How Do I Know This Breeder is Responsible?

So you’re looking for a canine addition to your family: CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve done your homework, have carefully weighed the pros and cons of owning (rather, being owned by) a dog, and are ready to start the pursuit for your family’s perfect pet. You’ve already decided that a pure-breed pup is the best choice for you and you understand how important it is to find a responsible breeder. But how do you proceed? How can you be sure that a breeder is a responsible one? First, give yourself an A+ for taking the initiative to fully research breeders rather than just snatching up the first furry cutie you spy (this is no easy task!). By adopting a pet from a responsible breeder you help reduce the chance that your dog will develop serious health problems as the result of genetic defects, assure the promotion of the breed’s health, and help eliminate “backyard breeders”.

There is a whole laundry list of qualities that make a breeder reputable:

  • Above all, a breeder will ensure the health and general well being of not only their own dogs but also any progeny they may produce. A good breeder will know all of the genetic predispositions of the breed (those who are prone to hip dysplasia, glaucoma, deafness, kidney disease, etc). They will test their dogs for these traits and if they carry the gene for a specific disorder, the animal will not be bred. Their dogs should be OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) registered as well. Their dogs are up to date on all their shots, they have excellent rapport with their veterinarian, they never breed a bitch before two years of age, and never more than once a year. They are willing to produce health records (including X-rays if requested) of their animals and will discuss their pedigree in depth. And they offer a guarantee against any genetic defects discovered anytime in the future.
  • This person must be thoroughly knowledgeable in every facet of the breed; their temperament, specific health risks, and history. Any dog with a questionable temperament will NOT be bred. Always ask to see the sire and dam, not only to see their health but also to assess their behavior.
  • The breeder will ask as many questions of you as you will ask of them. A good breeder will make sure that their dogs only go to the best of homes and will screen an applicant thoroughily before permitting someone to leave with one of their pups. They will ask about your home (Is it fenced? Are you allowed to have pets?), your history with animals (Have you ever had a dog? If so, what kind? Do you have any pets now?), your lifestyle (Will he/she be at home alone for any length of time? Who will be the primary care-giver?), and your family (Do they have allergies? If you have small children, are you prepared to teach them how to respect the animal and be gentle?). If the breeder believes that you are not well suited as an owner, he or she will NOT sell you a dog no matter how much cash you wave under their nose.
  • Speaking of money, breeding is NOT a lucrative business and should never be treated as such. A responsible breeder knows full well the amount of money and time invested in breeding. Profit should be the furthest thing from their minds. The only reason they allow a dog to reproduce is for the love of the animals and to promote the breed they favor. If a person seems over-anxious to sell you a dog, walk away. Reputable breeders will also take the dog back at any time (even years later!) if you are unable to keep it for any reason. They feel responsible for that dog for life.
  • They are willing and eager to show you the living conditions of their dogs. It should be climate controlled, spacious, sanitary, and allow plenty of exercise. They should be a part of the breeders own family; well socialized, loved, and given ample attention.
  • A pup is NEVER allowed to leave the litter before seven weeks of age (but most prefer eight weeks). This is crucial to the pups’ physical and mental development.
  • They will provide a list of previous buyers for references. The list should be long, and you should always take advantage of this and follow up by contacting some of them.
  • He or she is eager to answer any and all questions you have, no matter how “silly” they appear to be. In truth, there are no silly questions when deciding upon a good home for one of their puppies. They expect you to have lots of questions and if you don’t, this should make the person wary.
  • The reliable breeder will always have spay/neuter contracts and limited registration restrictions to prevent casual breeding of the dog.
  • A reputable breeder will never, under any circumstances, sell their puppies to pet stores or puppy brokers. Ever!
  • Beware of “backyard breeders” and puppy mills! These are people who are looking to make a quick buck by breeding their dog, have little or no knowledge about genetics, and are willing to sell to just about anyone. Their only priority is cash. You can find their advertisements in the local newspaper (warning: no good breeder will advertise this way!), the living conditions are questionable at best and they may have many types of breeds on the premises. When you ask why they breed (a question you should always ask), they may give tell you that they thought their female would be happier if she had babies (this is outrageously irresponsible), or they wanted their kids to witness the miracle of birth, or perhaps they thought that they could make a buck or two. All of these answers are emphatically WRONG. Even though your heart will go out to these poor pups, do not purchase one. If you encounter a puppy mill, leave without a puppy and contact the proper authorities. It may seem that you are rescuing the dog from horrible conditions by buying it, when really you are only keeping the so-called “breeder” in business. But please contact the proper authorities immediately and be persistent!

I consider it a personal mission of mine to educate people on the horrors of puppy mills and how people support them unwittingly. By deciding not to buy a dog from the pet store (another A+ for you!!!) and by thoroughily researching the breeders out there, you are doing your part in ending the cruel cycle. For more information on how to spot a puppy mill, exactly what one entails, and how to stop them please visit the sites listed below.

Finding a responsible breeder can seem like an arduous task, but it is only a fraction of time in the life you will share with a healthy, happy pet! And after all, isn’t that how this journey began?