Updated: Apr 28
Have you ever wondered where shelter dogs come from? They were once all perfect, adorable puppies that were given up because they developed behavioral issues or they ran up vet or training costs.
Shelters are a great option for finding your next best friend but if you absolutely must purchase a puppy from a breeder and you'll have it no other way, then at the very least, make sure you go to the right breeder! It takes much more than someone having a boy doggie and a girl doggie at their disposal to call themselves a breeder.
Breeding puppies is hard and work and can be expensive when done right. The point of breeding is to make a breed better and healthier. So all potential candidates for breeding must be screened for common diseases or genetic mutations found within that breed. Candidates who do not “pass” should be spayed or neutered. All of this is going to cost the breeder money, they’ll have to make that money back on the sale. So when you’re looking at high prices and then say you’re just looking for “a pet quality dog,” what you’re really saying is “I don’t want to pay a lot of money, I want a cheap dog.” But that $250-450 KSL puppy has the potential to cost you much more in the future when they get sick and start piling on vet bills because the parents were not screened for health issues or the puppy was let outside too soon after vaccines if they even got them. They might develop behavior problems because the breeder didn’t do their homework and socialize and train the puppies properly before selling them to literally anybody. In fact, I’m currently working with a puppy named Murphy who came from just such a situation. Shortly after purchase from a terrible breeder, Murphy was given up because of behavior issues. Read his story here.
Shelters and rescue groups always have puppies available at an affordable price. They get vaccines, spayed/neutered, and even training and socialization. I’m currently working on training and socializing 12 puppies for Rescue Rovers, I’m going down to see them as soon as I’m done writing this post. But if you really must go to a breeder, please understand and accept that raising physically and mentally healthy puppies from birth has its expenses. You will spend a pretty penny, to be sure!
Now, in order to find a responsible, knowledgeable, and ethical breeder, look for someone who does the following:
They engage their puppies in neonatal handling. Socialization and familiarity with humans start at birth! These puppies should be interacted with by as many men, women, and children as possible from day one. The critical period for socialization in puppies ends at 12 weeks. By the time you get your puppy, that’s already 2 thirds gone! You better make sure that breeder is doing their part.
The puppies should all be vaccinated properly, dewormed, and have been seen by a vet. Do not get a puppy from a breeder who does their own vaccines. This usually means they’re trying to cut down on vet costs. Ask for the breeder’s vet info and call the vet. The breeder should have a good relationship with their vet. If they refuse to give you vet info, move along.
Once puppies are walking and exploring on all fours, they must graduate to an enriching environment where they get to play every day until their new family picks them up. This should be a small room or area that is bursting with all sorts of fun sensory activities for puppies to explore. From things to climb on to things that slide and move or make noise and different textures to explore. If the breeder is really covering their bases, they'll even have the puppies exposed to "scary sounds" like traffic, thunder, heavy wind, fireworks, etc - all this while continuing socialization with people!
Your breeder puppy should already be potty trained. That's right! If the breeder doesn't take the time to potty train all 10 of those puppies, they are not doing their job! By the time your puppy comes home, they should already have a clear idea of where it is and is not OK to go potty and all you have to do is enforce those rules in your home.
Your breeder puppy should already have bite inhibition training. This is one of the very first lessons puppies should learn! If your 8-week or older puppy is nipping constantly and hurting you, your breeder has failed that puppy. You have a lot of work to do now in getting that puppy up to speed. Ask the breeder, what kind of training or education do your puppies get during their time with you? If they tell you that they “don’t need much because they’re babies” or “that’s the adopter's responsibility,” look elsewhere!
The breeder should be picky about who adopts their puppies. An ethical, educated and responsible breeder has put a tremendous amount of work into raising their puppies to meet their full potential. Of course, they aren't going to want to adopt their puppies to just anybody! They will likely have many questions for you regarding your lifestyle and will want to take the time to help match you to the right puppy. They will even have a contract or application for you.
The puppies should be happy to see you! If you go to meet the puppies and they show any signs of fear or anxiety, if they are avoidant, if they don't like to be picked up, if they have their tails between their legs, if they bite you and it hurts, find a new breeder! Even if this breeder swears on their fancy website that they are so amazing and their puppies are "top quality." If that were true, then their puppies wouldn't show signs of fear when you walk in to see them.
The breeder should have the puppy’s parents on sight and should be happy to have you meet them. Make sure the puppy's parents are friendly, tolerant of you, and happy to see you! Spend some time with them, play with them. If they bark excessively, back away, show signs of shy or fearfulness, growl or show any kind of behavior that isn't friendly and welcoming, then find a new breeder.
You might be searching for an ethical and well-educated breeder for a while. The reality is, most people out there with a breeding pair are people who don’t really care about their puppies beyond selling them for profit. Even when they do care, and they believe they are doing everything right, they are oftentimes not. They could be the nicest and most caring of people, but if they are not ticking all the required boxes to produce healthy and well-raised puppies, then they simply don’t meet the appropriate standards. Please be picky, yes the puppies are cute but don’t give in. Don’t give your hard-earned money to someone whose goal is anything other than helping their breed excel. Ask for references from the breeder, call around. Ask the references about their puppy’s health and temperament. Ask about the process of purchasing a puppy from that breeder. Ask if they would get a puppy from that breeder again.
I hope you find this helpful, I'm working very hard to spread the word about ethical puppy breeding and I'm hoping this will at least help those in the market for a new puppy filter out inexperienced or uneducated breeders. The more puppies that are raised properly, the fewer dogs that will be given up to shelters later for completely preventable reasons.