Finding A Reputable Breeder 

Anyone can put two dogs together and can call themselves a breeder but that doesn’t make them reputable or responsible. Buying a dog is an important and long term commitment so you want to choose a breeder that has the best interests of the dog, their breed and you in mind. Reputable breeders usually don't advertise in the local classified newspaper ads, glitzty dog magazines, or on a poster taped to a wall in the Laundromat -- the places that the average person might look. Responsible breeders will not take orders for puppies over the internet. Most importantly, they will not sell in litter lots, and they will not sell to pet stores. And while some will say it's because the breeders are being elitist the real reason is quite simple. These venues encourage impulse buying. Impulse buying all too often leads to disappointment when the dog turns out to be just a dog, with a dog's needs, and a dog's means of communication. Pounds, shelters and rescue programs are full of dogs that were bought on impulse. Such a fate is not what a responsible breeder wants for the dogs he or she has helped bring into this world.


Defining a Responsible Breeder: What the Buyer should look for:

A responsible breeder is one who:



This is a two way street. A responsible breeder is going to screen the buyer to ensure that the puppy they have worked so hard to breed and raise goes to a home that is going to love and care for the puppy as much as they would. They'll make sure that the buyer is aware of both the positive and negative attributes of their breed. To some, this screening process may seem intrusive, some will have you complete lengthy questionnaires. But when you are buying a puppy from a reputable breeder one is to a large degree becoming part of that breeder's extended family. Much like a godparent, the breeder will contact you from time to time as to how the puppy is progressing. And like a godparent, they will look forward to the buyer sending them pictures and keeping them appraised of the puppy’s progress. In other words when you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder you are as much buying a part of that breeder as you are a puppy. They come as a package deal.

But unlike a birth parent, when you purchase a dog you have the luxury of picking a breed that is right for you. There is much to be considered in choosing the right breed for yourself, and that will be covered in more detail in this article. A reputable breeder will be honest with you about the good and bad aspects of their breed. You need to be equally as honest, both with yourself and the breeder, as to your needs, expectations, and experience, as all of these will factor in the determination of not only what breed is right for you but choosing a puppy from within a litter.

So how do you, as a consumer, find these kinds of breeders?

They're out there. But it's going to take some work on your part to find them. Remember, they are not looking for the impulse purchase. Be prepared to make phone calls or to travel several hours to meet them.

Once you find a breeder with whom you are comfortable, you may have to wait months or longer for one of their puppies. Consider the time and money spent at this end an investment in your dog's future, because these are the people that are going to be as concerned about the puppy's future as you are.


A dog show is a great way to see representatives of the different breeds competing in conformation or performance classes, and it provides you with a means of meeting breeders and exhibitors. To find a dog show in your area you should first look in your local papers for notices in the papers by the clubs sponsoring such events. You can also go to this link:AKC's web site for a list of upcoming shows and competitions. Or go here for a list of the licensed show superintendents, some of whom have web sites which will give information on upcoming shows, including judging schedules and directions.

Most dog people would love to bend your ear telling you about their dogs but the dog show environment sometimes isn't conducive from the breeder’s standpoint for them to spend the time they need to get to know you. Shows can be hectic and nerve-wracking for exhibitors, and it probably would be a good idea not to waylay someone on their way into a ring. Be courteous, and ask the person when it would be convenient to talk with them. Collect business cards and plan on visiting with as many of the breeders as you can at some time after the show is over. This link will provide you with a list of questions that you should ask a breeder. While written for Golden Retrievers most of the questions are broad enough to cover all breeds.

One of the best places to look for a responsible breeder is a national and local dog club. Most, if not all, have breeder referral programs. To find a national or local club, you can go to this link for the AKC and follow it to the breed you’re interested in, and they will provide links for those clubs that have web sites. They will also provide name and phone numbers for breeder contacts if the club doesn't have web site. Most breed clubs have a Code of Ethics that discuss health and temperament issues that they consider to be important in their breed. It would be a good idea to read through each club’s Code to not only get an idea of what issues they feel are important, but to also know if the breeders you are dealing with are ethical. For most breeds the top two health issues are orthopedic and eye problems so OFA and CERF clearances will be mentioned frequently. For more information about Hip Dysplasia see this link, and for eye disorders this one.

Veterinarians, Boarding Kennels and trainers

Other places to check are your local veterinarians, boarding kennels, and dog trainers. Many will keep the phone numbers of their clients that breed, and in some areas they will have directories published by the local clubs with the names and numbers of breeders in their area. If you do take this route, please make sure to have taken the time to investigate the issues that are important with any breeds you are considering. Not every veterinarian, kennel manager, or trainer knows the difference between a reputable breeder and a backyard breeder or a puppy mill, so you will have to rely on your own good common sense


Many reputable breeders have web sites. Most of these people use their sites primarily to educate the public and tell you about the breed and their own dogs. Sites where the sale of puppies is the primary focus or where you can order a puppy through a feedback form should send up warning flags to you. Take the list of questions above and the Code of Ethics from the breed clubs and ask the breeders that you contact about all of the issues. If you are at all uncertain that a breeder meets your standards for responsibility, then don’t buy.

If you find it impossible to find both a dog of the breed you want and a responsible breeder in your area you may need to consider shipping a dog in from another part of the country. Video tapes, email and shipping by airplanes might make it possible for you to have the type of dog you want. Purchasing long distance from a responsible breeder can be a rewarding experience, but purchasing from someone irreputable may be more of an experience than you bargained for. So you must be exceptionally vigilant about checking out any breeders you are considering that cannot be easily visited.

All puppies are adorable and it is very easy to be taken in by a fuzzy face and a licking tongue. Puppies are small for only a short time. As a responsible buyer, you are committing to living with this dog for an average of 6 to 20 years (breed dependent life span). Take your time. Do your homework. Make the decision with your head before you give your heart.



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