Hi. Welcome to the forum.
First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s without doubt, the hardest thing about pet ownership.
Ethical breeders often don’t have to advertise as they have long waiting lists. You can find them at dog shows. See which dogs place well and make a note of those dogs/breeders kennel names. Then hit Google and research the following;
1). What health tests they’ve had (tests - not checks. Health tests are expensive, genetic testing for various hereditary diseases and involve x-Ray’s and blood tests. They’re not just a once-over from the vet). The breeder should be only too willing to shout about them from the rooftops. Make sure you know what health tests - and what the scores should be - for the breeds.
2). How many litters the breeders/bitches have had. Ethical breeders don’t have many litters, and don’t have them very often. So, many litters of different breeds, or from the same bitches, is a major red flag. So is breeding back-to-back.
3). Cross breeds. Ethical breeders aren’t going to put money and effort into researching their lines, health testing, proving their breeding stock etc, just to cross their proven, fully health tested, researched bitch to the nearest intact male. They don’t have “oops” litters, either because they know how to keeps bitches and studs apart. Likewise, stupid names for crosses that sound made up - usually because they are.
4). Litters on the ground. This is possible, (a bit more possible in today climate because of the cost of living), so if there is one on the ground, check they’re not selling males and females for different prices (BYB and puppy farmers often sell females at higher prices - because they have uteruses and therefore can be bred). Same goes for so-called “rare” colours. “Rare” in dog breeding usually means “undesirable to the breed standard”, and coat colours are often “undesirable to the breed standard” because they’re linked to genetic health problems in the breed.
Once you’ve found a breeder, be prepared to wait. They may not be planning to breed yet, they may be struggling themselves with the cost of living, or waiting until it clears. They may still be in the researching or proving stage, so their intended bitch may not be ready.
Also be prepared for a barrage of questions. A breeder that hands over a puppy to the first person with the cash, is a red flag. Likewise, they should be only too willing to answer your own questions.
Make sure you meet the puppy with the dam/mum at home - and make sure it is
the mum, not a random bitch brought in for looks. She’s been nursing them for weeks, so her teats may be enlarged, and she should be ready and willing to interact with them. Any excuse the breeder gives for the bitch not to be with the litter - gone out for a walk, vet visit - that’s another red flag.
Pups should be clean and healthy, with clear eyes and ears. Any discharge from the nose, eyes or ears, or dirty bums, and that’s another red flag. They should be playful and energetic - not lethargic. Shouldn’t be underweight either.
There’s probably more, but I can’t think of anything else at the moment.
If you have a breeder in mind and want us to give them a check, post the link to their website and we’ll give them a once-over for you.