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What to Look For in a Breeder

You’re looking for a puppy! Yay! How exciting. And nerve wracking. How do you find an ethical breeder? What does an ethical breeder do differently? There are a million questions you’re likely to be asking yourself or researching. We’re here to help.

First, let’s discuss the concept of an ethical breeder. Good or “ethical” dog breeders have a lot of initial costs and invest an impressive amount of time in the dogs they raise and breed. Well bred dogs are not inexpensive.

Health:
Purebred dogs all have some genetically based health predispositions, and many of those can be tested for to prevent passing on bad genes or conditions to future dogs. Each breed has different testing requirements and you should consult a vet about which tests should be performed to ensure that your puppy will be as healthy as possible. If a breeder has done no testing, or has only tested one breeding dog, be aware that you’re buying a dog that is not ethically bred. It is irresponsible to allow genetic diseases to perpetuate in a species over which breeders have complete control. Research extensively the types of health problems the breed you’re looking at is prone to, then interview the prospective breeders, asking about genetic history, specific dogs’ ages, names, and qualities. The breeder should know all of these things for at least 3 generations, if not more. If it isn’t memorized, the breeder should be able to reference documents quickly to answer your questions.
For this reason, good breeders will offer a health guarantee. Most guarantees are a year or two and are written into the contract they require signed upon purchase of a puppy. The fulfillment of these guarantees vary, but a replacement puppy or repossession of the ill dog are often options for the owner who has a puppy with a genetic condition.

Legal:
Dogs are considered livestock and property in the USA and Texas in particular. This means that they are owned, living property. As such, breeders can and should require the signing and agreement with a purchase contract. These contracts often specify where the dog will live (in the owner’s home), medical requirements and maintenance for the dog throughout its life, a health guarantee, registration information, and other important information pertinent to the dog.

Age:
In the state of Texas it is illegal to sell puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old. Firm research indicates that dogs and cats require the socialization provided by both the mother and the littermates of our social furry family members for at least 49 days (7 weeks) and that adoption into a new family should occur between 49 and 63 days (9 weeks).

Behavior:
The key socialization period of puppies occurs between 3 and 13 weeks of age. This means that your puppy will develop many if not most of his good habits in his breeder’s home. For this reason, breeders should go to extraordinary lengths to socialize puppies born in their homes. Puppies should be exposed to every sight, sound, and situation imaginable before they ever go home with you. Let me say this again: SOCIALIZATION IS A BREEDER’S RESPONSIBILITY. Breeders should have all puppies on a regular routine, well started on potty training and crate training if not already entirely trained in those respects. Potty training begins as soon as a puppy can toddle around the whelping box and in the 4 weeks before he goes home with you, he should have developed an excellent preference for eliminating in an appropriate place.
Ask your potential breeder how many people the puppy has met. The answer should be as close to 100 people as possible. Dogs need tons of positive early experiences with strangers and handling. Was the litter kept in the house? Puppies should be familiar with the sounds of a home and living with humans from their earliest days. The hygiene of a litter and the whelping box is also much more likely to be maintained when the puppies are in their breeder’s home.
Interview the breeder regarding the training and work that are expected of the Dam and Sire of the litter. Indeed, all of the breeder’s dogs should be actively working. Science shows that dogs who have more training tend to breed puppies who are more capable of understanding training and in turn also make more trainable dogs.
The Dam’s involvement in the litter is likewise crucial. Puppies whose mother is very concerned, involved, and nurturing make better pets, companions, and working dogs. Observe the bitches your breeder has with a litter. Do they leave the puppies often? Are they still involved with their babies past weaning, or does the breeder take over at that point? Mom should always be involved.
Are the breeding dogs friendly? Are they good with dogs they don’t know? Are they exposed to many other types of animals? Are they good with those animals? Are they very driven, or very laid back? Are they good with adults, children, and teenagers? The personality of the dogs being bred is an excellent indication of the personality the puppies will develop over time.

I’m certain that I have left out a lot of important aspects and that I’ll have to update this post several times. Please feel free to comment with anything you think I’ve missed. If you’re having difficulty finding a breeder who fits all of this criteria…I’m not surprised. I know of very few breeders who do. That’s not a good reason to buy a puppy from a less qualified source. If you’re going to buy a puppy or dog with “disadvantages”, save your money and a life and go to a breed rescue or a shelter. Don’t spend money with and support the people that are destroying our wonderful dogs.
On the other hand, if you have found someone who does all of these things, spread their name and their accolades far and wide. They are worthy of priceless jewels.