Standards & Screening

Standards & Screening

We’re committed to the health and well-being of dogs — and to your peace of mind.

We know that a dog is much more than a dog — they’re a member of the family and a best friend for life. When the source of your new best friend has such a big impact on their health, behavior, and well-being, finding the right one should not be left to chance.

That’s why we’re making it easy to connect with responsible, good breeders who have your and your new dog’s best interests at heart, so your pup has the best chance at a healthy and happy life.

What are our Community Standards?

Good Dog is on a mission to connect good with good to weed out the bad. In that pursuit, we have sought out and worked with some of the top academics and practitioners in the field to develop community standards, which are grounded in evidence-based research and backed by science. While there is no “one size fits all” for what makes a breeding program responsible, we are able to use our community standards to evaluate programs consistently. Every member of our community must pass our screening process and meet or exceed our community standards before joining Good Dog. Here’s how we do it.

How do we evaluate breeding programs?

Our screening department comprehensively considers many aspects of a breeding program, focusing on five key areas:

  1. Breeding practices
  2. Physical health of the breeding dogs and puppies
  3. Mental health of the breeding dogs and puppies
  4. Environment
  5. Buyer education and policies

Each key area is assessed individually and an assessment is also made on the program as a whole.

Our screening process entails an online questionnaire, phone interview, and vetting by our screening team. Our screening committee then reviews the application for compliance with our community standards and makes an assessment.

What do we look for when screening breeders?

Breeding Practices

Responsible breeders make conscientious decisions when deciding to produce a litter.

Responsible breeding requires a lot of planning, skill and experience. It’s not nearly as simple as pairing two physically healthy dogs together and hoping for the best. It’s critical that these decisions take into consideration the heritable health conditions that affect their breed, each individual dog’s health testing, and considering the parents’ temperaments, overall health, pedigrees, and conformation in order to make the best matches.

Responsible breeders collect experiences over decades and develop an intuition for bringing puppies into the world that are both physically and behaviorally healthy. New breeders are often mentored by a veteran breeder so they can benefit from their experience. We strive to work with breeders who are both well-intentioned and have this crucial depth of knowledge and expertise, as well as up and coming breeders with a desire to learn more.

When making decisions about their breeding programs, responsible breeders always prioritize the physical and emotional health, and well-being of their breeding dogs above all else, including financial gain.

Physical health of the dogs

Responsible breeders always put the physical health of their dogs first.

There are breed-specific health tests that responsible breeders perform on their breeding dogs to screen for diseases and conditions in order to decrease the likelihood of producing puppies with heritable conditions. For some breeds, there may be a multitude of valid tests available.

To help distinguish between breeding programs, we identify breeding programs that perform a different number of the recommended tests for their breed. Specifically, with respect to health testing, we identify breeding programs that, (i) meet our [entry-level] requirements for their breed, as having “Good” health testing practices (ii) exceed our requirements for their breed as having “Great” health testing practices, and (iii) significantly exceed our requirements for their breed as having “Excellent” health testing practices. Learn more about health testing and the different levels of recognition in our Good Dog Guide to Health Testing.

While health testing is a critical and important aspect of each breeding program, it is only one of many factors that we take into account when evaluating breeding programs. Breeders also consider other aspects of their dogs’ health that isn’t currently covered by health screening, such as allergies, cancer, GI issues, etc. We also look to make sure their breeding dogs and puppies receive the regular and specialized veterinary care and nutrition they need. Responsible breeders ensure that their dogs are bred at an appropriate age (not too young or too old) and at a frequency that’s safe for their long-term well-being. They also make sure their puppies are well raised and well fed, and the breeders take all basic steps necessary to care for their puppies, such as vaccinations and deworming.

Some breeders are also veterinarians or vet techs, so they may take care of these tasks themselves. If they’re not, they’ll often have a trusted vet on speed dial. They stay up all night to make sure their puppies are safe and are heartbroken if any unavoidable issues arise.

We’ve worked closely with our advisor, Dr. Brian Greenfield, DVM, one of the nation’s leading experts in canine reproduction, breeding management, and pediatric care, to develop community standards regarding canine reproduction and physical health. Dr. Greenfield has seen more reproductive cases than almost anyone in the country and works alongside Dr. Robert Hutchinson at one of the top vet clinics in America.

Mental health of the dogs

Responsible breeders ensure that their breeding dogs’ emotional, and cognitive needs are met by ensuring they receive appropriate stimulation, activity and social interaction. They are also devoted to producing behaviorally sound puppies.

Responsible breeders often have experience with training and behavior, and put a lot of effort into ensuring their puppies have safe and stimulating early life experiences. By exposing their puppies to different sounds and sensations, people of many different appearances and ages, as well as other animals, and beginning basic training using methods such as positive training they prepare their puppies for successful transitions into their new homes. They also make sure their puppies never leave their mother or littermates until they are old enough to easily transition to their new home, which is usually no sooner than eight weeks of age.

In developing our community standards regarding the mental health of the dogs, we worked with, and were heavily influenced by the work of our advisor, Dr. James A. Serpell, BSc, PhD, a world renowned authority on canine behavior. Dr. Serpell wrote, The Domestic Dog, which has been the primary source in understanding dogs' behavior for over 20 years and he created the revolutionary standardized, canine behavioral assessment tool, known as C-BARQ, which is used by many responsible breeders. With behavior issues being the number one cause of abandonment, Dr. Serpell’s work focusing on behavior and socialization is critical to decreasing abandonment.

Environment

Responsible breeders ensure their dogs have a clean, comfortable, safe, stimulating, and enriching environment so their breeding dogs and puppies will thrive.

Environment is a critical factor in the physical, mental, and emotional health of breeding dogs and puppies. Responsible breeders provide opportunities for their dogs to engage in activities such as retrieving or swimming, toys to play with and things to chew, and comfortable resting areas protected from the weather. Housing areas are regularly cleaned and maintained in a way that ensures the health and well-being of dogs and puppies.

We developed our community standards regarding environment is close consultation with our advisor, Dr. Candace Croney, PhD, director of the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University and leading academic expert on the welfare of breeding dogs and their puppies, with a focus on environment and enrichment.

Buyer Education and Policies

Responsible breeders spend a great deal of time with potential puppy buyers to help guide them into making an informed, responsible decision that is right for them. They also spend a great deal of time vetting potential buyers to make sure each dog will be a good fit for their new forever home as well as being transparent about their breeding program and practices. Responsible breeders do their best to ensure a smooth transition to their new home by providing all the information and resources necessary for new owners to be successful, responsible guardians for their new puppy.

Perhaps most important of all, responsible breeders make a lifelong commitment to their dogs. They provide ongoing support to their owners and, should anything ever come up, Good Breeders will take back their dogs and/or help rehome them, for any reason. Responsible breeders are committed to keeping their dogs in their homes and out of the shelter system through education, screening of potential buyers and their policies.

We developed our community standards regarding buyer education and policies by learning from our partner, Dr. Gayle Watkins, PhD, and her work with Avidog International, the world’s leading educational institution on responsible dog breeding and dog ownership. Dr. Watkins has also bred and/or shown over 150 champions and is one of the only breeders to have been named “Breeder of the Year” by the American Kennel Club for multiple years.

Read more about what it means to be a Good Breeder.

From Good to Great — why our community standards are critical to the success of our mission

Our mission is to promote responsible breeders and push out the disreputable sources while also working to improve the standards in the dog world overall, as a community. In order to push out the disreputable sources, we need to help buyers find dogs in a responsible way and avoid turning to bad sources out of desperation or a lack of education. In order to make a positive change and succeed in improving the standards overall, we need to work together as a community to strive towards best practices.

Our approach is to keep perfect from being the enemy of the good by establishing community standards that allow us to work with breeders whose programs range from meeting our entry-level community standards to being the best of the best. This allows us to reach breeders who are eager to learn and improve and be able to provide them resources in order to help them do so, while simultaneously recognizing the breeders whose programs have already reached a high level of achievement. The different levels of recognition for health testing practices set forth in our Good Dog Guide to Health Testing that range from Good to Great to Excellent, provide a breed-specific roadmap for breeders to refine their practices and in doing so, improve the health of millions of dogs for generations to come.

We believe it is vital to set forth not just what breeders shouldn’t be doing, but what they should be doing and how they can channel their energy and investment into improving the lives of their breeding dogs and puppies. Through education, access to resources, help finding specialists, and discounts on health testing, we’re committed to helping breeders in our community be the best breeders they can be, because this is how we can make a real, impactful difference. In pursuit of our mission to improve current practices, we’ve partnered with the world’s leading educational institution for responsible dog breeders, Avidog University.

By bringing together an inclusive group of leading experts from across a variety of fields and uniting as a community committed to being a force for good, we can harness the collective passion that has so far been scattered in many directions and turn it into a practical shared framework centered on responsible practices and healthier dogs.

How do we evaluate Shelters & Rescues?

Putting the well-being of dogs first

Shelters and rescues do incredible work and Good Dog is proud to support them in their missions to save homeless animals. While most shelter and rescue organizations do everything they can to support their animals and are consistently working to improve, we make sure to only highlight those that meet our standards, which are designed to ensure they are putting the well-being of their dogs first.

Commitment to animal care

All of our recognized organizations prioritize the welfare of the animals in their care, including animals in foster homes or other off-site locations. Many of the organizations on Good Dog go above and beyond these basic standards to ensure that their dogs are healthy, happy and prepared for success in their new homes.

Transparency and financial discipline

The members of our shelter and rescue community not only provide the right support for their animals but also meet a high standard for transparency and financial discipline. Transparency around these practices helps hold organizations accountable while giving adopters the information necessary to make their own choices.

Read more about what makes a Good Shelter or Rescue.

Support from leading dog welfare and veterinary experts

Our Standards and Screening processes were developed thanks to the work and consultation of Dr. Brian Greenfield, DVM, Dr. Candace Croney, Ph.D., and Dr. James A. Serpell, BSc, PhD, three of the leading veterinary and academic experts in both animal welfare and dog breeding. We believe in conducting a science-based evaluation of breeding practices, and we’re proud to work with Dr. Croney, Dr. Greenfield, and Dr. Serpell to achieve that.

Dr. Brian Greenfield Photo

Dr. Brian Greenfield, DVM

Dr. Greenfield is one of the nation’s leading experts in canine reproduction, breeding management, and pediatric care. He has seen more reproductive cases than almost anyone in the country and is a sought-after expert in the field. Dr. Greenfield was instrumental in developing Good Dog’s standards and screening procedures, with a focus on ethical reproductive practices, veterinary care, health testing, and breeder policies.

Dr. Candace Croney Photo

Dr. Candace Croney, PhD

Dr. Croney is director at the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University and a professor of animal behavior and well-being. She’s a leading academic expert on the welfare of breeding dogs and their puppies and has published numerous studies on the physical and behavioral health of breeding dogs and puppies. Dr. Croney provided scientific background for and review of Good Dog's standards around dog environment, physical health evaluation, socialization, exercise, enrichment and training evaluation for consistency with current science.

Dr. James A. Serpell, BSc, PhD

Dr. Serpell is Professor of Ethics and Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society. His book, The Domestic Dog, is the primary source in understanding dogs' behavior and our interactions with them. Dr. Serpell is helping to empower our community to live better lives with their dogs.

Tell us what you think. We’re committed to listening and learning.

Our community is founded on a commitment to listen, learn, and as with so many issues in the dog world, sometimes people have very different opinions and it can take time for us to determine what makes sense for our community. Our community standards are also constantly evolving as cutting-age canine research continues to provide powerful new insights into how to have healthier dogs. While we continue to evolve our standards, we encourage you to keep sharing your feedback with us and asking questions because that’s how we’ll get this right, by working together. And we’re committed to getting this right. Please feel free to share any feedback to feedback@gooddog.com.

By working together as a community committed to transparency, education, and responsible practices, we can make a difference in the dog world – because we’re stronger together. Together, we can give our dogs the world they deserve.