A Guide to Choosing a Responsible and Reputable Breeder

Whether you are looking for a family pet or companion animal, or you want a show quality dog, a responsible breeder is the best source for a well-bred, healthy dog. The breeder will carefully select the parents of each litter to emphasize desirable traits and minimize faults in their lineage.

So how do you find a responsible and reputable breeder? Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Never, ever buy a puppy sight unseen. The breeder should insist that you visit the kennel or home where the puppies are and that you are given full access to their environment. Let your eyes, ears and nose be the judge. Make sure that conditions are clean, the dogs have plenty of space and look healthy and well cared for in all regards. The puppies should be clean, well fed, lively and friendly, without any signs of illness such as runny nose or eyes, skin sores, or dirty ears or fleas. Find out if the puppies have been socialized. Ideally, the breeder should raise the puppies in the house, around normal daily activities so that they are used to the noises and interaction with humans. If the puppies have been raised in "the kennel", try to get an idea as to how the puppies have been socialized. For example, find out if the breeder has spent enough time with them. Go with your instincts -- If you have any doubts, walk away.
  2. Make sure the dam (mother) is available for you to see. No reputable breeder would have puppies without the dam being there. If the breeder does not allow you to see her, walk away. You should also ask if it is possible to see the sire (father). This, however, is not always possible because the sire may be owned by another breeder and was used for stud purposes only. Whatever the reason, the breeder should tell you why you cannot see him and should have photos available for you to see. The breeder should also have an official pedigree that describes the lineage of the puppy. This should include the name and registration numbers of at least three generations (the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents). Ask when the dam of the litter was last bred and the number of litters she has had -- If she is being bred every six months, this is too often.
  3. A reputable breeder will take you through an interview process. They want to know that you know what you are getting yourself into, that you can take care of the puppy, that you are going to be a responsible, intelligent dog owner. They will evaluate you carefully just as you evaluate them. They will want to know about your lifestyle; where you live; if you have children; if you have time to spend with a dog; if you've ever had a dog, if so, what happened to the dog; if you have a fenced yard; and on and on. The interview process is an indication that the breeder really does care about placing their puppies in good homes. The breeder should also be very knowledgeable about their breed and able to answer all your questions.
  4. Every breeder should have a breed standard on hand and be able to point out major, minor and disqualifying faults. They should also be aware of the major breed problems. Every breed as some, whether it's Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Heart Disease, Epilepsy, or some other, the breeder should know what their breed's major problems are. Reputable breeders will have established a breeding program that reduces or even eliminates the possibility of such disorders appearing in their dogs. Ask to see the formal health clearances for both the dam and the sire (even if the sire is not on the premises, they should have the clearances on file). Ask the age of the dam and sire -- They should be at least 24 months to have received final health clearances. Also ask the breeder about clearances on the grandparents and siblings of the parents. You should also ask to see the veterinary records for the puppies -- No good breeder would sell their puppies without an initial visit to the veterinarian for inoculations and general check-up.
  5. Any breeder selling a dog as purebred must register the dog and provide the new owner with the registration certificate within six months of the date of sale. This is the law in Canada as required under the Animal Pedigree Act -- The parents, the litter and the puppy you are about to purchase must be CKC registered. At the time of purchase, the breeder should provide you with a litter registration paper indicating the breed, date of birth, registered names and numbers of the sire and dam, along with the name and address of the breeder. If the litter certificate is not available, get it in writing that the breeder will send it to you within a certain amount of time (usually 30 days). Obtaining the official papers is the responsibility of the breeder, not the buyer. Beware of a breeder who gives you the registration application and tells you to send them in or one who offers you the puppy at one price with papers and another without papers. In addition, in order for the dog to be eligible for registration with the CKC, the dog must be permanently and uniquely identified prior to leaving the breeder's premises. It is the responsibility of the breeder to pay for the identification. The two acceptable methods of identification are: a Canadian Standard microchip transponder or a tattoo. If the dog is microchipped, the breeder should have a scanner available to scan the dog to confirm the microchip is in place and that the identification number matches that which is indicated on the bill of sale. If the dog is tattooed, it should be easily read with the naked eye.
  6. A reputable breeder includes a contract with every puppy sale. This contract varies from breeder to breeder, but usually indicates the rights of both the buyer and the seller, health information, a written guarantee against hereditary disorders, and a buy-back/return policy. The purchase of the puppy should also include a signed bill of sale stating that the puppy is being sold as purebred. It should be dated, include your name, the name of the breeder, the dog's identification number, a statement indicating that you will be provided with a registration certificate and the total price of the dog. If you are buying your puppy as a show or breeding animal, get this in writing also. Most good breeders will not sell pet-quality or even show-quality dogs without a "non-breeding agreement". For pet-quality puppies, a good breeder will insist that the animal be spayed or neutered. For show-quality puppies, the breeder may still insist that the dog be sold with the "non-breeding agreement"; however, the breeder may consent to cancelling this agreement if and when the dog is shown and has earned at least one title.
  7. The vast majority of reputable breeders are involved in the dog fancy, whether it's competition with their dogs, such as conformation, obedience, field trials, agility or other sporting events. Ask to see the breeder's credentials, such as show-ring or field successes. Find out what breed clubs the breeder belongs to. Again, the majority of reputable breeders are involved in some form or fashion in their local or national breed clubs. The Canadian Kennel Club claims that "virtually all reputable breeders in Canada are members of the CKC." While membership in the CKC does not guarantee that all members are reputable breeders, those that are, are obligated to adhere to CKC policies and procedures and the CKC Code of Ethics. Check the clubs, including the CKC, to verify that the breeder is in fact a member in good standing. Also, ask for references from previous puppy buyers and verify them.

In conclusion, all puppies are gorgeous little bundles, no matter what breed, and you're sure to want to take the first one you come accross home, but remember, this little bundle is going to grow and what you want is for him/her to grow into a beautiful, healthy companion who will spend his/her entire life as your new best friend — Choose Carefully and Wisely! This is a lifetime commitment.

In the end, you must feel good about the breeder you choose — If you have any doubts, walk away. You'll find another one you do feel comfortable with. You should also visit several breeders, even if you do feel good about the first one you meet. If the first breeder turns out to be the best in your view, you can always go back, but visiting several breeders gives you a better idea of what to look for.