What does a responsible breeder look like?

Working with a responsible breeder can lead to a lifetime of happiness with your furry friend, while cutting corners or getting tricked by unethical sources may result in years of complications.

by Good Dog

Becoming a dog owner 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; the most crucial choice you’ll face is where to get your new puppy.

A responsible breeder gives you the best chance for adding a happy, healthy member to your family because they, too, care for their dogs as family. Their goal is to bring healthy, well-adjusted dogs into the world and to make sure they go to warm and caring homes. It starts even before the actual breeding, when 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.

But what does that look like? Here are the key areas where the trusted breeders of the Good Dog community are leading the pack.


Your number one job as a dog owner 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 in the earliest days will play a huge role in determining its future health.

Responsible breeders are careful to pay close attention to the health of their parent dogs, testing them for hereditary diseases and doing their best to ensure that their puppies have the best chance of being born in good health. These 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 either veterinarians or veterinary technicians, and many more are so close with their vets, they have them on speed dial.

At Good Dog, we offer transparency into health tests done on breeding dogs and help you understand their purpose so you can work with your breeder to discuss the preventive measures taken to care for your pup’s well-being.

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 responsible breeders devote to every single dog, you’ll understand why they charge more up front than irresponsible sources. 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 reason irresponsible sources charge lower prices is that they cut corners and ignore the health of their dogs. But bringing home a sick puppy (or one prone to sickness) will likely wind up costing those new dog owners far more money in the long run.

Working with responsible breeders means that you and your family will know up front that your dog, and its parents, has been screened for hereditary illnesses or overall health problems.

Additionally, good breeders will also take care of your future puppy’s food, socialization and early enrichment needs for at least the eight weeks after they’re born, all of which take time and money. These factors contribute to the overall cost of a dog from a responsible and reputable breeder.


A trusted breeder doesn’t just look out for the physical health of their puppies; another big part of the job is ensuring the mental health and well-being 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.

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.

It’s quite common that entering new a home with a new owner triggers fear, aggression, and other social issues in puppies. Experienced and responsible breeders know this, so they 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 owner duties like crate training and potty training much easier.

Speaking of puppy owner responsibilities, these breeders 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 specific dog in the first place. Some breeders will perform puppy temperament testing to certify that a potential owner is a proper match for their young dogs, so that they can avoid as much as possible any heartbreak, such as puppy returns or even abandonment. Responsible sources want to see their puppies thrive in new homes, and provide ongoing counseling to make sure it happens.

Animal Welfare

Responsible breeders take good care of their parent dogs, making sure that they receive ongoing medical care, live in comfort, and only breed when they are physically ready and capable. Many provide photos or video chats with prospective puppy buyers to help show the living conditions of their dogs and puppies. There should be plenty of space, food, water, access to outdoor or enclosed outdoor spaces (depending on exercise needs and weather conditions), toys and comfortable sleeping/resting areas.

In addition to taking care of your puppy before they make their way home to you, dedicated breeders will usually want to stay in touch and follow your puppy’s life journey. They love getting updates and seeing recent photos — who doesn’t love a happy puppy update?

We started Good Dog because the differences between responsible and irresponsible sources are so stark. 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 well-being of your own dog and family as well as dogs overall.

All of the breeders on Good Dog have been screened and abide by our code of ethics, which you can read here. And 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.