There are more than 400 unique dog breeds recognized by kennel clubs all over the world today. Although modern man kept the company of dogs far earlier in our history, it wasn’t until the 19th century that breeding became a popular hobby. Early breeders began to track bloodlines in order to create working dogs for hunting or herding.
Today’s responsible breeders are more concerned with preserving the integrity of the individual breed, and producing loving companions for their customers. Those who decide to get a dog from a responsible breeder are likely to have an exact image of the dog they want—whether based on aesthetics, personality traits, or some other consideration.
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They may have lots of experience with a particular breed, suffer from allergies, or prefer to raise and train their dogs from a very young age. Whatever the reason, choosing a breeder to deliver one’s perfect doggy match can be a wonderful experience if the proper research is done first.
So how can you be sure that you’ve chosen the right breeder? Try asking your veterinarian, groomer, or other animal professionals in your area for a recommendation1. Many vets keep lists of recommended (and not recommended) breeders in their community in order to keep their clients informed.
Friends, family and neighbors may also be helpful. If you know of someone who has a breed you are interested in, reach out to them. Adoring pup parents love to talk about their dogs!
What Should You Look For In A Responsible Dog Breeder?
These are the green flags you want to see when searching for a responsible breeder. If you can’t check off each box, go with someone else. Reputable breeders will1,2:
- Want you to see where the puppies live and meet both parents.
- Encourage several visits for all family members to come and meet the dogs.
- Have dogs in their care that are clean, outgoing, and healthy.
- Not release puppies until they are an appropriate age and weaned (not before 8 weeks old).
- Keep the breeding dogs as you would keep yours—not constantly confined to cages, or in a dirty or overcrowded space.
- Breed only a few types of dogs and be knowledgeable about their individual traits and requirements.
- Meet the dogs’ psychological needs with plenty of toys and socialization.
- Be established with a local vet and willing to show you the records for the parents and pups.
- Be willing to provide references to their vet and others who have gotten pups from them.
- Insist on meeting, interviewing, and following up with pup parents.
- Provide a written contract and health guarantee.
Find a printable Humane Society PDF with these tips and many more here. It is an excellent resource to take with you while researching breeders.
In addition to these requirements, the breeder should also have some questions and demands of you. Similar to a shelter or rescue group, responsible breeders should show interest in why you want a dog, your living situation, other pets, etc. Some may even ask that you sign a contract agreeing to spay/neuter at the appropriate age or agreeing to return the dog to them should you decide to give it up.
Signs Of An Irresponsible Breeder
Some breeders will try to trick you into to thinking they are legitimate. It is your responsibility to do your due diligence and make sure these red flags are nowhere to be found. Irresponsible breeders may:
- Want to meet you in a public location, or keep their dogs in a warehouse/large separate building that is not their home.
- Not allow you to visit the property or meet the puppies’ parents.
- Not ask you any questions, and only show interest in getting paid.
- Offer many different breeds, “rare,” or “new” breeds.
- Sell underage puppies that are not fully weaned (younger than 8 weeks old).
- Sell puppies at everyday events like flea markets and garage sales.
- Sell puppies to pet stores.
- Always seem to have puppies available.
- Refuse to provide veterinary records or will only guarantee health if the puppy visits one particular veterinarian.
The AKC’s Breeder Referral Search may be able to help you connect with a local club and find a responsible breeder in your area.
1The Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). How to find a responsible dog breeder. The Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-find-responsible-dog-breeder
2VCA Animal Hospitals. (n.d.). How to choose a good dog breeder. VCA Animal Hospitals. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/how-to-choose-a-good-dog-breeder