Breeder Red Flags:
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.
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..
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.
|Types of Breeders
Reputable or Hobby Breeders
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
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
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.
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.
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.