Finding a Good Breeder
Anyone with an intact (not spayed) female dog can have a litter of puppies, just as almost anyone can have a child. Good breeders, however, only bred when they feel they can improve their chosen breed by producing a litter from the dogs that have caught their eye. In addition, they stand behind their dogs and work to find them good homes. How do you tell a good breeder from a bad one?
In order to find a good breeder, you first have to know what a bad breeder looks like. Bad breeders fall into two categories, the ignorant and the evil. Ignorant breeders do not mean to produce bad dogs, but either thought they would breed their dog to make her “a good dog” or to make some money. They may also have been careless when their dog was in heat and she ended up pregnant. The father may be unknown. They may tell you the dog is purebred but they don’t have the papers. While you can find a good dog from this type of breeder, the odds are stacked against you.
Evil breeders are puppy mills. Puppy mills can be deceiving. Because of publicity, they have learned to put on a better face than they used to. The hallmark of a puppy mill, however, is viewing dogs as livestock. They are bred and bred until they cannot produce puppies any longer, then discarded. Some puppy mills raise their dogs in horrid conditions, some in marginally humane ones. However, the puppies are not well socialized, the parents do not have the required health clearances, and the puppies often have major health problems. Any dog sold at a pet store comes from a puppy mill. No reputable breeder places a dog through a pet store or third party. Note that “adoption centers” where rescue groups display dogs in need of good homes are not the same as selling a dog through a pet store.
A good breeder, as mentioned, only has litters to improve the breed. They have the best interest of the dogs at heart and work to make sure they go to good homes. Good breeders often have waiting lists for their puppies, but the wait is worth it. They will screen you and you must pass muster as a good owner before they will sell you a puppy. The parents of the puppies have all the health clearances a dog of that breed should have -- for hip dysplasia, eye problems, skin problems, or whatever problems a dog of that breed might get. Finally, the breeder takes responsibility for the dog for life. If at any time you cannot care for the dog any longer, the breeder will take the dog back.
Where do you find these breeders? The easiest way is to go to the American Kennel Club website and use their breeder referral option. You can also find the parent club for your dog breed and ask them for referrals to breeders who have puppies. There is also a wealth of information about each breed available from the parent clubs, so if you are not sure exactly what dog breed you want, this is the place to find out.
Dog shows are also a good way to find a good breeder. Attend one locally and see the dogs being shown. Wait until after the dogs are shown, then ask one of the people about puppies. They can usually direct you to a good breeder who has a litter available.
A good breeder takes a little more effort to find. The rewards in terms of the mental and physical health of the puppy you obtain from them more than make up for that. After all, this dog will be part of your family for anywhere from ten to twenty years.