Identifying a Reputable Dog Breeder
(Puppy Moose at 9 weeks old)
Finding a reputable breeder is the single most important thing you can do for your future puppy. The search for the right breeder can start years before you actually bring your puppy home, but you will come to find that the value a good breeder brings to your future dog is priceless.
When you are searching for a breeder, you should be meticulous about who you trust to raise the newest member of your family. Lance and I spent 13 months searching through breeders. We probably looked at 50+ breeders before we chose the one that we did. The process was long and patience trying. There were times I felt like settling, but looking back now, I am so thankful that I was as picky as I was.
Not only did our breeder give us one of the best dogs I have ever known, but she has also become one of my closest friends. Whenever I have questions regarding Corgis, pet health issues, or dog raising advice, she is always willing to offer her invaluable insight and years of experience.
For most beginner or novice dog owners, it can be hard to weed out the reputable breeders from the not-so-reputable ones. These are the topics that I recommend future dog owners take into consideration when they are looking for a reputable breeder:
Whether you live down the street or across the country, you should always ask to see a perspective breeder’s facilities and dogs. Ideally, you should visit their property in person, but that isn’t always possible. In cases like this, a virtual tour with pictures and videos is the next best thing. The easiest and fastest way to determine whether a breeding program is humane and ethical is by seeing how a breeder’s program is ran.
When you are looking at a breeder’s facilities you should consider the following:
Reputable breeders will keep their facilities professional looking, clean, and spacious. Puppies will be raised in an area of the home (or facility) intended specifically for them. Whelping boxes will be designed specifically for the comfort of both mom and puppies. I would avoid breeders that whelp their puppies in laundry baskets, plastic blue swimming pools, or in bathrooms/closets. These are usually qualities indicative of a Backyard Breeder.
The area in which your puppy is being raised should be adapted over time as your puppy grows. When puppies are younger, they are less mobile, therefore their pen may be more compact. As they grow, they will become more adventurous. A breeder should start introducing toys and things for your puppy to interact with at around 3-4 weeks of age. At 5-6 weeks of age, puppies may be exposed to grass, shavings, etc. as a way to help them become more socialized to different environments.
Dogs and Puppies:
When you look at photos and videos of puppies, they should appear clean, healthy, and well-kept: eyes should free of debris, ears should be clean, and they should behave in a “curious” manner. The adult dogs in the breeding program should look equally as well-kept: nails will be trimmed, hair will be brushed, coats will be clean.
Red Flags To Avoid:
Puppies are raised/live outside
Some of the animals appear aggressive, excessively shy or fearful.
Dirty or long coats on the dogs, as well as eye or nose discharge, overgrown nails, visible injuries or sores, patches of missing fur, or excessive scratching.
Breeding animals requires much more forethought and consideration than just putting two animals together. The physical conformation and temperament of a dog are only part of the equation.
Testing the genetics of potential breeding stock allows breeders to determine whether a dog may pass a disease causing gene on to offspring. Making informed decisions from health test results enables breeders to adapt their breeding programs and reduce the risk of diseases appearing in future generations.
A reputable breeder should be knowledgable about the potential genetic and developmental problems inherent to the breed they are breeding. They should provide documentation that their puppies’ parents have been professionally evaluated in an effort to breed those problems out of the gene pool. (Better the breed)
For example, Corgis are known to have problems with hip dysplasia, therefore parents should be assessed by OFA or Pennhip. Although these tests don’t guarantee puppies will be completely free of hip dysplasia, it ensures they won’t inherit it from their parents.
Recommended Genetic Testing For Corgis:
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
Von Willebrand’s disease (VWd)
OFA Hip/Elbow Clearance
OFA Eyes CERF/CARE
Below I have attached a few example documents of what a health clearance document might look like.
If you obtain copies of registration certificates or health clearance documents from a breeder, it is important that you do your due diligence and call, email or check online registries to see if the documents are legitimate. It is not uncommon for backyard breeders and puppy mills to doctor documents from reputable breeders in an attempt to pass them off as their own.
Reputable breeders should be confident in the health of their breeding program. Along with copies of parent health clearances, a breeder should also offer a health guarantee for all of the puppies they raise. Puppies should NEVER be sold “as is.”
Red Flags To Avoid:
Breeder does not believe in genetic testing
Breeder cannot provide copies of health clearances
Puppies are sold “as is” or Breeder offers no heath guarantee
Website & Application
If a breeder does have a website, it is important to read over each page carefully — they will often answer their most asked questions on an FAQ page for potential puppy buyers to see. Sit down with a list of questions you would like to ask you potential breeder, and cross out any that are answered on their website. You can ask the remaining questions when you reach out to the breeder via phone, email, or text.
Keep in mind that not all reputable breeders have websites.
When you find a breeder that you are interested in purchasing a dog from, the first thing you should do is fill out their application. Answer each questions as honestly as possible.
If the breeder doesn’t have an application process, I would highly recommend you find another breeder. A breeder should be interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them. The application process is critical in order to determine whether a family is a suitable home for a puppy. If a breeder doesn’t require an application, then they aren’t doing their due diligence by screening potential future puppy owners.
Red Flags to Avoid:
If a breeder’s website offers a “buy now” option
They brag about dog size, smaller or larger than normal
They sell their dogs with full breeding rights
Breeder doesn’t have an application
Contract & Picking Up Your Pup
“If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.”
You will likely have many conversations with your breeder before you bring your puppy home. It is important to remember that regardless of what is said in texts, emails, or over the phone, the contract is the only thing that matters. As you are reading over the contract, and before you sign, you should consider the following:
Is their health guarantee clearly outlined?
Does your breeder require your dog be spayed/neutered?
Is the breeder willing to take the dog back at anytime for any reason?
(Perspective puppy buyers meeting Mom, Dad, and Puppies)
Along with a copy of your signed contract, you should also be provided with the following at your puppy pick up appointment:
Vet and vaccination records
A copy of both parents’ health clearances
A bag of food that your puppy is currently being fed
I never recommend having your puppies flown/shipped/transported from your breeder. Puppies should always be picked up by you in person and be escorted by you back to your home. Not only is it important for you to meet and talk with the breeder face-to-face, but its in the best interest of your puppy that you supervise them once they are out of the breeder’s care.
NEVER fly a puppy via cargo:
Flying an adult dog in cargo will generally fair well if you and the airline follow proper safety guidelines. At that, I would never recommend shipping an adult dog via cargo unless that was my only option.
A 10 week old puppy is much more fragile in both health and temperament than an adult dog. A terrifying airplane ride can create severe anxiety in a young puppy. Worse, flying a puppy in cargo can be dangerous to their health. .
If you do fly your puppy home, always pay for them to fly in the cabin with you.
These are the questions that I highly recommend future puppy owner’s ask a potential breeder before they bring home a puppy
Questions to ask your potential breeder
How long have you been breeding?
Generally speaking, I will always trust a breeder who has been in breeding dogs for 10+ years over someone who is has only been doing it for 2 or 3 years. Experience goes a long way, especially when it comes to breeding animals. Breeders with 10+ years experience will usually have a clearly defined breeding program and several generations of health clearances.
What's the good and bad on mom and dad?
You’ll will come to find that reputable breeders are the most critical of their own dogs, so take what they say with an open mind. But, it is important that both the breeder and you understand the faults in the parents. I would be a little suspicious if breeder says “Both of the parents are perfect,” as they are likely just trying to sell you a puppy and not better the breed.
May I meet mom (and dad)?
You get to see the temperament of the parents. Nervous and aggressive tendencies are likely to be passed on to the puppies and you might not see any of this behavior until the puppies mature and are already living with you. Seeing the parents will give you an idea of how your puppy may behave in later life. Also, you are able to view the health of the parents and the puppies in person. If the mother is in poor health the puppies may not be getting enough milk and this will in turn effect their health and ability to fight off any disease.
What genetic testing/clearances do the parents have?
A reputable breeder should be knowledgeable about the potential genetic and developmental problems inherent to the breed they are breeding. They should provide documentation that their puppies’ parents have been professionally evaluated in an effort to breed those problems out of the gene pool.
Can I have copies of the health clearances for my puppies parents?
If you obtain registration certificates or health clearances from a breeder, do your due diligence: call, email or check online lists to see if the breeder is actually registered. If the documents don’t exist (or the breeder won’t provide them to you), then the health clearances likely don’t exist either.
What vaccines do the puppies have? Has the puppy been dewormed?
Puppies should be dewormed at 2,4,6,8, and 12 weeks of age.
Do you have any recommendations or references from past clients that I can contact? Can I contact your vet?
A good breeder will always have a ton of references. It is always best to speak with a few past clients about their experience with the breeder. Don’t be afraid to ask for contact information for the breeder’s vet too! A veterinarian can be a great person to contact for an unbiased opinion.
Where is the litter being raised? Can you send me videos of where your puppies live?
Whether you live down the street or across the country, you should always ask to see a prospective breeder’s facilities and dogs. Ideally, you should visit their property in person, but that isn’t always possible. In cases like this, a virtual tour with pictures and videos is the next best thing. The easiest and fastest way to determine whether a breeding program is humane and ethical is by seeing how a breeder’s program is ran.
At what age do puppies go home?
I like to see puppies go home at 10-12 weeks of age, but you should never take a puppy home earlier than 8 weeks. Reputable breeders don’t mind holding onto their puppies for a few additional weeks if it is in the best interest of the puppies.
Can I see a copy of your puppy contract?
When you go to pick up your puppy, it can be a very exciting and emotional time. You aren’t always in the best mindset to read over a legal document. I recommend future puppy owners obtain a copy of their contract ahead of time so they can read over everything carefully and ask any question they might have prior to picking up their puppy.
Do you provide lifetime support?
A reputable breeder will offer you lifetime support with your pet. They should welcome your questions and answer them thoroughly. They should be available to you during the adoption process, as well as after the adoption process.
Bringing home a puppy can be an exciting time in your life, but done incorrectly, it can be detrimental to the health and happiness of your future puppy. So, take the extra time and thoroughly interview any breeder you are considering purchasing a dog from. Your future puppy will thank you for it.