Animals and Pets

Choose Quality Breeders for Happy Healthy Pets

Happy Dog and Puppies

Selecting an animal from a breeder instead of adopting from a shelter, pound, or rescue organization is a choice frequently made. Purchasing from a quality, reputable breeder is an excellent way to increase the odds of bringing home a healthy dog, cat, rabbit, or bird.

Finding Quality Breeders

Good breeders enable a potential dog owner to buy healthy happy dogs that have been bred to have the best qualities. People are breeders for the love of dogs and to advance the breed. It's as important to choose the right breeder as it is to choose the right dog. Ask your veterinarian, groomers, boarding kennels, the local kennel club, and other pet owners who the reputable breeders are in your area.  The same applies to cats, rabbits, and birds.

When you're considering a breeder, do the interview in person on the premises, rather than on the phone, because you will meet the breeder and observe all the dogs and puppies. The premises should be clean and smell good, and the breeder should be willing to show you around the premises.

Be very suspicious of breeders who have more dogs than they seem able to take care of properly, and have large numbers of dogs and puppies kept in kennels or runs. If you see multiple litters of multiple breeds you should move on immediately and find a better breeder. This could be a backyard breeder (BYB) or a puppy mill. Reputable breeders breed only a single litter each year because they need time to evaluate the puppies produced in a litter before breeding another.

Everything you have discussed will be written in a contract. Have the breeder provide you with complete medical records, an exact copy of your contract, a guarantee of good health, an application to register your puppy, and your puppy's pedigree.
The breeder will furnish you with their address and phone number, registered names and numbers of sire and dam, and birth date of litter the AKC requires for registration.

Be aware that AKC registration does not mean quality. It only means that your dog is a purebred. Pet quality puppies should be considered as just that. Even litters from very well bred parents usually contain only a few show or breeding quality pups.

Most breeders will send you off with a small supply of the same food he has been eating, as well as provide information about raising, training, feeding, proper veterinary care, and most will insist you have the puppy examined by your veterinarian within a specified short period of time. If the breeder is in your general vicinity, they should also be able to recommend a dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled veterinarian as well.

What a Backyard Breeder's Area Looks Like

Puppy Mill


If at all possible, find breeders who have the parents (at least the mother) on the premises. If the parents are well fed, well sheltered, in a clean environment, and they are happy friendly dogs that don't back away, growl, or jump in your face, you're on the right track. If you can, get to know the dogs who are the parents of your future puppy, as they will provide you with a pretty good idea of what you can expect.

The puppies should look healthy, be sociable, outgoing, with no runny eyes or noses. The environment should also be clean with plenty of room for exercise.

When you inquire about a puppy, the breeder will also interview you. A good breeder is trying to find the best homes for the puppies, and may ask some strange questions regarding your home life and previous dog experience before letting you adopt a puppy. They want to be assured that you know what you're doing, that you can train and take care of the puppy, and will be a responsible, intelligent owner. They are the experts here - and they will evaluate you as carefully as you evaluate them. Expect this!

Quality breeders want to know that you can house and raise their puppy appropriately and that their puppy will have a permanent home for his entire lifetime. Ideally, you will talk to and buy the puppy from the breeder who raised the litter and owns or co-owns the mother (dam). Conscientious breeders don't trust other people to screen puppy buyers for them.

The breeder should be willing to provide you with all of the time that you require in order to make your decision. It is important that you feel very comfortable speaking with the breeder, and ask questions whenever they should arise. You will require the support of your breeder once you get your new puppy, so you need to make certain that your breeder is happy to accommodate you.

Questions to Ask

Ask when the last time the mother was bred, and how many litters she had total. A female dog should not be allowed to produce an excessive number of litters. Sufficient time should be allowed between litters for the female dog to recuperate.

Ask the breeder about specific characteristics of the breed, and if they have encountered any genetic problems in the bloodlines. A reputable breeder will reveal inherited problems and discuss what they have done to try and eliminate them. The breeder will tell you what genetic screening is necessary for that breed, and will be willing to discuss problems. They will also show proof of genetic screening.

Inquire how the breeder evaluates the temperaments of the puppies. While different breeds have standard personality traits, the fact remains that there is a great deal of variability within the breed and even within a single litter. A lot of a puppy's temperament develops through early socialization, within the litter, and with humans. A breeder should be able to tell you about those differences and help you choose. Of course, there's not too much personality at 3 weeks of age, but by 5-6 weeks you should be able to ask this question. Also, there are standardized temperament tests that are gaining popularity, so ask about them.

Ask the breeder if you can see pictures of puppies from previous litters grown up. This will give you an idea of how well the breeder keeps in touch with people who bought puppies and it is always good to see the results of prior breedings.

Reputable breeders will know the ancestry of the puppies - not just parents, but grandparents and beyond. A dedicated breeder will breed only with the intention of improving the breed standard. Quality breeders plan each litter with this goal in mind, by using parents of appropriate qualities in relation to the official standard and description of the breed, physical soundness, and temperament.

About the Puppies

An above-board breeder will also explain the quality and cost differences between show and pet-quality puppies. (Breeders should insist that you spay or neuter non-show puppies.)

The puppies will not have been separated from their mother and littermates at less than 7 weeks of age. Many breeders consider 7-8 weeks ideal, some later. But if you look at puppies over 12 weeks of age, be certain they have had enough individual attention and separation from each other, and they are more bonded to people than to other dogs.

Different dog breeds develop at different rates, so take the time to research and decide what age you feel is acceptable. Every dog breed has a national breed club website, and usually have a recommendation listed - sometimes it is on their code of ethics page. A responsible breeder will want to make sure the pups are fully weaned and eating well, have had time for vaccinations to become effective, and have been appropriately socialized before leaving for a new, strange home.

All puppies will have had the canine distemper vaccine (DHPP) the most common combination vaccine given to dogs. The initials refer to the diseases included in the vaccine: distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza. Plus they will have had a worm test, or worming if needed.

The breeder will insist that you prepare an appropriate place at home for your puppy before you take your puppy home. They will give you thorough personal instructions on puppy feeding and care, a record of vaccinations and worming, and encourage you to phone if you have concerns or questions after taking your puppy home.

A quality breeder will be there to help and advise you throughout the life of the puppy, and will ask you to bring the puppy (or dog) back to them at any age, if for any reason you can't keep him - even if the dog is very old.

A good breeder makes sure all puppies go to carefully screened homes. If there is no good home out there, the puppy is kept. No puppy ever goes to a pet store or animal shelter. Responsible breeders do not add to the huge quantity of unwanted pets that are in shelters.

Puppy Mills - Backyard Breeders (BYB)

Be wary of breeders who behave more like puppy-making machines. Puppy mills and backyard breeders simply want to sell the puppies as quickly as they can.

Breeders whose primary concern is money and not the care of the puppies, will almost definitely not care enough to provide you with the support and advice that you may need some time down the road.

How to Feed a New Dog

If you have adopted a new puppy or an adult dog from a quality breeder, they gave you a supply of the dog food he was eating.

When mealtime arrives, put the appropriate amount of the dog food for his size into a bowl and put it on the floor. Act like nothing is unusual and give your dog about 15 minutes time to eat the new dog food.

If your puppy is stressed by a new environment and doesn't want to eat, wait 15 minutes (do not coax or beg your dog to eat) and remove the food bowl without a fuss.  Do not offer any treats or feel sorry for your dog for not eating. He'll be fine.

With the next meal, do the same thing as you did with the first meal. If by the end of the second day your dog hasn't eaten anything, then take him to the veterinarian for a check-up to see if there is an oral problem with his teeth, mouth, or a digestive illness.

Your new dog may not be interested in eating the first day, just try again at the next feeding time. Give him lots of love and make a big deal out of all good deeds. Remember, he is in a new place and this can cause stress. He will eat!