Choosing a breeder

So you’ve decided what breed of dog you want and are now faced with the challenging task of choosing a breeder. A responsible breeder is concerned with the quality of their breed so they can improve and advance it and as such will attend diligently to the physical, mental and social welfare of their litter.

The good news is that getting a dog from a top-notch breeder will ensure you take home a well-bred, socialised and healthy pet. However, there are also some bad breeders out there who are more concerned with making a profit than following sound and proper breeding practises. Sourcing a good breeder and avoiding the bad breeders out there requires some research and knowledge. If you have no idea where to start, what to ask and what to watch out for in choosing a breeder, the following advice should help you make an informed decision:

Where to start

Contact local breed clubs and ask for recommendations of breeders for the type of dog you’re after. Breed clubs often have a code of ethics and guidelines for the responsible breeding of animals so finding a breeder that belongs to a club is a good place to start.
Arrange to visit a number of breeders and don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot. Choosing a pet is an important decision so it’s essential that you take your time and explore all the available options. When visiting breeders, thoroughly examine the conditions of the premises ensuring the dogs are housed in a clean environment and appear healthy, happy and well looked after.

Questions to ask

What vaccines has the puppy had? Ask for a vaccination certificate which shows all the vaccinations given and when the next ones are due.

Has the puppy been treated for worms? Routine de-worming is recommended for most new pups so make sure you check if and when this has happened.

Can I meet the parents? As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! If you want to get an idea of how your puppy will look and act as an adult, it’s definitely worth meeting the parents. The size your dog will grow to be, its temperament and behavioural traits are all factors that are shaped by genetics.

What is the dog’s health history? Ask about vet checks, any illnesses, hereditary or otherwise and behavioural problems. Ask the breeder if they are willing to supply a health certificate issued by a vet. Some breeders will even offer genetic testing to rule out the likelihood that the puppy will develop any inherited diseases.

Has the puppy been socialised? Socialisation in the early years of a puppy’s life can make all the difference in raising well-adjusted adult dogs who relate appropriately to other animals and people. Ask if the puppy has lived or spent time with other puppies and how they got along. Also inquire into the range of experiences the pup has been exposed to such as whether they have been taken to parks, ridden in cars and interacted with different people. Knowing what situations your puppy is familiar with and how they have responded will help you know what to expect when you take your puppy home. A worried or fearful pup who hasn’t been properly socialised may need some extra attention. Gradual exposure to new environments and a consistent routine will help if this is the case.

What has the dog been fed? Ask the breeder for a feeding chart. Also ask about any food allergies, preferences and dislikes.

Cost? Make sure you ask the breeder how much they are selling the puppy for. While you don’t want to make a decision based on price, you also don’t want to be taken for a ride. Ask members of breeder clubs and other breeders to get a rough idea of prices.

What to watch out for:

It’s not always easy to spot a “backyard breeder”, particularly if it’s your first time dealing with breeders. However there are some tell-tale red flags to watch out for:

Poor conditions: If the dogs are housed in dirty, unkempt or cramped conditions, appear in poor health or if you suspect their needs have been neglected then this is a sure sign that you should not deal with the breeder in question.

Breeder appears unknowledgeable: If the breeder is unable to answer your questions about the specificities of the breed or dodges questions about the dog’s health history and their genetic lineage it is unlikely they are concerned with producing well-bred animals. Don’t take a gamble on an inexperienced breeder!

No documentation: If the breeder claims to be affiliated with a reputable breeder club or national kennel club, ask to see registration papers or proof of membership. If the breeder can’t supply health certificates from a licensed vet then this is a big red flag. The absence of a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale is another red flag. Request a contract and read it carefully- make sure there is a clause that guarantees you recourse if the puppy does not turn out as advertised or has congenital health issues that weren’t disclosed.

Advertise or sells their puppies for greatly reduced. If a breeder seems more concerned with selling ‘merchandise’ rather than breeding healthy dogs that go to good families this is not an encouraging sign, particularly if they are trying to offload breeds that have congenital or other health problems.

Does not follow standard breeding practises. Breeding canines before the age of two, dogs being bred every heat cycle and no mandatory spaying or neutering are all examples of a breeder who does not follow proper practise.

Buying from a breeder does not have to be a stressful or daunting experience. Being prepared with questions and knowing what to look out for will help you distinguish between a responsible and neglectful breeder. And always trust your gut! If the breeder you are dealing with seems a bit suspicious or there is something about the deal that seems off, it’s always best to exercise caution and explore other options.

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