Making the decision to bring a puppy into your home is a very exciting time, it also should be a decision that is not taken lightly. Remember this is an animal that will most likely be your responsibility for the next 10 to 14 years depending on the breed. With that in mind there are some very important things to consider when looking for a reputable breeder. We won’t get in to the mix breed vs pure breed debate at this time, or whether or not you should adopt a dog vs getting a pup directly from a breeder. Those are both conversations for another time, but it is worth mentioning that none of those options are better or worse than the other, the greatest consideration should be what is best for your, your family, and the type of dog you want to bring in to your home. Because we are a bit Labrador Retriever centric around here (although we love each and every dog no matter what) let us consider a scenario where you are looking for a Labrador Retriever puppy and want to find a reputable breeder in your area. Here are the top 8 things to consider, in no particular order.
1. Go and see for yourself
If at all possible make sure to visit the breeder in person to view their operation for yourself. This will give you an understanding of the conditions in which the puppies are being raised. If a breeder refuses to allow you to visit then that is a red flag that they have things to hide and you should look elsewhere. Keep in mind that a breeder may limit actual interaction with the litter to prevent people from getting attached to a particular puppy which may already be tabbed for another person or is identified as not being a fit for what you are looking for.
2. Ask questions and shop around
Reputable breeders are most concerned with the well being of the breed and finding the right dog for each family rather than just making money. As such they are always willing to answer any questions a potential buyer may have and will usually ask many of their own questions to best determine what you are looking for in a dog so that they can provide you with the best fit. It is also important to look around at other options for breeder to ensure that you find the best dog for you. There are many resources on the web dedicated to listing breeders in a certain area, there are also other resources such as the CKC or AKC who provide listing of breeders registered with them, also look at the regional club for the breed you are looking at as they can provide recommendations. For example the National Retriever Club of Canada. These resources are not infallible though so it is essential to also talk to other people who own that breed of dog to get their recommendations and to go and visit the breeder for yourself.
3. Why do you want the puppy
Determining why you are looking to get a puppy and what you are wanting to do with that dog is a very important consideration to finding the best fit for you. Do you want a dog that will be a family pet who will mainly go on walks, play with the kids, etc. Do you want a dog that will be a family dog most of the year, but also a hunting companion in the fall. Or are you looking for a dog to train for Working Certificate Tests, Hunt Tests or Field Trials? If you are wanting to work your dog in CKC or AKC events then they must be registered with that club in order to do so. A reputable breeder will be more than willing to do their best to find the best puppy that fits your needs and what you are looking for.
4. Will the puppies be CKC or AKC registered
While this may not seem exceptionally important to some people, having your puppy registered allows for participation in certain events as well as ensuring that your dog meets certain genetic standards. For example a breeder could have bred two siblings from the same parents together which would increase the chances of health issues for the puppies. A CKC or AKC registration is essentially proof of your dogs bloodlines, but is not a guarantee against health problems or that your dog will perform at a certain level. Ask the breeder if the puppies will be registered, if so then you will receive registration papers for your dog, usually in the mail.
5. Do the parents have proper health checks
This is one of the greatest indicators of any potential health issues your puppy may have. Reputable breeders will have completed health checks on any dogs that they are breeding to ensure that they are free of any health issues that could be passed down. This usually includes screening for issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, retinal dysplasia, heart issues, exercised induced collapse (EIC), and many others. Each breed can have certain health issues they are more inclined towards so make sure that you research what issues are particular to the breed you are interested in and then find out if the breeder screens for those health issues. Reputable breeders will ensure that any dogs who are identified as having any health issues are not included in their breeding program so that they can provide the buyer with the greatest likelihood of receiving a puppy who will be healthy.
6. Have the puppies had health checks and shots
Reputable breeders will make sure that each puppy has gone through a vet check and received their first set of shots before being placed in a new home. This ensures that your pup has been vaccinated at the appropriate time to prevent developing health issues, as well as having been screened for any potential issues relating to their health such as joint or heart problems. Again there are no guarantees that your puppy will not develop any future health issues, but a reputable breeder will do as much as they can to provide a happy and health dog to the buyer. Breeders should also include tattooing or micro-chipping identification to make sure that your puppy will have a greater chance of being returned to you if lost.
7. Do they offer a written guarantee
Along with conducting extensive health checks before breeding their dogs, reputable breeders will also provide their buyers with a written guarantee against your puppy developing any genetic health issues. For example a breeder which has screened their dogs for hip and elbow dysplasia and they are clear of that health problem, will provide a guarantee against those puppies developing hip or elbow dysplasia. If your puppy does develop a health issue that is protected against and it is supported by a veterinary diagnoses then the breeder may give you your money back or provide you with a new puppy. Keep in mind that some breeders will ask for a puppy to be returned to them if they develop a health issues so be sure to ask them before you get your puppy what their process is if their are problems in the future.
8. Be patient
This can be one of the most difficult things to do when looking at all those cute little bundles of fur, but being patient can also be one of the most important things you can do. Many reputable breeders may have extensive waiting lists for their puppies to the point where planned litters are spoken for before the pair has even been bred. This may seem discouraging, but it is a positive sign that the breeder is well respected so demand is high. Remember this puppy will be in your family for many years so it is worth taking the time and being patient to make sure you get the best possible fit. Also it is best to not be picky about the colour of the dog you are wanting to ensure that the breeder can help you pick out the best puppy for you. If you are set on having a gorgeous chocolate Lab then be willing to wait and pass on one’s that may not be the best fit. Waiting six months or a year to get the best dog is a better choice than rushing and having 12 years of dealing with a dog who doesn’t fit well into your home.