Congratulations! You’ve decided to get a dog and are checking out breeders. Getting yourself prepared will help you get a feel for the breeder. And it will help the breeder get to know you as well. Check out my list of questions you should ask a breeder and grab a FREE PRINTABLE here.
This list might be slightly different depending on the breed of dog you are looking for. You will also want to make sure you cover any specific questions if you are looking for a service or performance dog. Hopefully this will help you come up with other questions and we would love if you would share them with us!
It is up to the buyer to ensure they aren’t supporting a puppy mill or kennels with irresponsible breeding practices. Follow up with breeder references. Do a cursory internet search. Join Facebook groups for your breed. Check out your breeder on social media. If anything doesn’t seem right or seems too good to be true, dig deeper.
Breeder and Kennel
You want to get to know the breeder and their interest in the breed. They should be VERY knowledgeable about the breed, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. And they should want to communicate ALL of that to you. Here are some of the questions you should ask a breeder to get to know them better.
- When did you get your first dog in this breed?
- Why did you start breeding?
- How long have you been breeding?
- Do you belong to the national breed club? Local? Regional?
- Are you involved in other clubs or dog-related organizations?
- Do you show your dogs? Are you participating in conformation events? Locally? Regionally? Nationally?
- On average how many litters do your bitches have?
You should be able to meet the mom and if not, that is a serious red flag. I went to the breeder’s in Northern California to meet the breeder and the mom. The dad might not be available. Mr Magoo’s dad is on the East Coast. However, I spoke with the dad’s owner and learned about him. These are just some of the questions you should ask a breeder about the parents.
- How old is the mom? The dad?
- What Kennel is the dad from? If he’s from the same kennel what’s his genealogy? Why didn’t they breed with another kennel?
- Are the mom and dad registered with the American Kennel Club (or other similar organization)?
- Have the mom AND dad had recommended genetic testing? Each breed has different health issue but at minimum you should be looking for three key exams.
- Eye exam by veterinary ophthalmologist to ensure there is no inheritable eye disease
- X-ray exam to ensure there is no hip dysplasia. Ideally registered with Orthopedic Found for Animals (OFA)
- prcd-PRA test to ensure there is no retinal atrophy in the parents. The most common dogs, including doodles, should have this test done. To learn more about breed specific tests you can check out the Optigen website.
- What is the size of mom and dad? Their weight? Their height at withers (if they are in breed standard)?
- Is this mom’s first litter? If not, how many has she had? How many puppies were in those litters?
Ideally puppies will be living somewhere in the house and not in an outbuilding, barn, or other location removed from daily life. If they aren’t in the home, you will want to understand why. It may also impact the well-being of the puppies long-term if they are isolated.
When visiting the puppies, the breeder should try to ensure you are germ free. They will likely have you wash your hands, remove your shoes, etc. before interacting with the puppies. If they don’t, this is a red flag to me. It speaks volumes about the cleanliness around the puppies and may have potential health implications. Here are some of the questions you should ask a breeder about the puppies.
- When were they born?
- Were there any complications with the birth?
- Have the puppies been dewormed?
- When was their vet visit? Was there anything wrong with any of the puppies?
- Have they been given any vaccinations? If so, what and when? If not, why?
- Has any puppy in the litter been sick?
- What socialization have the puppies had? Loud noises? Different people? Car rides? Baths?
- Have you done temperament testing? If not, why not? If so, when did you have it done? Where? By who? And what were the results?
Placing a Puppy
This is probably the most important part when speaking with a breeder. We all want to choose the puppy based on which one “likes” us best. Or “looks” like what we want. At the end of the day neither of these truly matter. You will be sharing your home with your puppy for the next 10 plus years. You want the RIGHT dog for you. The questions you should ask a breeder will help you understand what puppy you will get.
- When placing a puppy does the future owner choose the dog? Or does the breeder select the dog for you?
- If breeder makes the selection do they take into account any of your “wants?” Male or Female? Color?
- At what age does the breeder decide which dog to place where? How does the breeder determine this?
When you are dealing with a reputable breeder there will be a selection process for their puppies. And in many cases, they may have a waitlist. This shouldn’t deter you! A good breeder isn’t producing puppies on a schedule and is conscientious about who they are placing their puppies with.
You will likely sign a contract with requirements about neutering and spaying. Again, this shouldn’t be a roadblock. A good breeder will be willing to share the contract with you before you sign it.
- What is the breeders application process?
- Are there any specific requirements the breeder has for potential owners? Yard? Fence? Crate? Training?
- Does the breeder require a deposit? Is the deposit refundable if a dog isn’t placed?
- How much will you pay for the puppy? How was that price determined?
- What is the process if you can no longer care for or keep the dog?
- Does the puppy come with a health guarantee?
- When can you bring the puppy home?
I hope this helps you in your search for a puppy from a responsible breeder. These questions you should ask a breeder clearly isn’t an exhaustive list but will get the communication started. It is easy to get swayed by a cute puppy. But the cute puppy may be a health nightmare for you if you don’t do your due diligence.
Like what you are reading? Check out our Breed Series here
Ready for your puppy? Read all of our Puppy Series here
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