Row of white dogs

Where To Buy A Dog In Australia?
Breeders Vs Shelters

Written By Olivia De Santos | Canine Coach, Professional Writer & Video Content Creator.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | Double B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 7th January 2024

So, you’re taking the plunge into pet parenthood. It’s a huge decision so congratulations!

You’re probably wondering now where is best to find the perfect dog for you. Should you adopt from shelters, buy online or seek out a breeder.

This article will give as balanced a view as possible on where to buy a dog. We’ll also give you specific locations in Australia to buy a dog, to take out the guesswork for you.

Five rescue dogs

Are You Ready To Buy A Dog? Quick Checklist

While I do not doubt that you have taken some extra time to think this through, I just want to throw in a quick checklist to doubly make sure you’re ready to buy a dog:

  1. 1
    Have you worked out your finances and made plans in your budget for a pet?
    You need to plan for veterinary trips, vaccinations, worming tablets, food, toys, bedding, walking gear, crates, carriers, grooming tools and emergencies.
  2. 2
    Have you created a doggy wishlist listing the ideal age, size and activity level for your household?
  3. 3
    Have you discussed the prospect of owning a dog with all members of your household?
    Who will be primarily responsible for the dog’s care? Or how will you be splitting duties?
  4. 4
    Have you tested to see if any member of the household is allergic to dogs?
  5. 5
    If you’re renting, have you discussed the prospect of owning a dog with your landlord?
  6. 6
    Have you worked out how you will fit in weekly/daily walks into your current routine?
  7. 7
    Do you have prior experience with dogs? If not, have you done plenty of research to improve your skills?
  8. 8
    Have you identified a local vet and familiarised yourself their fee structure?
  9. 9
    Are you prepared to approach this process with patience and an open mind?

If you answered yes to all, congratulations! You’re officially ready to buy a dog.

Note: Though I said we would be as balanced as possible, I have to confess. We do have an ever so slight hierarchy here when it comes to places to buy a dog. Almost all on this list have their pros and cons of course. We’ll discuss all of that so you can make the best decision for yourself. But overall, dog lovers and experts tend to agree with this particular order.

Related: New Puppy Checklist - What You Need To Bring Home

Read on to learn why.

All About Dog Shelters

We know what you’re thinking.

Wouldn’t getting a dog from an animal shelter be adopting a dog?

Yes and no. It is technically adoption, but you can rarely pick up a dog completely for free. There is always an adoption fee attached that will cover microchipping, initial vet checks, vaccinations and sometimes desexing surgery. Depending on the shelter, you may also be gifted some dog food, toys and a bed to get you started.

Related: Private ‘Home-to-Home’ Dog Adoption: What You Must Know

So in the semantic essence of a “purchase” meaning the exchange of money for something, buying a dog from a shelter would still qualify.

But more importantly, we place animal shelters at the top of this list because not enough people are buying dogs from animal shelters. Although there was a huge increase in dog adoptions during the pandemic, that dream state didn’t last. (1) Unfortunately, there are multiple shelters across Australia claiming that the number of surrendered dogs is increasing post-pandemic as people go back to work. (2)

Related: How Do I Verify a Dog Breeder in Australia?

And we’re not here to demonise those people. Maybe some people rushed into the decision, not realising how taxing pet care can be. Maybe they have a surprise quarantine baby they weren’t expecting and can’t financially handle both a pet and a little one. These are potential reasons that the number of animals in shelters is rising.

Myths About Dog Shelters

I can hear the potential protests you have about adopting. So let’s dispel those myths now:

  1. You can only adopt elderly or adult dogs from shelters

I have two arguments for this.

The first being, this is simply not true. Plenty of puppies are surrendered to shelters every day. Even the finest breeds can end up in shelters. My dog Blue was found in a garden at 4 weeks old which was when I met her in a rescue centre. I volunteered at her shelter every day until she was 8 weeks old and able to come home with me.

My second argument against this is why does age matter so much? Have you considered adopting an older dog? Older dogs can be sweet, kind, obedient and loving. They may have more experience with young children and a docile nature.

Alternatively, you have old dogs with the spirits of puppies. My youngest, Pip, is 11 years old. But he acts like a 1 year old with brave leaps and exuberant energy.

Figure out exactly why you want a puppy. Maybe you don’t.

  1. Dogs in rescue centres have behavioural issues

This one is a complex issue. For a start, there’s no guarantee that the puppy you buy from a breeder will be a perfect angel either. So you always run the risk of buying a dog that’s unruly in some way.

While some dogs in rescue centres could be more difficult on the behaviour scale, it’s not always the case. Many dogs end up in shelters because their owner has died or is moving away. It’s nothing to do with their temperament at all. They are the loveliest dogs in the world. 

Staff at a reputable rescue shelter will know the personalities of all of their dogs. That means they can more adequately match you to a pup that compliments your experience level with dogs and family situation.

  1. Dogs in rescue centres carry diseases

Rescue shelter dogs are probably the healthiest dogs around. They are tended to by a vet often. They’ll most likely receive their vaccinations and worming tablets while in care. If anything goes wrong at all, they are cared for instantly. Pre-existing conditions are always fully detailed to any potential adopter and you can decide whether to take that on or not. Wounds are healed. Medication is given. Daily exercise is a must. Balanced diets are standard.

As I said, I’ve adopted dogs and both are doing wonderfully well into their old age. You will never meet a healthier dog than one at a rescue centre.

Top Tips On Buying A Dog At A Shelter

  1. Choose a reputable shelter

    Lucky for you, we have listed various excellent shelters in Australia to take the guesswork out for you!
  2. Bring all members of your household along to the rescue centre to meet your dog

    You don’t have to bring your household from the very beginning as it can overwhelm a dog to meet several people at once. But all members of your household must meet the dog and interact with them before you bring them home. That’s important whether you are living with family, friends or acquaintances. Everyone must form their own bond.
  3. Brush up on the terms of your adoption

    Each dog adoption centre has different fee structures, inclusions, terms and conditions. Make sure you know what your chosen shelter is offering by way of support.

So, if you’re in the market for a new dog, consider going to a local animal shelter first. We have listed some excellent, well-reviewed dog shelters in the list below for you to check out.

Even if you don’t find your perfect match there, it’s always worth looking! You never know which pooch will steal your heart.

All About Breeders

The next port of call when looking for a dog to buy is directly from a breeder. A good one.

Many people like to buy from breeders because they will buy a brand new puppy with pure blood in your chosen breed. This can be attractive if you intend to compete with your dog or breed puppies yourself.

Bred puppies tend to be bought very early in life. I’m talking a few weeks old. The age at which you can legally take a puppy home varies from state to state in Australia. We’ve added that information in the later section.

That’s not to say that you can’t purchase a puppy before you meet them. Many breeders start to advertise a new litter before their dog has given birth. You can meet the mother and place a reservation to meet the puppies when it’s time.

About Breeding Laws

We’ll go into detail about the breeding laws in each State in the later sections. However, all reputable breeders should have:

  • A license to breed dogs
  • Adequate facilities to breed dogs that align with the local animal protection laws. Each State has different laws for animal welfare. There isn’t a unifying welfare law in Australia.
  • They should be fit to be a breeder. Meaning that they are knowledgeable about the dog breed and do not encourage punishing mating cycles as puppy mills do. More on that later.
  • Can provide medical records for their puppies

Top Tips For Finding A Breeder

  1. Ask for recommendations

    If a friend has recently purchased a dog, ask them about the breeder they used. If not, a local trustworthy vet should have some contacts for reputable breeders in the area. (3)
  2. Always visit the breeder’s facilities and meet the parents

    A good breeder will always allow you to meet the parents of your soon-to-be puppy. This allows you to get to know the temperament of the parents. You can also watch out for any health concerns. Are the parents comfortable, well-fed and well cared for before, during and after the pregnancy?
  3. Make sure they care about your ability to care for a dog

    Of course, when interviewing a breeder, you are concerned with how they operate. But a sign of a good breeder is a little counter interviewing. Rescue shelters do this too. If a breeder truly cares, they’ll make sure that their puppies are going to loving homes.

A Warning About Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are essentially breeders gone wrong. They are large scale commercial breeding facilities. Improper conditions are common in these situations but not necessary to qualify. The qualifying factor to be a puppy mill is the overbreeding of dogs to create hundreds of puppies per year. (4) The aim is to make as much money as possible. Often to the detriment of the health of those puppies and their parents.

Signs Of A Puppy Mill

  • The breeder has multiple breeds available. Particularly “designer” breeds
  • The breeder refuses to show you the breeding facilities or introduce you to the parents
  • The breeder has no interest in knowing your suitability for being a dog owner and doesn’t offer any support after you’ve bought a puppy
  • If you do get to visit, conditions are poor. Dogs are kept in cages.

If you suspect a puppy mill may be operating in your area, or you’ve seen one, report them to the local authorities.

Buying A Dog Online

The final place to find a dog is online. The beauty of the internet is bringing everything you could want to you within a couple of clicks. But how safe is it to buy a dog online?

The Dangers of Buying a Dog Online

  1. You could be buying from a puppy mill or a bad breeder and not know it

    If you complete an online purchase without visiting, you could fall prey to all sorts of dodgy breeding practices. You effectively end up funding and encouraging these puppy farms too. Puppy farms thrive on online marketplaces because they can have multiple ads for their multiple breeds available. It’s much harder to identify their poor practices online.
  2. You could be scammed

    Many online scammers use cute puppy photos to entice unsuspecting new dog owners. A common scam involves deposits. They ask for a deposit to put you on a waitlist for new puppies and then you can visit the facility. You pay the deposit and all of a sudden the seller disappears. You’ve been scammed!
  3. Pricing can be unclear

    Ever seen an ad on Gumtree that advertises a rock bottom price, but that’s not the reality? Because online marketplaces are so saturated most want to get their listing viewed or clicked on by as many people as possible. Therefore, the price and listing may be 'click-batey' and never reveal the true cost of the puppies. 

Top Tips For Buying a Dog Online

  1. Never pay a deposit before visiting a breeder’s space

    This is to prevent you from getting scammed of course. But it’s also to review the breeder thoroughly and make sure you’re getting a healthy pup.
  2. Search widely

    Use all of the tools on the internet to find your potential pup. Hotspots are Gumtree and Facebook marketplace.
  3. Review the information given about the puppies thoroughly

    Typically a more professional outlook leads to more professional interactions. Trust your gut as you speak to online sellers. How knowledgeable are they about the breed? What is their booking process? Are they attentive and friendly? Trust your gut as online shopping for dogs is complex. This is the riskiest way to buy a dog.

Where To Buy A Dog in Australia

Below we have a list of well-reviewed dog rescue shelters for you to check out. If you prefer to contact a breeder, we’ve also left information for the local breeding laws in each location.

Where To Buy A Dog in Sydney

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • Breeders are bound by the following laws: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 2006 and the Animal Welfare Code of Practice.
  • The breeder must microchip and register the dogs. They can then transfer ownership of the dog on the microchip register.
  • Must be registered with the Royal New South Wales Canine Council Limited or other accredited breeder organisation.

Where To Buy A Dog in Melbourne

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • Must comply with the following laws: Domestic Animal Act 1994 (the DA Act), Domestic Animal Regulations 2015, Code of practice for the operation of breeding and rearing businesses 2014 (revision 2018)
  • Microbreeders do not need to register as a domestic animal (breeding) business (DAB). They also don’t have to comply with the Code of practice for the operation of breeding and rearing businesses 2014 (revision 2018). A microbreeder is a breeder that only has max 2 fertile female dogs.
  • Recreational breeders are breeders with 10 or less fertile female dogs. They don’t have to register with their local council as a Domestic Animal Business (DAB) or comply with the Code. However, they must be registered with a breeder organisation with regulations.
  • If a breeder isn’t registered with an organisation and has between 3 and 10 female dogs, they need to register as a DAB and comply with the code.
  • Commercial breeders are permitted to have between 11 and 50 female dogs. They are subject to audits and must comply with the various laws stated above.

Where To Buy A Dog in Perth

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards:

  • The breeding of dogs is unregulated in Western Australia. In 2021, a new bill was proposed to end puppy farming in the state, the Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021. It’s not yet ratified into law. Be wary of who you purchase dogs from.

Where To Buy A Dog in Brisbane

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • The breeder must be registered on the Queensland Dog Breeders Register
  • The breeder must complete a change of ownership form when they sell a dog

Where To Buy A Dog in Adelaide

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • Dog welfare is protected by the following laws: Animal Welfare Act 1985 and Animal Welfare Regulations 2012.
  • Dog breeders must be registered on Dogs and Cats Online.
  • Breeders must adhere to local advertising rules, including displaying their breeder number.
  • Dogs must be microchipped before selling them. They then must transfer ownership after the sale.
  • Breeders need to provide you with a sales certificate.
  • Dogs must be desexed within 28 days of purchase and before they are 6 months old.

Where To Buy A Dog in Darwin

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • Breeders must be registered with the local council

Where To Buy A Dog in Hobart

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards:

  • Breeders must comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1993 Tasmania
  • Puppies must be vaccinated and microchipped before the sale
  • Breeders must be registered
  • Breeders must provide you with all medical records and documentation
  • Puppies should not be rehomed before they’re 8 weeks old

Where To Buy A Dog in Canberra

Best Rescue Centres:

Breeding Standards: 

  • Breeders must have a breeding license.
  • Breeders undergo intensive inspection periodically to ensure they’re not endangering animals.
  • Breeders can only breed dogs between 18 months and six years old, with a limit of four litters per dog.

My Final Thoughts

We hope this article gave you the confidence to go out and find your new furry friend. Remember to take your time to click with the right puppy or dog before bringing them home.

Your dog could live well into their teen years, so don’t rush this process. You have plenty of time to make memories together once you find each other!


  1. Roy, T. April 5, 2020. “Coronavirus restrictions see demand for pets surge as shelters issue warning to prospective owners”. ABC Australia. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  2. “Shelters in Crisis as People Surrender ‘Pandemic Puppies’”. April 1, 2021. PETA Australia. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  3. Buzhardt, L & Llera, R. “How to Choose a Good Dog Breeder”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  4. Geier, E. “How Do You Spot a Puppy Mill or Puppy Mill Ad?”. Rover. August 20, 2023.

Olivia De Santos

Olivia De Santos is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer and Video Content Creator.

Olivia has over 10 years of experience writing professionally and is a dog Mum to Pip, her Podengo and Blue, her Flat-coated Retriever. She loves writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners.

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