Tips for Selecting a Good Dog Breeder
As you've probably learned from reading my blogs, I am a stern advocate against puppy mills. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that when they buy a puppy from a pet store, online seller, or backyard breeder, they most likely are buying from a puppy mill.
If you're thinking of bringing a new dog into your home, one great way to avoid inadvertently supporting puppy mill breeders is to adopt from your local shelter. You'll find a wide variety there - big and small, adults and puppies - and when you adopt a dog from a shelter, you truly are saving a life!
Where to begin?
Here are my tips for making sure your dog's breeder is a reputable one.
When selecting a good dog breeder, it's important to visit the kennel for yourself. Be sure to look at...
- The Breeders Home. Are the kennels and home clean? Does it smell good?
- The Mom. You should be able to meet the mom and the litter-mates (the dad might have been provided by a "Stud Service" and may not be living at the whelping home). Is the Mom shy and timid? Or is she outgoing and her tail wagging? Does she appear healthy?
- The Puppies. How do the puppies look? Are they groomed and healthy looking? Do they have discharge coming out of the eyes and nose? Are they fat or skinny? Healthy eyes and nose? Are they active and curious?
- The Kennel. Are the dogs provided with enough space to run and stretch their legs? What is their exercise program like? Do they have clean and adequate shelter? Where do they live? Are they in a dingy dark barn or in the comfort of a loving and warm home? Is fresh water in their bowls, or is it dirty, green or dark?
A good breeder should welcome questions and should have questions of their own to ask you! Be prepared to:
- Talk About your Lifestyle. A good breeder will help pick out your puppy from the litter as they understand all their personality traits. They may want to know about you and your family, your lifestyle and where the puppy will be living. Their number one concern should be the well-being of their puppy, not the check or cash in your hand. Does the breeder require spaying and neutering? Most good breeders will require this unless you plan to show the dog or other arrangements have been made with them.
- Ask About the Puppies. How old were the puppies when they were weaned from their mother? (6-8 weeks should be the answer.) How old will they adopt them out? If a breeder is letting you take the puppy before 8 weeks - walk away! They are too young to be removed from their mother and litter-mates. Is there a waiting list? That is a good sign!
- Ask for Health Documentation. The puppies should have seen a doctor and been cleared of any health defects. Have they received their first shots and been de-wormed? (The breeder should have this completed prior to leaving their whelping home.) Ask to see the Mom (dam) and Dad's (sire) Health Certificates too. What type, if any, genetic diseases have been in previous litters? Genetic disease is very common and and does not mean the puppies you are looking at will be similarly affected. However, your breeder should inform you of any that have appeared and provide health certificates that show the dam and sire have been cleared of genetic diseases. Also, the previous litters should not have been excessively affected by the genetic disease.
- Ask About Returns. If the puppy doesn't work out or is found to be unhealthy or have any genetic issues, what is their return policy? A good breeder should have one in place and accept returns. Most will either offer you a new puppy or some money back. Read their return policy careful to find out how they handle such situations.
- Ask About The Breeding Practices. How long has the breeder been breeding? Find a breeder that has a few years under them, also - while one or two breeds being bred by a reputable breeder is probably fine, if they are breeding more than two, walk away.How often does she breed her dams? Once a year is the answer you are looking for. Does the breeder have any pedigree or championships of her own? Does she show in competition? This shows their commitment to the breed standards.
Puppy mills are only around because there are buyers that are willing to purchase from them. It's up to us to "vote with our wallets" and refuse to buy dogs unless we can be sure they are reared in a respectful, healthy way.
Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005