You've done your research and found the perfect breed of dog to fit you and your family. The only problem now is where to find this perfect puppy. With the horror stories you've undoubtedly heard about the living conditions for dogs in puppy mills and the problems associated with backyard breeders, it can be difficult to decide the best place to purchase your new puppy. The good news is that there are several things you can do to ensure that you are buying a puppy from a reputable breeder.
- Stay away from pet shops. Reputable breeders spend a great deal of time and money on their breeding programs. They are usually making this investment out of a deep love for dogs, particularly the breed they've chosen. Reputable breeders want to know about where their pups end up. They would never place a puppy in a situation to be purchased by someone they haven't had the opportunity to carefully screen, no matter what pet store employees may claim to the contrary.
Ask for referrals. One of the best ways to find a good breeder is to ask other people who own dogs of the breed in which you are interested. Friends and neighbors are a good start. You can also check with local veterinarians. There are also dog clubs devoted to particular breeds. These clubs have regular meetings, obedience rallies, and educational seminars. They can usually recommend a breeder in your area. A good place to start your search for a breed club is the American Kennel Club website.
Be prepared to answer some questions when you contact a breeder. Many people are taken aback the first time they speak to a breeder. Reputable breeders usually have a list of questions they ask potential buyers. These questions usually involve things such as your history of pet ownership, your lifestyle, and information about age of family members. The questions are not meant to invade your privacy, but rather to ensure that a good match is made between your family and your new dog.
A breeder also wants to make sure that the new owners are prepared to take good care of a dog placed in their home. If a breeder isn't interested in information about the potential home for the puppy, this is a red flag that you probably aren't dealing with a reputable breeder.
Ask questions. Just as a good breeder is going to ask you a few questions, you should be prepared to ask some questions of your own.
- Find out about the health history of the breeder's dogs. Good breeders should have their dogs checked by a veterinarian regularly, and should not be breeding any dogs found to have a predisposition to genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, heart disease or aggression.
- Ask if the parents are on the premises and, if so, whether you'll have the opportunity to meet them. A reputable breeder usually owns at least one of the parents, and should be more than happy to have you meet them. Be suspicious if a breeder is evasive on this question.
- Ask the breeder how many litters they have each year. Female dogs should not be bred with every heat cycle. Most good breeders only have one or two litters per female each year. In many cases when you deal with a highly reputable breeder, you will be put on a waiting list to get a puppy. They won't have puppies constantly available.
- Finally, make sure that the breeder is only breeding one breed of dog. Breeders who breed several breeds of dog are more likely to be backyard breeders or puppy mills. This means that you're more likely to get a dog with health issues or temperament problems.
Get references. Ask the breeders for references. They should be able to give you contact information from their veterinarian, as well as happy customers - people who have purchased dogs from them in the past. If a breeder is unwilling or unable to do this, consider continuing your search.
Expect a guarantee. A good breeder will want to make sure that the match between you and your puppy is a good one. They should provide you with a money-back guarantee should the purchase not work out in the first two to four weeks. You should also get a health guarantee for this same amount of time. You should not be liable for the cost of health problems found soon after you bring your puppy home. Most reputable breeders will require a contract of some sort. This will cover health guarantees, and will usually require you to agree to things like spaying or neutering your dog within a certain amount of time or returning the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep him for any reason.
It may sound like a lot of trouble to find a reputable dog breeder, but it is well worth the effort. Finding a good breeder will ensure that the puppy you bring home is healthy and of sound temperament. Breeders can also prove to be an invaluable resource when it comes to things such as feeding, training, and finding a veterinarian.