Some Things To Look For In A Dog Breeder

This is by no means intended to be a complete list, however, here are some things I feel are important in a breeder:

  1. They want to interview you in some depth. Good breeders don't place their puppies just anywhere, they want to get to know you to make sure you and the puppy will be a good match. They should not be in a hurry to "unload" puppies.
  2. They do health tests on their breeding stock (as appropriate for the breed, check with the national breed club in your country to see what health issues affect a given breed), and share the results with you. Every breed has SOME health issue, many can be tested for.
  3. They know their breed, including why it may not be appropriate for everyone, even you.
  4. They prove their breeding stock (conformation and performance competition, real-life working situations as appropriate for the breed, etc.). This is not the be-all and end-all of ethical breeding, but it's certainly a consideration. A champion title does not necessarily mean a dog should be bred, but it's one indication that someone other than the breeder thought it was a good representative of the breed.
  5. They don't breed primarily for the income. You don't want a "professional" breeder, you want someone who breeds for the love of the breed, who understands their lines' strengths and weaknesses and breeds to minimize problems, who breeds primarily for themselves, be wary of breeders who don't keep anything they have bred, unless the dogs are "farmed out" (living with someone else, but still available to the breeder for breeding purposes - this can be an ideal situation for the dog).
  6. Their dogs are well cared for, mentally and physically. The dogs normally should live in the house, and puppies should be raised in the house.
  7. They only occasionally have both parents on-site. While it's nice to meet both parents, a good breeder doesn't keep making the same cross over and over again because that's what they happen to have in their back yard (hence the term "back yard breeder"). It's absolutely ethical for a breeder to breed the dogs they own to each other (assuming this is a good cross), but this should happen once or twice, not over and over again. And in a rarer breed like the Swedish Vallhund, there is rarely a good reason to make the same cross more than twice (if you wanted a male and got only females the first time, for example, then a repeat breeding would be appropriate). Many breeders travel long distances to get the bloodlines they want.
  8. They require you to sign a contract, which includes a take back guarantee should you be unable to keep the dog. Ethical breeders make every effort NOT to contribute to the shelter/rescue population, and take responsibility for the dogs they produce for the life of the dog.
  9. They want to stay in touch with you to help you with any issues and keep up with how you and the puppy are doing together. A good breeder often becomes a friend for life!
So you say, "but what if I just want a dog?" I say: great! But that is not a good reason to reward unethical breeding practices. Every time you buy a puppy from an unethical breeder, you are rewarding some of the people who are partially responsible (directly or indirectly) for the massive dog overpopulation problem in North America, you are rewarding people who, through ignorance or greed, bring living creatures into the world with no real consideration for their health or wellbeing. Buy from an ethical breeder, or adopt from a rescue or shelter, do not help fund unethical breeding.