Finding a Responsible Breeder

Know What to Expect from a Responsible Breeder

It’s easy to get distracted by adorable puppies who are anxious to go home with you when visiting a dog breeder, but before you make your selection, there are a few things you should be expecting from the breeder during your visit. Doing your homework ahead of time will help you determine if the breeder is reputable and if the dogs are well cared for.

Responsible breeders will want to know about you

Don’t be offended by the long list of questions – they are making sure you are well suited to care for a dog, and that their puppies are going to a loving home. Some breeders may even ask you to fill out a questionnaire to ensure you’re a good match for their dogs or request a list of references that can vouch for your puppy-parenting capabilities. Feel free to ask for a list of their references too, such as other families who have purchased their puppies.

Your potential breeder should be an expert in raising and socializing puppies and be extremely knowledgeable on the dog’s breed

You should expect that the breeder has a strong understanding of the breed’s common personality and physical traits and knows what health concerns often affect the breed. They should be able to provide you with guidance on training and socializing your puppy and explain how they have done so up until this point. Your breeder should serve as a resource to you, even after purchase, on how to best care for your new pup.

While visiting a breeder, expect a clean, spacious and well-maintained the space where the puppies spend their time

If you are not permitted to see where the puppies are kept, that’s a red flag. A responsible breeder will genuinely care for their puppies by properly grooming, feeding and socializing them. Be cautious if there is a strong odor near the puppies, if it is visibly dirty or if the puppies look crammed, malnourished or unlively.

Ask to meet your potential new puppy’s parents

Ask to see at least one parent, most often the mother, to better understand what your puppy’s appearance and personality could grow into. Make sure the breeder is knowledgeable about the parent’s health and the breed’s physical and temperamental traits and special requirements. The breeder should care for the mother as much as they do the puppies.

Before you take your furry friend home, a responsible breeder should provide a contract agreement

Breeder contracts will often outline certain conditions of care, such as you promising to spay or neuter the dog, or indicate that if at any point in time you can no longer care for the dog, he will be returned to the breeder.

For more information on what to expect from a breeder, visit these resources


Questions To Ask A Breeder Before Buying A Dog

1. How Long Have You Been A Breeder? How Long Have You Been Breeding This Specific Breed?

Just as with any career, the more experience a dog breeder has, the better. Your breeder should have a deep understanding of raising and caring for dogs, and be an expert on the specific traits of the breed you are interested in.

2. Can I Meet The Parents?

A responsible breeder should be more than willing to show you at least the mom, if not both parents, of your potential new pup. Pay attention to the parents’ temperament and overall health. Observing the puppy’s parents can provide insight to what your dog will grow to look and act like. Be sure to ask if either of the parents have experienced major health problems in their lifetime.

3. How Have The Puppies Been Socialized?

It is crucial for a puppy’s development that he is introduced to other dogs and humans in the first 5-16 weeks of age. This period of time will permanently shape your puppy’s future personality and how he will react to different environments as an adult. The puppy should be socialized with his litter from 5-8 weeks, and then with humans starting at 12 weeks. Be sure your breeder has taken the proper steps to start socializing your dog and is able to provide you with feedback on how your puppy has reacted to different situations so far.

4. Is The Puppy Up-To-Date On Vaccinations And Has He Been Dewormed?

You should be sure that your potential puppy has visited a veterinarian to receive his shots and be dewormed before taking him home. Breeders should have proper records on veterinary testing and treatments and should be able to provide you with the vet’s contact information. Understand what shots your puppy has received and when he will be due for his next vaccine.

5. What Health Guarantees And Reclaiming Policies Do You Provide In Your Contract?

If puppy become severely ill, what will your breeder do? Know which inherited diseases afflict you puppy’s particular breed and be sure your breeder has tested your puppy and confirmed he is disease-free. What if you can no longer care for your puppy? Understand your breeder’s reclaiming policy before bringing your dog home.

6. Do You Have References?

A responsible, experienced breeder will have a list of previous customers and veterinarians that can speak to their reliability. Call the previous customers and be sure they had a positive experience with the breeder, and that their puppy was well cared for by the breeder.

7. Can We Contact You After Taking The Puppy Home?

Your breeder should be able and willing to offer you guidance as you are raising your new puppy. Be sure that they are available to contact with questions or concerns about your dog or the breed in general, as they are an expert.

8. What Do You Need To Know About Me?

You should be prepared to answer questions the breeder has about your lifestyle and concerned if they don’t ask any questions about you at all. Reputable breeders will want to ensure their breed suits you, and that you are prepared to raise and care for one of their puppies.

9. When Can I Take The Puppy Home?

Puppies should stay with their mother and litter until they are at least eight weeks old to properly mature and socialize. Your breeder should not place a puppy in a new home until he is between eight and 12 weeks.

What to Look for When Visiting a Breeder

Visiting your breeder to meet your potential new puppy should be an exciting and positive experience. Understanding what to expect from your visit, and what to observe while on the breeder’s premises, will help you determine if they are responsible or not.

Observe the dogs’ living conditions

The breeder should show you where the dogs are kept, where they sleep and play, and where they were born. All of these areas should be clean and well-maintained, and the puppies should seem comfortable living there. A few other items to keep an eye out for:

  • Clean, comfortable bedding
  • Food and clean water
  • Ample living space that does not cause overcrowding
  • Designated space for exercise
  • Clean, comfortable conditions for the mother

Notice the puppies’ behavior and how they respond to the breeder

The puppies should seem happy, clean and healthy. They should be excited to meet new people and interact with the breeder. The breeder should encourage you to handle multiple if not all of the puppies in the litter, to best determine which one you connect with. Warning signs that the puppies are not being well cared for:

  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Weak, malnourished and lethargic
  • Timid around the breeder
  • Uninterested in interacting with you
  • Uninterested in interacting with his brothers and sisters

Take note of the mother’s behavior

The breeder should not only have the mother on the premises but allow you to meet her if she’s not with the puppies already. Note that she may still be feeding her puppies and have enlarges nipples. Ask to see the mother interacting with the puppies, and pay attention to these signs that she is not being properly cared for:

  • Aggressive behavior towards the breeder
  • Uninterested in interacting with her puppies
  • Sad, unenergetic temperament
  • Looks skinny and malnourished

These resources will further prepare you for a trip to the breeder

Be aware of irresponsible breeder red flags

Not all dog breeders are reputable and it’s important to recognize when a breeder does not responsibly care for their dogs and puppies. Take note of these warning signs when you are communicating with and visiting your potential breeder to be sure your new puppy has been raised and cared for properly.

You don’t feel that your breeder is being completely transparent

Breeders should be open about all aspects of their business and willing to provide you with all paperwork such as vaccination information, health tests, Kennel Club certificates, etc. If a breeder is avoiding your questions, or completely unable to answer them, they likely aren’t trustworthy.

You’re promised a dog of any color, size and/or sex that you want

Responsible breeders are limited in the amount of litters their dogs produce each year and cannot promise what the upcoming litter will look like. If a breeder is promising that you will find a dog who meets specific physical attributes, or has puppies to sell year round, it is possible they run a puppy mill and are breeding irresponsibly.

They want you to meet them or someone else outside of their house or premises

Be cautious of breeders that ask you to meet them somewhere other than where the dogs have been raised, as they likely don’t want you to see the dog’s poor living conditions. When purchasing a dog, you should be interacting with the breeder directly, not a third-party that steps in once you show interest.

The breeder does not seem comfortable handling their puppies, or their puppies do not seem to like them, or are even scared of them

This indicates that the breeder has not spent much time with the dogs and has not socialized them. The breeder may even be aggressive towards the puppies if they seem frightened. Also take note of how the breeder treats the mother of the puppies, and do not buy from the breeder if the mother seems unhappy.

They allow you to take the dog home during the first visit

The breeder should request that you spend ample time with the puppy or dog before taking him home forever. During your meeting, the breeder should be asking questions about your lifestyle and ensuring that their puppy is going to a well-suited home.

Trust your gut

If you have any doubts about the breeder or feel pressured to buy a dog in any way, it’s best to walk away from the situation. Breeders should help you make an informed decision about purchasing a dog, and you should be excited about taking your new puppy home.

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