Buying a Puppy from a Private Seller

Mira Gibson

There are 4 ways to obtain a puppy. These are:

  1. Buying the puppy from a pet store
  2. Adopting the puppy from an animal shelter
  3. Receiving the puppy as a gift from a friend, family member, acquaintance, or stranger whose dog had a litter
  4. Buying the puppy from a private seller

In this article, we’re going to focus on buying the puppy from a private seller, and the things you should know before you go that route. 

Private Puppy Sellers

The term “private seller” typically refers to a breeder. Pet stores, on the other hand, do not actually breed the puppies they sell. Instead, pet stores work with breeders–breeders which are their own, separate companies from the pet stores–and these pet stores purchase puppies from those breeders at a wholesale price. Then the pet stores sell the puppies for much more than they bought them for, otherwise known as the retail price. 

Though private sellers are not pet stores, they are breeders and they do sell their puppies at a price that’s very close to retail. 

However, the legal use of the term “private seller” varies per state. For example, New York state defines “private puppy sellers” with a specific set of criteria that are not the same as the criteria definition of “private puppy sellers” in Florida, Texas, or any other US state. 

This means that the first thing to know about buying a puppy from a private seller is that the definition of what a private seller is will depend on your state. 

In Florida where PuppyBuddy is located, there are many laws that regulate commercial breeders and pet dealers, both of which must be licensed in order to sell puppies and other animals. But there is far less regulation for what Florida terms as “hobby breeders,” who don’t have to be licensed. 

Hobby Puppy Breeders

Hobby breeders can sell no more than two litters of puppies per year. Depending on the specific county of Florida where the hobby breeder is located, they may or may not have to register with FL state. Those that do only have to register once. They are not inspected by any Florida state representatives unless a formal, legal complaint is filed against the hobby breeder. 

The government and law categorize in such a way that distinguishes hobby breeders from commercial breeders, but there is a chasm in-between the two. This is because “commercial puppy breeders” are defined as someone who breeds a large number of dogs, usually 20 or more per year. So, 2 litters per year is a hobby and 20 litters per year is “commercial.” 

What about the private puppy sellers who produce 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 litters per year? Do you see where we’re going with this? Are these sellers flying under the radar and freely functioning without any regulatory checkpoints?

The answer is, yes, it does. But this doesn’t mean that you should avoid buying a puppy from a private seller. What it does mean is that the burden of investigating and vetting the private puppy sellers that you’re considering will be on you and you alone. 

But don’t let this deter you. There are plenty of responsible, ethical private sellers out there. In fact, the whole reason a lot of these private sellers got into business was for the purposes of rejecting and avoiding working with unethical businesses, like puppy mills. Our recommendation is that you prepare yourself for the research ahead and stick with it until you find the right private seller for you. 


If you come across private puppy sellers who aren’t operating on a large enough scale to be licensed but aren’t small enough to be considered hobbyists, the good news is that you can ask them the following questions to help weed out poor breeders and hone in on an ethical one. 

Making your life even easier, you can and should ask these questions over the phone. We don’t recommend that you visit the breeder yet to ask these questions, and the reason for that is because, on site, the puppies will probably severely cloud your judgment. Who can continue conversations about breeding practices when there are adorable puppies who need you to pet them right now! 

When you’re on the phone with a private seller be aware that they will probably have questions for you, too. Those questions may not occur during the initial phone call, and that’s okay. But reputable puppy sellers, before they home their puppies, have a process to screen the prospective puppy owners, which is good news. They do this in order to avoid having irresponsible people buy puppies and then try to return those puppies days or weeks down the road when they realize they cannot properly care for the animals. 

Here Are The Questions To Ask:

  • Are you required by state law to be a licensed breeder, and if so, can you provide evidence of your license? According to the number of litters they manage, the breeder may or may not be licensed, but most reputable private sellers who produce 3 or more litters will obtain a license to substantiate their ethics.
  • Can I see the puppies with their mother at the place where they’re being weaned? Puppies from private sellers should always be seen with their mother at the place where they were born and are being weaned. If the breeder gives you a lot of excuses as to why you can’t see the puppies, be very skeptical of them.
  • Have the parents been screened for health conditions relevant to the breed, and can you show me the health reports? Many purebred dog breeds are susceptible to specific genetic disorders. Reputable breeders know about the common disorders of the breed they specialize in and they involve vets in their breeding and weaning practices to test for disorders and monitor the health of their puppies. This is to say that reputable private sellers only use breeding dogs that are in excellent genetic health so as to massively reduce any chances of their puppies having health issues.
  • How many litters has the mother dog had? Veterinarians across the board, as well as the American Kennel Club, agree that a female dog should not have more than 4 litters in her lifetime.
  • How old is the mother dog? Veterinarians across the board, as well as the American Kennel Club, agree that a female dog should not breed if she is younger than 1 year or older than 8 years.
  • Can I visit the puppies a few times before I decide to buy one? Again, the private seller should expect and be accustomed to their potential customers seeing and visiting the puppies prior to purchasing one. This has to be within reason, of course, since puppies sleep most of the time and need to be with their mother. But if a private seller refuses to allow you to see the puppies at all until they’re on sale on the market, then that is a major red flag that their breeding standards are low.
  • At what age will the puppies be able to leave their mother? The general industry standard is 8 weeks old. Commercial breeders who supply puppies to pet stores, as part of their regulation requirements, will not release puppies that are younger than 8 weeks. But unregulated and disreputable private sellers may opt to “move merchandise” and sell their puppies as soon as a buyer is interested.  

Hopefully, this article has provided you with a foundation to begin researching puppy breeders near you. On behalf of everyone at PuppyBuddy, we thank you for being responsible and going the extra mile to make sure you aren’t inadvertently and accidentally supporting a puppy mill. If you happen to be in the Boca Raton area, we invite you to meet our puppies and learn about the ethical breeders we work with!