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So it's been decided. You know what breed you want, and you definitely want to raise a puppy. Next comes finding your perfect puppy. This is actually a lot harder of a task than it may seem because there are LOT of different sources out there for puppies. Unfortunately, not all of them are very good and it's easy to be deceived. Picking a puppy from a reputable source is vital if you want your new best friend to be healthy, have a good temperament, and live a long life.

Reputable Breeders

What is a reputable breeder?

A reputable breeder is the BEST person to buy a puppy from. These are people that breed for the love of the breed, to produce quality puppies that are healthy and have good temperaments. They do not make a profit doing what they do.

How do I know a breeder is reputable?

This can be a challenge to figure out sometimes. The first questions you should ask a breeder are about the health tests that they do on their dogs. If you've researched your breed thoroughly, you would know that there are certain health and genetic disorders that they are prone to. The breeder should be striving to prevent and eliminate these issues in their breed. Ask if they have tested the parents for those issues.

For example, a reputable border collie breeder should be testing for hip displaysia and CEA, or Collie Eye Anamoly. Hip displaysia can be prevented by only breeding dogs that already have good hips. They should be getting OFA (orthopedic foundation for animals) certification. CEA is a genetic mutation that affects the development of the eye, leading to poor vision and even blindness. A simple genetic test can determine whether a dog has the mutation, or carries it. Careful breeding can ensure that puppies are not born with the disease.

You should also ask about temperament testing, and how they select the dogs they are going to breed. A reputable breeder should not be breeding dogs that are overly fearful, or prone to aggression.

Another telling thing is to go for a visit. This will show you first hand how the dogs are kept and how the puppies are raised. See if you like the temperament of the adult dogs and if it's what you are expecting. The breeder may have several dogs, but shouldn't have more than one or two litters at a time. They shouldn't have a barn with 10 females all nursing puppies. Reputable breeders typically raise the puppies in their house and expose them extensively to all kinds of stimuli as they develop to socialize them.

Ask to view the buyer contract. Reputable breeders should have a clause that states that the dog is to be returned to them if the buyer can no longer keep it or if it just doesn't work out. They typically sell dogs with a spay/neuter contract too. Most reputable breeders also have potential puppy buyers fill out a questionaire before being placed on a waiting list for a puppy. They want to make sure that the buyer is going to take care of their puppy and is the right home, and they will turn people down that don't make the cut.

Finally, a little research can go a long way. Google the breeders you're considering and see what people are posting about them online and on social media sites. See if you can get into contact with individuals who have bought puppies from that breeder and meet them and their dog. This is often the most telling thing about the breeder and his/her lines and will give you an idea if they are breeding the kind of dog you are looking for. Websites and facebook pages don't always tell you everything.

Expect to pay a lot of money, but realize that a reputable breeder puts just as much, if not more money into health testing, caring for the parents and raising your puppy. A reputable breeder does not make a profit doing this.

Here are some links that can help you figure out whether a breeder is responsible:
Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Club ::: Responsible Breeders
Labrador Puppy Checklist
Dog Breeders

Backyard Breeders, AKA BYB's

What is a BYB?

Backyard Breeders are just that...People who breed casually in their backyard. Their reasons for breeding vary. Sometimes it's because they want their dog to experience parenthood. They may think that a female becomes a better dog after having a litter of puppies. Sometimes it they love fido so much, they want to breed so that they can keep a fido Jr. Other times, a BYB litter was an accident. They didn't get Spot fixed, and the neighbor's male dog got to her. Some people think that they can make money by breeding dogs, so they do it for profit. If you ever browse the Craigslist pet section, or the dog classifieds, the vast majority of those BYB's. Accidental litters are typically given away for free or a very small fee. Some charge a couple hundred. Others charge a LOT of money.

How do I know it's a BYB?

Ask them what health tests they have done on the parent dogs. Generally, a backyard breeder doesn't bother to have any tests done before hand. They typically don't have a buyers contract...They would be more than happy to sell you a puppy right then and there for cash/check and would not bother to keep in touch with you. They may also ask for a LOT of money for a dog, but they didn't health test the parents. This is a sign that they are doing it for profit and only trying to make money off the dog.

Also don't be fooled by the certificates and papers they may advertise. Many DO sell AKC or UKC registered dogs...And they are sure to put this in ads and bring it up as a selling point. But being registered to a kennel club does NOT mean that the dog is healthy, or the breeder is reputable. It also doesn't make the dog worth more money.

Puppymills and Petstores

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill is basically a farm that breeds dogs on a very large scale to sell purely for profit.

Puppy mills do NOT advertise and typically do not sell directly to buyers. Instead, they sell their dogs to petstores or middlemen, who in turn sell them. You usually do not get the opportunity to visit the premise. Puppy mills are worse than BYB's because the conditions they are kept in is typically very unhealthy. The dogs are always kenneled/caged and get zero human interaction except to move them to breed, take away puppies, and clean, which means they are very fearful and feral-like. Sometimes they don't even get to go outside. The females are bred continually and are put down or abandoned when they stop producing. There is no health testing done and the puppies grow up in a cage with very little interaction and socialization from people.

Puppy mills like to specialize in the small and fluffy breeds because they are very popular and can be sold for quite a bit of money. Puppy mills also often sell mixed breeds and "doodles" or designer breeds. Though some puppy mills do breed larger dogs.

How do I know a puppy is from a mill?

First of all, do NOT buy a puppy from a pet store. EVER. Those puppies are almost guaranteed to have come from a puppy mill. They sell the dogs to the petstore, and the petstore marks up the price to make a profit.

Another thing to beware of is people on craigslist or even the classifieds. They do the same thing the petstores do. Buy the puppies from the mill, then mark them up to make a profit. Some of them are people that work at the puppy mills. I generally would recommend staying away from Craigslist all together if you're looking for a breeder of a specific breed. But if you are hoping to find a reputable breeder from ads like that, make sure you ask to see the parents and the property. People who sell puppy mill dogs don't have the parents, and they will make up excuses.

Finally, do NOT order a puppy online! Yes, some reputable breeders will ship puppies and do business online. But they still go through extensive screening by emails and phone calls, video chats, they still have contracts. They also tend to have a facebook page, and a personal website. Stay away from sites like this: Puppies for sale, Dogs for sale, buy a puppy online from a trusted source. or Puppies for Sale, Dogs for Sale and Dog Breeders Most reputable breeders will not list puppies on such sites.

This link may help you recognise a puppy mill.


Rescuing a puppy is of course another option!

Contrary to popular belief, city and county shelters DO sometimes get purebred puppies. There are also smaller, private, non-profit rescues that specialize and focus on rescuing specific breeds or breed groups. You can google your breed rescues for your breed of choice and your state (Ex: "Border collie rescue california") and inevitably something will come up.

There are also sites like and Rescues and shelters all over the united states list animals there to help them get adopted. You can select the breed you want, age, and gender and it will pull up all dogs that best match those criteria in areas close to you.

In Summary

A good breeder is responsible for:
  • Presenting a buyer with the best animals they possibly can
  • Doing all the necessary health testing available to them
  • Providing buyers with the proper paperwork for the puppy they purchased
  • Providing a buyer with all of the health knowledge they have for the dogs they have bred
  • Taking back a dog they have bred, at any time in the dog's life, should the owner's circumstances change.
Buyer's Responsibility

Of course, a buyer has responsibility too - mainly based on researching all of the above.

  • Doing the research on their breed of choice
  • Verifying the information a breeder has given them (health and other)
  • Maintaining the health of the dog once purchased from the breeder

There are many more things, and people can feel free to add, but something that buyers need to learn (and ACCEPT) is that when you go to a good breeder, there is only so much the breeder can do.

When a breeder sells you a puppy, they have not sold you an absolute PROMISE that your puppy will never have an illness. They have NOT sold you a promise that there is nothing genetically wrong with your puppy (something that may not occur until later).

If there is no history of any tested ailments within the line and a dog you purchased from a breeder ends up with such a problem, you cannot blame the breeder. The dog is a throwback or a fluke. It happens. The breeder did the best they could and presented you with a healthy dog at the time of sale.

If a dog ends up x raying as dysplastic at 7 months, a breeder should honor a contract (if they had one) and do what they feel is right to make amends to the buyer (btw in Europe it's basically "Sorry, not my problem"). If the dog shows as dysplastic at the age of 5, that isn't something that can be blamed on the breeder.

Breeders cannot and DO NOT prevent every horrible genetic disorder that may ever be inflicted upon a dog. It is an unfair expectation to put upon a person. All you can expect is that they are selling you the best dog they possibly can, and that you, as a buyer, did YOUR research so you could PURCHASE the best dog that you could afford.

Generally, you get what you pay for. More money does not = better dog. Better research = better dog.
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