How to Choose a Good Dog Breeder

By Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

"How much is that doggie in the window?” This popular children’s song makes choosing a pup sound simple, but finding just the right dog requires effort. You can rescue, adopt, or purchase a pup. After considering these options, if you decide to purchase a purebred dog, it is best to find a breeder who has the best interests of the dog AND you at heart.

How do I find the right breeder?

You can find a good breeder by talking to people in the know. For example:

  • Ask your veterinarian, who sees lots of pups, for a good reference.
  •  If you like your friend’s dog, find out where they got him.
  •  Most reliable breeders earn their reputation by providing healthy pups to good homes resulting in “word of mouth” references.
  •  Meet breeders at local dog shows or look online for local breed clubs and review the AKC Breeder Referral page on their   website In Canada, you can check the CKC Accountable Breeder page at

Once you locate a potential breeder, get to know them, but remember that they want to get to know you, too! Good breeders want lifelong, loving homes for their pups, so they will have a few questions for you. And you want a healthy, happy pup, so you will have questions for them, as well. Enjoy a lively, informative conversation with your breeder.

Should I visit the breeder?

It is always best to see where the pups were born and raised, so avoid “parking lot” transactions when buying a pup from a breeder. A responsible breeder is proud to show you their home and kennel.

How do I know if a breeder is good?

A good breeder:

1. Will allow you to visit and tour all areas where the pups and their parents spend their time. The grounds should be well-maintained with clean, odorless kennels and exercise areas. Dogs should not be confined in cages for long periods. Small breeds may actually be housed in the breeder’s home.

2. Is not a puppy mill churning out high volumes of pups, but rather considers their breeding dogs to be family members and treats them with loving care. The breeder should encourage you to spend time with one or both parents on your visit. The parents should be friendly and socialize well with both people and other dogs. Their pups should have the same demeanor, as well as being clean and energetic.

3. May not have a litter of pups readily available, but can put your name on a waiting list. Since optimum mating times occur according to natural schedules, litters are usually born in the spring and fall. Conscientious breeders give their dams a rest between litters to avoid over-breeding them, so the wait for a pup may be over a year.

4. Should be very knowledgeable about the breeds they raise and should be able to answer your questions about the dog’s potential size, temperament, exercise requirements, inherited health issues, special needs, etc. Since most devoted breeders only deal with one or two types of dogs, their knowledge of the breed should be extensive.

5. Knows that socialization is an important part of puppy development and spends one-on-one time with their pups. They provide toys, fun, exercise and lots of love for each pup.

6. Has a good working relationship with a respected veterinarian who examines each pup and provides immunizations and parasite control according to medical standards. The breeder should readily provide a complete medical record on each pup.

7. Practices responsible mating, taking genetic predispositions into account to reduce potential inherited problems. When appropriate, the breeder should present documentation illustrating that the pup’s parents/grandparents were screened for hereditary breed problems such as hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart conditions, etc.

8. Provides several references from other families who have purchased pups and welcomes inquiries.

9. May question you regarding your ability to care for the dog, how much time you have to spend with him and where he will fit into your family.

10. Only sells pups to people he has approved as good pet owners and never sells to pet stores or over the internet.

11. Informs you of the pup’s diet and daily routine to minimize complications when introducing the pup to a new home.

12. Offers to be available to answer any questions you may have after you take the pup home.

13. Provides a written contract with a guarantee of health allowing time for a pre-purchase examination by a veterinarian of your choice. If medical problems are diagnosed, the breeder should readily take the pup back and provide a full refund.

14. Provides documentation of pedigree and registration papers made out in your name.

15. Will request that you give them the first option to re-home the dog if you find that you find that circumstances prevent you from keeping him.

Final Thoughts

When looking for a purebred pup, remember that one in every four dogs in shelters across America has a pedigree and needs a home. Although the registration papers may not be available, if you do not plan to show or breed your dog, a shelter may be a good source for you. Breed-specific rescue groups can be found online and often have purebred pups available for adoption. Many dogs lose their home through no fault of their own, but rather are put up for adoption due to family circumstances.

But if you decide to start with a pup of proven pedigree with a documented family tree, take time to find just the right one from just the right breeder. Be mindful that it takes more than seeing a “doggie in a window” to locate the best pet for your family.

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