Puppies: Finding a Reputable Breeder

Updated: Oct 25

When looking for a new puppy or dog, it is important to take a close look at your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in a dog so that you can choose the best puppy for you! [Need help doing that? Check out the first post in this series on Picking the Perfect Puppy!]

Once you’ve decided what type of puppy you’d like to bring home, it’s time to look for your puppy!

How should you choose where to get your puppy?

Depending on your goals for your puppy, getting your puppy from a reputable shelter/rescue may be the best choice for you or it may make the most sense for you to get your puppy from a reputable breeder. No matter where you get your puppy, the most important thing is to find a reputable source that cares about the dog’s long-term well-being.

If you have a very specific goal in mind for your puppy (such as a service dog or dog competitions), a reputable breeder may be the right choice for you! With an extensive knowledge of the puppy’s genetics and relatives, your breeder will be able to make an educated prediction about their size and ability to meet your goals when they are an adult dog.

In a world full of the #adoptdontshop mantra, this may sound a little surprising to you! But did you know that if you get a dog from a reputable breeder, it will never end up in a shelter? No, not because breeders are able to perfectly place every puppy (even the best shelters and breeders sometimes don’t nail a puppy placement), but because a reputable breeder will make you promise to return the puppy to them if things don’t work out. Who better to find a second home for the puppy than the breeder that loves them and is extremely knowledgeable about their breed? Unfortunately, the number of irresponsible breeders far outnumbers the number of reputable breeders, so it is extremely important to ensure that the breeder you choose is reputable. Check out these tips to make sure you're choosing a reputable breeder.

10 Signs You've Found a Reputable Breeder

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1. They health test the parents.

Health testing to ensure that the parents aren’t passing on genetic diseases that are known to be prevalent in the breed to their offspring are very important. Not sure what health tests to look for? Check the recommended tests listed on the American Kennel Club [1] or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals [2] websites for starters!

Red Flag: They equate health testing to a vet visit and/or breed dogs that have previously produced puppies with health issues.

While the parents and puppies absolutely should all have been examined by a veterinarian, health testing is much more thorough than a simple vet visit. If a breeder doesn’t understand what you mean by health testing, walk away. Additionally, a breeder should not breed dogs that test positive for genetic markers for health issues or that have produced litters with health issues. They are intentionally breeding unhealthy dogs and should not be trusted.

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2. They make you wait.

Getting a puppy from a reputable breeder may take a year or more, since they carefully vet all potential adopters, often only have a litter or two each year, and frequently have wait lists. Don’t worry! It will be worth the wait.

Red Flag: They have puppies available for you to take home NOW!

A reputable breeder only breeds a litter if they know they will be able to find a home for each puppy. While they may occasionally have a puppy or two get returned or an older dog that is retiring or returned, a reputable breeder will not regularly have multiple puppies or entire litters immediately available.

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3. They care about your puppy for its entire lifetime.

A reputable breeder provides lifelong support to their puppies. This means they will likely ask you to sign a contract and one of the requirements in that contract will be that you return the puppy to them if you ever need to rehome it. They may check in on you periodically to see if you are taking good care of your puppy and if they can help you with any questions or concerns. They will love it if you send them updates!

Red Flag: They don’t require that you return puppies to them if you need to rehome.

Again, the goal of getting a puppy from a reputable breeder is to not only get the best puppy for your needs, but also to keep dogs from winding up in shelters. A breeder that doesn’t require and/or won’t take back their puppies that wind up getting rehomed is not a reputable breeder.

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4. They provide veterinary care for the mother and puppies.

A reputable breeder gives both the mother and puppies excellent veterinary care. The bitch (mother) should get a veterinary examination prior to breeding to ensure she is ready to carry a litter, prenatal vitamins throughout her pregnancy, and a post-partum veterinary visit to ensure she stays healthy. The puppies should receive dewormer, the first round of vaccines, at least one veterinary visit, and health certificates. Proper veterinary care is expensive and is one of the factors that drives up the price for a reputably bred puppy.

Red Flag: The bitch and/or puppies haven’t been seen by a veterinarian.

If your puppy hasn’t been to a veterinarian, it may have a serious condition such as a heart murmur that you simply won’t know about. Additionally, just like prenatal care can help avoid health and behavioral problems for humans, a healthy bitch will be more likely to produce healthy puppies. Neglecting her care will not set your puppy up for lifelong success.

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5. They don’t send the puppies home until they are 8-12 weeks old.

Puppies learn a good deal from their mother and littermates during the first 8 weeks of their life, especially bite inhibition. Breeders that keep puppies past 8 weeks are also responsible for exposing puppies to a variety of new experiences so that they can be stable, well-socialized puppies. It’s also critical for puppies to be separated shortly after 12 weeks to avoid littermate syndrome issues.