Choosing a Puppy Breeder – Dog Training Blogs
Updated: Jul 28
What an exciting time! You’ve researched the dog breed that fits with your lifestyle, you’ve taken the time to check everything you will need for your puppy going forward, and you are as prepared as you can be! It’s time to find a puppy breeder! There are 1000's out there, especially if you are looking for a popular dog breed, but how do you know which puppy breeders are legitimate and ethical and which ones you should steer clear of?
There are many considerations to look at as the wrong breeder could leave you with costly vet and behaviourist/trainer bills further down the line. In addition to this, you could be unknowingly contributing to the cycle of ‘greeders’ and unethical breeding – if you are looking to breed from your own dog in the future, it’s even more important that you pick the right dog breeder! Here is a checklist to ensure you are buying a healthy, confident, and ethically bred puppy. An ethical breeder will:
Have the appropriate heath tests done!
Possibly one of the most important factors as so many breeds are genetically prone to poor health conditions. If you are looking to get a popular breed, unfortunately, it’s almost a guarantee that the breed can be prone to some health condition or another. Health doesn’t just impact your vet bills and insurance; it impacts the behaviour your dog may or may not show. Fear based behaviours are almost always caused/exaggerated by some kind of pain or discomfort. Unless you are willing to spend potentially 1000’s down the line on vets and behaviourists, make sure your breeder has completed the appropriate heath tests for the dog breed – any breeder that says they haven’t or that the breed ‘doesn’t need it’ is not worth buying from. Even if the breeder is breeding “designer dogs” (e.g. labradoodle, maltipoo etc), they should still be health testing both parents – cross breeds are NOT necessarily healthier dogs – this is a myth. ALWAYS ask to see the proof of tests, too! The kennel club has a list of required and recommended tests for each breed here.
Allow you to see the mother with the puppies!
No excuses here! If a dog breeder is unable to allow you to meet the mother with the puppies, this is a massive red flag. As a behaviourist I have heard all sorts of excuses that my clients have been given from ‘greeders’ – “the mom is too tired and is in her crate”, “lets meet up at a service station as it’s closer for you”, “I’ll send you some videos instead, the mother is worried of people” are just a few of them. Unless you see the mother with the puppies, you have no idea if the puppies are from a home or puppy farm/mill and you can’t tell how well the mother treats the puppies – a potential factor in socialisation. Always push to see the mother and puppies. If the puppy breeder avoids, stay clear! The mother will tell you so much about her puppies – is she worried? Does she hide away from people? Does she look healthy? What behaviours does she show around her puppies and the breeder? A mother who is stressed or fearful during pregnancy will impact the puppies through the stress hormones. It’s very common for litters of fearful parents to show fearful behaviours themselves – either as puppies or when they are adults.
Will not release the puppy to you until at least 8 weeks old.
There is an alarming amount of people that are bringing home puppies younger than this – some as young as 5 weeks old! Any breeder that is trying to convince you to take the puppy younger than 8 weeks old should be avoided. A 'greeder' will come up with all kinds of excuses and reasons, but it is the breeder’s responsibility to ensure they have appropriate arrangements for a litter should issues arise. Removing a puppy from a litter too young can severely impact learning and social skills. Puppies taken from a litter earlier than 8 weeks can struggle with bite inhibition, socialisation, and confidence. Getting the puppy in your home earlier is not worth the risk.
Will rear puppies in a home environment – not a kennel/barn/anywhere else!
Have a look around your room, what do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel under you? Your puppy will need to feel comfortable with all of this BEFORE they enter your home – they will be unlikely to be experiencing normal home sights, sounds, smells, and sensations if they have been reared anywhere but a home. It’s simply not good enough to expect them to ‘get used to it’ when you bring them home. Under socialisation can severely impact confidence and things such as toilet training, home alone training, and even basic puppy skills could become so much harder than they need to be. In a home they will be handled often, hear all kinds of sounds on the TV, the vacuum, the washing machine, they will feel different textures under foot and see different types of people – just a few examples of the benefits of a home environment over a barren kennel or barn! They should also be following a socialisation and puppy training plan (that they can talk you through in detail) to ensure they are giving their puppies the best start in life – this is the sign of someone who really cares about ethical breeding!
Are happy to answer any questions and give confident, research backed answers.
A 'greeder' breeds solely for money with no consideration of the consequences of their actions/lack of actions – minimal effort for maximum gain. A responsible and ethical breeder breed’s because they love their chosen breed and want to ensure that the gene pool of that breed is being filled with healthy and confident puppies. They will be able to answer questions about the health, breed specific behaviours and rearing of the puppies – they will be open and honest, will ask you plenty of questions in return and will likely want you to sign a contract. A contract is important for both you and the breeder – it ensures that if there are any issues, the breeder will be responsible for taking the puppy or dog back and to find a new home for them.
Bad, unethical, greedy, and downright criminal ‘breeders’ are out there. They are a lot more common than you would think. Unfortunately, most of the breeders I see are not following the checklist above, and this is seriously affecting the behaviour of the typical ‘pet/family dog’. More and more bite incidents are being reported, vets are seeing more health issues in family dogs and behaviourists are busier than ever – all of this is down to poor breeding from people that want a ‘quick buck’.
When buying a puppy, we can make a choice – either buy from an ethical breeder to slow down the ‘greeders’ or buy into the trade that is affecting the welfare of the dogs we love. Health, socialisation, and confidence are being affected from the moment the puppies are conceived. What would you like to spend your money on? After all, you wouldn’t spend your hard earned money on a car that's going to be with you for the next 15+ years, without thoroughly checking under the bonnet! We know there's plenty of dodgy car salespeople out there, just like there are plenty of dodgy puppy breeders; why invest your money into a ‘greeder’ that may damage your puppy’s welfare?