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How To Find A Good Dog Breeder – A Checklist

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

You’ve put a lot of thought into it, researched breeds to find one that’s right for you and now you’re ready to buy a puppy! But you have no idea how to distinguish the good breeders from the bad. We’ve put together a checklist of all the things you should see in a good breeder to make it easy for you and to help you find the best possible puppy.

  • Breed Specific Genetic Health Tests

Both the Mum (Dam) and Dad (Sire) should have any relevant, breed-specific health tests done. This can differ from breed but examples include Dalmatians needing BAER Hearing tests, Dobermans and Boxers needed DCM testing and most large breeds, although definitely German Shepherds, should have both their hips and elbows tested and “scored” to ensure their joints are healthy and low risk for illnesses like hip dysplasia. You will have to research your chosen breed beforehand to find out the specific tests that they need, so that you can check the breeder has done them. These tests can be expensive and time-consuming, so puppy farms and backyard breeders will skip them, but no good breeder will.

  • They will take back the puppy at any age

If you’re bringing lives into this world, you are responsible for them, end of. Every good breeder I know gives this kind of ‘lifetime guarantee’ to ensure their dogs never end up in a rescue. It doesn’t matter if the dog is 1 or 10, if something happens to the new owners and they can no longer keep the dog, the breeder should be willing to take it back- they should want it back in their care to ensure it is rehomed properly.

  • The puppy is microchipped before leaving

This isn’t even good breeder territory; this is the law. Legally all puppies must be chipped and registered to the breeder before being sold.

  • The Mum (Dam) must be available to view with the puppies.

This is a legal requirement for selling puppies under 6 months of age. The Dad (Sire) may be available but also may just be a stud- this is fine although they should have all of the sire’s breeding info including health tests and temperament information. They should be happy and proud to tell you about the parents. The parents should be happy and stable dogs with lovely temperament. Breeding anxious and reactive adult dogs can give you genetically nervous and anxious puppies and should not be done.

  • Their reason for breeding is to contribute to the breed. Not for money.

Good breeding is EXPENSIVE. Genetic testing for the parents before the breeding, potential insemination costs if you go that route, health check-ups for the pregnant dam, potential vet costs if there’s an issue during birth, whelping equipment and food for the entire litter plus food for a whelping mother, vet costs if one of the puppies gets sick and/or doesn’t make it, vet costs to health check the litter once they’re old enough, microchip costs etc. Not to mention the 24/7 hands on care that a new litter requires- you can’t breed and work a 9-5.

Anyone breeding for financial gain is cutting corners- they have to be. It’s not financially viable otherwise unless you’re charging tens of thousands.

The only valid reason to be breeding your dog is because your dam is a beautiful example of the breed and you’d like to contribute to it.

  • Breeder interviews prospective buyers

The tiny life they brought into the world is leaving them and they should have one million questions for you about the type of life you’re going to give it. If buying a puppy is beginning to feel invasive- it’s usually a good sign. They should care about where their dog is going and it’s a huge red flag if they don’t. My breeder has a group chat for our dog’s litter which was invaluable when two were diagnosed with a genetic disease.

  • Not first come first served

Every puppy in the litter will have their own different personality just like every buyer will be offering a different home. While, as a buyer, your preferences for a puppy should be taken into account, the breeder should be matching personalities to buyers instead of allowing buyers to choose solely on aesthetics.

  • They should have begun training and early stimulation

Exposing them to grooming, nail trims, being in a car/van, being around people, neutral adult dogs, even cats. A puppy that has been kept in one room for their first 8 weeks is going to be a puppy that is nervous and hard to introduce to the world. There’s age appropriate stimulation that a good breeder will be aware of and working on while the litter grows. They also should be introducing crate training and, in some cases, toilet training. Mars’ breeder was excellent and when we picked him up at 8 weeks he was already entirely crate trained. His breeder was dedicated to giving the litter the best start possible and it shows.

  • They should never sell you two puppies

They also should not sell you a puppy If you currently have a young puppy at home. See our blog post on Littermate Syndrome here: What Is Littermate Syndrome?

  • They also shouldn't be trying to push a sale

They should want their dogs to go to the best possible home and that home is a home that has researched the breed and prepared for a puppy. You shouldn't need convincing or a sales pitch and the breeder shouldn't be trying to push a dog on you that you're not 100% certain about wanting.

  • They shouldn't sell you a puppy without you seeing it

It sounds crazy but I've heard of this happening. The breeder should want to meet you and see you in person and they should want you to meet the litter before committing to the buy. They may take a deposit, but you shouldn't be able to buy a puppy over the phone and have it delivered like takeout food.

  • You must be able to view the litter in their home/place of birth

This is the law under "Lucy's Law" and is to prevent puppy farms and backyard breeders from transporting litters away from their home to sell in poor conditions. You should be able to view the litter in their home, with their mother. I've heard of some backyard breeders offering viewings out of the back of a van etc. I'm sure they have wonderfully convincing reasons for why they have to do this but it is the ultimate red flag.

  • Puppies should be wormed and flea treated

Duh. Puppies easily pick up worms. It’s easy for their adult dogs/cats and even humans to bring in fleas on clothing.

  • Weaned ideally onto a raw diet although I’d accept a high quality kibble

Weaning onto supermarket own brand kibble is a huge red flag and brings us right back to cutting corners. Litters are expensive and their diet should not be compromised on.

  • Not necessarily KC registered

The internet does love to tell you that your dog isn’t valid if it’s not KC registered but what they fail to acknowledge is that the Kennel Club is a private organisation. They don’t require proof of health tests for litters or do home checks on breeders to ensure the standard of them. Being Kennel Club registered means very little in terms of good breeding and it’s absolutely fine if your breeder doesn’t want to pay KC for… frankly not much of a service.

  • They will not have multiple available litters (especially of different breeds)

Say it with me… puppy farm. Raising one litter is extremely costly and time-consuming. How on earth is someone ethically raising 5+ litters at one time? Unless a breeder has a very good explanation for why they have multiple litters available and can prove that they all receive expert care and all parents were properly tested, this is going to be a red flag for me.

  • They don’t necessarily have a breeding license

In the U.K. you only require a breeding license if you breed three or more litters in any 12 month period. Hobby breeders that are breeding with the best intentions may only breed one litter per year or one every few years. It’s fine for them to not have a license as long as they’re meeting all of the above criteria.

It seems like a lot, but my breeder did all of this- and more. The breeder for their dogs did all of this. There is a LOT of bad breeding happening in the U.K. and they've tried to normalise their shady practices. It's time we raise the bar again. Buying a puppy from a good breeder will not only save you medical costs, as the dogs will be genetially sound, but it'll save you training costs because you'll have a lovely confident puppy.

If I can think of something I've missed (there's bound to be something) I'll come back and add it but in general, if the breeder is interested in the home you offer and knowledgable about her dogs and the parents are health tested and temperamentally stable and happy dogs, you're on the right track.



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