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What To Look For In A Reputable Breeder

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You’ve made the decision to buy a puppy. But you want to make sure you’re doing it the right way. You don’t want to support puppy mills and Craigslist scams. The right way means that you’re only looking at ethical breeders. The right way means these dogs and puppies are healthy, well cared for and well fed. The right way means finding a breeder who loves the breed and wants to find their puppies a good home. You want to find a breeder that possesses all of these qualities – but how do you do it and where do you start?

Related: New Puppy Checklist: What You Need Before You Bring Him Home

We asked Lisa Peterson, an American Kennel Club (AKC) spokesperson and a long-time breeder, about what to look for in a reputable breeder. If you’ve got your heart set on an AKC breed (or any dog breed, for that matter), Lisa offers these tips on what you need to keep an eye out for before you buy a puppy.

  • Do your homework on the breed before you start looking for a breeder. Many people see a dog in a movie or TV show, run out and buy the breed. Three months later, the puppy is left in a shelter because the owners had no idea what caring for that particular breed entailed. Don’t just buy a puppy because it’s cute. Write out a list of attributes you’d like in your dog and research what breeds are best known for having them.
  • Visit the breeder’s home or kennel. A breeder will introduce you to the mother (and father if available) to get an idea of what the future holds for your dog in terms of temperament and appearance. It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to buy a puppy that day – it will give you an idea of how that breeder treats his or her dogs, if the dogs are healthy and happy and watch how the breeder interacts with the dogs.
  • Take a look around the premises. Is the house/kennel clean and odor-free? Dogs and puppies should be clean, well fed, lively and friendly.
  • Find out about the health of your puppy and its parents. Responsible breeders will willingly show you proof of health tests, such as OFA and CERF certificates, on the parents. They will also talking to you about the breed’s strengths and weaknesses. They can guarantee the dog’s traits based on the predictability of the breed as well.
  • Breeders should be willing to answer any questions you have and provide you with references from former customers and veterinarians. And don’t be surprised if they have a few to ask you as well. Good breeders will interview you to ensure that their puppies are going to good homes, with people who know what to expect and have made all the necessary preparations.
  • If you go with an official AKC breed, the puppy should come with an AKC Registration application (AKC papers).  The words “American Kennel Club” and AKC logo should be clearly visible. You’ll need to send in this application form to register your dog with the AKC. If a breeder refuses or hesitates to give you papers, wants to charge you more for AKC papers, offers papers from a registry other than the AKC, or tells you he/she will mail them to you at a later date, you should be wary.
  • Some breeders will require you to sign a contract that states that you will return the puppy/dog to them if you decide you can’t keep it. This is because the breeder wants to rehome the dog themselves to ensure he goes to a good home. This kind of contract is quite common, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sign it before you buy. Read it over carefully and if you do sign, get a copy for your records.

You can also check out our Dog Breed Research articles to learn which breed is right for you.

If you’ve bought from a breeder before, what has your experience been like? Did you learn anything you’d like to pass along? If so, please share your tips in the comment section below.


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