Choosing a Dog Breeder: What You Need to Know

March 26, 2014

By Linda Cole

Most of my dogs from the past and present have been rescued, but I did have two Siberian Huskies and three American Eskimos that came from breeders. We all have personal reasons for choosing a pet from a breeder or a shelter. If you do decide to go with a dog breeder, there are some things you need to know – beginning with picking a breeder that’s reputable. Asking the right questions and knowing how a credible breeder should interact with you, helps you make a wise choice.

Good breeders are associated with local and national breed clubs, and kennel clubs like the AKC or UKC. They know their dogs well, and their objective is to constantly improve on the breed(s) they raise. Only healthy dogs are mated, and kennels, exercise areas, yards and homes are clean. All of the dogs are clean and well cared for, and their kennels are not overcrowded. Their dogs are family pets first, and many breeders enter them in dog shows, hunting, herding or Earthdog trials and other activities.

Finding a Qualified Breeder

Talk to your vet, certified dog trainers or dog owners who have the breed you’re interested in. You can also check with breed clubs and dog registries, or attend dog shows. Ethical breeders are passionate about their dogs and always eager to discuss the breeds they love.

Be knowledgeable about the breed you’re interested in so you have a general idea of cost, what a puppy should look like before and after he’s grown, possible genetic issues (like hip dysplasia), general temperament and characteristics. Understand the dietary needs of big dogs that require a quality food like CANIDAE large breed food, formulated especially for proper growth and nutrition of large dogs.

Never buy a pup online, from a pet shop, sight unseen, in a parking lot, or from anyone who refuses to allow you to come to their facility. Responsible breeders have nothing to hide and expect you to come to their kennels to look at pups. I’ve been to a puppy mill, and the difference between legitimate breeders and those that aren’t is clear. Ethical breeders don’t have more dogs than they can properly care for, and generally have only one or two different breeds. You aren’t pressured to buy a pup, and all of the dogs are energetic and happy. A pup won’t be taken from his mom until he’s 8-12 weeks or older, and you should be given instructions on caring for your puppy as well as documentation on vaccines, testing and other health care.

A responsible breeder is knowledgeable about the breed they sell. They want to make sure their pups go to a responsible and loving home, and won’t be offended by legitimate questions. If a breeder refuses to answer questions, walk away.

Questions to Ask

Do you belong to any breed clubs? Which ones? Tell me what’s positive and negative about this breed? Can you give me a veterinary health certificate? Tell me about the temperament of the parents and family history. Does either one have conformation or other titles, like herding or tracking? What’s your experience with breeding and how often do you breed dogs? Can you give me references from other buyers? What kind of health clearances have they had? Were the parents screened for health issues common to the breed before mating them? If some of the tests haven’t been done, ask why. Ask if they know what the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is. Not all breeders participate in the organization, but they should know what it is.

A good breeder will have questions for you too, such as do you travel a lot or work long hours? Where will your dog spend his time when you’re away from home? Why do you want this breed? Do you have other pets at home? Do you have a fenced yard and if not will you walk your dog on a leash daily? Do you have children? Who will be responsible for daily care and training? Do you rent or own your home?

Papers don’t ensure a healthy or show quality pup. It means the pup is purebred and has a bloodline that can be traced. The buyer is responsible for getting paperwork from the breeder, and registering their pup themselves. Some breeders will have you sign a contract to spay/neuter your pup before releasing paperwork. Included in the contract should be a guarantee of health for hereditary conditions, and the breeder should be willing to give you a lifetime guarantee to take the pup back if you can’t keep him.

If you prefer to adopt from a shelter, be sure to read tomorrow’s RPO blog post.
Langley Cornwell will offer some excellent tips on how to choose a shelter dog that’s right for you and your family.

Top photo by Colby Stopa
Middle photo by Pets Adviser
Bottom photo by carterse

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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