Tips for Finding a Responsible Breeder: What to Look for, and What to Avoid

Lancaster Puppies
Man in blue shirt holding three black and white puppies

Finding a good dog breeder isn’t easy. Sadly, there are many bad breeders out there, and many people buy puppies from them because they don’t know any better. For this reason, it’s very important to know what to look for in a breeder to make sure that they are legitimate and reputable. By the same token, it’s also crucial to recognize the warning signs of breeders that may not be trustworthy.

Signs of a Responsible Dog Breeder

Shows Interest in Learning About You

A responsible breeder wants to make sure that their puppies are going to safe and loving homes, and they care about matching their puppies with the right people. They will ask questions about you, your family, and your lifestyle in order to determine if their puppy is the right fit for your home environment. They may even ask to meet your entire family, which just goes to show that the breeder truly wants their dogs to be in the best possible homes.

It’s also important to note that legitimate breeders understand that finding the right puppy takes time, and they’ll never pressure you to make a decision. 

Red Flag:

Unlike reputable breeders, irresponsible breeders are more financially motivated. They aren’t concerned about what’s in the puppy’s best interest, which is why they will often sell their puppies without bothering to ask any questions or get to know you.

They’re Knowledgeable About Their Puppies

Good, responsible breeders are experts on the breed of their puppies. They will be able to tell you all sorts of information about the breed’s temperament, expected size, and traits. These breeders will encourage you to ask questions and happily provide answers. Additionally, a reputable breeder should also be knowledgeable about the genetic history of their puppies.

Red Flag:

If someone is not knowledgeable about the breed of dog they’re selling, it’s highly likely that they are not a reputable breeder. It’s next to impossible for someone to properly breed healthy dogs without extensive knowledge of the breed.

They Welcome You to Their Home or Facility

Legitimate breeders will welcome you to their property with open arms. As a matter of fact, they’ll encourage you to visit as often as you’d like. A reputable breeder will take pride in the order and cleanliness of their facility, and they’ll be happy to show you around and let you see where the puppies are born and raised.

Red Flag:

Steer clear of breeders who do not allow you to visit where they raise their puppies. For example, if a seller suggests meeting in a parking lot or another public space instead of at their property, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with a bad breeder.

The Puppy’s Parents are On-Site

A proper breeder will be more than willing to let you meet the parents of their puppies. While it’s not uncommon for a pup’s father to not be present, the breeder should still be able to provide you with information about him. Pay careful attention to the puppy’s mother, as she’ll be a close reflection of what your puppy will be like as an adult.

Red Flag:

If a seller doesn’t have the puppy’s parents available to meet, or is reluctant to let you meet them, this is definitely a sign that something is off. If someone is not able to show you the parents of the puppies they’re selling (or the mother at the very least), this could mean that the puppies were already separated from their mother, and possibly too early.

They Specialize in Only One or Two Breeds

Legitimate breeders only specialize in one breed of dog, or sometimes two. This is because every breed of dog is unique and has its own features, traits, and needs. Some breeds even have their own individual health problems. By focusing on only one or two breeds, breeders are able to become as knowledgeable about their puppies as possible and provide expert advice.

Red Flag:

If a person is selling more than one or two different dog breeds, this is usually a red flag. Likewise, if the seller is advertising puppies in “rare” colors or sizes, such as Double Dapple Dachshunds, stay away. These characteristics do not typically align with a dog’s breed standard and can lead to health problems.

They Have Medical Records On-Hand

Reputable breeders will always have their puppies’ medical records on hand, and they will be happy to show them to you. Aside from vaccination and deworming records, good breeders should also have proof of health screenings, such as the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), which tests for orthopedic issues like hip and elbow dysplasia. The breeder should also inform you about certain health issues that the breed is susceptible to down the road.

Red Flag:

Stay away from sellers that are not able to provide accurate vet records for their puppies. If they can’t supply records, it likely means that they don’t even have them. Puppies that do not have reliable medical documentation may be coming from a bad breeder and could have veterinary issues.

According to the Humane Society, many puppies that come from illegitimate breeders can suffer from problems like internal parasites, respiratory issues, ear problems, and congenital defects.

They Let You Return the Puppy (If Need Be)

Any responsible breeder understands that sometimes, things don’t go as planned, which is why they will take the dog back if you are unable to keep it. In fact, many breeders will want you to sign a contract stating that you will return the dog to them should you ever be unable to care for it. At the very least, they will provide you with instructions on how to proceed if things don’t work out with your puppy.

Red Flag:

Irresponsible breeders typically do not give much thought to their puppies after being sold. If a seller does not mention what you should do with your puppy if you’re not able to keep it (or worse, says they are not willing to take a dog back at all), it’s probably a good idea to find a different breeder.

Now that you know what to look for in a breeder, and the red flags to watch out for, you’re all set to find your new furry friend!

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