Finding the right dog requires doing your homework.
Do you know the 15 signs of a bad breeder?
We always recommend doing research on what type of dog matches your lifestyle and then checking rescue organizations and shelters first. My little rascal Kilo the Pug was adopted from Homeward Bound. See the story of how I adopted him here.
However, if you do decide to purchase a specific puppy from a breeder, it is absolutely vital that you carefully research the place you are intending to buy from.
The benefits of a responsible dog breeder, like knowing familial health issues, a good temperament, early socialization, and the registration of your pet, can be lost when a puppy mill decides to disguise itself as reputable. Scam artists are notoriously savvy when it comes to tricking hopeful dog owners, but there are some key red flags to look out for.
Here is our list of important factors to consider, and what to stay away from when choosing the right breeder:
A dog’s love is priceless, so they say, but there is an important clue in this. If your dog breeder is offering you a puppy for a bargain bin rate, you may have chosen a subpar facility. Googling your breed may provide you with an accurate average cost for your breed in your area, which can help prevent you from being sold a sick, mistreated or unsocialized pet.
A good dog breeder will have invested time and money in vet care and training, so a well-bred dog will not have a discount price tag. Be wary of puppy “sales,” especially if they are advertising getting a pet for a holiday season. Breeders will stay away from impulse buyers who need a fast gift for a holiday as this may lead to the dog being unwanted or given to a shelter when the decision is regretted.
#2. What do they ask you?
A good breeder will be keen to answer your questions as they take pride in their business, but they will also want to know about you. A breeder will want to make sure you have the ability, resources and knowledge to properly take care of their puppy. They may ask about your activity levels or time committments or home (and garden) in order to make sure the breed is the right fit for you and your lifestyle. For example huskies may do best in a yard with high fences. A good breeder will want to make sure you are a match, not just a paycheck to cash.
#3. Can you visit the facility?
Never agree to have a dog breeder meet you somewhere other than the facility or ship your pet to you (unless you are looking for a rare breed not offered where you live and require purchasing a dog from another location, and even then it’s better to make the trip out to the location if you are serious about your breeder’s legitimacy). Even though you may think it’s nice that your breeder wants to “save you the trip,” a breeder that will not, or is hesitant about, letting you see their facility is a HUGE red flag. A breeder that is running a pristine business will be more than proud to show you how the puppies are living. In fact, some breeders will insist that you do visit before you purchase a puppy, so you meet them face to face.
#4. How do the puppies act?
When you visit the facility to meet the puppies, take note of their behavior. Are they lethargic? Are they fearful? Do they cower or growl? These can be key insights into their overall health and socialization level. A puppy that is well socialized should be careful yet curious, and open to being handled and pet. If they are being treated well, a puppy should be bright and alert, unless they are having a nap.
#5. Do they Let you Meet the family? How does mom look?
Puppy mills overbreed female dogs, keeping their health on the back burner. A good breeder will introduce you to your puppy’s lineage for a variety of reasons. It is important that you meet a parent as to discern their health, look, and temperament. If the breeder keeps the mother in a separate location, it’s a safe bet that she is being mistreated. Ask your breeder how many litters the mother has had, if the number is high, or they are unsure, run.
According to the AKC, licensed breeders should:
- Not mate a bitch less than 12 months old.
- Not whelp more than four litters from a bitch.
- Not whelp two litters within a 12 month period from the same bitch.
A breeder will keep excellent records of a mother dog’s birthing history.
#6. What do their references say?
A good list of references is an important part of finding the right breeder. Look for reviews of the breeder online, even checking their rating on the Better Business Bureau. If it seems like there are no ratings, the company could be made up. A better breeder will happily show you a list of references from happy customers.
#7. Do they Know the Breed?
Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about the breed of dog you are purchasing, a good breeder will know their health, temperament, and history inside and out. If a breeder is serious and passionate about a breed, you can tell. If they have to guess, lie about it, or google simple answers, you might want to turn back.
#8. Do they give you pedigree and health records?
If the dealer doesn’t give you any papers when you purchase a puppy, you’ve made a mistake. A breeder should provide you detailed vet records of the puppy’s vaccinations and general health updates. If your dog is coming from a registered pedigree, their certificates should also be included. Buying a dog is a paperwork-heavy experience, you should walk away with documents.
#9. Do they ask you to sign a contract?
Speaking of paperwork, your breeder will usually make you sign a contract as well. You must be vetted by a seller and may even have to agree to a home-check. This contract will include key information that will let the breeder know you are a responsible individual. They may even check up on the dog once it has been sold to make sure things are going well.
#10. How do they want you to pay?
Always pay by credit or debit when buying a dog, as this leaves a paper trail. If your breeder refuses to accept anything but cash or wire transfer, you could be getting scammed. A company that is not legitimate will not want to pay taxes, and may try to hide the purchase by receiving cash.
#11. Where else have the puppies been sold?
Are the puppies being sold by the side of the road? Have you seen the breeder at a flea market or in a parking lot trying to sell dogs? That is illegal in most places and one of the KEY signs of a puppy mill. A breeder will sell dogs out of their breeding facility, which they invite you to visit.
#12. Is their website original?
Does the information on their website come up on other sites when you search it? Are there paragraphs lifted from Wikipedia? Lazy plagiarism of other, more reputable, breeder websites is a scuzzy tactic used by scammers.
#13. How old is your puppy?
If your puppy is under 6 weeks, though ideally 8 weeks, your breeder is not legitimate. A dog must stay with its mother for at LEAST 6 weeks. This is the time when it is nursed, cared for, and taught social interaction by its mom and littermates. A puppy taken away too early may have health and behavioral issues.
#14. What is the refund policy?
If you are met with a final sales only ultimatum, your breeder is not legitimate. A proper breeder will want you to be a great match with your dog and be willing to take the dog back if there are issues. A breeder that wants to dump a dog and run will often not have a refund policy.
#15. Do they have a permit?
In some areas, selling dogs will require a permit. It is important that you ask to see it if your city is one that issues them. It goes without saying that a seller without a permit is breaking the law, and probably trying to scam you or unload accidental puppies. Watch out!