If you are looking to get a new puppy from a dog breeder, you may be wondering how to find the right breeder while avoiding the wrong ones. How can you tell the difference between a responsible dog breeder and an irresponsible one (often known as a backyard breeder)?
Unfortunately, not all dog breeders are ethical and responsible. Some are more concerned with profits than the welfare of their animals. Others believe they are doing the right thing, but simply lack the knowledge and experience to be good breeders.
What Is a Backyard Breeder?
The term "backyard breeder" is sometimes used to describe dog breeders with little experience or knowledge, substandard conditions of care, and a lack of selective breeding. Backyard breeders typically breed dogs without taking the time to make good genetic matches or have dogs registered with the appropriate kennel club or breed club.
Why Some Dog Breeders Should Be Avoided
Some breeders are just looking to make a profit off of the so-called purebred dogs that they own. They may let dogs reproduce freely without knowledge of their family histories (health and behavioral, in particular). They pay little or no attention to genetic health issues in both the parents and the puppies. They often charge less money for the puppies than a responsible breeder, but still more money than they should (no one should pay for puppies that were bred carelessly). These dogs may seem less expensive, but in the long run, you may end up paying more for these dogs when health issues develop. In many cases, these breeders will not take their puppies back if something goes wrong. Never trust a breeder who won't guarantee the puppies.
There are other cases where someone has dogs that were accidentally bred and a litter of puppies was the result, or a family decided to breed its dogs "just one time" or "just for fun." These methods are not recommended, as the result could be unhealthy and/or unwanted puppies. These people are not usually aware of the fact that their actions are unethical. However, if they try to charge money for the puppies, it is unethical behavior.
Be aware that even if you get a free puppy from this situation, you could end up with an unhealthy dog down the road. If this occurs, it is best to ask the dog owners to spay and neuter their dogs (they need to stop breeding the dogs). If you don't mind getting a puppy with an unknown genetic history, go to your local shelter or rescue group. You can find a cute puppy that had already been checked over by a veterinarian.
How to Avoid Bad Dog Breeders
If you are determined to get a purebred puppy, then you will probably want to start looking for a dog breeder. If "papers" (registration) or parentage are not important to you, then you should consider adoption instead. Seek out a breed-specific rescue group or even your local animal shelter. If you care about dogs, one of the worst things you can do is purchase a dog from a bad breeder. Perhaps the only thing worse is purchasing a puppy from a pet store; supporting a business that puts profit over the welfare of its animals is not something a true dog lover would ever do.
When you find a dog breeder, it is essential that you check references. Talk to other families that have purchased dogs from that breeder. Check that the breeder is affiliated with the local and national breed clubs and a national kennel club (such as the AKC). Most importantly, make sure you visit the breeding facility and meet the puppies' parents (mother at least).
Questions to Ask The Dog Breeder
You should be able to ask the dog breeder a multitude of questions without issue. A responsible breeder will appreciate that you care enough to do research. You will likely have plenty of your own questions to ask, but here are some ideas to ensure you are working with a breeder who cares about the animals first.
- What type of care is required for this specific breed? Does the breed have specific needs I should be aware of? The breeder should be able to give you detailed answers that confirm what you have learned from your own research on the breed.
- How long have you been breeding dogs? How long have you bred this specific dog breed? It should be several years, and the breeder will have ideally worked with a mentor at the beginning (someone else who had worked with the breed for a long time).
- Do you sell your dogs to pet stores, puppy brokers, wholesalers, or online? If the answer is "yes," leave immediately.
- Can I visit the facilities where you breed and house your dogs? If the answer is "no," then run away!
- Can I meet the litter of puppies and their mother? If the answer is "no," walk away. Note that it is not unusual for the father to be offsite.
- What is the health and behavior history of this line (parents, grandparents, etc)? The breeder should be able to tell you about the dogs going back a couple of generations.
- What genetic issues do you test the adult dogs for before breeding? What tests do the puppies get before you sell them? Research the breed and find out what tests (OFA, CERT, etc.) are recommended by the national breed club. If this breeder has not tested the dogs, you should look for another breeder.
- Can I see the breed registration papers for the puppies and their parents? If the breeder cannot produce these, you should leave without buying a puppy.
- Can I see the veterinary records of the puppies and their parents? If the breeder cannot produce these, walk away. If the breeder has the records, but the puppies have not been vaccinated or dewormed (and there are no plans to do so), walk away.
- What happens if my dog is diagnosed with a hereditary disease? Does the puppy I buy come with a guarantee? The answer should be that the breeder will take back the dog, and/or refund all or part of the fee you paid for the dog, and/or work with you to have the dog treated (if you want to keep the dog). A good breeder wants to know if the puppies remain in good health.
- What happens if I can no longer keep my dog? The breeder should tell you that you can return the dog if at any time in the dog's lifetime you determine you cannot keep it.
- Can you provide references from the owners of puppies from previous litters? If no, ask why not. The breeder should always have references unless new to the industry. In the case of a new breeder, ask for a reference from a professional mentor.
Other Warning Signs of a Bad Breeder
if the answers to the above questions are appropriate, there are still some things you should evaluate. Also, if you notice anything that just doesn't "feel right," then you should do some more research on the breeder. Here are some of the other signs that indicate you are dealing with an irresponsible breeder:
- Dogs in the facility appear to be in poor health.
- More than two or three types of dog breeds are being bred, or they breed a lot of unofficial breeds, such as Cock-a-Poos, Goldendoodles, etc.
- The dogs have no titles, either showing, working, sports, or whatever the animals are being bred for. This likely means the breeder does not breed to better the overall conformation or working style of the breed. Breeding solely for "pet quality" means breeding for money rather than for the betterment of the breed.
- There is no mandatory spaying/neutering of pet-quality animals.
- They always have puppies for sale, sometimes two or three litters at a time.
- The puppies are allowed to go into homes before the proper age (under eight to twelve weeks of age).
- The breeder advertises "rare" colors, sizes, or other traits (such as "rare" white Dobermans, Great Danes, "king-sized" German Shepherds, etc.). These traits are often not in accordance with breed standards and can lead to health or behavior problems.
- They advertise or sell their puppies for greatly reduced prices.
- They breed dogs before the age of two.
When talking to or meeting with a dog breeder, you must look at the facts, but also go with your gut. If something does not feel right, ask questions. If you have any doubts that the breeder is responsible, your best bet is to walk away. Start from square one, looking only for a responsible dog breeder.