Guide to Finding a Breeder
Once you have narrowed your choices to a few breeds, it is time to search for a breeder. Anyone who mates two purebred, AKC registered dogs of the same breed to produce a litter is technically a breeder. However, AKC registration only guarantees that the dogs are purebred; it is not an assurance of quality. It is important to remember that not all breeders have your best interests, or the interest of their breed, at heart. Breeders generally fit into a number of categories, which can be described as follows:
Often referred to as commercial breeders or “puppy mills,” these are individuals or groups of breeders with large numbers of dogs who breed strictly for profit. Consequently, there is generally a lack of care in the selection of breeding stock, as there is little research into any health or temperament issues that may be lurking in the pedigree. Females are usually bred each season throughout their reproductive life, and nutritional needs of the dam and her puppies are often slighted. The puppies from wholesale breeders are often sold at auction, and make up a good portion of those found in pet stores. The prices charged for these puppies are usually higher than those from a reputable breeder.
A backyard breeder is one who breeds casually, to breed a puppy “just like Missy,” or to provide the experience of childbirth for young family members. Backyard breeders care for their dogs, but perform little research into the background of their own dog or its mate, and rarely spend money on health related testing. Consequently, they rarely place their puppies with any health guarantees, and because of their relative inexperience with the breed, are not a reliable source of information for their puppy buyers. Their pups are usually better cared for, healthier and better socialized than those from a puppy mill. Many backyard breeders believe that they will have a large market for their puppies, but often find themselves with more pups than they can easily place. Backyard breeders normally advertise their litters in the classified sections of newspapers.
Breeders that can be defined as reputable or responsible have the betterment of the breed at heart, and are interested and devoted to their pups throughout their entire lives. These individuals plan each breeding carefully, taking into consideration the conformation, health and temperament of both sire and dam, hoping to improve the quality of their dogs in all of these areas in each subsequent litter. Reputable breeders produce litters when they are looking for something for themselves to keep, and usually have a waiting list of potential puppy buyers. Reputable breeders show their dogs in sanctioned AKC events to compare their breeding stock, but also make available pet quality puppies on limited registrations to those interested only in a healthy and well socialized family member. Most responsible breeders place their puppies with a health guarantee, and if a dog does not work out, will either take the dog back or help the owners find a new home for their pet. Responsible breeders perform health checks on their dogs before a breeding takes place, and their pups have a health check-up and at least one set of shots before leaving their home. Puppies from a responsible breeder are bright eyed, healthy and well-socialized. A breeder is considered responsible if he or she takes responsibility for the lives they bring into this world, while endeavoring to maintain their goal of the betterment of the breed.
What to Expect from a Breeder
When you have narrowed your selection of breeders, you should expect that they will ask to conduct an interview. This discussion enables the breeder to better assess your particular situation and to determine which puppy is right for you. Be prepared to answer a number of questions, but also be prepared to ask them. This is your best opportunity to discover whether or not this is a breeder that you will feel comfortable working with for the lifetime of your puppy. The breeder should be willing to answer your questions, within reason, and should allow you to meet some of his or her dogs in the process. During this conversation, clues to the ethics and responsibility of the breeder should become evident. Here are some of the signs you may encounter:
The breeder appears to have the welfare of his or her dogs as the main concern. This may manifest as a reluctance to sell you a pup. The breeder may try to steer you toward another, more appropriate breed.
The breeder asks questions designed to find out if the breed is suitable for you. This may include why you want a dog, why you want this particular breed of dog, where the dog is to live, how much training will be performed, your past experience with other dogs of this type, ages of children, whether or not you have other dogs, how long the dog will be left alone, whether you have a fenced in yard, etc.
The breeder mentions the “bad” or “not for everyone” points of the breed. This may include activity level, grooming, temperament, possible health issues, etc.
The breeder will not let the puppies go until they are at least eight weeks old.
The breeder enters his or dogs in some type of AKC competition on a regular basis.
In addition, upon purchase of a puppy, the breeder will provide you with the following:
- Health guarantee
- Medical Record, with at least one series of shots and a vet check-up
- Contract or bill of sale
- AKC individual puppy registration
The breeder tells you how rare and valuable his or her dog is.
The breeder tells you how much money you can make breeding the dog.
The breeder declares this is the perfect dog for you.
The breeder proclaims that he or she has never had any health or temperament problems in his or her bloodline.
The breeder who tells you that there are not any genetic problems in the breed.
The individual who sells multiple breeds.
The breeder refuses to show you a few adult dogs of his or her breeding.
Anything that sounds like a hard sell.
Anyone who will sell you a dog sight unseen (or without references).
And most important, a breeder who does not ask any questions of you whatsoever!
How does one even begin to find a reputable breeder? It can be a confusing and seemingly overwhelming task. And with the proliferation of breeders now advertising on the Internet, it is not always easy to determine whether or not a breeder is reputable and responsible. What is most important to remember, however, is to be patient and to research well. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
National Breed Clubs
Each AKC registered breed has a national organization formed to protect the breed. Many have a Code of Ethics to which members must subscribe. Most breed clubs maintain a list of breeders, organized by the area of the country in which they are located. If you are unfamiliar with the name of the national breed club in which you are interested, the AKC website maintains a list. To see if a breed club is listed, try the AKC website at www.akc.org
Regional Breed Clubs
Most breeds have regional clubs with an active membership. Many of these organizations also have breeder lists. In addition, if the club is localized, members will know of litters planned by others in the club, and can forward those names on to you. Local breeders may be able to put you in contact with the regional breed club; the AKC also lists some of these organizations.
Reputable breeders rarely advertise in the classified section of the local newspaper. However, many will publicize upcoming litters in magazines geared specifically toward dogs. Two publications that have extensive breeder lists are "Dog World" and the "AKC Gazette." In addition, many national breed organizations list breeders in their breed magazine. To subscribe or to purchase a copy, contact the magazine editor of the national breed club in which you have an interest.
Dog Show Catalogs
Many all-breed clubs list breeders in the catalogs purchased at their shows. The Detroit Kennel Club prints an extensive list of breeders each year. If you are attending a local show, check the catalog to see if there are breeders listed.
Breeders can almost always be found ringside at a dog show. If there is a dog show in your area, check to see when the breed in which you are interested is scheduled to be shown. As most exhibitors are busy, not to mention stressed, just before entering the ring, it is best to wait until the dogs are finished showing before approaching their owners or handlers. Most exhibitors will be happy to tell you about their dogs, and may also be aware of other breeders who are planning litters. A list of upcoming dog shows can be found at MB-F.
Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows
A benched dog show is perhaps the best place to meet and talk with breeders. Since the dogs are benched throughout the day, you have an opportunity to meet the dogs of specific breeders, and converse with a number of individuals about the breed in general, and their breeding plans in particular. Even if you are unable to spend enough time to receive all of the information you desire, contacts can be made so that future interviews can be planned.
Word of Mouth
Most of the individuals you meet will not be the breeders of the dogs they own. Talk to a number of folks about their breeder experiences to get a sense of the ethics and reputation of a particular kennel. Look for familiar themes among the people you talk to. Then make an appointment with the breeders that appear to be universally respected.
Also remember that, whatever the resource, none can or will guarantee the reputation of a particular breeder. Only you can decide if a breeder is right for you.