Updated: Apr 22
How Can You Tell if a Breeder is “Good”?
If you have lurked on any Facebook dog groups or other forum type websites dedicated to buying and selling dogs - you may have noticed some distinct differences in the type of dogs that are being posted--but then again, maybe you haven’t.
Some breeders to stay always from are, (to me), very obvious. A quick look at their business page or personal profile show puppies born in the dirt, in sheds with straw and other horrible conditions. What prompted this blog post, is the fact that so many buyers do not understand the difference in the caliber of breeders OR how very very important the first 8 weeks are to the life of the puppy.
Let's talk about the different distinct classifications of Dog Breeder:
Large Commercial operation:
This Classification is reserved for Puppy Mills. The name “Puppy Mill” in itself, denotes the fact that these dogs are bred and raised with a “factory-like” mind set. Many of these Mills have cages stacked upon one another, and their breeding dogs leave their cage only for breeding. Most Parent dogs get little to no vetting or grooming, and certainly are not health tested! There is also a large amount of inbreeding that happens at Puppy Mills.
The Operators of these puppy Factories do not care about the health or temperament of any dog they sell - only the bottom line of profits.
Puppies are raised in filthy, crowded conditions, not vet check and have no health guarantee - or one that is flimsy and has not real meaning behind it.
HOW CAN I TELL IF THE PUPPY I SEE ONLINE IS FROM A PUPPY MILL?
First - never buy from a broker! A broker is a middle-man between the breeder and buyer. They come in many forms. Some have a classy looking website with lovely pictures and a well-worded introduction to their “partner families”. Do not be deceived! They are brokers who sell puppies for others all around the nation. You do not have any solid guarantees about this puppy (even if their cleverly worded website make you think that you do!). Some broker sites focus on one type of dog, while others seem to have limitless options of available puppies.
Many (but not all) are offered for less than the average going rate for their particular breed. This is a major RED FLAG.
What if they are USDA certified?
Most Puppy Mills ARE USDA certified. While some great breeders are also USDA certified - it is not anything close to a guarantee that they are an ethical breeder.
Rule on Thumb: If it seems too easy to just hop on and choose from hundreds of puppies with little to no true personal information about the actual breeder---walk away!
THE BACKYARD BREEDER:
In the world of dogs and breeding - this term is synonymous with any nasty four-letter word you can think of!
Sadly, MOST breeders fall under this category, even some without meaning to.
Backyard breeders can be the worst of the worst - or just someone who breeds their personal pets without the knowledge needed to really breed healthy, well- tempered dogs. They often lack either knowledge about ethical breeding -- or worse, don’t care.
A HUGE problem, particularly in the “doodle” world (Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, Aussiedoodle, Shepadoodle, Bernadoodle etc) is that these small, inexperienced breeders are buying cheap dogs and breeding them together.
While that does not necessarily spell disaster, it often does. What most don’t understand, is the fact that these breeders are unknowingly breeding siblings together - over and over, because they are not doing proper DNA testing on their parent dogs and checking for familial connections.
HOW CAN I TELL IF THE PERSON I AM LOOKING AT IS A BACKYARD BREEDER?
One red flag is that they are not a legal business.
Most Backyard Breeders fly under the IRS radar, cut corners when it comes to the care of parents and puppies and lack much significant knowledge of dog whelping, maternal health, puppy raising and socialization or dog training. If their dogs are cheaper than the average cost of the breed you are looking at - you should investigate why!
They typically sell at much lower prices than average, have an overly simply website (or none at all). Pictures will often be low quality of puppies and adult dogs as well. Sometimes a phone call can tell you what you need to know, and sometimes you need to dig deeper. ASK questions! Ask about puppy emotional development stages and how they encourage pups to be resilient and strong. Ask about the parent dog, how the pups are raised etc.
THE PROFESSIONAL DOG BREEDER:
The Professional dog breeder is one that raises dog full time, takes great care to stay educated on the newest research in dog health, puppy raising and training, and provides a wealth of knowledge to their clients.
The professional breeder may have as little as two or as many as 40 + dogs, but they are 100% transparent about the housing and conditions of all of their dogs.
They should have a very nice and informative website, have no problem doing a short video chat so you can see the pups, and be able to answer most of your questions regarding puppy health, raising and training. You will likely pay at least the average going rate of your chosen breed, but the puppy will likely come with amazing perks such as being raised with socialization protocols, health guarantees, vet exams and lifetime breeder support.
With a Professional Breeder, you can rest easy knowing that not only are you getting a healthy, well-tempered puppy, but the parent dogs are also well loved and taken care of.
COMMON Q & A:
WHAT IF THE BREEDER IS JUST BREEDING THEIR FAMILY PETS?
~~ This is common, and not recommended. Not only do they not have the genetic lineage of their pets, they also simply don't understand puppy development. Loving the pups is great and amazing - but understanding fear periods, proper socialization, early Neurological Stimulation and more is essential to a well tempered pup!
BUT I WANT A PUPPY THAT HAS BEEN RAISED IN A HOME BY A FAMILY….
~~ Again - it sounds great, but in reality, may not be best for the long-term stability and health of the puppies. A professional breeder will target the prime socialization periods to introduce sounds, sights and textures at JUST the right time and in JUST the right amount! It is too easy to re-enforce fear or negative feelings and behaviors if you are not well-read and experienced with puppy development.
In most cases, a professionally raised puppy will have had way MORE cuddles and stimulation than a family-bred one. When something is your full time job- -it is what you do all day!
THIS BREEDER SAYS THAT THEY DON’T HAVE TIME TO VIDEO CHAT WITH ME..
~~Definitely a hard pass. While I am VERY busy, I will always find a way to carve out five minutes to make a customer feel secure in their purchase! Scammers or people who house dogs in poor conditions are notorious for not wanting your to see the pups "live".
WHAT ABOUT HEALTH TESTING? THEY SAY THEY HAVE IT….
~~Ask to see the official results. Many unscrupulous breeders use the term “health testing” to describe simple vet check ups!
I CAN’T PAY OVER $1000 FOR MY DOG….IS IT REALLY SUCH A BAD IDEA TO BUY A CHEAP ONE?
~~Our recommendation is to simply wait and save up! We have even had families make a fun game out of finding ways to save money in everyday life to get the puppy they really want! We think it is a great teachable moment to kids as well.
If you look at the extra cost over the LIFETIME of you puppy - it is often only about $20- $50 a YEAR difference! That is a minuscule amount when you think about the benefits of a well-bred family companion. Most people would happily pay $50 a year for a family dog with great health and an awesome temperament!
Bottom line: As with any large purchase, it is always the smarter move to buy from a professional!