Should you buy a puppy or a partly trained dog?
It's a very long road from buying a puppy to taking part in your first trial. This can be daunting for a novice handler but, on the other hand, if you buy a puppy you can be sure it hasn't developed any bad habits.
If you buy an older dog you could be trialling earlier, but the settling-in time is unpredictable and the dog may have some bad habits which will prove very difficult to resolve. There's always a reason for someone selling a dog, whether fully or partly trained, but this doesn't have to be a bad thing.
A bad dog for one handler can be a trial winner for another. As I mentioned earlier, a change of owner can be of great benefit to a dog - a fresh approach can sometimes bring out its best.
Generally, you won't go too far wrong if you follow some simple guidelines.
Buy from a good source of working stock relevant to the type of work you want to do with the dog. Puppies are SO cheap that you can buy a son or daughter of a Supreme International champion for only a few hundred pounds, and the offspring of equally good dogs for slightly less, but don't think that buying the son of the number one sheepdog in the world will give you a winner - it's just a part of the story. Even if a pup is equal to his sire or dam (and breeding doesn't work like that), the rest is up to you - the trainer and handler - but buying from a good line is the best start.
Come to a clear understanding with the seller that you can bring the pup back and have a full refund within a certain period of time if you don't like it or if it proves to have some sort of fault. But generally, go with your instinct - if you like the look of the pup, it could well be right for you but try to avoid buying the cutest - or one which cowers in the corner when it sees a stranger.