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. However, there are certain people that prefer to purchase from a breeder. We need to be a more accepting culture and allow people to make the appropriate choice for their family.
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.
1. The breeder allows the puppies to leave mom and the litter 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.
2. The breeder doesn’t allow you to see the parents. A responsible breeder should be more than willing to allow you to meet the parents of your future puppy. You can learn key information from observing the parents. What will my puppy look like full grown? What is the possible temperament of my puppy? Will I be able to handle this puppy when he is the size of his parents? While the father of the litter may not be onsite, the breeder should be able to show you pictures, talk about his personality, and tell you his lineage.
3. The breeder doesn’t allow you 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. The breeder doesn’t issue a spay/neuter contract. 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.
7. 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.
8. The breeder doesn’t provide a 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 amount of hip issues in future puppies. 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.
9. 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 breed specific clubs. Membership to any of these clubs shows the breeder is willing to continue learning to help the improve the breed.
10. 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. They will also love seeing pictures and hearing stories as your puppy grows. The breeder will want to maintain a great relationship with you.
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?