Choosing your Breeder

Breeder Red Flags:

    Breeders that denigrate others, specifically other breeders or even breeds in order to self promote.  A breeder's stock and progeny, their dog's
    performance and titles, along with references, should speak for itself.  Remember, if a breeder talks about others, you could be next.  As research,
    pull up this year's Westminster Best of Breed winners and visit their websites.  Note the type of information available, the breeder's style, approach,
    and how many litters they whelp.  These are the best of the best for their breed and can set a standard for what you may want to see when looking
    at other breeder's information.

    Won't let you see the puppy's parents (the sire may not be on site, which is normal, but you should be able to see the dam and at least view
    photos and obtain history on the sire.  The breeder should be knowledgeable about the sire and why he was used.

    Won't let you see where the dogs are bred, puppies are whelped and reared.

    Won't let you see the litter.  **Note:  Some breeders choose the puppy for you based on the puppy's temperament and your interview.  This is
    perfectly fine, but you should be able to see the litter.

    Cannot produce registration papers for the parents.

    Does not have the registration papers for the current litter of puppies.

    Has no pedigrees on either of the parents.  (While DNA may not be required, it is a plus as it verifies parentage.)

    None of his puppies come with health guarantees.

    None of his dogs have been checked for genetic diseases.

    None of the dogs have received OFA or PENNHip hip certifications.  
    Hip problems cannot be confirmed by watching a dog move.  Hip health cannot be confirmed without x-rays regardless of what you are told.  
    Some severely dysplastic dogs exhibit no symptoms.   A puppy is born dysplastic or not; how dysplasia and DJD manifest in time and
    severity can be affected by environment, however, the underlying reason is genetic.  Dysplasia occurs in most every breed.  It has not been
    eradicated.  While any 2 dogs can produce sound hips or dysplastic hips, ethical breeders submit x-rays to OFA or PENNHip.   
    Important Note:  These two organization are the recognized standard for hip evaluation.  Any breeder that makes up his own terms for hip
    health or claims to have better information than either of these two respected organizations, in my opinion, is a huge red flag.  

    None of his dogs have been checked for other diseases known to affect the breed he produces.  Depending on the breed, those tests could
    include Elbow OFA,Thyroid, Heart, Eyes (CERF), TLI, etc.  **Note:  Research the breed and know what tests to request.

    Does not want to know if anything has happened to your dog (that came from him).

    Breeds a lot of unrecognized or designer breeds.

    Does not provide a written contract.

    Does not offer to take back the dog or help to rehome the dog if you are unable to keep him.

    There are no veterinary health checks available for the puppies from birth.

    No mandatory spay/neuter stipulations are required for pet quality animals
    No mandatory vaccinations have been given (at least basic ones), no de-worming.

    Breeding solely for "pet quality" means breeding for money - not for the betterment of anything.

    Does not breed to better the overall conformation or working style of the breed.

    Cannot answer questions about the history of the breed, known temperament considerations, or for what purpose they were originally bred.

    Dogs are not clean or seem to be in ill-health.

    There are always puppies for sale, sometimes two or three litters at a time.

    There are no veterinary records for the dam.

    His dogs have no titles, either showing, working, sport, or certifying temperament..
    Not all breeders want to show their dogs in conformation events, as some choose to breed lines better known for their working ability or
    sport, however breeding simply to breed is a huge Red Flag.

    He won't give references from owners of pups from previous litters.

    Does not ask you questions about the environment you will offer the pup, just wants to see the money (and prefers cash).

    Allows puppies to leave before they should (under eight to nine weeks of age).  The dam does a lot of the work until the puppies are 3 weeks of
    age.  After that time, much responsibility is borne by the breeder; the breeder may say the puppy is older than it's true age, or convince you that a
    puppy can leave earlier than 8 weeks.  Puppies need to be with their dam and littermates until at least 8 weeks of age to develop social skills, bite
    inhibition, appropriate play and manners.

    Advertises "rare" colors, mixes, sizes, etc.  

    Sells to pet stores, puppy brokers, wholesalers, etc.

    Breeds dogs as soon as they can produce.

    Cannot explain his dogs' pedigrees.

    Requires you to breed your pet -- no responsible breeder will require a buyer to breed.

    "Guarantees" that a puppy is a show/breed quality dog.

    There are several ways to locate a responsible breeder.  Breed-specific clubs can be a good resource.  Registries can provide referrals and lists
    of breeders.  Veterinarians, groomers, obedience clubs, trainers, and show organizations can help refer you to a good breeder.  Owners of dogs
    you admire can put you in contact with a breeder. Reputable breeders may not be the first returned on a Google search, particularly if they are
    small and selectively breed very few litters.  Spend time and research several sources.  Certain names should come up over and over again.  
    Look at respected breeders' website links.

    Reputable breeders, sometimes called “hobby breeders,” do not breed puppies for a profit.  In fact, breeding dogs with integrity costs more than a
    breeder will ever recover.  Hobby breeders breed for the betterment of the breed, for the love of dogs, and for their passion for the breed and
    enjoyment.   Reputable breeders rarely make a profit on a litter of puppies.  The cost to produce a litter is high when one considers health tests,
    registrations, proper nutrition, stud fees, whelping materials, veterinary care, shots, worming, etc.  Many times a breeder will take time off from
    their work to make sure all goes well during whelping and raising the litter for the first 2 months.  Backyard breeders seldom have those expenses
    or display that dedication.  Puppy Mills are another story altogether.

    Reputable breeders are close to fanatical about their puppies and are very selective with potential buyers.  Before selling a puppy to an
    inappropriate home, they will keep the puppy for themselves.  Many breeders produce a litter with the intent on keeping a puppy to continue their
    goal of improving the breed.  A breeder will be able to rapidly articulate the reasons for a particular breeding.

    Puppies should come with a health guarantee. If the puppy does develop a disorder that is covered in the guarantee, a responsible breeder will
    take steps to make things right, by providing a refund, a new puppy, or by helping the owner with the problem. Many breeders require a contract in
    which the buyer promises to spay or neuter the puppy to prevent future backyard breeding and the deterioration of the breed.

    If the new owner has problems at any time in the future – such as obedience or training issues – the breeder is available to help and answer
    questions. If for any reason the new owner is unable to care for the dog, the breeder will take the dog back.  No reputable breeder wants to see
    his dog wind up in the pound, out on the street, or worse. Many breeders will require address change notification, frequent updates, photos, and
    copies of awards and titles earned by their progeny.

    While having a website is not a requirement of a reputable breeder, many such breeders host websites to share information about their dogs, their
    mission and accomplishments.   They proudly show off their dogs.

    The ethical breeder does not produce a litter every time a bitch is in season.  He only breeds as many litters as he can responsibly care for, keep
    groomed, healthy, properly fed and socialized.  A repeat breeding (same sire/dam) is only planned when the first litter produced excellent
    specimens of the breed.  

    A responsible breeder is involved in his breed's dog clubs, knows and is known by other breeders, is respected by other breeders, and is active in
    his breed through showing, working trials, obedience, etc.

    The amount of space dedicated to the dogs, including dog supplies, how dog-friendly their home environment, and the amount of dog-related
    equipment can be an indication of a breeder's engagement with their dogs. Usually their home is very much dedicated to their dogs.   Backyard
    breeders seldom make similar investments.  Reputable Breeders will invest in only the best dog food, and can speak to food ingredients and make
    informed feeding recommendations.

    A reputable breeder knows his dogs.  He has been involved with the puppies since birth and knows their personality traits.  He likely performed a
    puppy aptitude evaluation on the litter.   He will choose the puppy that best matches a buyer's needs, lifestyle and experience to provide both with
    the best opportunity for success.

    Puppies that are identified as pets rather than show dogs are not lesser animals. They usually don’t meet the standard in some way, but that will
    not affect their ability to be a wonderful pet.  Some traits are so slight they can only be seen by a very experienced eye.  Breed standards for
    showing are very specific so even a small fault can be the only difference between a pet or show quality puppy.  And, every breeder has a story of
    the dog they placed as a pet that went on to become a wonderful show dog.

    Some breeders charge slightly more for show-quality pups than for pet pups, but there should not be a huge difference. While a breeder may be
    able to gauge which puppies may appear to be good representatives of the breed for a potential show/breed home, no one can see into the future
    and predict what an eight-week-old puppy will be like at maturity.  Be careful with breeders that charge different prices for males and females, also.

    Be prepared to stay engaged with the breeder.  He will want to know about your dog's health, temperament, and other qualifies that are hallmarks
    of the breed.  He will answer your questions, whether about grooming, training or health. He will be available to you.  The breeder wants to know
    what he produced so he can make good decisions for the future.  If you end up with a shy dog, or one with temperament issues, the breeder will
    want to know.  The breeder will also celebrate your successes with you.  Your breeder should be a great resource for you for the lifetime of your

    Breeders may not allow you to pet or visit with the puppies when they are very young.  Young puppies can be susceptible to illnesses, such as
    parvo, and breeders will want to protect them.  Some breeders provide websites, weekly pictures, even webcams for following a litter's progress.

    If the breeder always has puppies or breeds his bitch every year, you may want to continue your search. If there is more than one (or two litters)
    on the ground at one time, you may be dealing with someone selling puppies mostly for profit.

    You should find out where the puppies were raised. The best place for the majority of puppies to be raised is in the household, surrounded by the
    sights and sounds of a family.  Puppies can also be properly socialized if they were raised elsewhere, such as in a kennel, barn or garage. It is
    important to ask about a litter's experiences and how much time the breeder spent with the puppies.  Puppies not properly socialized can easily
    grow up to be fearful or aggressive.

    A reputable breeder keeps in touch with each buyer for the dog’s lifetime and will gladly offer references for you to contact..

    Responsible breeders want the best for their puppies and they will ask you many questions.  The breeder will want to know about your living
    arrangements.  Who will be at home with the puppy?  What will be the puppy do while the family is at school or work?  How many hours will be
    puppy be left alone?  Do you live in a house or apartment? Do you rent or own? Do you have a fenced yard? Will this be an inside or outside
    dog?  What pet experience do you have?  

    The breeder will want to know about any pets you currently own or have owned.  They may ask for veterinary references, and do not be surprised
    when they call - most will.   A breeder wants to ensure that his puppy is going to be safe, happy, and loved. If you’ve never owned a dog before,
    the breeder will spend time making certain that you understand the responsibilities of dog ownership. He may decide that his breed is not right for
    a first-time owner.

    He will ask about your plans for obedience training. Many breeders require you to spend a certain number of hours in puppy and/or obedience
    training and provide broad socialization.   Your breeder will want to know if you plan to show your dog and especially if you are interested in
    breeding. .

    A reputable breeder will interview you.  Be open and honest when the breeder asks you questions - their main interest is the health and well being
    of the life they bred, and they only want the best for all concerned.
Types of Breeders
Reputable or Hobby Breeders  

    A reputable breeder has integrity and money is not their motivator.  They truly care about their dogs and the dogs they produce.  In fact, they
    frequently lose money on each litter because of the care they provide and the extensive testing they do to ensure a healthy, sound litter.  Their
    litters are not the result of a casual breeding.  Breedings are planned months in advance, have a reason for being, and are celebrated on arrival.
    Hobby breeders love to talk about their dogs, and will share the good and the bad as they want you to be fully aware of what to expect. They may
    actually try to discourage you from their breed. They will gladly refer you to someone else if they do not have what your family needs.  They have a
    network of fellow breeders, usually belong to a breed club, are on a first name basis with their vet, are known at obedience clubs, recognized at
    shows, and are respected by their peers.  Their dogs typically have their Canine Good Citizen or Canine Good Neighbour (Canada) certificates,
    and may have champion and working titles.
    Another sign of an ethical breeder is they will insist you spay or neuter your dog unless you're going to show (and then they will usually insist on co-
    owning the dog with you until the puppy has achieved his/her championship).

    An important sign of an ethical breeder is a contract. Usually the contract provides a clause stating that if there is ever a reason you need to
    rehome your dog that the dog comes back to the breeder. Contracts may include genetic guarantees, and the contract usually protects the puppy
    and the buyer more than the breeder.  Contracts may include clauses requiring buyers to conduct specific health tests such as hip x-rays,
    complete a puppy obedience class, agree to provide address changes, and send periodic puppy updates and photos.  Good breeders never
    forget the puppies they produce.  There may be naming convention requirements (inclusion of kennel name), and the puppies have registrations
    and pedigrees.

    I am proud to be called a hobby breeder although I seldom breed a litter -- our dogs and their activities are our hobby.

Back Yard Breeders

    Back yard breeders breed litters out of convenience, chance or accident.  Money is many times the motivator which is why many back yard
    breeders do not last.  Their puppies can be found in want ads and across Internet sales sites.  Knowledge is a key differentiator between
    Reputable Breeders and Back Yard Breeders, but the differences can be even greater.

    One key way that you know you are dealing with a back yard breeder is the lack of contracts for you to review/sign and the lack of spay/neuter
    requirements. It may sound good upfront not to have to worry about a contract or special requirements, but it also means when you want or need
    information, they probably will not be there to help.  If something unforeseen should occur and you need help, they are likely no where to be found.
    Backyard breeders often do not test for genetic diseases either, which means your adorable little puppy may end up costing you more than you
    ever thought possible.  They rarely have age considerations for sire/dam.  If you are buying a purebred puppy, you should expect registration
    papers/certificates and a pedigree. If the breeder says that they will send you the paperwork, and you do not have a contract, it's probably a good
    bet that's the last you will hear of papers.  

    Be sure to ask for your puppy's veterinary report, health checkup and shot record.  Even if the breeder insists the puppy is up to date, demand a
    vet report.  Our daughter helped to save a Beagle puppy last summer.  The puppy was advertised in the newspaper and was purchased at a truck
    stop out of the back of  a pickup truck as that's where the seller asked to meet the buyer.  The breeder (if he can be called that) said the puppy
    had it's shots.  Evidently not.  That girl's first pet, a $50 puppy, ended up being surrendered to the vet clinic when the owner could not pay the
    $2500 for parvo treatment.  Parvo is a known risk and it can affect any puppy that has not completed the series of inoculations. Other genetic
    illnesses can be equally devastating.

    This is not to say that an individual who has an accidental breeding that produces a litter of puppies is labeled a back yard breeder.  Accidents,
    while unfortunate, can happen. A back yard breeder simply continues to breed.

Puppy Mills

    No one wants to be associated with the term "puppy mill". Sadly, they exist. Puppy Mills never disclose that their primary motive is profit, but it is.

    When you think of "puppy mill", you probably have an image from television of puppies being rescued living in squalid conditions, starving, and in ill
    health.  You may think that puppy mills have multiple breeds, but sometimes the breeder will specialize in a single breed, just large quantities of
    them.  Some puppy mills can appear to be a clean, well kept kennel.  Puppy mills target the end consumer. Remember, conditions alone do not
    define a puppy mill. While searching for a breeder, do not hesitate to remove one from consideration if their kennel conditions are deplorable.  

    If a kennel proudly advertises they have produced and sold thousands of quality puppies, it may be good to ask more detailed questions such as
    why they produced so many, where are they, and how (or should) any one breeder produce that many dogs.  For example, for a breeder to
    produce 1000 puppies over 20 years, considering an average litter is 6 - 8 puppies (we'll use 8 for this example), that would be 125 litters divided
    by 20 years = 6+ litters a year (minimum of 3 bitches having back-to-back litters or 6 females having 1 litter per year). If a breeder claimed to have
    produced 5000 puppies over 40 years, that would equal 625 litters divided by 40 years = 15+ litters a year.  For anyone who has raised even a
    single litter, this volume may be cause for concern.  Quantity does not necessarily equal quality.

    The primary motive of the puppy mill is to make a profit.  Be wary of puppy mills that use the same dam or sire over and over again.  Observe any
    registration paperwork carefully.  Health testing is likely home grown and is not affiliated with standard health testing organizations.

    Beware the breeder who breeds five or six different breeds or always seems to have puppies available. Also, beware the breeder who is overly
    anxious to "sell" you a dog.   Check with the Better Business Bureau.

Make sure you're dealing with a reputable hobby breeder when purchasing your puppy.

    If you do not want to spend time researching a breeder, and you want to adopt a deserving dog and potentially save a life, visit your local animal
    shelter, ASPCA, animal assistance league, or rescue. Those dogs have been evaluated and have had health checks. Adopting a dog should be
    a lifetime decision, and you and your forever companion deserve to start out on the right foot and paws.

    Avoid breeders where politics abound.  A relationship with your pet should be fun.  If the happiness and well-being of a breeder's own dogs are
    secondary to negativity or suspect behavior (blogs, negative websites, politics), run the other way.  The dogs may be fine, but spend time finding
    a supportive, reputable and positive breeder.

    Look for a breeder's involvement with his own dogs - what do they do together?  Are the dogs involved in his daily life?  Are they stuck away in a

    Be careful about making a blind deposit through an online payment service.  

    In summary, trust your instinct.

    There are wonderful, ethical, reputable breeders out there for every breed.  Preparation and research is well worth the time.

    Disclaimer:  Some of the best dogs in the world are mixed breed dogs. This article is meant to address what to look for if you are buying a
    purebred dog from a breeder.  If a dog's pedigree is not important to you, please consider giving an evaluated shelter dog a home.


Good luck in your search!

Choosing a Breeder

Choosing your breeder can be as important as choosing the right breed and puppy for your family and lifestyle.
Your dog's breeder, when chosen carefully, will become an extended member of your family
and a trusted adviser to you for the lifetime of your pet.  As a bonus, you may even gain a real friend.

Don't be intimidated to ask questions or be afraid that you will offend a breeder.  
If the breeder does not want to answer your questions, that should be a red flag to you.
The breeder should ask you questions, also, to make sure that your breed choice is appropriate.

I have compiled my learnings and observations over my lifetime with dogs, including extensive research,
personal experience, and observation of the good and the not so good in breeders.
Producing a life is a huge responsibility which I take very seriously,
and that is the reason we seldom have puppies available.

Below are sections on Type of Breeders, Red Flags, Questions for Breeders,
and suggestions on how to identify a good breeder.

You will share 10+ years with the canine companion you choose.  
Spend time responsibly preparing and researching the breed and carefully choose your breeder
to give you and your dog the best chance for fulfilling, happy lives.