How to recognize a responsible breeder.
One of the most important choices you’ll face when becoming a dog owner is where to get your new puppy. Working with a responsible breeder can lead to a lifetime of happiness with your dog, while cutting corners or getting tricked by unethical sources may result in years of complications, like serious behavioral issues or or health problems and sky-high medical bills.
A responsible breeder gives you the best chance for adding a happy, healthy member to your family because they, too, care for their dogs like family. Their goal is to bring healthy, well-adjusted dogs into the world and to make sure they go to warm and caring homes. It starts even before the actual breeding, when breeders make sure that the parent dogs are strong, healthy, and have characteristics that should be passed along to the next generation of puppies.
Unfortunately, spotting a responsible breeder can be difficult without the right knowledge and experience. The process of finding the right dog and breeder can be a long and arduous journey. You should feel empowered to ask all kinds of questions to every breeder you speak with. Most reputable breeders will be thrilled to talk at length and answer any kinds of questions you have about their program or their dogs. Inquire about specific health issues and testing for the breed you’re looking into getting, temperament, training, socialization, and enrichment. Each person will have different needs and prioritize different attributes of a breeder so it’s key to ask questions to determine if you’re working with a breeder that is the right fit for you and your lifestyle.
How to evaluate a responsible breeder?
There are five key areas:
- Breeding practices
- Physical health of the breeding dogs and puppies
- Mental health of the breeding dogs and puppies
- Buyer education and policies
Responsible breeders make conscientious decisions when deciding to produce a litter.
Responsible breeding requires a lot of planning, skill and experience. It’s not nearly as simple as pairing two physically healthy dogs together and hoping for the best. It’s critical that these decisions take into consideration the heritable health conditions that affect their breed, each individual dog’s health testing, and considering the parents’ temperaments, overall health, pedigrees, and conformation in order to make the best matches.
Responsible breeders collect experiences over decades and develop an intuition for bringing puppies into the world that are both physically and behaviorally healthy. New breeders are often mentored by a veteran breeder so they can benefit from their experience. Look for breeders who are both well-intentioned and have this crucial depth of knowledge and expertise, as well as up and coming breeders with a desire to learn more.
When making decisions about their breeding programs, responsible breeders always prioritize the physical and emotional health, and well-being of their breeding dogs above all else, including financial gain.
Physical health of the dogs
Responsible breeders always put the physical health of their dogs first.
There are breed-specific health tests that responsible breeders perform on their breeding dogs to screen for diseases and conditions in order to decrease the likelihood of producing puppies with heritable conditions. For some breeds, there may be a multitude of valid tests available.
While health testing is a critical and important aspect of each breeding program, it is only one of many factors that we take into account when evaluating breeding programs. Breeders also consider other aspects of their dogs’ health that isn’t currently covered by health screening, such as allergies, cancer, GI issues, etc. They also look to make sure their breeding dogs and puppies receive the regular and specialized veterinary care and nutrition they need.
Responsible breeders ensure that their dogs are bred at an appropriate age (not too young or too old) and at a frequency that’s safe for their long-term well-being. They also make sure their puppies are well raised and well fed, and the breeders take all basic steps necessary to care for their puppies, such as vaccinations and deworming.
Some breeders are also veterinarians or vet techs, so they may take care of these tasks themselves. If they’re not, they’ll often have a trusted vet on speed dial. They stay up all night to make sure their puppies are safe and are heartbroken if any unavoidable issues arise.
Mental health of the dogs
Responsible breeders ensure that their breeding dogs’ emotional, and cognitive needs are met by ensuring they receive appropriate stimulation, activity and social interaction. They are also devoted to producing behaviorally sound puppies.
Responsible breeders often have experience with training and behavior, and put a lot of effort into ensuring their puppies have safe and stimulating early life experiences. By exposing their puppies to different sounds and sensations, people of many different appearances and ages, as well as other animals, and beginning basic training using methods such as positive training they prepare their puppies for successful transitions into their new homes. They also make sure their puppies never leave their mother or littermates until they are old enough to easily transition to their new home, which is usually no sooner than eight weeks of age.
Responsible breeders ensure their dogs have a clean, comfortable, safe, stimulating, and enriching environment so their breeding dogs and puppies will thrive.
Environment is a critical factor in the physical, mental, and emotional health of breeding dogs and puppies. Responsible breeders provide opportunities for their dogs to engage in activities such as retrieving or swimming, toys to play with and things to chew, and comfortable resting areas protected from the weather. Housing areas are regularly cleaned and maintained in a way that ensures the health and well-being of dogs and puppies.
Buyer education and Policies
Responsible breeders spend a great deal of time with potential puppy buyers to help guide them into making an informed, responsible decision that is right for them. They also spend a great deal of time vetting potential buyers to make sure each dog will be a good fit for their new forever home as well as being transparent about their breeding program and practices. Responsible breeders do their best to ensure a smooth transition to their new home by providing all the information and resources necessary for new owners to be successful, responsible guardians for their new puppy.
Perhaps most important of all, responsible breeders make a lifelong commitment to their dogs. They provide ongoing support to their owners and, should anything ever come up, responsible breeareds will take back their dogs and/or help rehome them, for any reason. Responsible breeders are committed to keeping their dogs in their homes and out of the shelter system through education, screening of potential buyers and their policies.