So, you are thinking about adding a new 4-legged member to the family!
You have decided that you would like to purchase a purebred puppy from a breeder. Most people start browsing online, they see a cute face and fall in love and the next thing you know they are bringing home a new puppy. STOP.
The first thing you should do is find a BREEDER, not a puppy.
A good breeder is where it all begins. Start your search in advance because most good breeders have waiting lists. If you are thinking about a last-minute dog or impulse buy then go to a shelter or rescue. There are plenty of wonderful dogs there who need a home!
That being said if you are still set on getting a dog elsewhere, here are some tips to help you distinguish responsible breeders from the not so good ones.
Good breeders thoroughly interview and talk to any prospective buyer and are not afraid to say NO if a particular breed isn’t going to be a good fit for someone’s lifestyle.
- A BYB (backyard breeder) either has no regard to where their pups end up or are just happy if they think their puppies are going to someone who will love them and don’t take the time to make sure it is actually a good fit. One of the main reasons people surrender or rehome dogs is because they got a dog who was too much for them to handle and they could not meet its needs.
Good Breeders register their dogs/puppies with AKC or a breed specific club/organization and can tell you about most of the dogs on the papers. The purpose of this is so that they have a visible pedigree and can tell you about any temperament, structural or health issues in their lines – it’s all genetic! (thyroid issues, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, etc.).
- BYBs will try to tell you that they are just pets and don’t need papers/they aren’t important. Pets most of all should be healthy, sound and have good temperaments because most live with families or children. They breed dogs who fit or come close to fitting the physical breed standard. Form follows function and a dog who is poorly constructed will fall apart. ACL tears, bad knees, slipped discs. Yep…that is all genetic and can be mostly preventable with breeders who are careful that the dogs they produce are built correctly.
- Most BYBs have absolutely no clue that how a dog is constructed has a huge impact on how it will hold up long term to daily exercise and activities.
Good breeders will only breed a dog with a very sound and stable temperament…because again, that is also genetic.
- With BYBs you have to know how to read between the lines and ask the right questions, i.e. protective usually means reactive, aggressive or nervous around new people. Shy usually means anxious or under-socialized.
Good breeders do all of the required health testing for their breed – OFA (elbows, shoulders, hips, cardiac, patellas, etc.) and genetics testing through a company like Embark or PawPrint. Make sure you ask for proof!
- BYBs most common excuses are “they were checked by our vet and he said they are healthy” OR “we haven’t had any issues in our lines so we don’t feel the need to test.” Run far away if they say those things. Those are people not willing to spend a little extra time and money to ensure they are producing the healthiest puppies they possibly can.
- BYB only a few litters a year. A litter of puppies raised properly takes up a LOT of time and multiples litters on the ground or puppies all year round is a huge red flag.
A good breeder shows or proves their dogs in some venue – conformation, agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, herding, etc. If you say “but I just want a pet, I am not worried about any fancy titles” then look up these 2 articles: Why Title a Dog by Sandra Mowery, I Don’t Want a Show Dog; I Just Want a Pet by Joanna Kimball
- BYBs will say “they are just pets” or “I don’t have time for all that.” Most breeds were created for a purpose and if you breed away from that you lose everything that makes that breed unique. Another of their favorite taglines is “Champion bloodlines” – you can lose a lot in a couple generations so unless they are actively showing or competing with parents/siblings then champion bloodlines means nothing except a few generations back someone else put a lot of money and work into their dogs and the BYB is trying to piggyback off of their success.
Good breeders can tell you in detail about their puppy raising process…Puppy Culture, ENS, Enrichment Exercises, Early Socialization and Training, etc.
- The most common thing you will hear a BYB say is “They were raised in our home!” Unless you are creating positive associations with the puppies inside and exposing them to as much as you can then being raised in a home is no better than being raised in a barn. The first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life is going to shape his future forever and bad experiences or no experiences at all are extremely detrimental. While it’s not always “all how they are raised” (genetics play a role) it does make a huge difference in how they turn out. Speaking from personal experience the litters I have raised with Puppy Culture (both purebred and rescue litters) are more confident, more outgoing, more independent, more socially appropriate and less fearful than the litters I have raised without.
Good breeders sell their puppies with contracts and lifetime breeder support. They keep in touch and are willing to take the dog back at any time so that it never ends up in a shelter or the wrong hands.
This should go without being said but PLEASE do not get your puppy from the Pet Store…no matter how cute it is, how much it’s marked down or how sorry you feel for it.
Those puppies are very poorly bred and normally come from the worst of the worst – mass puppy farms or puppy mills. And if you think you’re rescuing it, you are not – all you are doing is supporting the puppy mills and allowing this terrible cycle to continue.
And lastly, don’t forget this…
– a well-bred dog from a good breeder is going to cost a little more upfront, and while a poorly bred dog usually costs less upfront it will cost you more later – between vet bills, behavior issues, structural problems, etc. Sometimes you can get lucky but most of the time you get what you pay for. On the flip side, a lot of money doesn’t always equal well bred (think Pet Store puppies) so that is why you have this guide to reference and make sure that you truly are getting what you pay for. A good dog is going to be a 10+ year commitment – don’t sell yourself short.
So next time you are tempted by the cute Craigslist puppies or the litter your buddy is advertising on Facebook go through this list and ask yourself these questions. And remember… a well-bred dog truly is worth its weight in gold.
By Gina Shawhan, Leapofaith Border Collies