Your Questions: 'Is it safe to buy a dog online?'

Q. Finally, I'm in a position to own my first dog. I've been doing lots of research on the internet and I was thinking about buying one online. But is this a safe thing to? Do I have to do any checks on the breeders? Joanne, Dartford

A. First, have you considered getting a rescue dog? There are so many dogs out there desperately needing good homes and many of them were probably impulse buys over the internet in the first place. In some cases buying a puppy is as easy as a couple of clicks online. This is an appalling practice and should be avoided at all costs.

Never buy a puppy if the breeder offers to meet you at a train or service station or even if he offers to bring it to your home. You must meet both the puppy and its mother in their home surroundings. This will give you a clear indication of the mother's temperament and, hopefully, the puppy's future personality. If, for example, you go to see a young cocker spaniel with a very yappy and aggressive mother who won't let you near her puppies, then think twice. Some of this behaviour could be replicated in her offspring – which means they could be possessive over food, toys and even bedding.

Remember, too, that some breeders just want to sell you the puppy at all costs, even if you aren't a suitable owner, so don't take your wallet on the first visit. If you fall in love with the dog – something it's hard not to do when faced with a cute puppy – you'll put a deposit down and want to take it home even if you know it's unsuitable for you.

Far better to use the internet as a tool to research the breed clubs, which in turn will recommend reputable breeders. If the breeder is good, they will inform you about the pros and cons of the breed you're interested in, as well as whether you are likely to make a suitable owner. You may have to wait a while. The Kennel Club will be able to give you a list of all the breed clubs. That's a good way to start.

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended