There are many wonderful puppies and dogs in shelters and rescue groups across the country who are looking for new homes, and we really hope you’ll adopt one of these awesome and deserving pups. But if you absolutely can’t find the right adoptable dog, please choose a breeder who loves and cares for her dogs, and who gave your future puppy the best start possible.
Finding a good breeder takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. Here are some tips to put you on the right track—and help you avoid being tricked by one of the bad guys.
Our #1 Most-Important Tip: Make the Trip
If you take only one piece of advice from us, make it this: Physically go to the breeder’s place to see it for yourself. Photos and websites can lie, and someone who oozes charm and concern over email or the phone can be a phony. To know for sure you’re not being duped into supporting cruelty, see with your own eyes where the puppies were born and how they’re being raised. You should insist on meeting mom, and dad too if he’s around.
A responsible breeder loves their dogs and has nothing to hide. If the breeder is reluctant for you to visit, refuses to show you the puppies’ parents and where they live, won’t let you see the puppies up close and handle them, or wants to bring a pup to you at another location—even if that location is more convenient for you—move on.
Patience Is a Virtue
A good breeder plans each litter and is devoted to caring for each puppy until a home can be found. Because caring for a litter of puppies the correct way is a lot of work, and because mom dogs should get plenty of rest between litters, good breeders may not always have puppies available. Don’t be turned off by waiting lists—in fact, they’re likely a good sign.
Furthermore, you’re not just checking out the breeders—they should be checking you out, too. Good breeders will ask questions to make sure this is the right puppy for you and to help you prepare your home for a new family member.
In return, a good breeder should be transparent and readily provide you with information about the dog breed generally, the specific dogs they breed, and the puppy you’re interested in. Things like size, behavior, and health issues should all be covered. Ask to take a look at health records, photos of prior litters, and any other information you or the breeder thinks will be helpful.
Trust Your Gut
Don’t make any final decisions till you’ve visited, and then ask yourself: Are you impressed with the living conditions and how the dogs and puppies are treated? Is it clean, comfortable and safe? Do the dogs have plenty of room to move around and play? Are there toys? Do the dogs have access to clean, nutritious food and water? Are young puppies kept with their mothers for at least eight weeks before sale? How many different breeds of dogs do you see? (It shouldn’t look like a pet store: good breeders usually commit to a specific breed because they want to be experts on the health and behavior of the breed.)
Bottom line: Would you want your dog living there?
Take time to review everything and discuss any concerns with your family, friends or veterinarian. Be honest with yourself. If you’re at all uncomfortable with what you saw or were told, or feel pressured to make a quick decision, you might want to consider other options: another breed, a mixed-breed, or even an older dog instead of a puppy (did we mention adoption?).
For a more complete rundown of what to look for in a responsible dog breeder, see our PDF guide How To Sniff Out A Good Breeder [PDF].