How to Find a Good Dog Breeder
Buying a Healthy Puppy Isn't Easy!
At some point in many peoples' lives, there comes a time when they decide they'd like a dog. They must then decide how to go about acquiring one. Typically, there are two options: buying or adopting. I always recommend adopting- you can find dogs, and even puppies, of any size, age, and temperament in shelters. With an adult dog, what you see is what you get- there's no risk of it growing up into everything you'd hate in a pet.
However, there are plenty of good reasons to buy through a breeder. If you have a specific breed in mind, want a puppy, and want to know you're getting a healthy dog from good lines, going with a breeder is the best choice. But, don't head off to Craigslist just yet! There's a big difference between buying a puppy from a breeder and buying a puppy from a good breeder.
Below are important things to consider before handing over any cash.
They Sell Purebreds
A few decades ago, this wouldn't have been on the list because the idea of dedicated breeders selling mutts was simply outlandish. Since then, however, the trend of 'Designer Dogs' has exploded. The internet is full of '-poos,' 'Morkies,' 'Puggles,' and whatever other weird combinations people can come up with.
I have nothing against mutts, but I do have something against people who purposefully breed them and sell them at outlandish prices. There are a very, very few poodle mix breeders that I would consider reputable, but 99% of 'Designer Dog' breeders are selling unhealthy, overpriced mutts under a fancy name.
They Prove Their Breeding Stock
A good breeder is not in it for the money- they produce puppies to improve a breed they love. In order to do this, they must prove that their dogs are worthy of contributing to the gene pool. This is done through shows, sports, and other competitions. The most common method is to show a dog up to a Champion title through the AKC, but there are many breeds with very different lines of 'show' and 'working' dogs. A working dog, like a retriever or herder, proves itself in the field by performing as the breed was originally intended to. Whatever you are looking for in a dog, consider bloodlines as the best indicator of temperament and working ability.
They Health Test
Health testing means so much more than getting the parents checked out by a vet. Do some research into your chosen breed and become familiar with common health problems and the tests that can check for them. For example, if I were to buy a Boxer puppy, I would check that the parents both passed tests on their hips, elbows, and heart. I would prefer to see a few more for more specific diseases, but those are the basics almost every breed should have. Many tests are performed by an organization called OFA, with PennHIP being a popular alternative.
You can check out the parents' testing status yourself on the OFA website here. Just enter the AKC name or number of each parent to see what tests have been performed and the results. A normal rating or higher is good, and will help assure that your puppy never suffers from a degenerative condition later in life.
They Allow Visitors
There's making an appointment for the sake of politeness, and then there's making an appointment to hide bad living conditions. Breeding dogs should not be kept outdoors, especially not without adequate shelter. They should be clean, well-fed, uncrowded, and members of the family. If a breeder is meeting all of the above requirements, this probably will not be an issue. Always try to meet at least the mother before you purchase a puppy. She should be on the premises- an absent mother is a BIG warning sign of a puppy broker.
Would you want to buy a car from a dealer who wouldn't even let you test drive it without scheduling far in advance? It's the same principle here. A good breeder has nothing to hide.
They are a Lifelong Support System
A good breeder will always take back a dog that you can no longer keep, and often have a clause in their contract requiring that the pup be returned to them in such a situation. It's all part of wanting to better the breed vs. making a quick buck. A breeder should always be able to offer you advice and help as you raise your puppy.
This is one of the greatest benefits to buying from a breeder- a reputable one will be there for you for life. They are your mentors, a living database of information about your new family member. By avoiding buying from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, you will save yourself thousands of dollars in veterinary bills and untold heartbreak. So, when those big eyes first melt your heart, remember: think before you leap!