Choosing a Dog Breeder
Adapted from Author: Kate Connick 2001
So you want to add a new dog to your family. You've decided that you want a puppy, and you have a particular breed in mind. Everyone you know has told you horror stories about pet stores, so you cross them off your list. You need to select a breeder, but you don’t know how to narrow your search. You may want to show or do obedience with the dog or you may just want a pet. But you will definitely want a companion who will fit into your lifestyle without being emotionally and financially burdensome. In simplest terms, you want a physically and mentally sound animal - a healthy, happy dog with which to share your life.
Consider that this is a decision that will be with you for the next dozen or more years. Choose wisely. Not all breeders are created equal,
and neither are the puppies they produce. Keep in mind that, by definition, anyone who owns a female dog at the time it gives birth is a "breeder." It is not always easy to tell the difference between a good breeder - a responsible hobby breeder - from an unknowledgeable "backyard breeder" or a commercial "puppy mill" breeder. Things to look for as you search for your breeder:
Is the Breeder registered as a breeder with their State Canine Body (eg Dogs Queensland) and will the puppies be registered with that body? Will they be on the Main register or Limited Register. If on the Limited register - which means they cannot be shown or bred from - Why?
has the breeder been involved in this particular breed? If it is a breed that has recently become popular, beware of someone who has jumped on the bandwagon to make a fast buck. They may not have the best interests of the breed nor buyer in mind. The person with the slickest web page is not necessarily the best breeder!
Along the same lines, are the animals being bred actually purebred dogs
belonging to a breed recognized by some legitimate registry? I love mutts, but there’s no excuse for someone to charge hundreds of dollars to sell what is essentially a glorified mutt (eg., Cockapoo, Schnoodle, etc.). Unscrupulous breeders will claim that cross-breeds are somehow immune to the genetically-based health problems of their purebred brethren. This is not true.
is the breeder about this particular breed? Are they familiar with its historical origins? Can they educate you about the breed's disadvantages - especially genetic predisposition to health problems and characteristics like shedding, slobber, dominance, inter-dog aggression, etc. that may make owning the breed a challenge? Beware of anyone who sounds like a salesman and tells you that their breed has no disadvantages! Good breeders will play devil's advocate.
Does the breeder show their dogs
in conformation, obedience, agility, schutzhund, field work, etc. to prove their dogs' quality as breeding stock? Can they demonstrate their dogs’s abilities to you? Frankly, I do not believe that this is a requirement for one to be a good pet dog breeder, but those who actively compete in dog events tend to have an overall higher commitment to the breed. Still, don’t be fooled by titles, per se. A pedigree full of conformation "champions" has absolutely zero relevance to someone seeking a healthy, happy pet.
Is the breeder "kennel blind" (believing that their dogs are perfect) or can they tell you the strengths and
weaknesses of their particular dogs? What is their goal in breeding?
Is their goal consistent with your vision of an ideal pet? If they are breeding for "health and temperament," have them explain exactly what they mean. Their idea of ideal temperament and yours may differ dramatically. If their goal is to produce their next show dog, have them explain how that will translate into a good pet for you. Ear-set and tail carriage mean nothing if the dog they produce bites your children or dies of cancer before his fifth birthday.
Does the breeder only use Bitches and Stud Dogs they own or have bred, or do they go outside their breeding lines to enhance their stock and avoid inbreeding ? Ask the breeder did they breed the sire and dam ? In their litters over the past 12 months, how often have they used Sires/Bitches that they did not breed/own? A good breeder will research options from all over Australia and not just use a dog because it is in their backyard, or “around the corner”.
Are the breeder's dogs screened for genetic health defects
like hip dysplasia, eye disorders, hypothyroidism, Von Willebrand's disease, epilepsy, cardiac conditions, and anything else that is common in the breed? Can they provide you with proof, e.g., CERF and OFA certification and other relevant veterinary documentation? A good breeder will welcome your concern and be glad to offer the requested information - beware of anyone who is defensive! An excellent breeder will candidly discuss the health of their line of dogs, including the problems that have cropped up. Even good breeders can produce unhealthy dogs on occasion. The difference is that the good breeder is on a mission to find and remove those genetic influences from their breeding lines. The irresponsible breeder approaches health in a haphazard manner.
Does the breeder have any old dogs
on the premises? How long have their own dogs lived, and from what have they died? Beware of the person who sells off their adult dogs that are retired from showing and breeding. You want a breeder who loves the
breed, not someone who loves to
How many breeds
is this person breeding? Ideally, someone will have a special interest in only one breed (perhaps two). A Jack-of-all-Breeds truly is a master of none. How many litters does the breeder have in any given year? A good breeder may breed one or two litters, or may not breed at all for a year or more between litters. More is never better. Anyone who is producing a large number of dogs year in year out may be doing it at the expense of quality.
Are the breeder's dogs kennel dogs or house pets?
While it is sanitary to keep large numbers of dogs outside in a kennel, you want a breeder who keeps their dogs in the house with the family. Breeders who keep their dogs in kennels may have temperament defects (like excessive dominance) of which they are not even aware. Puppies should be raised inside an active home to begin socializing them to a household environment.
Will the breeder provide you with the names of their veterinarian and several past purchasers to serve as references?
If given a choice, request pet references. Certainly a professional trainer will be able to handle a tough puppy, but what about a family with three kids and a cat? If the latter just loves the temperament of their dog, that speaks volumes. Ask the breeder about the homes that haven't worked out. There are bound to be some. Is the breeder honest that they made a poor placement, sympathetic to someone who underwent a life change that necessitated returning a dog, blunt that they produced a problem dog... or is the breeder bitter and accusatory about the person who bought the dog? Beware of the narrow-minded breeder who places blame on everyone but themselves.
What kind of guarantees
does the breeder offer? Most will offer a replacement puppy or refund of purchase price if your puppy manifests a serious genetic defect. Any responsible breeder will want to keep in touch with you and be informed if your dog develops health problems. Truly caring breeders will insist that you return your puppy/dog to them if you are unable to keep it for any reason during its entire life.
At what age
does the breeder send puppies to their new homes? Avoid any breeder who wants to send home a puppy younger than seven weeks. Many good breeders will release puppies at 8 weeks, but as long as the puppy is being actively socialized, it is arguably better to wait until 10 or 12 weeks.
What does the breeder do to socialize
their puppies? Ask them for specifics. Good breeders will have lots of toys and activities to which to expose their puppies. Mild stress is excellent for making puppies resilient later in life. A breeder who allows their puppies to experience different sounds, surfaces, etc. and meet different people is trying hard. A breeder who keeps their puppies in some sort of ultra-sanitary, almost sterile vacuum is doing the puppies a great disservice. Puppies raised in a kennel should be avoided.
A good breeder will be very interested in who you are
and somewhat choosy about whether you are able to provide an adequate home for one of their cherished pups. A breeder who wants to see your home, your kids, your spouse, your other pets, proof of your fencing, or talk to your veterinarian is simply trying to make sure that you will take good care of their pup. Do not resent this. Good breeders want to keep in touch with you after you've purchased a puppy and will be there for you with support and advice later on. Avoid breeders who take credit card orders over the internet and ship puppies to anyone who wants them. NO responsible breeder will sell a puppy to a pet store or other broker for resale.
A good breeder will participate in breed rescue efforts
for the breed they love. This is important. Anyone who scoffs at breed rescue or is not personally involved in it in any way is someone to be avoided. Often the best place to begin your search for a good breeder is to ask breed rescue volunteers for their recommendations.
Good breeders think ahead and make reservations in advance
for the puppies they will produce. You may have to wait for a puppy, but that's not a bad thing. Beware of someone who first creates puppies and then worries about how to disperse them.
What does the breeder do for a living?
Dog breeding should be an avocation. Avoid anyone who makes their living through breeding dogs! The corners they cut financially may be at your expense.
Are the premises clean and orderly?
Are the breeder’s dogs healthy in appearance? It can be a messy proposition to raise a litter of puppies, but puppies should not be wallowing in waste, covered with fleas, or otherwise appear neglected. Keep in mind that many longhaired bitches will shed their coats heavily during this time, so if the puppies’ mother appears a little ratty it is not necessarily inappropriate or unusual.
Do you like the temperaments of the puppies' parents?
Remember, temperament is genetic! Avoid puppies from bitches that demonstrate any
aggression or shyness. Specifically inquire about possessiveness (food and object guarding), inter-dog aggression, defensiveness about being handled, etc. Accept no excuses for undesirable behavior. Don't be afraid to ask the breeder to demonstrate the bitch's good temperament to you. However be aware that hormones are active in lactating and pregnant bitches.
Has the breeder or will the breeder allow you to temperament test the litter?
While puppy-testing is not especially predictive of adult temperament, it’s an attempt to gauge a puppy’s personality so that it can be best matched with a new owner. Ask the breeder's permission before doing anything to a puppy. No potential buyer has the right to do anything to a puppy which a breeder perceives as potentially harmful.
Does your breeder respect
veterinarians, trainers, groomers, breeders, and other peer professionals
in the dog world? Beware of breeders who are paranoid or hostile towards other professionals. One cannot operate competently in a vacuum, and in general, good breeders are socially well-networked. They are liked, like others, and respect competent professionals in their field. A good breeder should make the effort the know other good breeders (especially of their own breed). It is important for a breeder to strive to improve their knowledge and understanding of their breed and submit to peer critique, even if it is not necessarily formalized (as in the show ring).
Be aware of good research based & scientifically accepted practices
and breeders who know and who ascribe to them.
- Some breeders feed their dogs a diet of pure kibble (dry food). Would you feed your children purely on processed foods? I hope not. Such food can compromise the health in pet dogs. The inclusion of raw meats and natural foods are important to the health of your puppies/dogs. Find a breeder who feeds a good quality raw diet, which may include some high quality commercial kibble.
- Vaccinations and basic veterinary care, including appropriate, intestinal worm/ heartworm preventatives, etc are essential. Ensure the breeder worms puppies at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age and discusses/provides heartworm preventatives &/or information on this issue. Current AVA protocol for vaccinations is: Core vaccines (ie C3) at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, 12 months later and then 3 yearly. Does the breeder follow this regime/provide information about vaccinations?
Often overlooked, but important - do you like the breeder?
Will you feel comfortable relying on this person as a resource to help you if you ever run into problems with your pup? If you feel that the breeder is abrasive, rude, ignorant, or otherwise disagreeable, look elsewhere to buy your puppy. One of the greatest advantages of buying from a breeder is the support and assistance they can offer you throughout your dog's life.
Breeding stock, should only be bred after thorough and brutally honest evaluation and screening for health and temperament.
It is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to be a truly responsible breeder who actually improves their breed by selectively breeding only healthier, better-tempered animals. A dog can be the best pet or show dog in the world but not worthy of being bred if something hides in the gene