You've seen a puppy online and have chatted with the seller over email. You've seen the photos and it all seems ok - how can you tell if this breeder is legitimate?
Stop! The internet is awash with puppy millers selling their 'product' for top dollar. By bypassing pet shops and hiding behind aliases they avoid regulation and increase their profits.
If you don't meet your breeder in person at their premises you'll have little recourse should your pet have genetic issues, arrive sick or even be a different breed to the one you were promised.
Some of the warning signs you should take note of are:
Reputable breeders specialise and become experts in one or two breeds. If the person you're dealing with breeds many different sorts of dogs, or lots of cross breeds then there's a good chance you're dealing with a farmer.
A good check is to put their email address into google and see what comes up - it might just be a history of many, many pets sold.
They’ll tell you 'doodles' are hypoallergenic and crosses are the best of both breeds, but cross bred dogs are really just mutts - don't be fooled into paying top dollar for them.
Shelters are a great source of cross bred pets; except your 'designer doodle' will be called by it's real name: a poodle cross.
A good breeder is involved in showing, obedience and their local breed club, with breeding being a 'side project' to them being active dog lovers.
While it might seem like a good idea to deal with a 'breeding specialist', the process of being born is only one tiny part of a dogs lifetime. Your dog should be healthy, active, smart and good with people and strangers. It should be flexible, easy-going, well balanced and friendly. It should be adaptable and able to fit into a family unit and be able to be taken out into the community.
A person who lives a doggy life and demonstrates all these things with their own dogs, will likely go on to produce great puppies - a person who is good at putting dogs in pens and breeding them is not who you want in charge of creating your next family member.
Ask for their references and check them. Ask their vet how often they breed. Contact a member of their breed club and ask how often they compete. If they show dogs, ask to see their results (showing is more than just 'prettiness' - it demonstrates an interest in their dogs health and care).
Ask to visit the breeder personally and see how the dogs live. Meet the parent dogs of your puppy - they should be happy-go-lucky and good with visitors (because you want that in your new dog!).
Be aware that puppy millers often use families as a front to sell puppies. Ensure that the people you are dealing with actually bred the puppies and that they personally own the parent dog.