What to expect when working with a reputable breeder

Working with a responsible breeder can lead to a lifetime of happiness with your furry friend. Here's what to expect from the process.

by Good Dog

Working with a responsible breeder is a rewarding process, but it’s much more involved than just going to a pet store and taking home a dog. Responsible breeders love each and every one of their puppies and want to make sure that you plan on loving and caring for their pups, too. Their reputations and careful breeding practices sometimes even mean that there is a waitlist for their puppies — in fact, a bit of a wait is generally a good sign that the breeder is an ethical, reputable source and that you should stick around.

Cutting corners may be tempting, because you obviously want your pup as soon as possible, but in the long run, going with a great breeder is the right call. Here’s a guide to working with a responsible breeder so that you can navigate the process and find the perfect new furry friend.

Finding your breeder

The first step in your puppy parenting journey is identifying which breed is right for you. There are many of factors involved, so it might take a lot of consideration, but once you’ve chosen a breed that you think is the best fit for your family, it’s time to find one or more responsible breeders who specialize in those breeds.

Here at Good Dog, we’ve made it our mission to connect you with responsible breeders, and to that end, we offer plenty of information about each of our partner breeders. You can explore a breeder’s photos, peruse their policies, and get to know both how they care for their dogs and whether they seem like good matches for you — after all, you’re going to be working closely with your breeder, so it’s important that you have a strong relationship. What you don’t have to worry about is whether the breeders you find on Good Dog are responsible and good to their animals. Each one has been screened for quality so you can focus your search on the specifics that matter most to you.

Just a heads up, before we go even further. A lot of people only look for nearby breeders, but that’s often limiting, and these days, far less of a necessity. Many breeders are open to working with potential puppy parents from across the country. There are now all kinds of options for transporting a dog to its new home, from road trips to flight nannies. Don’t let distance get in the way of connecting with the right breeder — finding the right dog is just too important! And if the process of finding that right breeder is a bit daunting, you can always contact an expert a Good Dog; we’ll be happy to talk you through the process.

Applying to get started

Don’t be shy — breeders love working with potential puppy parents about their dogs! A big part of a breeder’s job is to evaluate people to ensure that they’ll be great matches for their puppies, so a responsible breeder generally begins the process with a brief application. They look for information about whether you have kids at home, where you live and what kind of space you have, the amount of time you’ll be able to devote to caring for a dog, and whether you have experience or are a newcomer to their breed.

Don’t be intimidated; instead, be excited that you’ve found a great breeder with top-notch practices, and that you could wind up taking home one of their happy, healthy puppies. And don’t worry — submitting an application doesn’t commit you to anything, so there’s no need to put down a deposit or other financial guarantee. This is just a first step in the process, and once you hand in the application, the breeder will get in touch to talk about the next steps.

Selecting a puppy or joining a waitlist

Congratulations! The breeder has approved your application because they think you will be a responsible, loving puppy parent. Now, one of two things is going to happen: You’ll pair with a specific puppy or join the waitlist.

If you are offered a spot on the waitlist, and you feel good about the breeder and are ready for a puppy, you should definitely take it! The length of the waitlist will vary, and you may have to pay a deposit (generally anywhere from $200-500), but that money will generally go towards the final payment you make when you get your pup. Some are refundable, others are not, but as long as you stay in line, it all evens out. Being on a waitlist is also made a lot easier when breeders send you regular updates about your spot in line and how much closer you are to the front.

Different breeders operate their waitlists in different ways, but generally, they allow you to defer if you aren’t quite ready yet for a dog. Life throws curveballs sometimes and they definitely understand that.

Once it’s your turn to get a puppy, the matching process begins. Some breeders will let you choose which pup you want to take home, while others will work with you to find the perfect fit. They know their dogs best, so if they want some input on the process, it’s definitely smart to listen to them! The goal is to make sure you wind up with the puppy that’s best for you.

The two month rule

Then comes the hardest part: Waiting to meet your furry new family member! Puppies generally must be at least two months old before they go home (it depends a bit on the breed) because it’s crucial that they spend their first few months with their mother and siblings. There are just some things that humans can’t provide as well as other dogs.

The months with their family allows puppies to develop physically and gain the socialization required to live a normal, happy life. Breeders often also use this time to enrich your puppy by introducing them to the new things they’ll encounter when they leave the litter, from household sounds to playful children.

But don’t worry — you won’t be waiting around in the dark during this period. Breeders often send along photos and/or videos so you can watch your future pup growing and learning, which will only get you more excited to begin your time together. During this time, you can start planning on how you’ll be getting your pup home, because there are now quite a few options for doggy transportation.

Transportation

You’re so close! Now you get down to the nuts and bolts of bringing your puppy home. There are a number of viable paths and to some degree just depend on how far you live from the breeder.

If you want to meet in person, all of the breeders on Good Dog will allow you to visit their home or facility to pick up your puppy. That’s easy if you’re nearby, but also doable if you’re willing to go on a road trip or book a flight. Breeders may also be willing to meet you at their local airport so that you don’t have to navigate a new city.

If flying or road trips are out of the question, there are several other options for getting your new dog to your home safe and sound. You can arrange a flight nanny (also known as a puppy nanny) who, for a small fee, will chaperone your dog on the plane. You can also have your dog sent safely and securely in a petsafe air cargo, where your puppy will travel in a crate with food and water in a temperature-controlled area of the plane. Airlines have been offering this service for years and frankly, it’s far roomier and more comfortable than most of their coach seats at this point.

The choices are plentiful, but no matter which you choose, breeders are devoted to making sure that they go off without a hitch and your new pup gets to its new home safe and sound. You can read more in depth about all the available transportation options here.

Payment and contracts

This is where you dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Good breeders are very conscientious and diligent, which makes for a little bit of paperwork and a lot of peace of mind.

They will often require that you sign a contract when paying for your puppy, outlining your responsibilities and what they expect from you as a good dog owner. They guarantee the health of your dog when you receive it, and in exchange, they generally require you to take your puppy within a few days of picking it up, then ask that you spay or neuter your pup when the right time comes along.

Breeders are also careful to make sure their dogs will have homes for the long haul. Their rehoming policies generally require you to contact and return the dog to them if you can no longer care for it; Good Dog also requires that you contact us so that we can assist in the process. The most important thing is making sure each and every dog has a warm, caring place to live.

Your bill may also reflect additional fees, such as transportation or extra boarding costs. And it’s standard to be charged for extra items such as microchipping (which is a painless permanent method of electronic identification), food samples, and comfort items like blankets with their mother and siblings’ scents. Every breeder will outline their extra charges on their Good Dog pages, so there are no surprises.

Have fun!

What you’ll wind up paying also depends on the breed, as the price can vary widely for a variety of reasons. But whichever breed you choose, you’re in for many years of love — just be ready for some hard times, too, especially early on. Before you train your pup, there are going to be accidents and messes, just like with children (and, well, adults). But the unconditional love you get from a well-bred dog is absolutely priceless.

Still have any questions? Need some more guidance? Feel free to get in touch with our team here — we love talking about puppies!