Finding a Good Dog Breeder
So you have decided to become the owner of a puppy, you have done some homework, found out about the character, traits, health issues and nature of the breed you have chosen and are ready to begin your search for your perfect puppy. What next?
Well you need to find a breeder. This is quite a challenge to find a breeder who you are happy with, who does the job properly, and who cares and nurtures their pups and is careful to take the bitches health and feelings into consideration.
Finding the right pup is a time consuming job and it is not going to be done overnight. Finding any pup is possible, but there are those who breed for the money and have little else on the agenda. These are the breeders you should avoid at all costs, but how do you spot them.
No Quick Fix
These guidelines are to help you sort the good from the bad. First and foremost this will not be a quick fix, if you want a good well bred healthy puppy then be prepared to wait for one. Expect to be put on a waiting list and to be grilled by the breeder as to your lifestyle, home, working and leisure activities. The good breeders often have waiting lists and the not so good just sell to the first through the door.
Your first port of call should be the Breed clubs. They should be able to give you some idea of who has litters due. Try to get along to a show or a working day if possible. There are many during the year and there will always be someone there who can have a chat. It is an ideal place to look at breeders stock and chat with them to see if they are what you are looking for.
The Kennel club can be of help as they often have litters advertised on the find a puppy pages. You will also find adverts on the web and in local newspapers but be warned for the breeder who you are looking for may never have a need to advertise their pups as they will have lots of people waiting. They are the ones who you need to find and be prepared to wait for your puppy.
Once you have made contact with a breeder you feel you can work with you need to know how they go about breeding and why. To be true to their breed many breeders only have a litter when they would like a pup for themselves, and they should be trying to improve on their own stock as well, however this is not the only reason to breed. Often a dog or bitch will be doing very well in the show /working rings and the owner will have people wanting a nice pup from them so as long as all is done properly that is fine.
All breeding stock should be health tested and this may include hip and elbow scoring, eye tests etc. Make sure you know how to interpret what those health actually mean, it is all well and done the breeder saying Sire and Dam are scored but that statement in itself is meaningless until you know what they are and know how to assess them.
The breeds mean hip and elbow scores can be found from the kennel club. The scores of the parents are readily available from the kennel club on the health results page. You will need the full registered name of the sire and dam. We cannot rule out hip and elbow problems this way but as with everything it pays to start with the best you can. The Kennel club will give recommendations of all health tests available for breeding stock. Different breeds have different problems so make sure you know which ones you need to look out for in your chosen breed.
There is a lot said these days about Kennel Club Assured Breeders, a word of caution, the good breeders have always complied to a great extent to the requirements of the assured breeder scheme, (All of the breed clubs have a code of ethics that the members are expected to comply with and these are often very similar to the KCAB scheme guidelines). The fact that a breeder is an Assured breeder may mean very little. The scheme is not a safety net and there are puppy farmers and back yard breeders who belong. I myself have been a member for 5 years and as of yet no one has been to inspect me or my breeding activities!!! It is slowly improving but has a long way to go before it assures you of a good breeder.
Once you have done some groundwork and shortlisted a couple of breeders you like the sound of it is time to go and visit them and take a look at their stock. Very often the breeder will not have the father of the pups as they will have taken the bitch to the dog who suits her bloodlines the best. Do not be put off by this or on the other hand assume that someone who has both Dog and Bitch is better. It may well be that they are using their own dogs as they are the best matches but equally possible is the fact that it is cheaper for them to keep both and churn out pups for the sake of the money.
This is the time to assess temperament in a home environment. A lot of show dogs do not show their true temperament at a busy bustling show, they have been trained to stand for examination and to mix with lots of people and dogs in that setting but you may well see a different dog at home.
Look at the other family members the breeder owns are they too of good character? Find out what sort of information your breeder will supply with the puppy. You should expect to be given a diet sheet telling you what your pup has been eating, some information on exercise, training and a brief rundown on health matters such as worming and flea treatments done. Your breeder should be supplying copies (Or at least have available for you to see) of health tests done on Sire and Dam.
They should be expecting you to sign a contract covering a variety of thing such as information on their willingness to give you a lifetime of help and advice and what to do if for some reason your dog needs re-homing. Breeders should be taking their own puppies back if you have a need to re-home. The contract should have information about any endorsements on your puppies Kennel club registration. These are restrictions put on the dogs kennel club registrations by the breeder and only removable by the breeder that will cover one or two points. 1, Progeny not eligible for export pedigree. This will go a little way towards protecting the breeder's pups from being sold to other countries for the purpose of breeding. 2, Progeny not eligible for Kennel club Registration, this will have some restrictions on breeding from your pups and will possibly cover hip and elbow scoring and breed type and temperament.
You should be given (With the puppy not before) a Kennel Club registration certificate and a pedigree of usually 5 generations. Many breeders will also supply you with a sample of the food the pup has been eating to give you a few days to get organised yourself with food.
Assurances that the pup in question is of top quality show standard should be taken with a pinch of salt. No doubt if you have found a good breeder the pup may well be of excellent breed type but only time will tell if all that early promise will actually mature into the next Champion!
During your first visit to the breeder's home ask how and where the pups will spend the majority of their first 8 weeks. Puppies should be having a lot of different experiences in the first 8 weeks. A pup born and raised in a kennel outside with no opportunity to have access to a home environment will lack any sort of ability to cope with a busy household. Pups need to see hoovers, dishwashers, etc, they need to feel lots of different things beneath their feet, they need fresh air and room to bowl around and play together. They need to have seen inside a house and been allowed to try their paws out on grass, as well as concrete, carpet and lino etc. Early handling by the breeder and playtime with humans is vitally important to a growing pup's character later in life. After all your puppy is going to be a member of your family and if it has been subject to lots of different things it will cope far better as it matures.
Breeders to Avoid
Some things to avoid like the plague:
- Breeders who take a large deposit and do not want to see you till you collect your pup.
- Breeders who ask no more than if you can afford the price tag.
- Breeders who ask you to meet them in a motorway service station or similar location to hand over a puppy.
- Puppies from unregistered parents
A puppy needs both a pedigree which is a list of its family tree naming parents, grandparents etc. and also a Kennel Club Registration Certificate without which the pedigree becomes just a list of names with no proof of parentage. There are reasons why puppies are not registered with the kennel club, breeders may say as it is only a pet it is not worth it, well pet or not any puppy is worth the mere £15 it costs to be registered and qualify it as pure bred. Some people breed from stock that carries the "Progeny not eligible for KC registration" endorsement placed by the original breeder to help protect it from being unscrupulously bred from and so cannot register the pups. Others may register a litter from a bitch on one season and then because the KC will not register more than one litter in a 12-month period will then still produce the litter but not register them with the KC. A bitch should have at least a 12 month period between litters to recover unless in exceptional circumstances.
Be wary of "Alternative" registrations, the Kennel Club certificate is the only one that assures you of generations of documented parentage. It is also the only registration that allows you to enter your dogs in anything other than companion shows.
- Puppies from establishments who sell a host of different breeds and sell only for financial gain and not out of love of the breed.
These may be pups that are kept in dirty smelly conditions, damp dark sheds etc. They may also be in clean and tidy premises but puppy farmers depend on our caring nature and will sell quite happily to someone who feels sorry for the pups, only to turn around and breed the mother again as soon as possible to have more "Poor little puppies" to sell. DO NOT PERPETUATE these practices, hard as it is to do, walk away. Only by removing the ability to sell his pups will we start to eliminate the puppy farmers. Remember once the bitch has been worn out the breeder will dispose of her and start again with the next poor unfortunate bitch.
Remember there are lots of good breeders with nice happy healthy well bred pups out there, it just may need a little patience to find one, if you want a pup immediately then please think again patience and care is needed if you are to get a puppy who is fit happy healthy and will give you years of fun and companionship.
For further reading see the Champdogs Guide to Buying a Puppy.