How to Find an Ethical Breeder
Finding an ethical breeder can be as difficult as choosing a breed. Just as you research a breed's traits to determine how they will fit into your family, it's best to research breeders to determine which one is right for you. Finding a responsible puppy breeder is easy if you know someone who has had a good experience buying the breed you have chosen. If you don't know anyone, dog forums and blogs on the internet can be very helpful, as can visiting dog shows and checking with your veterinarian. Also, The American Kennel Club provides a list of reputable breeders and a breed referral search. In addition, here are some issues to consider.
How To Find Ethical Puppy Breeders
Define Ethical: What does "ethical" mean to you? Different breed clubs have different codes of ethics. For instance, many, such as the Basset Hound Club of America, have points about not breeding unless the breeder plans to act responsibly regarding the disposition of any puppies (and keep them if they aren't placed). Also, no member of the BHCA should supply dogs to puppy mills. A good list of each breed's code is found here. When you visit the breeder, ask if they are members of their breed's club and go over the code with them.
There are few actual laws for puppy breeders. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture regulates commercial breeders (those who sell to pet stores) but not home breeders. However, some states do regulate dog breeders - you can check your state's rules before you decide.
The Right Fit: The breeder should be more concerned about how you and the dog fit together than the sale. They should be able to provide you with information on the breed and list the bad points as well as the good.
Health and Temperament Issues: Research the breed so you can ask questions about health, behavior, and temperament. The breeder should be very knowledgeable about the breed and answer any questions. Look to the puppy's parents for information. Find out the health and temperament of your dog's siblings, half siblings, cousins, any relative. The breeder should be upfront about any health issues related to the breed.
Care and Concern for Dogs: Ideally the dogs are kept in the house and treated as members of the family. They should spend a considerable amount of time indoors. If they have kennels, check them out for cleanliness and space. Ask how one of their dogs spends a typical day. The dogs should have training, playtime, affection and be socialized. What are their breeding practices? Do they breed dogs that are too young (females should be at least two years old)? Do they breed too often (every other year is the minimum of time in between)? How are they handling the puppies? Are they waiting to sell them (puppies shouldn't be taken from their mother before eight weeks of age) or pushing them on you at too young an age?
Returning the Dog: You should be able to return the dog to its breeder for any reason, including health and behavior issues. Likewise, dog breeders should be willing to help you through these problems with training and financial support, especially for something that is an inherent health problem in the breed. You should get a contract at the sale listing these rules. Ideally, a breeder will do everything possible to insure your dog fits into your life.
Finding a responsible breeder takes a little time but it's worth it. And there are many reasons to buy a dog from an ethical breeder. Often, if you want a puppy, this is the best choice. The chance to meet a dog's parents can give you a good idea of his temperament and health. If you want to show your dog, the pedigree from a breeder is essential. But, if age and showing aren't concerns, breed rescues can be a good alternative. Almost every breed in the U.S. has a rescue. Afterall, all dogs, no matter their pedigree, enrich our lives.
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
Why you should not buy a puppy online
Investigate the breeder's address if listed. If there are breeds of dogs for sale associated with the address but not the website, that should raise a red flag. Also if they advertise under different kennel names.
~Angela C., owner of a Shih Tzu
Tips for Finding the Right Breeder
This was a good article, I would caution that the AKC online breeder referral is just for AKC-registered puppies and should not be used to define a good breeder. See my definition of a perfect fit of a breeder over at my website.
~Jinnie S., owner of Champion Cardigan Welsh Corgis
The Mark of a Good Breeder
A good breeder does not breed to make puppies to sell. They carefully select dogs to put together that will compliment one another and have DNA testing done on their dogs to clear them of know genetic issues specific to their breed.
A good breeder's reason for breeding is to get a puppy that will be close enough to the breed standard to be able to show at an AKC event. A good breeder won't allow the puppies who don't make the show cut to go to their new homes until the puppies are 12 to 16 weeks old. The few extra weeks with the puppies allows the breeder to watch the puppies for behavior and allow for a written behavior assessment on each puppy.
A great breeder will pre-potty train beginning at 4 weeks old, a great breeder will block off the area on the AKC papers that allow the new owner to breed and then register puppies. I see many breeders offering breeding rights for a few hundred dollars more...paying a few hundred dollars more just does not make a dog breedable!
A great breeder will love the puppies and become grandma to that puppy in that you can call him or her about anything regarding your puppy.
A good breeder will let you meet the dam (mother dog). If she is aggressive, your puppy will likely be as well. Dogs with bad temperaments should NOT be in a breeding program ever!
A smart breeder will squirt some hand sanitizer ion your hands and ask you to rub it in, and spray disinfectant on your shoes before you come into her kennel. Germs are passed to dogs from people who have visited other kennels and even the tires on your car can carry bugs into a yard that can make a dog sick.
~Donna R., owner of a Chinese Crested