How To Find A Good Breeder

Maybe you’ve read about rescue dogs and decided that you would like a dog, but rescue is just not right for you at this time. Where, besides through rescue, can you find a good dog? Pet stores that sell puppies are out of the question; the vast majority of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills, and buying a dog from a pet store is bad for you - health guarantees? breeding records? forget it! - as well as for the breeding dogs who spend their lives in misery so that the pet store owner and mill owner can line their pockets.

So how do you find a good breeder? Some people are surprised to learn that the want ads in your local paper, where puppies are listed for sale every day, are probably not the best place to start. Many of the breeders who advertise in want ads are people who have bred their pet dog for all the wrong reasons: “He’s so cute and we wanted to produce more just like him!” “We wanted her to have just one litter so she could experience motherhood.” “We wanted our children to witness the miracle of birth firsthand.” Genetics is a complex science and nothing to be taken lightly. People who breed their pets may or may not have a thorough knowledge of the lineage of their dog and its mate; they may or may not know what genetic problems lurk in the family tree.

Some breeders who advertise widely -- on the internet, for example--are just hoping to make some extra money, even though responsible breeding of dogs costs more money than you will ever make.

And what about the many breeder ads that appear every month in national dog magazines? Well, the volume breeders, puppy mills, and backyard breeders advertise there too. In fact, in a given month, the majority of breeders listed in dog magazines fit one of those three undesirable categories. In one issue, 35 kennels advertised dachshunds for sale; of those 35, it is estimated that only about 15% were not known commercial or backyard breeders.

Remember that establishments that produce large numbers of pups are much more likely to advertise than high-quality show breeders, who often have waiting lists for their pups, so any ad should really be viewed with caution. That doesn't mean that everyone who advertises is an inexperienced breeder, a backyard breeder, or a puppy mill. It does mean that you need to do your homework and check any breeder thoroughly before you buy a puppy (see below for how to do that). We recommend never buying a puppy from a kennel you have not visited personally. Ordering a puppy off the internet and having the puppy arrive via air freight is not the way to go.

But there are good breeders out there. Here are some places to start to find a responsible breeder.


Dog Shows

A dog show is a great place to find good breeders. You can see some of the breeder’s dogs and, at a benched show, talk to the breeder to see whether he or she might have the dog you are looking for. In general, show breeders know what they’re doing, and their primary concern is in improving the breed.



Breed-Specific Bulletin Boards on the Internet

Breeders and people who know good breeders often post regularly on bulletin boards. Do a search for the breed you want, then log on to a lively site and post a message stating that you are looking for a responsible breeder of the kind of dog you have in mind. Check our Dachshund Links to find the web addresses of some good dachshund bulletin boards.

The more sources you investigate, the better your chances of finding a reputable breeder.


Ask Questions!
So now you have a list of names. How do you decide which breeders are responsible breeders? The same way you find out most things in life: Ask questions! Here are some questions that can help you weed out the breeders you wouldn’t want to deal with and help you on your way to finding a great dog! Remember that someone who is selling puppies and who doesn’t want to take the time to answer your questions is probably not a breeder you want to deal with. The breeder should be eager to help you learn all you can. After all, they might be sending one of their puppies home with you!

1. ”What is your primary goal in breeding—do you breed primarily for conformation (the physical structure and appearance of the dog and how closely it fits the breed standard) or temperament?”

A good breeder breeds for both. A responsible breeder breeds to eliminate physical traits that can cause health problems for the dog (weak backs or hips, overbites, allergies) and also tries to produce dogs of sound temperament—dogs who are not aggressive, who do not snap or bite out of fear or nervousness, etc.

2. “Why did you breed this particular litter? What are you hoping to accomplish in your breeding program?"

With this question, you can find out a lot about how serious this breeder is and how careful about breeding negative traits out and positive traits in. A breeder who can’t answer these questions is not a breeder you want to deal with.

3. “How long have you been involved with this breed? What can you tell me about the breed’s history, its strong and weak points, and whether it might be right for me?”

Everyone has to start somewhere, so the length of time a breeder has been breeding dogs is not the most important fact to know. But asking this question will help you eliminate the breeder who says this is his first dog and what he knows about the breed is that they’re really cute and fun to be around. Look for someone knowledgeable. Good breeders love to talk about their breed! And in answering this question, a good breeder will ask you questions!

4. “How old are your puppies when you sell them? Will the puppy have had all of the necessary inoculations when we get it?”

Reputable breeders do not release their puppies until they are at least eight weeks old; in some states, it is illegal to sell a puppy before that age. A breeder who is willing to sell you a dog younger than eight weeks old and who says they will tell you what further shots will be necessary either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, what he or she is doing.

5. “What are the most common health problems with this breed?”

Look for a breeder who will answer questions about health honestly and knowledgeably.

6. “What happens if we buy a puppy from you and it doesn’t work out?”

A good breeder will not only say it’s OK for you to return a puppy that isn’t working out—a good breeder will demand it. Good breeders want to guarantee that their puppies will not end up in kill shelters or wandering along the side of a busy highway.

7. “Do you provide any incentives for new owners to spay or neuter puppies they buy from you?”

A good breeder understands how difficult breeding a sound dog can be. A good breeder understands the pet overpopulation problem. A good breeder will encourage you to spay or neuter the pup. An excellent breeder will not allow you to register the pup with the AKC until you have provided proof of the surgery.

8. “What kind of help can we expect from you after we have taken a puppy home?”

Expect a good breeder to be willing to offer advice on housebreaking, obedience training, and dealing with problems after you have bought the puppy. Good breeders care about what happens to the dogs they produce and will want to do whatever they can to ensure that their puppies are doing well in their new homes.

9. “May I meet the parents? See the parents’ health records? The pup’s health records? The area where they dogs are kept?”

A good breeder will be proud to show you where the dogs sleep and eat, the parents (if they are on site; a stud might have been imported for breeding a litter), and any and all records. Beware of any breeder who asks you to wait outside while they bring the puppy to you. What are they hiding?


Get Questioned Yourself
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good breeder will ask questions about you. The breeder may want to know whether you have children in the home, how old, whether they have been exposed to dogs before, and whether they have been, or will be, trained in respectful treatment of pets. Breeders may also ask what kind of home you live in, whether you have a fenced yard—and if not, how you plan to exercise the dog, what your experience with dogs has been, and even why you want a dog and why a dog of this particular breed. Good breeders will also ask for references—they are not about to let one of their pups go home with a stranger about whom they know nothing at all.


A good breeder should also offer you a five-generation pedigree for your dog, so that you can see that the breeding programs that produced your pup have been solid. Saying that the parents are “AKC” is meaningless; just about any dog (and even cats, as was proved by the producers of an investigative report on puppy mills on Dateline NBC) can be registered with AKC for a fee. AKC registration is no guarantee of sound breeding or the quality of a dog.

Does all of this sound like a lot of work? Well, consider this: The animal you are buying will be a part of your family for as long as 18 years. Its health and personality will have an enormous impact—for the better or for the worse—over that time. It’s more than worth taking some time to find a responsible breeder and to get a great dog!

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