How to Identify A Good (or bad) Breeder

While unethical breeding practices exist in many forms (backyard breeding, puppy mills, etc), the easiest way to identify a “bad” breeder is by knowing what “good” breeders do. Being a responsible breeder is more than simply not being a puppy mill. If a breeder is not obviously emulating the qualities of a good breeder below, you need to be asking more questions!

Ethical Breeders will abide by the following practices:

  1. At least one of the parents, ideally both, is available to meet.
  2. Perform health testing on their breeding pairs which are not used for breeding until over the age of two.
  3. Have significant experience with the breed in question and ideally competes in the show ring with their breeding stock. Bonus points if they compete in any breed type specific sports or work (tracking with hounds, herding in border collies etc.)
  4. Complete proper early socialization of puppies (raised in a home environment and exposed to many new people, places, and things from an early age).
  5. Provide a health guarantee and proof that the animal has been examined by a veterinarian, as well as received its primary preventative care (vaccines, deworming).
  6. Have a contract stating you will provide proof of sterilization at the appropriate age and that they will take the animal back if you are no longer able to care for him/her.
  7. Do not rehome the animal until they are at least 8 weeks old.
  8. Remain source of information and support to you throughout the animal’s life.
  9. Do not advertise to sell online (Kijiji, Marketplace etc).
  10. Do not have more than 2 litters per year and often have a waitlist.

Backyard breeders are breeders with little experience or knowledge. Examples include: people who own one or multiple pairs of dogs and allow them to reproduce to sell their puppies, pet owners who had an accidental litter, or owners who ‘just wanted to have one litter’. They do not take time to make good genetic and behavioral matches or have their breeding dogs tested for health conditions. Responsible owners have their pets spayed and neutered and/or are able to prevent accidental pregnancy. Creating animals without purpose or planning only contributes to the pet overpopulation and health and behavioral issues in many breeds.

Red flags you should walk away from if a breeder you are considering does any of the following:

  • Sells puppies at pet stores or on sales websites such as Kijiji, Puppyfind etc. Responsible breeders have no need of these sites, since they build connections in-person and through their network.
  • Prices puppies differently based on color and/or gender. The only times a responsible breeder may charge a different price in the same litter is if they have a puppy with an unexpected health condition (for example, deafness) or if they are selling with both full or limited registration, as limited is often sold for a lower price.
  • Not willing to meet you or speak to you before selling you the puppy. While some responsible breeders may not want to invite you into their house, you should not be refused a meeting or a long discussion, since their goal is to interview you and be sure you are offering a good home.