Where to Start
To find names of breeders ask other Labrador owners for recommendations and advice on where they purchased their dog. Look for local dog shows in your area and then talk to the owners and handlers of the Labradors being shown. The American Kennel Club website has a breeder referral search as well. Once you have a few names of breeders, research them on the internet and talk to them on the phone. If they are not in your local vicinity, then ask them for names of other breeders that might be closer to you. After locating a few breeders in your area, set up a time to visit them so that you can meet their dogs and see the environment where they live.
Visiting the Breeder
When you visit a breeder they should show you where and how their dogs are kept, let you meet their dogs, and tell you of upcoming litters of puppies. Meeting the breeder's labradors will give you a very good idea of what your puppy will look like as a full-grown dog. Also, use the opportunity to view each dog's temperament and learn if the dog specializes in hunting, dog shows, or is mainly a family pet. A breeder should have at least one of the parents of the litter on site for you to meet and be able to give you photos and the history of the other dog. If you are looking for a hunting companion, then it makes sense to buy a puppy from a breeder that uses their dogs for hunting and breeds with those skills in mind.
Labrador Retrievers while generally healthy are susceptible to some genetic health problems Credit: Joelmillswhich a good breeder should screen against. Two such issues are hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints do not form correctly which can cause pain or limited mobility for the dog. Progressive retinal atrophy is the deteriorating of the retina of the eye which eventually results in blindness. To reduce the chances of your puppy having any of these health issues, reputable breeders only breed dogs that are certified clear of these genetic problems. A reputable breeders will have documentation of these certifications available for you.
While at the breeder, check out the living environment for the puppies. Are they kept in kennels outside or raised inside the home exposed to family life? A breeder should explain their breeding philosophy and what they do to raise and socialize their puppies. The breeder needs to expose the puppies to sounds, children, adults, household noises, and as many new experiences as possible. Look to see if the puppies are kept in a clean area and if all dogs on the premises are healthy and fit. Also, find out what dog food the breeder feeds the puppies to help judge the quality of the puppy’s nutrition.
Lastly, a reputable breeder wants the best for their puppies. They should want to know about your home and family environment as well. The breeder should encourage you to keep in touch with them and tell them of any issues with training or health that arise. The breeder may even want to choose the exact puppy from the litter for your family based on his or her observations of the puppy’s temperament and personality and how well those traits match your goals. Plus, a good breeder will often take back the dog at any time during the dog's life if you become unwilling or unable to care for it. Visiting multiple Labrador Retriever breeders before adopting should help you find a puppy that will be a valuable member of your family for years to come.