Congratulations! You’ve decided to get a dog and are checking out breeders. Getting yourself prepared will help you in finding a responsible breeder.
Finding a responsible breeder is the number one requirement when you are looking for a puppy. Puppies are cute and we can all get bamboozled when we see something adorable we want. However, a cute puppy can turn into a nightmare if you don’t do your due diligence.
What is a Responsible Breeder?
The following is a list of characteristics of ethical breeders. This isn’t everything but these are the things that I think are the most important.
Responsible Breeders Are:
- Active in the local, regional, and/or national club.
- Known in the breed community.
- Concerned about health and temperament of their pups.
- Performing health testing recommended by the breed club.
- Looking to produce pups that meet the breed standard as defined by the national club and/or AKC (or similar organization.)
- Not breeding with dogs under age 2.
- Not over breeding a bitch, generally no more than 2-3 litters.
- Raising pups indoors, with or near the family, and are considered part of the family.
- Socializing pups prior to placement.
- Not placing puppies before 8 weeks of age.
- Requiring a contract written clearly that shows breeder’s and buyer’s responsibilities as well as health guarantees and return policy.
- Ensuring “Pet” animals are sold with spay/neuter contracts in place.
- Willing to take back any puppy they bred at any time for any reason.
Why find a responsible breeder?
While no one can guarantee you a perfect healthy puppy a responsible breeder will be able to do the best. They have spent time researching and understanding the genetics of their dogs. Looking for a match that will maintain the breed standard and help keep healthy dogs in their line.
Responsible breeders have a selective breeding plan. They are raising the puppies as if they will be keeping all of them. These puppies will be loved, cared for, and socialized. They may seem expensive, but the care that goes into them leaves little profit for the breeder.
Pet stores and puppy mills might charge less, or even more in some cases. These dogs will be of inferior quality and may have health and/or temperament issues. A responsible breeder is ready to take back a puppy for ANY reason at ANY time.
Where do you find a responsible breeder?
They are NOT in pet stores or puppy mills. You WILL find them at conformation shows, agility trials, or other dog show venues. When you talk to people who attend these events, even if they aren’t breeders, they will be able to help direct you to a responsible breeder. People that are showing their dogs, regardless of venue, take a lot of pride in their dog and their breed as a whole. Plus, we all love to talk about our furry, or not so furry, friends!
You will also find them on your national club’s website. The club likely offers a referral program for their breeders. In many cases these are paid advertisements but they are a good place to start. Local or regional clubs may also have listings. If they don’t have breeders listed contacting the club officers is also a good place to start.
The American Kennel Club also has the AKC Breeder of Merit list. Again, this is a list that is offered for people but there is no verification that breeder is responsible. You can check with the AKC to see if your breeder is in good standing. The AKC does do inspections but clearly, they can not inspect every breeder every year.
Managing Your Expectations
Responsible breeders will not sell a dog to you just because you bring them money. A responsible breeder will interview you. You will have the opportunity to ask them questions as well, if they aren’t willing to answer them this would be a red flag. Not sure what to ask? Check our article What Questions You Should Ask a Breeder.
Responsible breeders might ask for a deposit, this helps them ensure you are serious about getting a puppy. Expect to sign a contract, you should have ample time to review it prior to signing. This might be as simple as a bill of sale. For pet homes, the contract should always include a provision for spaying or neutering your puppy. If it does not, this would be a warning sign to me.
There is a highly likelihood that you will NOT choose your puppy. Your breeder knows their puppies and most likely has done temperament testing on them. Allow them to place the right puppy with your family. I would be wary if a breeder let me choose the puppy at a very young age or by looks alone.
Responsible breeders may not have puppies available just because they have a litter. You might be on a waiting list, for some breeders this is quite a long list. I view the waiting list as a good thing. It means they aren’t just producing puppies to make money.
Finding a responsible breeder may take awhile. At the end of the day trust your instincts. Dig as deep as you need to ensure you are comfortable with the situation.
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