How to Choose the 'Right' Breeder

All Dog Breeders are Not Alike

Responsible breeders...

Do not sell their pups to or through pet stores. Instead, they personally screen and select homes for their puppies, advise people on caring for the breed, turn away people whose lifestyle, commitment or home situation does not fit the breed, test for and guarantee the health and temperament of their puppies, have detailed documentation of their pups' lineage, demonstrate knowledge about canine health, genetics, socialization and development, and take back their animals at any time and age if the buyers cannot keep them.

Pet Store Problems

Regardless of staff claims that they buy from from reputable breeders, nearly every puppy in pet stores comes from a large-scale commercial breeding operation, also known as a puppy mill.
Pet store pups and animals from backyard breeders typically are not tested for genetic disease and are not adequately protected from illnesses such as parvo, as documented in news reports and in Animal Court cases.
Pet store puppies typically come into contact with numerous animals at puppy mills and brokers' holding facilities, during transportation, and at pet stores, often exposing them to illnesses and parasites. Transportation stress can make them more susceptible to disease.

Questions to Ask Dog Breeders

The list is not all-inclusive, nor is every question necessarily appropriate for every breed. The questions are listed here as a guide to help you get to know the person you may be getting your puppy from and the practices they follow as a breeder.

  • How long have you been involved with this breed? The ideal response: at least several years. But a first-time breeder may fill the bill if she can show that she's being mentored by more experienced breeders.

  • What activities do you do? Good answers to this question include conformation or obedience, agility or field trials. Less traditional activities, such as raising puppies for service work, are also great.

  • Why did you do this breeding? Any response that indicates the breeder wants to improve the breed is a good sign. 

  • Have you tested the parents? The breeder should show you certifications that the father (sire) and mother (dam) have no genetic diseases common to that particular breed.

  • What shots and wormings do the puppies receive? The breeder should list the puppies' immunizations and de-worming procedures or explain why she adopts an alternative plan.

  • How do you socialize the puppies? Ideally, the breeder raises her puppies inside her home, so that they feel comfortable with a human household's sights, sounds and activities. If raised in a separate kennel, the puppies should have frequent contact with people of all ages.

  • Do you provide a health guarantee? The only acceptable answer to this question is "yes." Generally, breeders agree to replace a puppy found to have a serious health condition within a few days of purchase.

  • Do you provide a contract? Again, the only acceptable answer is "yes". The contract should outline spay-neuter requirements, provisions for returning the puppy to the breeder if necessary, and other aspects of the sale.

  • When can we take the puppy home? No reputable breeder allows a puppy to go to a new owner before 8 weeks of age. Small-dog breeders often keep puppies longer.

  • How can we contact you after the sale? A good breeder will want to stay in touch with you throughout your dog's life. At the very least, she'll give you a telephone number. At best, she'll call or e-mail you periodically to check on the puppy.

The Decision About a 'Right' Breeder is Yours

There is no national registry that ranks breeders as to their ethics or the quality of puppies they produce. It is possible for you to get a truly great puppy from any one of them. Your chances are just much better, however, when you deal with a good reputable breeder.

The responsibility, therefore, lies on your shoulders to make a good decision. You have to do your homework, ask lots of questions, and invest the necessary time now, before you make this important decision.