This is a question we get asked frequently: in an area with so many puppy mills (which we all know are bad news!), how do I find a good breeder from whom to purchase a puppy? It’s a complicated question, and it takes some patience and some work on your part to do the research and make the contacts, but buying a puppy from a truly good breeder who is breeding to create better dogs and who stands behind her dogs for their entire lifetimes is something well worth the investment.
And more than anything, how do I find the right dog for me?
Step One: Do your Homework
Is this the right breed for me? With so many different breeds and mixes out there, make sure you are choosing a breed that fits with your personality and lifestyle. Are you a fairly sedentary person living in an apartment? No matter how little and cute they are, a Sheltie- a highly active breed that loves to bark- may not be the best choice. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a jogging partner, a smoosh-faced breed prone to overheating is probably not going to fulfill your needs. Sit down and discuss with your family what characteristics make up the ideal pet for your household and go from there, instead of choosing a breed on looks or because somebody you know has one and loves him.
What health issues are common in this breed? There are so many different health issues out there afflicting our purebred dogs. The good thing is that there are screening tests for many of them, and these are tools that a good breeder will be using. Many results are available to the public, and a breeder that you are talking to should always be able to provide you with proof of testing. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provides a searchable online database for dogs who have been tested for a variety of health issues from Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia to Patellar Luxation (loose kneecaps) to Sebaceous Adenitis, a skin problem that primarily affects Poodles. It also provides an overview of which breeds are the most affected by each disorder so that you can know if it is something that you should be worrying about. Looking for a Rottweiler? You should know that they are ranked third highest overall for Elbow Dysplasia and you want to look for a breeder who screens for this. Looking for an American Pit Bull Terrier? You should know that 24.4% of dogs tested had dysplastic hips. Health testing does not guarantee litter outcomes, but it is a valuable tool that helps breeders play the odds in their puppies’ favor as much as possible.
For dogs prone to eye issues such as Collies and Cocker Spaniels, the CERF Certification database is also searchable and will give you results for any individual dog who has been recently tested. It’s another good thing to know about. And last but not least there is the CHIC Database. This one can be valuable not only to search for individual dogs, but because each breed club has decided and listed what health issues in the breed they find to be the most significant. This is an easy way to find out what you should be asking questions about of a breeder.
In what area does this breed excel? Some breeds are frequently used for the sport of obedience or agility, some are primarily conformation dog show dogs (think Westminster), other breeds are used for hunting and retrieving, some make great therapy dogs and love to go into nursing homes to visit the elderly. Why is this important? You want to look for a breeder who is Doing Stuff with her dogs. If that’s floofing them up and trotting them around a show ring in front of a judge in order to judge their physical structure or retrieving ducks or herding sheep, a good breeder is going to take a strong interest in her dogs and getting them out and comparing them against other dogs to see what she is doing right and what she could be doing better in her breeding program. It is easy to take a male dog and a female dog and make puppies, but with that type of random breeding with no goal other than make money or make “nice pets”, you’re doing nothing to guarantee that you’re going to get a healthy dog with a good temperament. And shouldn’t that always be the goal?
I know a lot of people say “I don’t need or want a show dog”. Most people don’t. But I do think that most people do want a dog who is going to stay healthy for as long as possible, who is going to be friendly and tolerant instead of skittish and bad-tempered. Nature and breeding are not everything- socialization and training are also big factors- but a dog’s potential can very much be shaped by the genetic baggage he is born with, or by the genetic gifts he was given by his parents. Good breeders want to test their dogs in the real world, and frequently want to have them judged by some third party, so that they can get a better idea of what they truly have instead of just the rose-colored image in their hearts of the dogs they love. They want to produce the best puppies they possibly can.
So, some places to get started. <a href="https://whiteoaksvethospital.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/tips-for-finding-a-good-breeder-part-2-where-are-they/" target="_new"Next up? How do I find these breeders and how else do I know that they’re good?