Once you select a breeder, screen the breeder. The responsible breeder will be screening you, too, looking for the best home for each puppy. In fact, they should be asking you just as many questions as you ask them. Visiting the breeder on-site is a very important part of this process. A reputable breeder will be happy to accommodate your visit and will want to show you around.
Below are some questions to consider when you’re screening breeders. If a breeder doesn’t have an answer or hesitates too long, reconsider that breeder. Above all else, trust your instincts.
- Why is this the breed for you? Have you worked with other breeds? Reputable breeders are passionate about their breed and will not hesitate to tell you why. You don’t want a breeder that jumps from breed to breed following trends.
- How long have you been breeding this breed? You’re looking for many years of experience. If this breeder is fairly new, they should be able to speak of the breeder that mentored them.
- Are you a member of the local breed club? This can be an indication of how active the breeder is with the breed community. Members of these clubs typically share information and best practices, so it’s good to know how engaged your breeder is.
- Do you show your dogs? How often? Have the parents won any awards I can look at? Again, involvement with the breed community is important. In addition, many of the accomplishments with show dogs speak to good temperaments and can be an important consideration. If the breeder speaks of these accomplishments, be sure to ask to see them and be sure the names match.
- Are both parents here? Can I see them? Oftentimes reputable breeders will partner with other breeders for the best match so it’s possible both parents will not be on site. Knowing about the other parent is still just as important, so the breeder should have all appropriate health records, pedigree, etc..
- Where are the puppies being raised? You want the puppies being raised in the home, not just back in the barn. An important part of the socialization is not just with their littermates, but also with people and in a household with normal house noises.
- Are both the Sire and Dam AKC registered? Can I see the papers? Should be readily available. Be sure the registered names match.
- Is there a pedigree for the puppies I can look at? Good breeders will have this available.
- What are the inherited defects in this breed? A good breeder will not hesitate to discuss all of the health risks common to their breed. Your research beforehand should help you know whether they are being honest. See the recommended health screens by breed.
- What health screenings have been performed on the parents? Can I see the results? OFA certificates should be readily available. All OFA certifications can be verified by searching on the OFA website. Beware of breeders that provide test results that are unverifiable.
- Why did you breed this litter? “To sell” is not enough of an answer. Ideally, you want a breeder who is also interested in keeping a puppy to show and to carry on its bloodline.
- Is there a sales contract? Can I see it? The contract should lay out the responsibilities of both parties — the breeder if the puppy gets sick, for example — and you, which might include neuter agreements.
- What guarantees do you provide? What happens if I can’t keep the dog? A good breeder will take the dog back and find another home for it. This should be in the sales contract.
- When can I take my puppy home? You’re looking for something around 8 weeks to allow proper socialization and time for immunity defenses to build up.
- Do you have references I can call? The best breeders should have many happy families willing to rave about them. While you’re visiting the breeder, notice how they interact with the dogs and how the dogs interact with them. Are the dogs friendly or fearful? Dogs are a good judge of people, and how they interact will be a good indicator of how they are being treated.