What to Look For in an Ethical Dog Breeder

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Most dog lovers prefer to purchase their puppy from an ethical breeder. How do you find and ethical breeder? What do you look for when looking for an ethical breeder? With no national standard for dog breeding practices, it is up to the puppy buyer to do his homework before getting a dog.

Ethical Dog Breeders make it their life's passion to learn about the history of their breed, canine health, genetics and structure and produce the best quality dogs possible. Great breeders care about their dogs and want to make sure the specific breed and puppy is a good for its new home. They are interested in forming relationships with their puppy buyers and want to have continued contact throughout the dogs' lives to ensure they are valued members of the family.

There are traits you should look for in an ethical breeder, questions you should ask and things you should look for as you visit the breeder's home. Here are some tips to help:

Traits of an Ethical Dog Breeder:

  • Is a member in good standing with the official parent club for the breed
  • Follows the parent club's Code of Ethics
  • Provides complete, accurate health records for the puppies
  • Provides results from genetic medical testing of the parents
  • Offers a written guarantee against genetic health problems
  • Provides buyers with a four generation pedigree
  • Retains puppies until they are a minimum of nine weeks of age
  • Interviews puppy buyers to ensure they can provide a great home for the puppy and the puppy is a good fit for their lifestyle and home
  • Encourages potential buyers to visit their home prior to the pickup day
  • Ensures their puppies are exposed to other animals, new people, children and noises
  • Provides puppies with a specific elimination area away from the sleeping area
  • Encourages buyers to participate in puppy socialization and/or basic obedience classes
  • Encourages buyers to always crate train the puppy
  • Will take the puppy back from the buyer at any time for any reason

Questions to Ask the Breeder:

  • Have they begun house training the puppies? If yes, how?
  • Do the puppies know any basic obedience skills? It is never too early to start training a dog.
  • Have they begun separating puppies from the rest of the litter for short periods of time and placing them in crates?
  • Dogs are social! Going from being part of a litter to alone in the crate in a strange place can be very traumatic. The breeder should have started this process.
  • If this is a breed that requires routine grooming, has the breeder begun handling the puppies? Have they bathed the puppies, or clipped them?
  • Do either of the parents guard food, toys, bones?
  • Is there any history of behavior problems in the pedigree i.e. separation anxiety, dog aggression, confinement stress?
  • How many people outside of the breeder's immediate family have the puppies met?
  • Have the puppies been around any other dogs aside from their mother?
  • Have the puppies been exposed to loud and unexpected noises? This would include slamming doors, men yelling, vacuum cleaner etc.
  • Have the puppies been examined by a veterinarian? Have they been dewormed and vaccinated?
  • How old are the puppies parents? How big are they? Do they have any health issues? How about the puppies' grandparents?

Things to Notice About the Breeders Environment:

  • Is there a single crate or exercise pen with newspaper spread out all over the floor, or do the puppies have a specific area to eliminate? Is there urine and feces in the elimination area or all over the floor?
  • Look to see if there is one food bowl or multiple food bowls. As the puppies become older, they are likely to develop competitive behavior. There should be one bowl for each puppy.
  • Are the puppies playing with one another or do they seem to be “arguing” over toys?
  • Are they respectful of you and your personal space or do they jump all over you and constantly play bite your hands?
  • Do they self-entertain with toys or are they always running around looking for something to do?
  • What happens if you stop one of the puppies from playing and try to restrain him?

Consider Choosing Another Breeder IF:

There are some red flags that may make you want to consider a different breeder.

  • You are unable to meet the mother and/or the father
  • The parents growl, snap or show extreme signs of being afraid of you
  • The breeder cannot provide results for the genetic medical testing (varies by breed)
  • The breeder can't provide with a Health Certificate from a veterinarian
  • The breeder can't provide with a Certificate of Sale (varies by state)
  • The majority of the litter does not appear social and confident
  • The puppies have not been exposed to any other people outside of the breeder's home
  • Your gut says something isn't right

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