Dog breeders are not all the same, there are mass breeders (puppy mills) and smaller breeders that can be experts in the breed or just back yard breeders that want to make a buck. Finding a great dog breeder can be the best thing you ever do for your family. The right breeder will provide information and a certain level of guarantee of what dog you’ll get when that puppy is all grown up. That being said, you need to do your homework… before you even look for a breeder make sure you read up on the breed you are interested in. Only get a dog when you are ready and get a dog that fits your family’s time and activity levels. Some people make the mistake of getting a dog because they like the look of a certain breed without realizing the dog might be all wrong for them. Choosing the right breed for you is as important as choosing the right breeder. No matter what breed of dog you like, there are always exceptions to the rule in size, temperament and personalities, but by choosing a breeder correctly you’ll be more likely to predict how that pup will turn out. Here are some things to look out for in a dog breeder.
The breeder has as many or more questions for you than you do for him or her. A reputable breeder is concerned for the breed standards, the life the dog will lead, your intentions to breed, the time and space you have available, etc.
Check references, most of the legitimate breeders out there will be happy to tell you about other pups they bred that have gone on to do great things. Most of them keep in close touch with past clients, they know how the puppies turned out, what they are good at, health issues, etc. All you need to do is ask and once you ask, call the past clients. See if the claims match, did last year’s puppy actually go on to compete in novice obedience? Is the agility champion actually a champion? Did the puppy from two years ago save the kid from falling in the pool?
They should check your references… The breeder should also check up on you. You should be asked to provide references yourself. Friends, family or coworkers who have seen you interact with animals. Check with your references to see if they were contacted. A good breeder will be very thorough and won’t sell a puppy to just anyone.
The breeder does something with the adult dogs other than breeding them. Conformation, dog sports, therapy, etc. Look for a puppy with accomplished parents not necessarily an impressive bloodline. It can be very easy to purchase the grandson of a champion to make a bloodline look good.
The breeder only breeds one breed of dog. It takes a very long time to become an expert in a breed, so most reputable breeders only have that kind of expertise in one dog breed. Some might have a couple of dogs that are a different breed and eventually start breeding a second breed. Puppy mills usually breed tons of different breeds at the same time and since they know you know, they have started splitting websites making it a bit harder to spot them, but with a little research, looking at phone numbers and names listed you can make sure the breeder you choose is a legitimate and responsible breeder.
The breeder should only be mating adult dogs (at least two years old before breeding) and the females should have no more than one litter per year. The breeder should only have one litter at a time. This means you might have to wait to get your dog.
The breeder should be telling you more about the parents, than the puppies. Their temperament, accomplishments, background and even shortcomings. Once she’s covered all about the parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents even, then they might give you some details about the puppies available. They should have specifics about the puppies interacting, who plays with whom, who’s a bit shy, how they react to new things, etc.
Visit the breeder’s home if you can. This should be the home where the puppies and mother live, not a kennel. Make sure you visit before you purchase. Look at the place where the pups are kept.
Good breeders can provide health test results. Not just say the dogs have been tested, but the actual results. It is very important that you read up on the breed you are interested in so you can ask to see appropriate health tests. The results of the Great Dane’s parents hips x-rays, the heart health condition of that Cavalier’s parents, etc.
If at any point your gut tells you there is something amiss, back out! It is better to keep looking, than taking a dog home that you are unsure of. Never buy a dog on a whim, think about the decision carefully. Visit the parents, see the litter of puppies interact, ask questions and then leave. Give yourself time to think, talk it over with all family members and only when you are ready go back and choose a puppy. In some cases you might have to wait, either because all the puppies have been sold or you are just not feeling a connection with any of the puppies available. This is not a bad thing. It gives you time to think and reassurance of the breeder’s capabilities. Only take a puppy if you are absolutely sure, also remember there are many mixed breed puppies who need a home and many breed specific rescues who can help you find the breed you like.