Why You Need a Reputable Dog Breeder
Ultimately, the breeder of your future puppy is responsible for giving your pup its foundation of health and confidence. Sure the diet and lifestyle that you provide for your puppy will go a long way to keep your dog healthy. But the foundation comes from the breeder. If the breeder picks an unhealthy mother and father for the litter, the puppies will be unhealthy too. If the breeder does not socialize the puppy properly the pup will be shy, fearful, and perhaps aggressive. This is why you need an excellent breeder that knows what they are doing.
Types of Breeders
Puppy Mills, are large commercial businesses that are looking to make money, and that is all. They are not breeding for the betterment of dogs, for health, for good temperament, nor for longevity. No, they breed for greed. Puppies from such "breeders" are usually the sad, unhealthy pups they have at the pet stores. Please, do not ever buy a puppy from a puppy mill or pet store, do not give those people your money!
Backyard breeders are usually in one of three camps. They either think that they know what they are doing or they have "accident" litters or they think it could be a good way to make money. Typically they are not breeding for the betterment of dogs and know little to nothing about socialization. You'll find puppies like this advertized at your local stores, on Craig's list or facebook. Often any unsold puppies will end up at the shelter wishing they had a home.
This is who you want to get your puppy from. These breeders know what they are doing. They are breeding for the betterment of their breed for health, conformation, temperament, and longevity. They are breeding dogs that they, personally, can use for shows and/or use for competition.
Puppies from these breeders will come with a pedigree and a contract. These breeders typically will have a passion for only one or two breeds. They only have one litter at a time, and no more than 2 litters a year. Professional breeders usually only produce a litter of puppies when they know they have homes for all of the potential puppies of the litter.
Where to Find A Good Breeder
Professional dog breeders can be found in many ways. One of the best ways to find them is to go to a dog show. Not only will you find breeders you will find loads of information about different breeds and dogs in general. You will see the dogs that the breeders have bread in action, get to meet them, and possibly even see some puppies that are at the show being socialized. Dog shows can be a wonderful experience.
You can also find breeders on the AKC registry and breed-specific clubs. You can also look on the AKC website for Breeders of Merit, Breeders of H.E.A.R.T., and Breeders of the Year. These are breeders that have been recognized by the AKC as breeders that breed for the betterment of their breed. May breed-specif dog clubs also give awards to outstanding breeders, that have proven to be breeding with the intention of bettering the breed in mind.
Know Your Breed
The best way to test a potential breeder is to have your own knowledge about the breed. Read up as much as you can and talk to other people who have the breed that you are interested in. Become as much of an expert as you can on the breed before you actually get one.
A good question to ask your potential breeder is about the normal health problems of the breed. If the breeder claims that they are super healthy and have no predispositions to getting diseases, but your research proves otherwise. Run the other way!
Be Prepared with Question
There are several questions that you will want to ask your potential breeder. Here are a few samples:
What is your training and socialization program for the puppies like?
This is hugely important. The puppies should be socialized with all kinds of people, places, animals, sights, smells, sounds. As many things as possible, especially they need to be socialized with children.
Ask about the health of the parents and family (get a full medical history if you can) and how old the parents are (they should be at least 2 years old).
Ask how many litters they have per year. This should be no more than 3.
Ask about the puppies heritage: are his immediate ancestors and family used for anything like hearing, gundogs, scent trials, police work, agility, etc? This is especially important if you intend to use your dog for any job in particular.
Be sure to ask how old the puppy will be when you can bring him home. He should be 8 weeks old at least, no sooner!
Be sure to ask about diet and vaccinations.
And possibly most important ask for references from previous buyers. And check with those people about the health of their dogs form that breeder and their experience with them.
Be Prepared to be Interviewed
A professional breeder is going to want to know as much about you as you want to know about them, perhaps more. This is because they want to be as sure as possible that their puppies will be well cared for and in a forever home.
Expect to be asked things like:
Why do you want a dog? What makes you think this breed is right for you?
Do you intend to compete or show your dog?
What is your lifestyle like (a.k.a. do you actually have enough time for this breed)?
Have you owned dogs/pets in the past? Tell me about those experiences.
Do you have other dogs/pets now?
How many people live in the household? Children? (The breeder may want to meet everyone in the household)
What is your exercise plan for this dog?
What are you thinking of feeding?
Do you have a vet picked out already?
What about a trainer, have you chosen one of those? What training methods do they use?
The breeder should also be upfront about any drawbacks of the breed.
They should give you information on the pros and cons of spay/neuter, vaccination, pest prevention, dewclaw removal, and more.
The breeder should offer themselves as a lifelong resource to you and call you fairly often to check-in. They should ask that you keep them in the loop as far as health issues or temperament problems that may arise.
Most important they should ask that if for any reason, for the life of the dog, that if you have to get rid of the dog you bring it back to them. They do not want to see puppies form their litters in a shelter, rescues, or with a family that they did not interview.
If at all possible you should visit (more than once) the breeder and see where the puppies will be kept and raised.
The puppies should be raised in the home, this is important for socialization.
They should not be raised on a hard, slick floor. This could lead to hip dysplasia, especially in larger breeds.
The dogs should have plenty of space inside and outside to run and play. The space for the dogs should be clean and safe.
It should be obvious that the dogs love the breeder, love the breeder's presence, touch, voice, everything.
Also, keep an eye out for tons of items with their breed on it, throws, pillows, portraits, shirts, socks, hand towels, etc. This will show that they are indeed passionate about this breed.
Keep an eye out for ribbons and trophies too. Especially if you intend to compete with one of their puppies.
Meet The Family
Meet as much of the puppies family as possible. Mother and father for sure, but aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. These can all give you an idea about the temperament and health of your future puppy. The furry family should look happy and healthy and not be fearful or timid.
Be Prepared to Wait
If you have found an excellent breeder you may need to wait for sometime before you get your puppy. These breeders often have waiting lists and are unwilling to begin a litter without knowing that they have enough homes waiting for each potential puppy.
You can use this time wisely to learn all you can about the breed, training, health, and prevention of the breed's main health problems, nutrition, and more. Plus, puppy-proofing, and making purchases for your puppy. So it doesn't have to be one huge spending spree. Also, getting a plan together for further socialization is wise.
Picking A Puppy
You are probably not going to get to pick your own puppy. You can give your breeder preferences such as color or gender, but the actual picking will likely be done by your breeder. The breeder will typically pick the cream of the crop for themselves to show or compete with. Then they will look at each puppy and match them to the best home depending on what each owner is planning on doing with the puppy. If the owner is going to show, they will give the puppy most likely to be good for showing to that family. If they want a puppy for agility, the breeder will give the puppy with the most energy to that owner. If the family wants a puppy as a pet, the breeder will choose accordingly.
Be Prepared to Pay More
Bringing up a healthy, well-bred litter of puppies is a huge time commitment and expense. As such, puppies from a professional breeder are going to be expensive. The breeder may also charge more depending on what you want the puppy for. If you want a show or competition quality pup you will pay more. If you just want a pet you will likely pay less.
Finding a good breeder can seem like a lot of work but it will save you headaches and heartbreak in the future. A professional breeder, breeds for the betterment of their breed. They breed to meet the breed standards for conformation and temperament. They breed for health and longevity.