One of the most important choices you’ll face when becoming a dog parent is where to get your new pup. Working with a responsible breeder can lead to a lifetime of happiness with your dog, while cutting corners or getting tricked by unethical sources may result in years of complications, like a bad pup-parent match or 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, too, care for their dogs like 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 the parent dogs are strong, healthy and have characteristics that should be passed along to the next generation of puppies.
Unfortunately, spotting a responsible breeder can be difficult without the right knowledge and experience. That’s why we’ve worked with leading veterinary and academic experts to create a set of standards that we use to evaluate all breeders before recognizing them as a Good Breeder and listing them on Good Dog. Here’s how we assess them.
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. Good Breeders always consider the inheritable health issues that affect their breed and perform the appropriate health tests on their breeding dogs. By performing these tests, breeders have the information they need to make conscientious pairings when producing a litter, making sure their puppies don’t suffer from preventable health issues.
Good Breeders collect experience over decades and develop an intuition for bringing puppies into the world that are both physically and mentally sound. New breeders are often mentored by someone with more experience so they can benefit from their learnings. Some breeders may be well-intentioned but lack this crucial depth of knowledge and expertise. That often leads to bad situations for both pups and their owners.
Good Breeders care immensely for their breeding dogs. Responsible breeders always put the well-being of their breeding dogs first, not financial gain. That means they consider the physical and emotional needs of their breeding dogs above all else.
They make sure their dogs have a clean, comfortable and stimulating environment; get the veterinary care they need; and have a nutritious diet. When it comes to breeding, they always make sure that their dogs are bred at the appropriate age (not too young or too old) and at a frequency that’s safe for their long-term well-being.
When breeding a litter, physical health is always a Good Breeder’s number one priority. Responsible breeders make sure their puppies are clean, comfortable and well fed and they make sure to take the 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.
Good Breeders are passionate about producing puppies with sound temperaments, and they put a lot of effort into preparing their puppies for successful transitions into their new homes. They often have experience with training and behavior and use methods such as positive clicker training or tactile stimulation, exposing their puppies to different sounds and sensations.
They begin to socialize them with other people, children, elderly or other animals in a safe environment. They also make sure their puppies never leave their mother or littermates until they are old enough to thrive on their own, which is usually no sooner than eight weeks of age (but varies based on the breed).
A Good Breeder always makes sure their puppies are going to good homes. That means they often interview you or require that you answer some questions before placing a puppy with you. They’re also focused on making the right match between puppy and owner and may have suggestions about which pup is right for you.
Responsible breeders almost always have a health guarantee, which shows that they stand behind their dogs and the health/genetic testing they perform. They continue to care about their dogs for their entire lifetimes and love receiving updates and pictures. If you can no longer care for one of their dogs, they’ll always help in rehoming them with another family or take the dog back into their own home.