How to Choose a Dog Breeder

Choosing a puppy can be difficult but finding the right breeder will make all the difference. Remember puppies (and dogs) are a lot of work and require time, effort, and money to care for properly.


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    Choose Your Breed. This is very important. Think about yourself and your family- Why do you want a dog (Companionship around the house? An exercise buddy? To train for therapy? To show?) Think about the area you live in. A hot and humid location can be harder on an arctic breed (Husky, Malamute, etc), while Chihuahuas in cold locations will need extra care to keep warm. Think about how much time and money you are willing to spend on: Training- smart breeds need to be challenged, slower breeds need extra time and patience to teach). Exercise- many dogs from the Sport, Herding, and Terrier groups need to spend over an hour outside running daily while some Hounds and Toy breeds will be happy with daily easy walks and more gentle play. Grooming- long haired vs short hair, single layer coat vs heavy undercoat.
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    Start Your Search. Look for an individual that works with the breed of dog you're looking for. Find your local/state kennel club online- they may have a "breed representative" in your area who can help you find a good, responsible breeder. Avoid newspaper ads, as these are not typically used by responsible breeders. Remember that more 'exotic' breeds (i.e. Chinese Crested dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, etc) may not be common in your area and you may have to travel to find a good breeder. Do not settle on a local breeder just because they are close- a long trip to a good breeder is worth every penny you spend on gas. Ask your vet for recommendations if you're having trouble finding options.
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    Talk to the Breeder. They should be well educated about the breed they work with, and honest about the pros and cons of the breed. They should be registered by the AKC (in the USA), or other nationally recognized, organized purebred dog registry. Be ready to ask several questions to the breeder :
    • What health guarantees do you have?
    • How long have you been breeding?
    • Can you give me a vet reference?
    • Can I visit your kennel and if so, when?
    • Do you sell your litters to pet stores?
    • What is the cost of the pup?
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    Look at the Kennel Area. It should be clean, not over crowed, and the dogs should be well fed.
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    Meet the Parents. The mother dog (the Dam), might be suspicious and watchful, but should not show aggression if approached when with her puppies. You may ask to see her and the father (the Sire) alone to determine their temperament away from the puppies. If their attitudes are not a good fit for you and your family, find another breeder.
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    Check and Interact with the Puppy. They should not be easily frightened by your approach, nor show any signs of aggression or resentment when handled (squirming and gentle mouthing is normal and fine, flailing and hard biting can indicate behavioral problems in the future). Puppies should look clean and well fed.


  • Be patient. Don't fall for the first fuzzy face you see. Remember- the puppy you select will quickly grow into an adult dog. This dog can live as long as 15 to 20 years. You are making a long-term investment for the lifetime of the dog.
  • Ask Questions- what genetic problems are known in this breed? Have the parents (and the parents' parents) been tested for any of these? Have there been health problems with any other litters? If old enough, have any of the puppies been temperament tested? What kind of socialization have they had so far? Will the breeder take the puppy back if at any time you are no longer able to care for it (this is a sign of a very good breeder)? What are the conditions of the contract for purchasing this puppy?
  • Know where the breeder got the puppies from. Call the breeder and ask them if they bred the puppies themselves or by a vet, or if the puppies were shipped from puppy mills. Visit the breeder and ask for the mother dog. Check her for fleas, rabies, or any kind of injuries. If you find out the breeder is abusing his/her dogs, report them after bringing your puppy home (take it to the vet after).


  • If the mother dog is aggressive (growling, snapping, snarling) or terrified (freezes in place) when you approach her or her puppies, do not buy- some behavior traits are inherited.
  • Do not be pulled in by the words "designer" or "hybrid". You cannot get a "designer breed" from a responsible breeder. A responsible breeder carefully selects individuals that represent their breed well, with good health and stable, pleasant temperaments to breed and carry on those traits. They do not try to charge extra money for throwing a couple of dogs together and seeing what kind of cute name that pairing would make (i.e. Shorkie, Shih-poo, Labradoodle, Cocka-poo, Bugg, et al). Don't be fooled.
  • Avoid breeders with multiple litters of puppies and those with multiple breeds of dogs being bred- these are the first signs of a "back yard breeder" or puppy mills in the making.
  • If the breeder will not allow you to see the parent dogs (at least the mother, as they may not own the father, and he may not be present), do not buy from them.
  • As a addition to the above warning: Some breeders do breed mixed or "designer" breeds for a reason. An example is the Labradoodle: a high energy breed that is also hypoallergenic. What to watch out for is if they breed different kinds of mixed breeds, or if they have not been in the business for long. If in doubt, ask for people you can contact who have gotten a dog from them before.

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Categories: Choosing a Dog