dog, or puppy. It must include the puppy or dog’s namesexdate of birthcolourbreedor description of the breed and should precise if the dog is registered at the Kennel Club, the International Sheep Dog Society, or any relevant registry and identification company.

If you are the breeder, make sure you also provide all your customers with a copy of the puppy whelping forms along with the growth chart so far.


If the puppy is micro-chipped, you should add these details here as well. For each certificate (pedigree), registration (kennel clubs) or identification (tattooed, DNA profiled or microchipped), you must provide a copy or the original of the papers and make sure it is said on the contract that the papers have been provided.

Pedigree & Registration Documents

Health & Vaccinations

As an ethical dog breeder you pledge to have given all the attention, care and precaution needed by the dog while it was under your responsibility. Provide here each hereditary medical condition found in this particular breed and give the results of any tests, checks and screenings you have made. Provide details of the veterinary practice and/or laboratory where it has been done so you pass all relevant information over to the new owner.

Inform the new owner of the vaccination course for this dog and dog breed. List any injections the dog has already received and precise the dates so the puppy’s owner does not give the next injections too soon or too late.

On the contrary, if the dog did not go between your vet’s hands, specify it and clearly write that the dog is sold “as is”and that the puppy owner agrees to bring the dog to a vet and has 7 (or more, less) days to bring it back if anything is wrong.

The Transaction's Details

This section is more about the transaction in itself than the dog, or the subject: this section should talk about the price, the conditions of the sale, the payment, the return of the dogs, the future mating, etc.


Quite clear, here is where you give the price the buyer will pay the seller in order to become owner of this puppy/dog.

Not much to say about it apart from paying methods that are not monetary. You may sell this dog but instead of £1,000, require no monetary payment but the first choice of this dog’s next/first litter. This happens a lot in the show world where puppies of champions are very important for their future offsets. Better a lean agreement than a fat lawsuit.


Explain how the payment process should happen, the payment methods, the payment’s due date, etc.

Right to Return

Give your buyer a delay of few days (usually 7) to use his right to return the dog in case of medical defect. You should fix the conditions of such a return such as the timeframe given to the buyer but also which medical conditions are valid and which ones are not.

If you want to check the dog yourself before accepting the return, put it in writing here that the dog will need to undergo a medical check at your vet and the resulting outcome will allow or not the return of the dog to you, the seller/breeder.

Rehoming of the Dog

Some breeders want their dogs to come back to them if, at any stage during their life with their new owner, the owner needs to get rid of the dog.

Other Conditions of Sale

Endless conditions can be attached to a transaction so it is impossible to list them all, but here are some examples:

  • The dog will have to be neutered/spayed before its first anniversary (XX/XX/2017)
  • This bitch cannot be bred to a stud without the breeder’s consultation and agreement
  • The stud must take part in 4 dog conformation shows each year for the first 5 years
  • The breeder (you) must be informed of any litter the bitch is having
  • If you intend to add restrictions, you must make it clear in the contract

Make sure your clauses here are not abusive as it could break and ruin the validity of this contract. Ideally, you want to have a lawyer proof-reading it but let’s be realistic, you won’t get a lawyer just for that, unless you are selling your dogs for thousands because they won Crufts and other famous shows. So simply stay down to Earth and do not ask for too much, and if you do, be sure that it is legally acceptable.

Agreement & Signatures

This last section is the written agreement dated and signed by both parties declaring that on this precise date they have read and agreed to this contract and fully understand its conditions. Everybody signs it, keeps a copy for himself and the deal is done!


A Lawyer Looks at Breeder Contracts - Tips for both the Breeder and the Puppy Buyer 
Ruth Nielsen, Esq.

I am an actively practicing attorney with my own law firm in Seattle, Washington, and my Bernese Mountain Dogs are my very helpful office assistants. Over many years of mixing my legal practice with my Berner obsession, I've reviewed a number of Breeder contracts, and I've had both breeders and puppy buyers come to me for help when they've ended up in a contract dispute. While the best solution is to avoid having the dispute in the first place, whether you are a breeder selling puppies, or a puppy buyer looking for that perfect addition to your family, the contract you have can help save you disagreements and disappointment down the road. 

This article is NOT intended to provide legal advice since laws can vary from state to state, and individual situations also require individual solutions. My goal is to share a few tips and suggestions to help you use and understand the benefits of a good contract, and most importantly, to help you avoid the pitfalls that can come with miscommunication and misunderstandings. 

The topic of Breeder Contracts is not something that can easily be covered in one article, and that doesn't even get to the issues related to Stud Dog Contracts and other types of Breeding Agreements. Who knew just getting a dog could be so complicated? 

FROM THE BREEDER'S PERSPECTIVE - A good contract helps explain what you expect from a puppy buyer, and provides some protection from people who might mistreat or misuse the puppy you place with them. If your contract is TOO restrictive or unreasonable, however, you invite the Buyer to go down the road to the Back Yard Breeder or Puppy Miller who will sell them that cute puppy with a smile, no questions asked. 

FROM THE BUYER'S PERSPECTIVE - A good contract is an indication that the breeder has done her homework and cares about the dogs she breeds. The contract should help you understand what the breeder expects from you, and what you can expect from the breeder for the life of your dog. If you are not comfortable with what the Breeder wants you to sign, ask questions! Make sure you get any explanations or changes to the contract in writing as well. Don't sign what you don't understand or don't agree with. 

RED FLAGS ~ As a Breeder - If a Buyer doesn't want to sign your contract or questions the need for one - this is someone who is likely not going to respect your wishes down the road. You need to find homes that are compatible with your goals and expectations as a Breeder.

As a Buyer - if the Breeder doesn't have a contract or tries to tell you that contracts don't mean anything, this suggests the Breeder isn't promising you anything and likely hasn't done all the research and health certifications that a good Breeder would want to tell you about. Don't expect this Breeder to provide you any help or support down the road. Without a contract, the Breeder owes you nothing and she is not standing behind the puppy she bred. You can do better. 

CLEAR = Format your contract so it's easy to read using tools like paragraph headings, numbering, or bullet points for emphasis. Put key points in separate paragraphs so they stand out. Important topics will get lost if they are buried in long-winded paragraphs and pages of dialog. 
CONCISE = Unless you are writing a contract for a complicated breeding or showing arrangement, you really don't need a novel-length contract. A document that is solely focused on the critical points of what both Breeder and Buyer promise will be much more effective than a long winded history of the kennel or the breed with the important information lost somewhere in the middle. 
COMMUNICATION = Both parties need to understand what the contract means. If you are the Breeder, be open to questions and be ready to explain. If something isn't clear then you can revise the Contract to make it easier to understand. If you are the Buyer, ask before you sign and make sure you know what the Breeder expects of you when you walk away with that puppy! Communication will hopefully continue for the life of the puppy…but it has to start before you sign on the dotted line.

Some breeder contracts I have reviewed take micromanaging to a whole new level. Telling the puppy buyer what to do with every single aspect of the dog's life can go beyond helpful to obsessive. I suspect that many judges would simply laugh at contracts that have such a restrictive list of requirements that the buyer has little say in the dog's day to day life, and would throw the whole contract out the window. 
As a Breeder - you ARE selling the dog to someone else. If you want the Contract to have meaning, don't make it unreasonable. At some point the Buyer is going to make decisions about the dog's daily life including food, activity, socialization and health - and no judge is going to take someone's dog away from them because they didn't feed the brand of kibble that the Breeder put in the contract. If you don't trust the Buyer to take care of the dog, then don't sell them a dog in the first place. 

A suggestion to Breeders for keeping the Contract clear and concise - and avoiding unreasonable micromanaging - is to give the Puppy Buyer two different Documents. One document is the CONTRACT, and the other document is a list of RECOMMENDATIONS. The Contract should focus solely on those items that are non-negotiable - what I call the "Deal Breakers". A Deal Breaker is something you are willing to fight over, and something you would ask a judge to enforce if you could. Deal Breakers might include things like spay/neuter, non-breeding, OFA x-rays and health clearances at a certain age, and listing the dog in Berner-Garde. Recommendations might include things like feeding a certain food, going to puppy class, limiting certain activities at certain ages. The Contract can refer back to the list of Recommendations as well, but the truly critical points in the puppy purchase are separated from the day to day advice on raising and training a dog. 

What constitutes a "Deal Breaker" or a Recommendation will vary from Breeder to Breeder, but if you stick to the true DEAL BREAKERS in your Contract, and put all the great advice into a separate list of Recommendations, the Contract will be much more powerful and it will be clear to any Puppy Buyer what things are simply not subject to compromise. In the painful event of a serious dispute, a court is more likely to enforce terms that are clearly spelled out as essential to the Breeder's agreement to sell the puppy in the first place. Not everything is a Deal Breaker - Remember, if the contract is too overbearing and unreasonable, it likely won't be enforceable. 

As a Breeder - What can you do to make it more likely that your Contract will be followed - and how can you enforce the terms of the contract if it's not? Of course, avoiding a dispute is the best way to go if possible since going to court is expensive and inconvenient at best, and a horrible nightmare in addition to being expensive at worst (I can say that since this is what I do for a living --) 
Some breeders use the "carrot" approach and provide incentives for Buyers to meet the terms of the Contract such as spay/neuter requirements and OFA x-rays. Incentives can include things like a financial rebate when the Buyer provides proof that the puppy has been neutered, or the Buyer provides copies of OFA x-rays or other health certifications. Some Breeders that want to encourage certain activities with the dogs they breed also offer financial incentives or rebates for titles earned.

Since the "carrot" approach doesn't work for everyone, the "Stick" can also come into play where a specific penalty is spelled out in the contract. Most courts will recognize what is known as "liquidated damages" - a specific monetary penalty that the parties agree in advance will be imposed if the terms of the contract are breached. The amount of the penalty must be clearly spelled out in the contract, and the amount can't be unreasonable or excessive. For example, if the contract is for the sale of a Bernese Mountain Dog for $2000, then courts are unlikely to impose a $25,000 penalty for the failure to xray the dog since the amount of the penalty is many times the value of the dog. But - if the penalty is for breeding the dog in violation of the contract, then a higher financial penalty would make sense, since otherwise an unscrupulous buyer could breed the dog and still make money by selling the puppies. If you want to use the "stick" approach by imposing a financial penalty, a good local lawyer could give you guidance on what would be considered an appropriate penalty in your area.

Another big "stick" to help enforce the contract is to specify that if there is a dispute and the Breeder has to bring legal action to enforce the contract, the Buyer will pay attorneys fees. One tool that I have used in breeder's contracts is a provision that any contract dispute will be handled in the court system where the breeder lives. Other options that might be available in your state to make it easier to enforce a contract include options like arbitration or small claims court. Having a local attorney help you write your contract will give you the best tools for enforcement since the ability to collect attorneys fees and other enforcement tools can vary from state to state. 

As a buyer who might feel overwhelmed by all the requirements the Breeder has in the contract - the question is - what's in it for ME? Buyers should be looking at the Contract to see not just what the Breeder requires them to do, but what has the Breeder promised to do for them? Is there any kind of Health Guarantee - for example, what will the Breeder do if the puppy is diagnosed with hip or elbow dysplasia? What does the Breeder promise or require if the Buyer is unable to keep the dog for any reason? What kind of support, if any, does the Breeder offer for the life of the dog? The contract is not just a list of what the Buyer promises to do, but it should also include what the Breeder promises to do as well. Buyers should look for responsible breeders who stand behind the dogs they breed by promising support and a willingness to take the dog back for the life of the dog. 

The most important time to look at a contract is BEFORE you fall in love with the puppy. Breeders should provide their contract to puppy buyers in advance so they can weed out potential buyers who are not compatible. Buyers should read the contract before they experience puppy blindness that will impair their ability to read and understand what the breeder requires. And a good contract does not replace open, honest communication - but a good contract is also part of that open, honest communication. Make the contract you use - or the contract you sign - the foundation for a long, happy Breeder/owner relationship.