PLEASE NOTE: Registry papers (AKC, UKC, etc.) DO NOT guarantee quality breeding. They only represent lineage (showing you the names of the parents and grandparents, etc.) and every poorly bred dog can have papers too!
A responsible breeder can be recognized by the presence of the following traits:
The dam (mother) is on the premises. It is not unusual that the sire (father) may not be there. Ask to meet the mother. Watch for shyness or any “spooky” traits. Be wary if you are told the dog is reserved or a good watch dog or is acting different because you are looking at her pups. You want a family dog that interacts well with people and that may naturally be protective of its family – not a dog that “unloads” on anyone indiscriminately.
Never places weaned puppies before they reach the age of 7-8 weeks of age. It is vital for younger pups to remain with their littermates and mother to be properly socialized to reduce the risk that the puppies will be afraid, aggressive, or inappropriate around other animals or people.
Asks questions – many questions. It is not meant to pry, but a good breeder wants to know that their puppy is going to a good home. You should feel like you are being interviewed. They want to know why you are interested in the breed, their dogs, and why you want a dog. The more they know about you the better match they can help you make.
May want to visit your home and/or ask for references.
Is well versed in their breed. Look for someone knowledgeable and educated about dogs in general.
Has clean facilities. Don’t bring your white gloves, after all there is bound to be normal dust and dog hair, but the area should be clean and not smell of excrement.
Offers a health guarantee in writing.
Screens for health problems and genetic defects. All dog breeds have inherited genetic problems that good breeders screen for and take great pains to eliminate from their bloodlines. A female or male should not be bred before she/he has been screened and passed exams for those problems that can be tested for. The breeder should be able to show you the certificate, ratings, and vet exam to confirm that she/he has been tested. No female should ever be bred on her first heat cycle (ages 6-10 months), and she herself should be fully grown (usually not before 2 -3 years old, depending on the breed) before being considered for breeding. Older females should not be bred after the age of 7 – that would be the oldest age to safely breed for most dogs, and some should not be bred after the age of 5-6 years. Males should not be bred before one year of age, as most health screenings cannot be completed until the dog is older.
Breeds not just for show, but also for good family dogs. Breeders breeding just for the show ring (conformation) can overlook temperament. You don’t want a dog that just looks “pretty” – you want a good sound personality in that body. Look for temperament testing and ask questions about the personality of the dogs.
Has a contract for their dogs. The contract should have something that says if you cannot keep your dog for any reason they will either take the dog back or offer assistance. A good breeder cares what happens to their dog and is ready to be there when continued ownership isn’t an option.
Willing to have you speak with families that have already acquired one of their dogs. Find out if they are pleased with the breeder and their dog.
A good breeder should only ideally breed ONE or TWO breeds. It is hard enough to produce quality dogs of one or two breeds let alone multiple breeds. If you find the breeder has more than this – you may have found a puppy mill.
Look at the number of dogs they maintain in their kennel – large numbers may indicate breeding on a large scale to produce quantities of puppies with no care given to their health or temperament.
Observe how the kennel dogs are acting. Do they appear content, relaxed, happy and at ease, or are they agitated, stressed, or acting neurotic (endless pacing, spinning in circles, springing off the fencing, barking non-stop, etc). Negative behavior could be due to genetics, confinement, un-socializing, overcrowding, etc.
A good breeder expects YOU to ask a lot of questions.
A good breeder has suitable arrangements for their dogs. Kennels are to be expected, but the dogs should also be used to living in a home situation. Dogs should have been well socialized and you need to ask how this has been done. Look for a breeder that has socialized their dogs to: men, women, kids, older people, people with hats, gloves, sounds, smells, different flooring (concrete, grass, tile, wood floors, etc).
Above all pay attention to your intuition. It can be one of the first hints to you that something is either very right or very wrong.
These are ONLY intended as guidelines. Do the research for yourself – you need to be comfortable with the decision that you make. Your dog’s life and your happiness may depend on it.