When shopping for the perfect new addition to your family, the choices can be overwhelming. It may be tempting to pick the first cute puppy you meet, but for the future happiness and health of your family and your new dog, it’s important to carefully research the breeder and find a responsible, reputable breeder who will give you the best chances of a dog’s long, healthy and happy life.
There are several types of breeders you’ll encounter when shopping for a new puppy. Here is a quick rundown of each type of breeder.
Hobby Breeder A hobby breeder is not a professional breeder. This may be the friend with accidental puppies or someone who thought it would be fun to breed their personal dogs. Puppies from hobby breeders can range from healthy, purebred puppies from a great line to mixed breeds with problematic health or personality tendencies. Hobby breeders do not work for profit, and their dogs are usually sold by word of mouth or social sites such as Facebook.
Backyard Breeder Backyard breeders are similar to hobby breeders. They often only breed from 1-2 dames and 1 sire, usually from their own home. They may breed purebred or mixed/designer dogs and their puppies often come with high price tags, but no other official guarantee. Their sires and dams might be registered, but their puppies are not. Backyard breeders work mainly for profit and you can find their puppies on social sites such as Facebook or Craigslist.
Puppy Mill A puppy mill is a large facility where dogs are usually kept in strict confinement and bred over and over again in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Sires and dames are not assessed for any health or temperament issues and puppies are also not socialized. Puppy mills work solely for profit. You can find puppies from puppy mills online (on the mill’s own website) or at pet stores.
Commercial Breeder Commercial breeder are similar to puppy mills. They may offer slightly better accommodations for the dogs, but are larger scale operations with hundreds or thousands of dogs and several different breeds. Commercial breeders work solely for profit and you can find their puppies at pet stores.
Responsible Breeder A responsible breeder is experienced and has a great reputation. They breed from several sires and dames who are all tested and cleared for breed prone health issues, and come with official papers. Responsible breeders take a hands-on approach in socializing, rearing and training their puppies and are thoroughly knowledgeable about the breed and each puppy’s specific lineage. Puppies from responsible breeders usually come with a high price tag, but breeders usually don’t turn a a large profit, if at all, due to the medical care they’ve already invested in each puppy. Responsible breeders usually have waiting lists, but you’ll hear about them by word of mouth or from their websites.
Even with this knowledge, it can still be confusing when talking to breeders. When purchasing a puppy, here the questions to ask to make sure your puppy comes from a great breeder.
Can I visit the litter?
If the breeder says no, offers to bring the puppy to your home or worst, meet you in a public place like a park or gas station, run far, far away. Responsible breeders will welcome, if not require, you to visit your potential puppy before you make your decision.
Do the puppies have papers?
A responsible breeder will have all their sires, dames, and puppies registered. If the breeder claims the parents are purebred but don’t have any papers to show, it’s very likely that the breeder can’t actually guarantee the puppy is purebred.
Do you require me to spay or neuter?
A responsible breeder will usually require you to sign a contract promising you’ll spay or neuter your puppy. Responsible breeders like to know that they are not contributing to the vast number of backyard breeders or puppy mills, or even accidental hobby breeders because these other breeders do not put the health and prosperity of the puppy and breed first. (If you would like to become a responsible breeder yourself, most breeders will work with you if you let them know) However, there is a rising trend of consciously not spaying or neutering your puppy at all or at least until the dog is much older. If this is the case, the breeder will at the very least inform you of their reasons why they do not encourage (early) spay or neuter and give you their professional advice on what to do with your puppy.
Are the puppies healthy?
The breeder should say yes, wholeheartedly, and have the vet papers to prove it. A responsible breeder’s sires and dams are not only 100% healthy, they are also tested for common breed issues such as hip dysplasia and cleared by their vet as unlikely to develop these issues in the future. A responsible breeder is also aware of any potential carriers–genes or features their dog may not display but could potentially pass on to offspring.
What are the parents like?
A responsible breeder will be intimately familiar with the sire and dame, if not also the grand-sires and grand-dames. They should be knowledgeable of not only their health, breed, and registration, but of any titles, their personalities, and what kind of environment they were raised and lived in. Personalities in dogs, similar to us humans, are strongly influenced by their parents. Responsible breeders will own the dame, if not the sire also. They will be able to tell you what your puppy’s parents are like–excitable, energetic, relaxed, cuddly–and hopefully you can meet them too and see if your puppy’s parents are dogs you personally love. Chances are your puppy will be like them, so if the parents are calm, cuddly dogs and you want an energetic hiking buddy, their puppy is probably not the perfect fit for you. And if the parents are fearful, reactive, or aggressive at all, run away as quickly as you can.
How many puppies are available?
If a breeder has multiple puppies available right now, it’s ironically a bad sign. Responsible breeders don’t churn out puppies year round. They give their dames appropriate rest between litters, and they only have a limited number of dames to breed. So reputable breeders usually do not just have a litter of puppies available for you to pick and choose from immediately. That being said, even the best breeders may have a puppy whose future parents never followed through or a returned puppy (by no fault of the puppy), so you may be able to take home a puppy from the most recent litter. But usually, you will have to pay a deposit and wait for the next litter. Then, when your turn comes, the breeder will work with you to decide which puppy in that litter is best suited for you and your household.
When can I bring my puppy home?
6 or 8 week old puppies are adorable and you may be tempted to bring home your puppy as soon as you possibly can, but most responsible breeders won’t let you bring your puppy home before 8-12 weeks. The 6-8 week period is critical to a puppy’s social development and they shouldn’t be separated from their litter mates. Even at the 8-12 week age, puppies require careful socialization and training, so if you aren’t prepared to put in the time and effort as soon as you bring him home, it’s better to bring your puppy home later (and there is no shame in this, as bringing home a puppy can be, by itself, an overwhelming experience without all the worry about proper socialization). Responsible breeders are dedicated to the well-being of their puppies, so they’ll be able to make sure your puppy gets the socialization he needs.
It can get overwhelming trying to make your decision, but you don’t need to do it by yourself! Reach out to your local trainer or experienced dog owner to help you sort through your options and bring home a healthy, happy puppy.
If you need help socializing your young puppy or finding the right puppy from the right breeder, contact us and Sit Stay and Beyond would be happy to help you add to your furry family.
Trying to decide if you should adopt or shop? Check out our blog post on the pros and cons of rescuing or buying.