How to find a reputable dog breeder
Questions to ask a breeder
How to find a good dog breeder
If you are set on getting your pet from a breeder, at all costs avoid breeders who randomly breed their dogs, looking to make a buck on the sale of puppies. These people have no interest in responsible breeding and little, or no information on heritage of their dogs. A puppy obtained from a backyard breeder is a huge risk, because you have no information about the dog's parents' temperaments or medical histories. The puppies may be advertised as a certain breed, when in fact they may be any kind of a reasonable fascimile.
Buying a dog from a breeder may sound complicated, but if you are looking to get a purebred dog, it is an excellent way to purchase a puppy of a specific breed. The importance of finding a knowledgeable, experienced and responsible show dog breeder is difficult to overestimate. Why would you want a breeder breeding dogs for the show ring when you just want a pet? Because show dog breeders have several very important priorities in breeding their dogs. Rather than breeding for the profit they can reap from selling puppies, show breeders are devoted to bettering the specific dog breed. To win in a show ring, a dog of a specific breed must have the specific qualities of the breed according to the breed standard and must be healthy.
Good breeders do more than breed for good health and beauty. They also breed for good temperament. Breeders realize that in any given litter of puppies, only one or two will be show prospects. The other puppies may not have quite the right ear set, eye shape, size or coat quality to be a serious contender in the show ring, and these puppies need to go to pet homes. But not just any pet homes! Good breeders have devoted their lives to their dogs and they will be very careful about selecting the right owners for their precious pups. You may find yourself being grilled by the breeder: Do you have a fenced yard? How much time do you have to spend with your dog? Are you willing to have your dog spayed or neutered, and will you say so in writing? Will you take the dog to the vet regularly?
Rather than being offended by these questions, potential dog owners should see them as a sign that the breeder really cares about his or her puppies and is breeding with the dogs' interest at heart. You can also ask your veterinarian for the names of good breeders for a certain dog breed. Do a very thorough research before selecting the breeder because finding a good breeder is worth every minute of your time. How do you know if the breeder is just breeding for profit or working to improve the breed? You need to interview the breeder to determine. See below for important questions to ask your breeder.
When you check out breeders, see if the breeder measures up to the following good breeder checklist:
The breeder participates in some kind of organized dog activity or sport.
The breeder does not breed in high volume, where multiple bitches are pregnant at the same time, or breed one litter right after another.
The breeder interviews you just as intensely as you interview the breeder. The responsible breeder may ask you thorough questions about your home environment, lifestyle, feeding style, security, and anything that may impact your new dog.
The breeder keeps the puppies in the house, in the center of the family, and family members handle puppies often.
The breeder insists that you have a fenced yard or are willing to provide the puppy with plenty of exercise, and asks about your home situation and willingness to commit to caring for the dog.
The puppies look clean and healthy with shiny coats, bright eyes, and no bare patches or discharge from eyes, nose ears, or rear.
Both parents, or at least the mother of the litter is available for you to see and interact with. The parents look and act the way you would want your own pet to look and act.
The breeder's home is clean, with the signs of a dog-friendly home.
The breeder is open and friendly, willing to answer any questions and provide references.
The breeder doesn't just tell you the good things about the breed, but also the challenging parts, to be sure you know what you are getting into.
The breeder offers a health guarantee that protects you in case the puppy is sick or comes down with a genetic disease, in which the breeder will replace the dog or help you pay for the treatment.
The breeder is always willing to take the dog back, throughout the dog's entire life, if you can't keep him for any reasons, and will insist that you return the dog rather than abandon or relinquish the dog to a shelter or rescue group. Of course, if you give up the dog, the breeder should not be expected to refund your money.
The breeder is happy to be an ongoing resource of information and help you as you work to raise your puppy to be the best dog he can be!
Questions to ask a breeder
What are your breeding priorities?
The good answer would be: I breed for good health, sound structure, and that classic temperament of the breed. My dogs can do what the dogs of this specific breed were originally bred to do.
The bad answer would be: I haven't thought about that.
Are you a member of any breed club?
The good answer would be: Yes, I am a member of the specific dog club and here's a website and information on our club and here's what we do for the breed.
The bad answer would be: No, I am very busy and don't have time for clubs.
What health tests have you done on the parents of the litter, and/or the puppies? Can I see documents of these tests?
The good answer would be: For the parents of the litter, I have had them checked for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye disease and heart conditions or any other breed specific diseases. You can look up my dogs on the OFFA database to see test results and here is a report from a veterinary cardiologist certifying that both parents are free from heart disease.
The bad answer would be: My lines don't have any genetic disease, so I don't feel testing is necessary.
How soon can I take home a puppy after the litter is born?
The good answer would be: No sooner than 8 to 12 weeks. I want to make sure the puppies get the full benefit of nursing and time with their mother and littermates to help teach them good behavior. This is an important part of socializing the new puppies.
The bad answer would be: You can take the puppy home at five or six weeks, the sooner, the better!
What do you do to begin socializing the puppies before they go to their new homes?
The good answer would be: I raise the puppies inside the home, in the middle of the family. We handle the puppies gently every day, talk to them often, play with them and help them begin housetraining. We have even taught some of the older puppies to sit, using bits of their kibble. We make sure they have already been exposed to children, our other dogs, and different adults, but we always make sure that the exposure is fun and positive for the puppies, to help build their self-confidence and trust in humans.
The bad answer would be: We go out to the kennel run every day and pet them when we give them their food. We let them out to run around for a while every day. Is that what you mean?
What kind of guarantees do you offer? Do I have to sign a contract?
The good answer would be: I have a contract that protects both of us. You agree to have the puppy checked by the vet within 48 hours to ensure the puppy is healthy when you take him home. If the vet finds anything wrong with the puppy, you can bring the puppy back to me for a refund, or I will help you to find another puppy. If, later in life, your puppy develops a genetic disease, you can return the puppy to me for a full refund, or I will help you to pay for treatment of the disease. However, if the puppy develops a health problem or injury that is not genetic or is the result of anything that happens after you take the puppy home, this is your responsibility. If at any time during the dog's life you can no longer keep him, for whatever reasons, you must return him to me, not questions asked. I brought this puppy into the world, so I am responsible for him and will always take him back any time, for any reason.
The bad answer would be: Look at this puppy - he is perfectly healthy. If a vet says he isn't, you can return him, but after 48 hours, he is your responsibility.
What if I have any questions after I take the puppy home?
The good answer would be: I am always available to answer your questions or help you with any problems. I can also point you to some excellent resources to handle typical specific breed issues, including a good veterinarian if you don't already have one, a good trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods, and a list of good books.
The bad answer would be: Just search for this specific breed on the Internet, you'll find plenty of information. Please don't call me at home.
Do I have to get the puppy spayed or neutered?
The good answer would be: Breeding dogs is complicated, expensive, and time-consuming undertaking, and I strongly discourage anyone taking it lightly. I can certainly point you in the right direction, so you can start learning about what is involved, but if you plan to breed "just for fun", I will not sell you a puppy. In my contract, I specifically require that you get the puppy spayed or neutered. There are already too many unwanted specific breed dogs out there, and no serious breeder makes money breeding this specific breed. It is just too expensive. However, if you are interested in show quality puppy and want to exhibit the dog in dog shows, we can discuss that option, and I can tell you all about what that involves.
The bad answer would be: If you don't want to be stuck with a litter of puppies you can't sell, get the dog spayed or neutered, but of course the decision is up to you.
Can you provide references?
The good answer would be: Certainly. Here is the name and number of my veterinarian. I can also arrange for you to talk to several people who bought puppies from me, but you will understand that I am not comfortable giving out their contact information. If you give me your phone number or e-mail, I will have them contact you.
The bad answer would be: I can't give out people's contact information. My puppies are healthy, so I haven't yet had to take them to the veterinarian.
Breeders should maintain careful records to keep everything legal and accountable, including the puppy's breed, sex, color, date of birth, registered names and numbers of the puppy's parents (called the "sire" and "dam"), and the name and address of the breeder. Do not work with a breeder who promises to send you this information later, after the purchase. You should receive all paperwork when you receive the puppy.