by Good Dog
Becoming a dog parent is one of the biggest and most life-changing decisions you’ll ever make. You’re signing up for both unconditional love and a whole lot of responsibility, and the most crucial choice you’ll face is where to get your new pup. Working with responsible sources can lead to a lifetime of happiness with your furry friend, while cutting corners or getting tricked by irresponsible sources may result in years of complications, from a bad puppy-parent match to health problems and sky-high medical bills.
A responsible breeder gives you the best chance for adding a happy, healthy member to your family because they consider the dogs in their care their own family. Their goal is to bring healthy, well-adjusted dogs into world and to make sure they go to warm and caring homes. It starts even before the actual breeding, when responsible breeders make sure that their parent dogs are strong, healthy, and have the characteristics that should be passed along to the next generation of puppies.
They do the same with their litters, providing the proper health checks and socialization for all the dogs in their care. It’s an essential step, because a scared puppy can turn into an aggressive dog. Responsible breeders also make sure their dogs experience enrichment and stimulation, which is key to developing emotional wellness and better habits.
It doesn’t end there — responsible breeders also conduct due diligence on potential puppy parents, offer ongoing consultation on a host of common issues, and stand ready to step in if rehoming is necessary. Puppy mills, meanwhile, are only in it for the money, and after they sell potentially sick and troubled dogs, they often disappear, leaving new puppy parents in a whole heap of trouble.
It can be hard work to separate the good from the bad, especially on the internet, but it’s never been more critical. Good Dog is here to not only highlight the bad actors, but really drive home just how important it is to work with responsible breeders. There are four areas in particular in which responsible breeders make a huge difference: health, cost, behavior and animal welfare.
Your number one job as a dog parent is keeping your furry friend healthy, but no matter how much love and care you pour into caring for your pup, how it is bred and treated early in the earliest days will play a huge role in determining its future health.
There are major differences in the methods used by responsible and irresponsible breeders, both before the breeding process and after the puppies are born.
A dog from a pet store or puppy mill might be a little bit cheaper up front, but that’s because those sources cut corners and don’t care about the health of their dogs. An irresponsible breeder instead treats their dogs like machinery in a factory, used to produce litter after litter with little regard for their wellbeing or that of their offspring. The shady puppy mill operators try to save some cash at the expense of their dogs, forgoing veterinary care, caretakers, and clean living conditions for their animals.
Waving off veterinary care means breeding with exhausted and unhealthy dogs, putting mother and puppy at risk. It also means not testing parent dogs for serious hereditary diseases like cardiomyopathy, degenerative myelopathy, patellar luxation or von Willebrand disease. All of these diseases can be passed down to new generations of puppies, leading to troubled lives and tragic results.
Responsible breeders, on the other hand, are careful to pay close attention to the health of their parent dogs, testing them for hereditary diseases and ensuring that their puppies have the best chance of being born in good health. Responsible breeders attend to all the needs of the puppies in their litters, making sure that they live in comfort and receive all their important vaccinations and other early-life care. Some of them are veterinary technicians, and many more are so close with their vets, they have them on speed dial.
The best breeders take great pride in nurturing their young pups in those crucial early days, and it can make a lifetime of difference.
Now that you know just how much work and care that responsible breeders devote to every single dog, you’ll understand why they charge more up front than puppy mills. But ultimately, working with a responsible breeder is not only the ethical and right thing to do, it’s also the economically smart thing to do, too.
The whole reason that puppy mills charge lower prices is that they cut corners and ignore the health of their dogs. So sure, they pass on some of their savings to dog parents at first, charging in the hundreds instead of thousands, but the truth is that bringing home a sick puppy (or one prone to sickness) will likely wind up costing those same parents far more money in the long-run.
Right off the bat, getting a dog diagnosed with a hereditary illness can be quite costly, and the initial treatment alone can run many thousands of dollars. If the illness is a lingering problem, as so many hereditary illnesses tend to be, the regular medical bills can then really pile up. And that’s before you even factor in emergency veterinary care, which dogs born with diseases and disabilities often require. It can cost a small fortune to take care of a dog that is still really suffering.
Even more daunting is the fact that these illnesses don’t always show themselves right away; sometimes, a dog from an irresponsible source doesn’t display the symptoms of their diseases until years later, when they’ve become beloved members of the family and their sudden illness is all the more devastating. The emotional toll of having a sick pet is incalculable, which only adds to the immense cost of bringing home a dog from an irresponsible source instead of a respected and conscientious breeder.
A responsible breeder doesn’t just look out for the physical health of their puppies; a big part of the job is ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of the new dogs they bring into the world. In some ways, tending to the emotional development of a litter of puppies is an even bigger task, because it requires close attention and individual care.
Hearing how disreputable sources and irresponsible breeders treat their youngest puppies really drives home how reckless they are. Very often, they separate puppies from their mothers and siblings right off the bat, severing their natural connections and denying them the warmth and familiarity that is so crucial in those early days. They may keep them in substandard conditions with a lack of human contact, leaving them largely alone and confused.
This isn’t just cruel while it’s happening. These irresponsible practices can lead to a lifetime of difficulties for both dog and dog parent. The first months of a puppy’s life requires a lot of socialization, especially with their mother and siblings. Being torn from their family so early stunts emotional growth and lead to problems like extreme shyness, endless aggression, and a lifetime of anxiety. Just as with humans, when a puppy is treated well and nurtured in those crucial early days, they’re far more likely to grow up healthy and happy.
While a puppy may seem cuddly and friendly in a pet store window, it’s quite often that entering new a home with a new owner triggers fear, aggression, and other social issues. Experienced and responsible breeders know this, so they often go the extra mile to prepare a puppy for this big step. They will carefully expose puppies to what they’ll find in new homes, from household sounds to inhabitants like children or the elderly, who can be especially sensitive to certain kinds of dogs. They’ll also set the groundwork to make essential early puppy parent duties like crate training and potty training much easier.
Speaking of early puppy parenting duties, a responsible breeder will also want to make sure that prospective owners will be diligent and kind caretakers for their dogs — and that they are a good fit for a certain breed in the first place. Many breeders will perform puppy temperament testing to certify that a prospective parent is a proper match for their young dogs, so that they can avoid as much as possible any sad endings like returns or even abandonment. Responsible sources want to see their puppies thrive in new homes, and provide ongoing counseling to make sure it happens.
When a puppy is initially cared for by a responsible breeder and brought into a loving home, with lots of space to live and play, the adjustment should be relatively smooth. But puppy mills and irresponsible breeders are so often abusive to their dogs — not only young puppies, but the breeding dogs, too. Mills are profit machines, and they treat their dogs as such. They keep their female breeding dogs in awful conditions, forcing them to live out their lives in small cages, often without proper veterinary care, and be used as litter machines until they’re no longer to handle pregnancy.
The treatment of puppies is not much better. They don’t see dogs as living creatures, so there’s no incentive to help them socialize, give them proper medical care, or offer ongoing assistance to new puppy parents. These mills and irresponsible breeders treat their animals like commodities. On the other hand, responsible breeders take good care of their mother dogs, making sure that they receive ongoing medical care, live in comfort, and only breed when they are very physically ready.
Backyard breeders also cause damage by breeding and raising dogs without awareness of the activities necessary to ensure the health and wellbeing of their puppies and breeding dogs. This lack of knowledge and professionalism can lead to serious issues for both dogs and parents.
The differences are so stark, and that’s why we started Good Dog. We’re striving to create transparency and accountability in this world. It’s also why it’s so important to be educated and to make sure you are supporting good actors when getting a dog — both for the wellbeing of your own dog and family as well as dogs overall.
All of the breeders on Good Dog have been screened and must abide by our code of ethics. So we recommend you start here. But if you’re curious to learn more about what the bad actors look like and how to avoid them, we have a full overview here.