Picking a breeder

As a professional dog trainer, I see the results when people choose dogs or puppies from the wrong breeders. So, let’s talk about what is a good breeder and what is a bad breeder.

Let’s talk about things to avoid first:

If you are buying your puppy from a commercial pet store, that puppy most likely came from a puppy mill. A puppy mill is a commercial breeding facility that is under the governance of the USDA. While there is some oversight, puppy mills turn out thousands of puppies each year. The puppies are generally not raised in ideal conditions. They are most often raised in cages with very little human contact. These puppies can be especially difficult to house train because they are raised in cages and have no way to get out of a whelping box and get on grass. Buying a puppy from a puppy mill also means you are condemning the parents to being bred over and over again until they wear out. Puppy mills generally are not doing health checks or ensuring they are breeding from healthy stock.

The emotional and physical health of the female dog while she is pregnant has a huge impact on the puppies later in life. Being in a cage surrounded by hundreds of other dogs is a stressful environment.

Puppy mills generally churn out whatever breed is the most popular in a moment and they don’t care who buys their puppy. The puppies are almost always taken away from their mother and littermates when they are 6 to 7 weeks old (or even earlier) and shipped to pet stores. This is a horrible time in terms of socialization and physical health for a puppy to be exposed to that much stress.

Do not  get your puppy from some person you found on Craig’s List or from your Uncle Bob’s first cousin who had a litter in her backyard. While it is always possible to get a great puppy from anywhere, set yourself up for success and buy from a breeder who planned the breeding and who is professional in his or her approach to the upbringing and selling of puppies.

Don’t buy your puppy from an ad that pops up online. Many of those ads are fronts for puppy mills.

Red flags:

♦you call and the seller says you can’t meet the mother and father of your puppy (unless there is truly a legitimate reason and that list is very short). You want to meet the canine parents so you can see if they are friendly, in good physical health and are the type of dog you see yourself living with. Seeing a photo isn’t enough. There are plenty of unscrupulous sellers who would send you a photo of any dog.

♦The seller says you can’t come to the home and visit the puppies and that instead they will deliver the puppy to you or meet you in the parking lot of some fast food restaurant. How the puppies were raised and the type of environment they came from is extremely important. If the puppies were raised in unsanitary conditions you want to know that before you buy.

♦The seller asks you nothing about your experience with the breed, what your lifestyle is like or how you plan to care for your new puppy. If the seller only cares about whether you can pay for the puppy, walk away.

♦The seller has no health records for the parents or the puppies. NEVER buy a puppy from someone who has provided no medical care to the parents or the puppies. This is a recipe for disaster and possibly a lifelong commitment of serious vet bills for you. Call the veterinarian if you do not know your breeder well. Ensure the puppies and parents have been well cared for.

♦Never buy a puppy that is less than 8 weeks old. In some states it is even illegal to sell a puppy younger than 8 weeks. Good breeders generally allow their puppies to go home between 8 and 12 weeks. Many breeders and behavior experts are now advocating for 10 or more weeks to give the puppies extra time to learn from their littermates about sharing resources and proper play.

♦Never let a breeder talk you into taking two puppies. Just take my word for it; unless you have a specific reason and you are an experienced dog trainer, taking littermates can be a recipe for disaster. A good breeder will never guilt you into taking two.

Things to look for in a good breeder

♥The breeder will allow you to visit the puppies, meet the parents, visit where the puppies are being raised, etc. Respect the breeder’s rules about visitation (some breeders require you to not wear shoes in to the puppy area or to ensure your clothes have not come in contact with stray dogs).

♥The breeder is following Puppy Culture or some other similar super puppy raising format. You want a breeder who is correctly working with the puppies from birth to ensure they grow up to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

♥The breeder has tested the health of the parents (hopefully for several generations) to ensure the hips and elbows are strong and that any heredity health issues are being screened for. Ask if the breeder has OFA records. You can learn about OFA here . The breeder should know about the hips, heart, elbows, etc. of their breeding pairs. The more a breeder has tested for, the better your chances will be that you will get a healthy puppy.

♥A good breeder will ask you a LOT of questions. You will most likely have to fill out a questionnaire and possibly be put on a waiting list. This means the breeder is careful about who his or her pups go to. A good breeder wants to know you have experience in owning the breed in question and that you have the time, financial resources and training plan to ensure you have a successful future with your pup. Waiting for a pup from the right breeder can be frustrating if you want a pup NOW, but it will pay off in the long run.

♥A good breeder has a contract that explains things like breeding rights, what happens to the puppy if you can’t keep it and information about registration if the puppy is being registered.

♥A good breeder will keep in contact with you for the entire life of your puppy; providing you with information on problem solving behavior issues, tips for going to the vet, and wanting to know how the puppy is doing in its new home.

♥A good breeder is breeding to put something good back in the breed and not to make money. A good breeder should be able to bore you to tears about why they chose a male and female and what the grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. looked like in terms of their breeding program.

♥A good breeder raises the puppies in their home or they bring the puppies into the home often. The puppies should not be raised in a barn or kennel and not have access to lots of in the home time.