There seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding buying a dog from a breeder and how all breeders are terrible people who abuse animals. While each person is entitled to their own point of view regarding this sensitive subject, I feel that at least someone should objectively share some insights into the ethical side of breeding and how to spot a good breeder from a backyard breeder or home breeder.
My goal with this blog post is to actually keep the information simple to understand and remember. There are of course more knowledgeable people and articles that you can find that will go deeper into the art of breeding, how ethical breeding is done, and why it is done the way it is. But that is not the point of this article. This article is only to spread awareness on how to select your breeder and verify that they are ethical and official breeders.
So lets start with the basics.
You have to first start by selecting which breed you are interested in. You may want that beautiful furry husky with blue eyes, but actually spend some time to learn about the characteristics of huskies and compare them to your lifestyle to see if there is compatibility. Each breed has certain characteristics that are dominant in that breed, it may not be necessary that all dogs of that breed show those traits, but generally they will. I will give the example of a German Shepherd because I have 2 of them and thus know more about them than other dogs. So, German Shepherds are very loyal dogs, have high intelligence, and need a lot of training and socializing to ensure they don’t turn aggressive. High intelligence also means that you have to keep them mentally stimulated every day to avoid destructive activities that stem from boredom, especially when they are young. This may not be true of all GSD’s but I have certainly noticed it in mine. Similarly, compare the traits of the breed you are interested in with your realistic lifestyle and see if it matches. Here, you can even look at speaking to a few good breeders who specialize in that breed, as they will happily give you more in-depth information.
In case you are unsure about which breed you want then definitely look at the multiple articles available online and join a few dog groups where you can ask questions and learn from peoples experience. Take your time to do this research as it will save you a lot of problems later on and will make you a more informed pet parent. Information is the key to preparedness.
Once you are ready with the breed you want or want to find a good breeder to get more knowledge on certain breeds then here is your short rulebook. To spot a good and ethical breeder here are the 10 things to look out for:
A responsible breeder will keep their dog in the condition you would expect a responsible pet parent to keep their dog. The dogs (especially the parent dogs) will be in a clean, healthy, spacious place. They will/should not be tied to a corner without any place to walk around. The dogs will be on a clean floor or carpet and the parents should look properly groomed and maintained.
A good/ethical breeder will not be cagey about showing you the condition the dogs (both parents and pups) are kept in. You should ask to see their place and any good breeder would happily invite you in. However, you should be courteous of timings and not overstaying your welcome. You can even ask to interact with the pups personally, but in case you are not allowed to do that, don’t take it as a bad sign because pups are always at a huge risk of infection, especially if you have a dog or have interacted with a dog before meeting the pups. You can ask the breeder if this is okay and they will explain to you why or why not with good reason.
A good breeder will know about the lineage of the dogs. They will be able to answer questions about the genetic makeup of the dogs and why he/she chose to breed this particular match and what the expectation from the pups is going to be. More than this, the breeder should be able to answer questions about the particular breed. Knowing in-depth information about the breed is an instant marker about their dedication to this. You can many breeders who can pass on generic information about any breed, but a good breeder should really know all the pro’s and con’s of the breed they have chosen to specialize in.
An ethical breeder will be very very picky about the age at which things are done. There is a right age to breed the parents, especially the mother. There is a right age to wean the pups and there is a right age to give away the pups. Most breeders will not give you a puppy under the age of 2 months and many prefer not taking the pup away from the mother until 3 months of age. You may want that cute tiny pup who is a couple of weeks old, but that is not right for a number of reasons, mostly because the pup needs that time to develop both health wise and behaviorally. You can certainly ask your breeder more questions about the right age to get a pup and why, they will explain it to you. Or simply Google it, because you know, there is a lot of basic information that you can get from a Google search.
An ethical breeder does not breed a dog to death. They select each mating they want and will generally not breed more than once a year. Sometimes even taking a few years gap in the middle of breeding depending on the health of the mother and availability of the right sire. The right breeder will also spend a pretty buck on the health, care, and food for the parents and pups, which means the costs add up. So the price of a pup can be significantly higher than the cost of puppy mill pups. Do remember that having a dog is an expense and if you can’t really afford a dog from the right breeder then maybe this is not the time for you to get a dog. Wait for a while until you are comfortable. Whatever you do, don’t go for the puppy mill pup.
A responsible breeder will happily share references of families who have bought their pups before. You can and should call them and get information about the pup they bought, the overall health and wellbeing of the pup, and even their feedback of the breeder. The transparency of the whole deal is what should give you confidence in the breeder you are dealing with.
The right breeder will be truly knowledgeable about the breed they have chosen and will also generally specialize in only a handful of breeds. You can ask them questions about the kind of food you should feed the pup, the kind of training you need to do with the pup, the behavior/health problems that might be prevalent in the breed, and overall what you should expect down the line. Someone who runs a puppy mill will really not be interested in answering questions as they are only interested in the sale, so this is a good marker.
The right breeder will be very involved in taking care of their dogs, parents and pups both. The pups should have a health record that you can check to make sure that their vaccinations have been started and the pups’ preliminary health screening was done by a certified vet. The mother should also look healthy and happy and you can check on her health records too. An unethical breeder will generally not care about any of this and will certainly not spend time and money to ensure health check ups for the dogs.
There is a lot time that needs to be spent with the dogs to ensure healthy, happy, and well-socialized dogs. A good breeder will also spend quite a bit of time with you asking you multiple questions about why you have chosen this particular breed, what has been your experience with dogs before, what your financial conditions are like, and more. There is going to be a lot of personal questions that may be asked because the breeder needs to feel secure about where he/she is placing the pup. As I have said repeatedly, it isn’t just about the sale, its about ensuring that the pup gets the best life they can and to avoid any unpleasant situations of placing the pup in the wrong family or a family that isn’t quite geared up to take care of the dog.
Also, a good breeder doesn’t necessarily have a pup available right that very second. You might have to wait to get a pup which can take anywhere from a month to a year. But if you find the right breeder, you should wait because then you will be able to rest in peace knowing that the pup didn’t come from a puppy mill, where the mother was abused thoroughly, nor from a home-breeding situation where you don’t know the genetic makeup of the pup you may end up with or the list of health and behavioral problems the pup might come with.
The last thing a good breeder will do is on occasion follow up with you to find out how the pup is adjusting, and even ask for photos or videos of your interactions with the pup. They just want to ensure that things are going smoothly and even offer help or advice if required!
There are many other factors that can be considered, including your intuition about a person when you are selecting a breeder. But these 10 points give you a basic checklist that you can follow.
I am not against adopting, in fact I entirely support it. If you can you should look at adopting because you never know, you might find the perfect dog for you in a shelter. I can’t ever be grateful enough for Ari having come into my life. I adopted him from the shelter too and he’s turned out to be my heart-dog. He is really wonderful and amazing. So, if you are interested it in, then do look at your local shelters once.
I would like to thank Nihal Narayan for helping me write this and verify the information I have put down. If you have any questions or comments regarding what I have written, feel free to comment below.