What does an irresponsible breeder or source look like?

For far too long, puppy mills and disreputable sources have thrived off of well-intentioned people simply not knowing how to spot and avoid them.

by Good Dog

Getting a dog isn’t at all like going shopping for a new pair of shoes. You shouldn’t be able to stroll into a pet store one day and walk out an hour later with a new puppy. Responsible breeders are a lot more discerning with their prospective dog owners than cashiers at retail or online puppy dealers and would never sell a dog without interacting directly with the owner. If someone is willing to sell you a dog like it’s a pair of sneakers, there’s a serious problem.

An ethical source would never treat an animal that way because they understand what a huge responsibility it is to care for a dog. They take the entire process very seriously, before your puppy is even born, thanks to health tests done on any breeding dog. Trusted breeders will do everything they can to help connect you with a dog who matches your personality and lifestyle.

Ideally, you already know what a responsible source looks like, but there are still times when it’s hard to be sure.

With this information in hand, you can feel confident that you’ll be making responsible decisions when finding your new best friend. At Good Dog, our mission is to apply standards and screening to every member of our community so you can complete your search with peace of mind. Still, it’s important to understand the qualities that go into a bad source so you are empowered to be on the lookout.

Health

A dog from a pet store or puppy mill might be less money up front, but that’s because those sources cut corners and don’t prioritize the health of their dogs. An irresponsible breeder 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.

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; the whole thing is terrible, disgraceful and unsafe.

Waving off veterinary care means breeding with exhausted and unhealthy dogs, putting both mother and puppy at risk. It also means not testing parent dogs for serious hereditary diseases like heart issues, knee and hip dysplasia or genetic diseases. All of these diseases can be passed down to new generations of puppies, leading to troubled lives, large emotional tolls and potentially tragic results.

Cost

Puppy mills charge lower prices because they cut corners and ignore the health of their dogs. So sure, they pass on some of their savings to dog owners at first, charging in the hundreds instead of thousands, but if you’re bringing home a sick or endangered dog, the long-term financial and emotional costs can grow sky-high.

Getting a dog diagnosed with a hereditary illness can be quite costly, and the initial treatment alone can run thousands of dollars. If the illness is a lingering problem, as so many hereditary illnesses tend to be, the regular medical bills will pile up. And that’s before you 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 truly 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. Once a dog has become a beloved member of the family, 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 unethical source instead of a respected and conscientious breeder.

Seeing a puppy available for a lower cost can initially seem enticing, but respectable breeders charge more for a reason.

Behavior

Irresponsible practices can lead to a lifetime of difficulties for both dog and dog owner. The first months of a puppy’s life requires a lot of socialization, especially with their mother and siblings. Being separated from their family too early or not receiving enough socialization or enrichment stunts emotional growth and can lead to problems like extreme shyness, endless aggression, and a lifetime of anxiety. Puppies from an unreliable source aren’t given a fair chance at becoming well-adjusted members of the family, which can lead to further isolation due to their less-than-ideal behavior.

Animal Welfare

Because puppy mills and irresponsible breeders are so often abusive to their dogs — not only young puppies, but the breeding dogs, too — adjustment from that lifestyle into a loving home is often not smooth or possible.

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, until they can no longer handle pregnancy. When their ability to bear children is expired, they’re sometimes abandoned and without a loving home to provide the care and comfort every dog deserves.

The treatment of puppies is not much better. Untrustworthy breeders 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 owners, which often results in more abandonment. These operations treat their animals like commodities.

Good Dog’s mission is to connect prepared owners with responsible breeders to create a healthier ecosystem for our canine companions. Right now, it can be a bit complicated to navigate, even for devoted dog-lovers. We’ve created an easy guide to help you understand and identify bad actors like puppy mills and careless breeders.

For more information, you can read our breeder code of ethics to see how we screen every single breeder we work with.