So, you've decided to buy a puppy - where do you look?
There are many places to find Labrador puppies, but as with everything in life, it is very much a case of ‘buyer beware’ and ‘do your own research’. This is a purchase which should be given as least as much thought as buying a new car – a Labrador will (hopefully!) be with you for between 10 and 15 years and will be a major part of your family. Imagine if something went wrong – just think how upset your kids would be that their playmate couldn’t play anymore, or how badly your bank account would be affected if your puppy had to have a major operation because of joint problems (this can easily be thousands of pounds)! Buying from a reputable breeder who has carried out all the health tests required on the parents is no absolute guarantee of a trouble-free future, but it does make it far, far more likely to happen.
No matter how good the source of the litter details, ALWAYS check the paperwork BEFORE you look at the puppies. Any breeder worth their salt will be happy to let you do this; if they are not, walk away. Once you have looked at those little bundles of fluff, with their little waggy tails and cute faces, you may well find that all sensible thoughts will leave your mind and you feel you are obliged to hand over your money as ‘that puppy in the corner is the only one for you!’ Remember, there are plenty of Labrador puppies out there, and if the litter you are looking at does not tick ALL the boxes, you WILL find one (usually quickly and easily!) which does.
· Breed Clubs
This is far and away the best place to start looking, as litters listed by breed clubs are only bred by members and only from health tested parents. There are many Labrador breed clubs around Britain; there will be one covering your area, and they nearly all have ‘puppy coordinators’ who hold details of litters available. The puppy coordinator should also be able to answer any questions you might have with regards to what to look out for, or whether a Labrador is the right breed for you. For a list of breed clubs, have a look at the links page.
There are 13 labrador clubs in the UK, 12 regional and 1 nationwide. They all have puppy registers for members with health-tested litters; most reputable show and trial breeders haven't increased their prices unreasonably and generally don't need to advertise but will often notify their breed club if they have any availability. Expect to pay somewhere between £1200 and £1500 for a well bred puppy from health tested parents; please be aware that many good breeders don't usually need to advertise their litters. There is currently an abundance of puppies available - be choosy and make sure to get the best puppy you can for your money (eg, buy from someone who knows how to rear puppies well, does all the health tests (hips, elbows, BVA eyes, one parent DNA clear for the Kennel Club recognised tests, prcd-PRA, EIC, CNM, SD2, HNPK, MCD and STGD).
Cotswold & Wyvern Labrador Retriever Club
East Anglian Labrador Retriever Club
Kent Surrey & Sussex Labrador Retriever Club
Labrador Retriever Club of Northern Ireland
Labrador Retriever Club of Wales
Midland Counties Labrador Retriever Club
Northumberland & Durham Labrador Retriever Club
North West Labrador Retriever Club
The Labrador Retriever Club - (UK wide)
The Yellow Labrador Club
The Labrador Club of Scotland
Three Ridings Labrador Club
West of England Labrador Retriever Club
These guys do their best to only allow reputable breeders to advertise with them. This is not infallible, but if you find a kennel where things are not as they should be, please let them know – they have strict rules for breeders using their site.
· The Kennel Club
The Kennel Club has lists of breeder in each area who have recently registered puppies. At the top of each page, marked with a white rose, are the Accredited Breeders. These are breeders who have paid to join the scheme, but who have also agreed to adhere to a minimum health testing policy. For Labradors, this is simply hip scoring and eye testing as mandatory, with Optigen testing and elbow scoring being recommended. This doesn’t mean that these breeders have done Optigen and elbows, nor that no other breeders on the list have, but it does mean that AT THE VERY LEAST the parents are hip scored and eye tested. Accredited breeders are not disallowed from breeding from dogs with high hip scores though, so again be careful about the actual results for the parents.
· Other advertisements; online/local paper/free-ads
These can be useful, as there are some reputable breeders who will advertise in this way. There are also, however, many adverts for puppies which are from non health tested parents, or which are not KC registered. Usually there is a big difference in price, but not always. It is always VERY important to ask the relevant questions about the parents’ registration and health test status BEFORE arranging a visit; if there is anything missing then please do not even consider going to look at the puppies.