Finding a Responsible Breeder   3 comments

After reading our previous post on the many different places your new dog or puppy could come from you’ve decided you do not want to contribute to pet overpopulation and the suffering of dogs in puppy mills, and so you will be getting your new companion from a shelter, rescue, or responsible breeder. You want a specific kind of puppy, and none of the shelters or rescues near you have any available right now, so you want to find a responsible breeder. How do you make sure the breeder you buy your puppy from is responsible, and is not a back yard breeder, or worse, a puppy mill in disguise?

  • Visit the home of the breeder. Meet the parents of the puppies, or the mother at a minimum. The parents should live with the family in the home as pets, and should appear friendly, well-socialized, and healthy. Remember, behavioral tendencies can be inherited, if mom is skittish there is a good chance her puppies will be, too! The puppies should be in a clean, safe environment within the home, and if they are 5-6 weeks or older they should be out in the hustle and bustle of family life so they can get used to it. Too much isolation can lead to a fearful adult. Looking at pictures of the home is not enough – puppy mills can take pictures of homes and put them online – this does not mean the puppies are actually raised there! If you cannot visit the home, have someone you trust do so for you. If that is not possible it is safest to look elsewhere. Be sure you meet in the home, meeting in a “neutral location” is often code that you are dealing with a puppy mill.
  • Make sure they only breed one type of dog, or two at most. Every breed has their own potential health problems, and a breeder should be well-versed in them. By focusing on one breed the breeder ensures that they are fully prepared for all of the potential issues that could come from breeding these dogs.
  • Ask what health and genealogical tests have been done on the parents. The breeder should have given both parents full medical exams before the breeding, and should have checked that no congenital problems were present in either parent. They should also have looked back at least three generations in the parents’ history to ensure that there is not a history of congenital problems and that the parents are not closely related.
  • The breeder should ask you questions about yourself. A responsible breeder will want to know where his puppies are going, that they will be cared for, and that you are ready for everything that goes along with the specific breed. They should also be available for contact with questions even after the puppy is home.
  • Ensure they will take back any puppy at any point in her life if her family cannot keep her. This is one of the most important criteria to me. Even if you cannot foresee any condition in which you would need to give up your puppy, such situations can happen, if not to you, then to other owners. If every breeder took responsibility for every puppy they bred for their full lifetime, there would be no need for shelters.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a puppy, as long as you make sure that puppy is coming from a place that is good for dogs and good for their people! A puppy from a responsible breeder will be healthier, happier, and less likely to present behavioral problems, saving you money and heartbreak as you spend the next 10-20 years with your newest family member. When you are looking for a puppy, be sure the breeder you find meets all of the criteria listed above, and you’ll be off to a great start!

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3 responses to “Finding a Responsible Breeder

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  1. I’m embarrassed to say that it appears Kodiak was from a puppy mill.

    At the time we were looking for a puppy (all our previous pets came from our local SPCA) I checked the shelters for a Husky, as Echo had come to us at 6 months old from the SPCA. There weren’t any huskies available.

    I went on the SPCA’s website and followed a variety of links. “Petfinder” led me to “Next Day Pets”, where I found a new litter of Siberian Husky puppies in my state, 2 hours from me.

    I made contact and initially the woman represented herself as the breeder. She shared pictures of the male and female, she asked me if I was sure I wanted a husky because she also had rat terriers.

    After I sent her a deposit, she revealed to me that she was the breeder’s representative. I asked if we could come out and see the puppies, see the parents, etc. It was then when she told me the breeders were Amish.

    I was unaware at the time, that in Pennsylvania, apparently the Amish are notorious for Puppy mills. She told me we couldn’t come out because the family doesn’t interact with the public. She handles the internet and phone contacts for sale of the puppies.

    By now, I was already in love with that face. We had a variety of pictures and I just couldn’t back out.

    She guaranteed that before we picked him up he would have seen their veterinarian, had first shots and been wormed. There was a 10 day health guarantee.

    We picked up Kodiak and took him to our vet the next day. They ran extensive blood work which revealed that his red blood cell count was low, his hemoglobin was low, he had coccidia, a bladder infection, chronic diarrhea and a belly full of round worms.

    We spent hundreds of dollars on tests, antibiotics, vitamins, etc. Thankfully we were able to get him healthy.

    I was very naive. I was uneducated about puppy mills and trusted that any link I found on the SPCA website would be trustworthy.

    Thank you for posting this information. We really need to be educated before bringing a new puppy (any pet) into our homes. I had educated myself on the breed I love, did my homework and had experience (having had 2 huskies before Kodiak), but didn’t research the breeder.

    • It’s hard to realize you got your puppy from a mill, but now you know for the future, and Kodiak is a great dog! I’m glad he survived all his early puppy problems and seems to be healthy now.

      I will say that Petfinder is USUALLY a very reputable source. They are not supposed to let for-profit individuals/groups list there, it should only be for rescues. I’m guessing if you reported the breeder/representative/mill to Petfinder, they would be barred from listing in the future.

      It’s true that very few people know about puppy mills, or how extensive and insidious they can be. Many people will buy puppies from pet stores, believing the employees who assure them the dogs do not come from puppy mills and come from local breeders. The do not realize that no responsible local breeder could ever keep up with the demands of a pet store, nor that undercover investigations regularly record employees claiming their puppies are not from mills when their puppies can, in fact, be tracked back to specific mills.

      I hate puppy mills. Closing them down is one campaign I feel strongly about. They hurt innocent dogs and innocent people, like you.

  2. Pingback: Corgi Puppies As Your New Pet: Tips On Choosing The Perfect One

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