Congratulations if you’ve decided it’s time to welcome a new family member! Assuming you’ve researched the size and breed of dog you’re interested in, you might feel overwhelmed by all the different breeders in your area as you begin your search.
Fortunately, finding a reputable dog breeder can be simple if you adhere to a few essential ground rules. By understanding a bit more about the industry, some red flags to watch out for, and what to ask when meeting a breeder, you will be on the right track to finding your new furry best friend.
Worried About Supporting Unethical Breeding Practices?
Adopting a puppy should be a joyous process. It’s fun to go through pictures of adorable puppies online, but you find yourself worrying. Are these puppies healthy? Is this breeder ethical?
Ideally, every breeder you come across would have their dogs’ well-being at the top of their priority list and adhere to a strict set of breeding ethics. You often hear horror stories about puppy mills, back-to-back breeding, or other sad tales of neglect and abuse. You might worry that you could inadvertently contribute to the dark underworld of dog breeding.
Thankfully, we’ve compiled the research and best methods that, if followed, will help ensure you are only doing business with reputable, ethical breeders.
Compiling a Checklist to Help Determine if Breeder is Reputable
In this article, we’ve compiled a checklist to be used as a guide to determine whether a breeder is reputable. Keep in mind this is just a general guide, and a “good” breeder may not meet every item on this list. Your discretion as a buyer is an essential tool in your wheelhouse.
Here are the topics we will cover when determining if a breeder is ethical:
- Are they a registered breeder?
- What is your breeder’s reputation?
- Is the breeder welcoming, friendly, and open to questions?
- Have the puppies been given all appropriate vaccinations and necessary medical treatment?
- Has the breeder conducted health and genetic screenings and discussed possible genetic diseases?
- Is the adoption timeline following at least the recommended minimum time spent with littermates and mother?
- Are the puppy’s parents visible?
- Will you be provided documentation of the puppy’s pedigree?
- Does the breeder offer post-sale support for the puppy?
- Does the breeder screen you?
Is Your Breeder Registered?
You may be wondering what this means precisely—registered with who? How do you verify a breeder’s registration status? What does verified registration authenticate? Your breeder may choose to be a part of a wide variety of clubs and organizations.
If you are after a purebred dog, then the most common registrations and certifications come from National organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Kennel Club (KC) in the UK, The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), the Australian National Kennel Council, etc.
Becoming a member of the dog breed’s AKC club (or equivalent) indicates your breeder has the breed’s well-being in mind. However, any programs or groups your breeder is associated with or certified help their case. Often, these programs offer education, support, and guidance in becoming an ethical breeder.
Some purebred breeders go the extra mile and are a part of elite programs such as the AKC Breeders of Merit Program. Breeders who are a part of this program are considered the most dedicated to breeding healthy puppies in an ethical environment. These breeders provide pups that are adequately socialized and have distinguished pedigrees.
Unfortunately, breeders of poodle mixes such as Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, and Cockapoos, or any crossbreeds come to that, can’t be registered with organizations such as the AKC as it is reserved for pedigree dogs (thoroughbred/purebred) whose lineage can be traced and recorded.
What should you do if buying a crossbreed – there are associations and breeder clubs but double down on the other checks and balances. These are the best way to make yourself happy about any potential purchase.
You should never take association membership as a cast iron guarantee of quality and top-class breeding practices. Use it in conjunction with other tips listed.
Determining a Breeder’s Reputation
Beyond building a reputation at dog shows, breeders rely heavily on word of mouth and networking within the breed’s community. It’s your job to do some due diligence online. There are many breed-specific forums on popular social media sites such as Facebook.
Posting questions concerning a breeder’s reputation is a great way to see whether puppies from this breeder are healthy. Take online reviews and how long your breeder has been in business into account as well.
Is the Breeder Friendly, Welcoming, and Open to Questions?
In the dog world, it’s strongly recommended to visit the breeder’s operations if possible. While many animal purchases are made online these days, getting a first-hand look at what kind of environment your puppy is coming from is extremely valuable. If your breeder encourages scheduled visits and is open to show you where the puppies reside, these are great signs.
While meeting the puppies in their home, please pay attention to the elements in their environment. Is it a safe, clean place? Do they have adequate shelter, food, and water available? An excellent breeder welcomes questions regarding the puppies’ care.
Have the Puppies Been Properly Vaccinated?
The age of the puppy when you bring them home will determine which vaccines it should have received. It can be overwhelming to track which vaccines your puppy needs and when. Thankfully, we have an article covering a puppy’s vaccination schedule.
Typically, puppies go home with their new owners at 8-12 weeks. During this time, they should have already received the distemper, parvovirus, and, ideally, the bordetella vaccine. At 10 to 12 weeks, they should receive the DHPP shot.
Beyond vaccinations, it’s essential to determine if the puppies have adequate access to healthcare. In addition to vaccines, have they had a wellness exam performed by a veterinarian? Many puppies have also had one deworming and fecal testing before they are placed in homes.
Genetic and Health Screenings
One huge aspect of being an ethical breeder is ensuring dogs that carry genetic diseases are not bred. Responsible breeders have their breeding dogs tested to ensure this is not the case. These tests can be performed with at-home kits or, ideally, at their veterinarian.
These tests may include the following:
- Sensory testing, including vision and hearing tests
- Thyroid testing
- Heart testing
- DNA testing
- Hip and elbow scoring
- Breed-specific testing
It’s common for specific breeds to be prone to certain ailments or genetic diseases. It’s vital to research common health issues with the breed you’re interested in and then speak to your breeder to ensure they have had appropriate genetic testing. Here are some common genetic diseases to educate yourself about.
- Hip dysplasia
- Inherited cancers
- Early onset cataracts
- Eye defects
A reputable breeder will only allow their puppies to be adopted after 8 weeks. Why must puppies be at least eight weeks old before going home with their forever family? 8-12 weeks is the typical age agreed upon in the veterinary and breeding world.
Your puppy needs time to wean and adjust to dog food. Also, the interaction received by playing with littermates and their mother is critical for your dog’s developing social skills. The social skills developed with their littermates and the humans living with them will highly influence their behavior throughout life.
According to the American Kennel Club, your puppy’s socialization in its first three months will permanently shape its personality. After you adopt your puppy, it’s essential to keep up the socialization. Expose your puppy to new people, places, and dogs to encourage developing confidence.
Have You Met Your Puppy’s Parents?
Meeting a puppy’s mother and father is another way to determine if your breeder is ethical. When meeting the parents, keep an eye out for a few factors. Do they appear clean and well-fed? Are they well-socialized and generally seem happy? If the breeder takes care of the parents and doesn’t simply view them as breeding machines, this is a good indication the puppies are coming from a loving home.
Sometimes, the father of the puppies is offsite, and the breeder may use a stud service or even artificial insemination.
Getting a look at both parents is preferable to determine the probable future size of the growing puppy and that both parents seem to be the same breed. Beyond size, consider each of the parent’s temperaments. Are they friendly, playful, nervous, aggressive, or domineering? The character of the parents can be a good indication of your puppy’s future disposition.
Obtaining Your Puppy’s Pedigree
A responsible breeder is eager to hand over your puppy’s specific pedigree. Why is a pedigree preferable to have? Pedigrees offer knowledge of your puppy’s ancestry and limit the passing of genetic diseases.
Charging extra for a pedigree or promising to send the pedigree in the mail later can be potential red flags in a breeder.
Post Sale Support
Ideally, the buyer and breeder form a positive relationship for the dog’s life. A good breeder will be a source of knowledge as you raise your puppy. Look for a breeder that encourages post-sale communication and offers support and reconciliation if your puppy is unhealthy or has a genetic disease.
Many reputable breeders provide a legal, binding contract during the sale. Read over this contract carefully, and clarify what would happen if the puppy is not healthy. While this can be a complex topic, it’s essential to know beforehand.
Ask your breeder about their guarantees and what they will do to compensate in a worst-case scenario. Be sure anything they say is also written down in the contract.
Does Your Breeder Screen You?
There’s a lot of talk concerning how to find the right breeder. But shouldn’t a good breeder want to find the best home possible for their puppies? Be wary of breeders wanting to hand the puppy over as fast as possible.
Reputable breeders often have a questionnaire for potential buyers and sometimes come to inspect your home. Be honest and upfront about who lives in the house, what type of residence you reside in, and safety features for the puppy, such as a fenced-in yard.
Have your vet’s information available. If possible, bring all family members to meet the breeder, so they know who this puppy will live with. It may seem over the top, but remember, this due diligence demonstrates the breeder’s care and concern for their puppies.
Wrapping Up – How To Find A Reputable Dog Breeder
Putting in the work to find a reputable breeder can initially seem daunting. However, following the guidelines provided in this article should cover the basics of determining whether a breeder is ethical. Remember, asking questions should be encouraged. Look for a breeder that is just as interested in finding honest owners for their puppies as you are looking for an ethical breeder.
Educate yourself on common medical issues that tend to develop in the breed you’re interested in. Then, reach out to the breeder and determine if they’ve taken the necessary steps to prevent these genetic diseases from being inherited in their puppies.
Finally, enjoy the process of adopting your new best friend! If you’ve done your research, you’ll likely enjoy getting to know your puppy’s breeder. Please take the opportunity to ask them any questions and learn from their experiences with the breed.