EDIT: Note this is a GENERAL guideline, not a definitive list of what constitutes an irresponsible breeder. Many amazing breeders will not adhere to these statements, but they are things to consider. Always use your best judgement.
I believe that purchasing a puppy from a breeder or adopting a rescue dog is a very personal choice. I have a hard time listening to the constant “adopt, don’t shop” slogan. I work with several rescues and definitely believe there is a perfect shelter dog for most people
That being said, if every breeder was a RESPONSIBLE breeder, shelters wouldn’t be overflowing. A responsible breeder will demand to have the dog returned to them if you are no longer able to care for your dog
If you decide to go the breeder route, here is a list of things that will help you determine if you are dealing with a responsible breeder or a backyard breeder.
The puppies leave mom before 8 weeks of age
You are told, “the puppies are weaned so they can leave mom”. Not true. It is absolutely critical that puppies stay with mom and their littermates for at LEAST 8 weeks. Many responsible breeders won’t allow them to leave until at least 10 weeks.
Puppies learn vital social skills from their mom and littermates at this key age. Without learning these lessons, puppies can develop social and behavior issues later in life.
You’re not allowed to see the parents
You’re not allowed to visit
It is vital to see where the puppies are being raised. Puppies should be kept together with mom and raised with family members. The breeder does a great deal of socialization before you get to take home your furry baby
Visiting before selecting the breeder and once the puppies are old enough should be highly encouraged. If the puppies are in an area with limited human contact, run. Run fast.
The breeder doesn’t ask you questions
For a responsible breeder, these puppies are like their children. They want to make sure they are going to the best home possible. The breeder should ask you about your knowledge of the breed, raising puppies, and what your home life is like.
Don’t feel uncomfortable with the vast amount of questions. They are just trying to keep everyone’s best interest in mind. The breeder will most likely give you a packet of information about the breed so you can be sure it is the right breed for you.
The breeder breeds several types of dogs
The purpose of a responsible breeder is to better the breed. How are they able to do that if they are focusing on four or five different breeds? Bettering the breed is a very complicated process. This is the breed standard for the Great Pyrenees.
As you can see, it is much more complex than just being big and fluffy. When pairing dogs to breed, the breeder should take into account what traits the parents have and how that will affect their offspring.
The breeder breeds several types of dogs
Very few people are qualified to breed. A responsible breeder will issue a limited registration contract and require that you fix your dog by a certain age. The breeder will be extremely picky when allowing someone to purchase a full registration puppy. Most likely, the full registration puppy will only go to another known responsible breeder.
The breeder always has puppies available
Most responsible breeders will create a wait list of people who are interested in their puppies and will only breed when they have enough people to adopt the majority of the litter. They want to be sure they have fantastic homes ready for their puppies before they are even born.
There’s no contract
A contract should state a health guarantee, what the breeder expects from the purchaser, and what the purchaser should expect from the breeder. Every breed has different health tests that NEED to be done before a dog is bred. For example, large breeds will have their hips checked to limit the
Ask for the results of their health tests. The contract should also state that if you are unable to care for your puppy, the puppy must come back to the breeder. A responsible breeder will never allow one of their dogs to end up in a shelter/rescue.
The breeder isn’t active in breed specific clubs
Breeders are truly passionate about their breed and are always trying to learn more. A common way to do this is to become active in local, state, or national
The breeder doesn’t encourage you to stay in contact
Like I have said, these puppies are the breeder’s babies. They have been there for their birth and watched them slowly develop individual personalities. The breeder should be willing to provide lifelong assistance to you to ensure things go smoothly with your new addition
These are 10 things that I find important when looking into a breeder. Remember, doing one of these 10 things does not automatically mean poor breeding, but they are signs you should pay attention to. What else do you look for when choosing a breeder?