With all the media coverage on puppy mills and animal abuse, no one wants to support a backyard breeder. I always urge friends and families to look at adopting their new dogs from rescues first. However, in some cases this is not the best fit for them. There are wonderful dogs in rescues, but families should not feel guilty for reaching out to quality breeders.

If you're looking for a poodle to cut shedding, allergies; or maybe you are looking for a personal protection dog, bred for specific characteristics like a German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, or Giant Schnauzer, a breeder could for you. I have spoken with many breeders over the years and I am happy to share with you what I look for and ask about to make sure their puppies are happy and healthy. 

Vertrauen German Shepherd
Credit: Shane Meuschke of Vertrauen German Shepherds

Where to find a good breeder?

Breeders come in all shapes and sizes. As a general rule of thumb, I often seek referrals when looking for breeders. Referrals will often give you the good and the bad. You can also look online for breeders. Many will list themselves on the AKC website or other breed specific organizations. These are often screened and are within good standing. If you think you're working with a puppy mill, the USDA investigates complaints filed against dog breeders and lists the citations. [1]

Ask to meet with the dogs and visit the facility/home

If a breeder is unwilling to allow you to meet the parents or visit the facility or home they are in, it is a red flag. Most people will allow you to visit after they have spoken with you and believe you are serious about your new puppy. When you meet the parents, do the dogs seem in good health? Are they clean and well-tempered? Is the facility clean and well-kept?

Ask if the parents are certified

Some breeds are prone to genetic health defects, including hip dysplasia, eye problems and heart issues. When parents tested for genetic defects and cleared, the puppies are less likely to experience problems or concerns with these. Many people will have their dogs tested and certified against genetic health conditions. 

Find out if the puppies are "guaranteed"

Most breeders will offer health guarantees to make sure the puppies do not come down with a genetic defect that may shorten their life. They will often give the first set of vaccines for puppies and a vet check. 

Labrador Retriever
Credit: American Kennel Club

How are the puppies socialized?

Will your new puppy be raised around people? Will they be kept in a kennel without human contact? Will they be raised around other animals or children? These are all important questions to ask a breeders. The first few weeks of a puppy's life are pivotal moments. Puppies well socialized from birth will be more ready to adjust to moving into your home.   

How many litters do they have per year?

This question is important to ask, because the mother's health could be in jeopardy. Is she pregnant all year-long? Does she only have one litter per year? This will tell you if the breeder is in the business for money or for the well-being and betterment of the breed. Most of the good breeders I have spoken with only breed their females once per year. 

Does the breeder interview you?

Good breeders want their puppies to go to good homes. These breeders will often ask you a series of questions to find out what you are looking for in a puppy. Are you looking for a calm, even-tempered dog? A dog for agility, protection or therapy? These questions will help guide them in finding the right puppy for you. 

What support and education do they provide?

The amount of education they are willing to offer and how long they are willing to support you with your new puppy tell a lot about their motive to breeding dogs. The quality breeders I have spoken with, offer lifetime support after you have purchased a puppy from them. They want their dogs to go to good homes and being available for questions, concerns and laughs is important to them. Many will enjoy seeing the puppies as they grow. 

Choosing the right dog breeder for your new puppy is an important step in a lifelong commitment. These are just a few of the questions to ask to make sure a happy and healthy puppy. You should always dig deep when searching for the right breeder and wait patiently for the perfect puppy.