How to Find a Qualified Dog Breeder

By PetMD Editorial on Apr. 13, 2011

So you’ve decided to get a dog. What next? First, you have to decide on the kind of breed that will best suit you. Then you have to decide where to get your dog. If adoption is not right for you (which, if that’s the case, we strongly encourage you to give it a second thought), there are other means of getting a dog. Buying from out of state breeders or over the Internet, however, is not a good idea. It is best to buy locally, but first you will need to do some research to find the best dog breeder in your area. 

The Search

Start your search by talking to certified dog trainers and veterinarians in your area. They are the experts when it comes to dog breeds and some of them may even breed dogs that you can buy. You can also make inquiries at the local dog breed clubs or from the American Kennel Club (AKC). If you tell them the breed of dog you want, they will provide you with the contact information for your local dog breeders that raise that specific breed.

Once you have the list of recommended dog breeders in your area, do not just pick one randomly. Take the time to find out more information about each breeder and visit each breeder personally. This will give you a better picture of what the dogs are like and how they are raised. If possible, visit several breeders so that you have a wide range of choices.

The Visit

When visiting a dog breeder, always ask permission before handling or petting the puppies. Some of the puppies may not be vaccinated yet and dog breeders are cautious about disease transmission. You can tell if a puppy is healthy without touching it by its eyes, hair-coat and behavior. A healthy puppy is generally very eager to socialize and is very energetic. (Some puppies are naturally shy and reserved, but that is often only characteristic of certain breeds.)

Aside from checking out the dogs at the kennel, it is crucial you check out the condition of the kennel. A dirty kennel usually means unhealthy dogs. Puppies are susceptible to a variety of viruses and diseases such as canine parvovirus (CPV) and canine distemper virus (CDV), which are known to flourish in unclean environments. A dirty kennel can also affect a puppy’s behavior later in life.

Depending on the breed, you should expect ethical breeders to have certificates from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. OFA will provide certifications for breeding dogs that pass specifications, and will also give medical examinations to determine if a dog has a genetic or crippling disease. (This is particularly true for the German Shepherd and Golden Retriever breeds, amongst others.) A breeder who belongs to a breeder’s club often means that she or he is serious about responsible dog breeding. Another big plus is when a breeder has a history of entering dogs into some form of competition.

Before making your purchase from the breeder you have chosen, it is also wise to inquire about their return policy. You must be able to return the puppy within two days from date of purchase if there is something wrong with it. And a breeder should accept returns within a year from purchase if the puppy is discovered to have a genetically bad disposition or a crippling disease such as hip dysplasia.

The responsible breeder will not sell you a puppy right away just because you want one. A reliable breeder is well informed about the process of pairing a puppy with its future owner and will take the time to ask a few questions from you to decide if you will be as suitable for the breed as it will be for you. As a client, you will be required to fill out a form. The breeder will then use the information you have given to choose the puppy that best suits you. (And why not begin your search on petMD's Breedopedia?)

The Final Decision

The decision on which puppy will be ideal for you is best left to the breeder because she or he has more knowledge of the puppy’s character and will be able to make a more objective decision than you might. For the most part, people are full of excitement about the prospect of bringing home a puppy and will pick out the cutest puppy they see. This is not the best basis for choosing the ideal puppy. A responsible breeder is well aware of this and will base the decision on the information that was gathered from you earlier.

Owning a puppy is a big responsibility. It can also be very life-changing. Bringing a puppy home is a long term commitment, perhaps twenty years or more, so it helps to act wisely while making your decisions in connection with finding a puppy.  Do your research diligently and you will find success in your search for the perfect canine companion. :)

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