We all have our favorite breeds of dogs. The question is how to find the right breeder for your chosen breed. You want a responsible breeder who cares properly for their animals and conducts business in an ethical, human manner. You also want a breeder that will answer your questions openly and honestly.
Before Going to the Breeder...
Check your local shelter. One in every four dogs in animal shelters in the United States is purebred, so if you’re looking for a certain breed, chances are high that you’ll be able find the dog you’re looking for in a shelter or rescue agency at a much lower price than if you had gone to a breeder directly. You'll also feel great about helping a homeless dog find a loving home. Most dogs lose their homes because of "people" reasons, such as cost, lack of time, lifestyle changes (new baby, divorce, moving, or marriage), or allergies, and not because of the dog’s behavior or personality.
If you've searched the online shelter and rescue listings for your breed, but still haven't found what you’re looking for, it’s time to find an ethical breeder. You don't want to buy a puppy from a pet store because you know that most of those puppies come from mass breeding facilities—better known as puppy mills. You'll want to find a breeder who has their dogs' best interests at heart.
Choosing a Responsible Breeder
Everyone always tells you to buy a puppy from a "reputable breeder". That’s sound advice, but how do you find one? How do you tell a reputable breeder from an unethical or irresponsible one?
I've collected a listing of questions that you should ask a breeder to help you determine if they are going to be a good source for your puppy. Remember, too, that the breeder is evaluating you, as well, and will undoubtedly ask you some questions. But we’ll talk about this in another post.
You can find responsible breeders by asking for referrals from your veterinarian or trusted friends, by contacting local breed clubs, or visiting professional dog shows. Remember, a responsible breeder will never sell their dogs through a pet store or in any other way that does not allow her to meet with and thoroughly interview you to ensure that the puppy is a good match for your family and that you will provide a responsible, lifelong home.
Talk to the Breeder (The Most Important Step)
Often, you can get a quick impression by taking a look at the breeder's home or place of business, or by chatting with the breeder. If by some chance, the breeder seems cagey or does not want to give you a tour of the place, you should probably steer clear. Someone with nothing to hide will gladly talk to you or show you around. A breeder who interviews you to make sure you can provide a good home is another good sign of a qualified breeder.
They should be well educated about the breed they work with, and be honest about the pros and cons of the breed. A responsible breeder will be a member of a national and possibly regional breed club affiliated with (in the United States) the American Kennel Club (AKC) or United Kennel Club (UKC); and the breeder's dogs will be AKC and/or UKC registered; and the litter registered as well, with the the puppies eligible for (if AKC) Full or Limited Registration as well.
9 Questions to Ask Your Breeder
1. How long have you bred this species? Have you ever bred others? (You want someone who has experience in your chosen or similar breed. You also want a specialist for your breed, not someone who breeds many different species.)
2. What are the most common genetic health issues with this breed? How does your breeding practice seek to minimize those issues? (Look for honest answers about the issues and someone who is taking real measures to ensure genetic variety within the breed. Do a little research first so that you know what the issues are yourself.)
3. Are the parent animals available for me to meet? (Most breeders should not own both parent animals. To ensure variety, they will most likely own the female but not the male. If they do not let you see the female, that may be an indication that their dogs are not healthy or well kept.)
4. Can you tell me about the parent animals? (Every animal has good and bad points, so look for a balanced answer from your breeder and pay special attention to the parent animals’ disposition toward people or other animals to ensure that your new puppy will not have an overly aggressive personality. Also note if the parent dogs have been in dog shows or certified as Companion Dogs.)
5. What is this puppy’s pedigree? (You’re looking for a knowledgeable breeder who can trace the animal’s lineage to at least four generations. Look for honesty when it comes to interbreeding.)
6. Are you raising the puppies here? Have they been socialized? (Ideally, your prospective puppy will have been raised in the household so that they will be used to people and being in a home rather than a kennel where they will have limited human interaction.)
7. How many litters do you have per year? (If they are breeding any one female more than once a year, this is too often to ensure the healthiest littler possible. If they have too many litters per year, this is a good indication that they are not properly planning for good breeding.)
8. What guarantees do you offer for this puppy? (They should guarantee against debilitating genetic conditions, ensure good health at the point of sale, and be willing to take returned animals. Part of being an ethical breeder is making sure that the puppies have a good home and that it stays that way.)
9. When can I take the puppy home with me? (Puppies can normally leave their mother when they are 2-3 months old. Avoid someone who offers them earlier as this demonstrates irresponsibility to the animal’s health and natural development.)
You’ll also want the breeder to let you play with and interact with the puppy to see if you like its personality.
Good luck on finding the right animal for you and your family!
Download the "How to Identify a Responsible Dog Breeder" [PDF] checklist from the Humane Society and take it with you as you visit different breeders.
Read “What a Dog Breeder Won’t Tell You” for more information.
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