In your quest to find the perfect furry companion, understanding the pitfalls of puppy farms and designer dog trends is paramount. These practices not only compromise animal welfare but also pose risks to your future pup's health and temperament. 

The first step in avoiding a puppy farm is to understand what it is, you then need to know how and where they sell their pups. Getting as much information before buying a pup can save you a lot of expense and heartache in the future. 

What is a Puppy Farm?

At its core, a puppy farm is a profit-driven commercial dog breeding facility.  It puts profits before animal welfare and often has substandard conditions regarding the well-being of dogs in their care. Due to the frequently poor breeding conditions in puppy farms, puppies bred there often suffer from health and  social problems. Puppies raised in a cramped environment shared by many other dogs become poorly socialised to other dogs and to humans.

Dogs produced from a puppy farm are more likely to develop respiratory ailments and pneumonia, as well as hereditary defects such as hip dysplasia. As well as this, puppy farm dogs are predisposed to have problems with their temperament. Puppies from farms are usually sold as purebred dogs in an attempt to attract the higher prices associated with purebreds. However, due to the indiscriminate breeding practices of puppy farms, the dog may not actually be a purebred puppy. They may not even be a cross breed of the type advertised. The vast majority of puppy farm animals are sold online through classifieds sites. They are sold by dealers masquerading as authentic breeders.

Certain cross breeds have also become popular and are often sold by puppy farmers. Breeds such as Cavachon, Cavapoo, Cockapoos or anything called a teacup breed are generally sold from puppy farmers. 

We will cover the following areas is more detail now. Click the links or scroll down to read more.

Difference between a puppy farm and a backyard breeder

Designer dogs - What are you really buying?

How To Tell If I Am Buying From A Puppy Farm

Puppy Buying Checklist 

Difference between a puppy farm and a backyard breeder

A large scale puppy farm will probably have started out at first as a backyard breeder. This is someone who is breeding dogs purely for profit but may only have one or two breeding bitches. They may keep the breeding dogs as their own pets. They will have little experience and breed without care for the health and welfare of the animals. A puppy farm is the same but on a much larger scale. 

Because a backyard breeder may not have as many dogs they will not be covered under the Dog Breeding Establishments Act, 2010, which came into force at the beginning of 2012. It establishes regulations for anyone keeping six or more female dogs which are more than six months old and are capable of breeding.

There were 73 registered puppy farms in Ireland in 2016. By 2018 there were at least 258 registered dog breeding establishments. According to the ISPCA these farms are capable of producing 30,000 puppies a year. It is estimated that some puppy farms have up to 500 breeding animals at any time. 

Given the large number of pups that will be available for sale between puppy farms and backyard breeders, it can make it very difficult to avoid them when looking to get a pup. 

Designer dogs - What are you really buying?

A designer dog is a crossbreed that has been intentionally bred to create a certain mix of dogs. They are then given a catchy name and are sold for a high price, often now for much higher than a purebred pup. These types of dogs exist simply to create demand for a new “product”. People acquiring designer dogs may make their acquisition decisions based on both aesthetics and misconceptions about the dogs. 

Some examples of designer dog breeds - 

Cavachon - Cavalier king charles spaniel and a bichon frise.

Cockapoos - Poodle and a cocker spaniel.

Labradoodle - Labrador retriever and a standard or miniature poodle.

Cavapoo- Cavalier king charles spaniel and a poodle.

Sprocker - Cocker spaniel and a springer spaniel.

Goldendoodle - Poodle and a golden retriever.

A study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in 2022, revealed a huge demand for designer crossbreed dogs in the UK between 2019 and 2020. Based on what I have seen on online adverts I suspect the same demand has been seen in Ireland also. The RVC believe the reason for this increase is that people think they are more hypoallergenic, generally healthy, easy to train and good with children. 

The study also suggested that this increased demand poses a significant risk to the health and welfare of these designer dogs due to high demand leading to poor breeding and to buyers unintentionally supporting puppy farming and illegal importation of underage puppies. Compared to purebreds there seems to be a reduced emphasis on pre-breeding health checks of the parents. This could lead to an increase of hereditary conditions. 

Cavalier king charles is always a popular breed to be used as designer cross breeds but these dogs have significant problems with inherited heart disease, with the result that many cavalier crosses will also develop heart failure in middle and old age. A quick search for medical issues with Cavachons shows Atopic Dermatitis as a common issue. It is an allergic skin disease that manifests as itchiness and reddening of the skin. The ears, lips, paws, and bottom are the areas most often affected, with signs appearing from as young as four months of age in some pups. When I was 12 my parents got me a pup that was a cross between a west highland terrier and a pug. It was bought from what we now know was a puppy farm. It suffered badly from Atopic Dermatitis. Seeing this dog suffer for its entire life is the reason I run this website. I don’t wish for any family to unwittingly support the puppy farm industry. Click here for the article: Seymour - Life Of A Puppy Farmed Dog

There is another common misconception that designer dogs have better temperaments than their parent breeds. While people may acquire crossbred dogs thinking that they will have better health and temperaments than their parents, those assumptions are not necessarily true. The goldendoodle for example is noted as often having increased levels of aggression than that of a golden retriever or poodle. 

These so-called designer dogs are also an issue for animal rescue organisations. For example as they are advertised as hypoallergenic even without any strong evidence to support this in studies of designer dogs. Allergies are a common reason given to animal rescues for the surrendering of a dog, often within a few months of buying a dog.  

How To Tell If I Am Buying From A Puppy Farm

This is not an easy task but does become easier once you have an idea of what to look out for. Below we will list the most obvious ‘red flags’ to watch out for. If in doubt, walk away!

They create designer breeds by mixing dogs 

This is the quickest way to spot a puppy farm dog. By buying a designer dog you are supporting the puppy farm industry, whether they are from a farm or a backyard breeder. Sourcing a designer dog from a reputable breeder is a near impossible task. 

They advertise online

The majority of responsible breeders do not advertise in classified ads on the internet and in newspapers. If you do see a pup online that you think might be from a good breeder do some further checks. Search the mobile number or other contact details to see if any other ads come up with different breeds from the same person. 

Done Deal was once the best place to search for pups online. Back in August 2020 they shut down their dog section of the website and have not reinstated it. They stated at the time that it was removed while they work on ‘further solutions to improve animal welfare and in light of unprecedented demand in Ireland”. Done Deal said it is not possible for its customer service team to manually review every ad placed. There are other dog sale websites in Ireland that are much smaller enterprises so I feel if Done Deal was not able to put the resources into properly vetting the sellers of dogs on their website then the others are not doing it either. 

They sell teacup or miniatures of breeds

Teacup dogs are often dogs that were born prematurely and carry greatly increased health risks. They are prone to heart failure, dental problems, behavioral and temperamental problems and various other complications, many of which are causes of their relatively short lifespans. An example of breeds that are often sold as ‘teacup are yorkshire terrier, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Maltese, Shih Tzus or Bichon Frise

They don’t show you the parents of the pup 

Ask to see the mother and if possible the father of the pup and the other litter mates if they are still with the breeder.  Meeting the parents will let you see their temperament which will give you an idea of how your puppy may behave in later life. Also ask to see the area where the mother and pups are kept. While this might not always be possible you can judge the seller based on their response to the question.

They will deliver or meet you at a location away from their home 

A breeder will often offer to deliver a pup to your home or meet you in a car park before you have seen it at their home and claim this is to make the sale more convenient for both parties. This is a common way for breeders to prevent people from seeing the conditions the pups have been raised in and will also prevent them being approached after the sale if there are any issues with the dog. You will have no idea where they live and they can easily change their number after the sale. 

The pup is not vet checked 

The pup should come with vaccination information signed by the vet. They should also give information on food, vaccinations, worming etc. Prior to buying the dog ask to see its medical records. Take note of the details and advise the seller that you will contact the vet to confirm the information given is correct. A reputable seller will have no issue with this. Puppy farms may sell a pup with fake medical records meaning the pup has not been vaccinated or may not be microchipped. 

They aren’t registered with the IKC but the parents are

It currently costs 20euro register a pup with the Irish Kennel Club. If a breeder claims that both parents of the pup are IKC registered then the pups should also be registered. IKC will not register more than one litter a year from a dog. They will also not register pups if the mother isn't over one year of age or if the mother is over eight years of age. They can have no more than six litters in their lifetime. This is for the health and well-being of the breeding dog.

They don’t ask you any questions 

Be suspicious if the breed doesn’t ask questions of you. A responsible breeder will want to ensure that their dogs are going to good homes.

If you suspect that the breeder is a puppy farmer, do not buy from them. Sometimes people will see dogs and pups in bad condition and feel sorry for them and buy them. This only gives the breeder more money and they will continue to breed dogs. Instead report what you have seen. Give as much information about the breeder to your local ISPCA.

The ISPCA urges anybody who is aware of an illegal puppy farm to contact the society at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Puppy Buying Checklist 

While we will always recommend adopting from a rescue we know that not everyone will go this route. If you do decide to search for a puppy to buy online then make sure to do your research. The following is a short checklist of some of the main warning signs to look out for. 

Age of the puppy - Must be 8 weeks or older. 

Puppies cannot leave their mothers before 8 weeks of age 

Suspicious Advert - Not including photos or stock images of the same breed used

Take note of how the pups look in the photos and the surroundings. Do they look healthy? If you ask for additional photos of the dog, is the seller happy to provide them?

Legal Requirements - All pups must be microchipped

This is a legal requirement before the puppy is sold, or at 12 weeks of age, whichever comes first 

Health Requirements - All pups should be vaccinated

Puppies should be vaccinated by a vet at 6-9 weeks of age, with a second round at 10-12 weeks. Vaccination should not take place before 6 weeks. Confirm the vaccination certificate is genuine and is signed and stamped by a vet. 

View the mother of the pups

Ask to view the pup with the mother. There is no reason the seller should not allow this. 

View the puppy at the owner's house only

Do not accept a pup by delivery or meeting in a halfway location. 

Payment - Do not pay a deposit without viewing the pup

A seller should not accept any part of payment before they have shown you the pup.


As you embark on your journey to find the perfect canine companion, remember that knowledge is your most powerful tool. By understanding the nuances of puppy farms, designer dogs, and responsible breeding practices, you can make an informed decision that prioritizes animal welfare and enhances your family's happiness for years to come.


About Rescue Animals Ireland

Rescue Animals Ireland aims to provide valuable resources and educational materials on responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, and the benefits of adopting from shelters. It also aims to raise awareness about the importance of adopting rather than buying pets, emphasizing the positive impact it has on both animals and their new owners.