Finding a good breeder can save you a lot of time in training and money on vet bills too. Although I am an advocate for rescues and shelters, I understand that you can’t always find what you are looking for in a rescue. For that reason, I want to share with you some good things to look for in a breeder and a few red flags as well.
Where are the puppies housed?
A good breeder will take the time and effort to house the puppies indoors and out or take out for housetraining purposes. Puppies housed only indoors or only outdoors can have some behaviorally specific challenges. Indoor only puppies will be lacking in socialization to things in the outside world, while outside only puppies will be lacking in socialization to things that go on inside the home. A breeder that begins crate training their puppies is even better as that helps to make your puppies transition into your home much easier. A good breeder would not allow their puppies to be housed in a small pen/crate in a pet store.
Do they begin socialization for the puppies?
The prime socialization period is from 6-16 weeks, but puppies should not be sold until 8 weeks of age, so if the breeder is not starting the socialization process, your pup is missing out on two whole weeks of learning experiences. Ask questions about what they do to socialize the puppies. It should involve indoor and outdoor activities, body handling, and exposure to strangers (not just family members). Also ask how many puppies are in each litter. If a mother dog only has 1 or 2 puppies, there can be some significant socialization deficits due to not learning bite inhibition and play skills from other puppies.
Can you visit the breeders home and meet the parents of your pup?
Sometimes the father of the dog may not be on site, but the mother should and ideally you should meet both parents up close and personal (not behind a fence/barrier) to get a guage of their temperament. The breeder should also allow you to see the living quarters of the puppies and parents. If a breeder offers to meet you, consider that a red flag as it can sometimes mean they don’t want you to see where the puppy is coming from.
They should know their breed and any potential health issues.
Ask questions (and do separate research) about the breed and temperament of their particular dogs. If the breed has any genetic health issues, the breeder should test the parents and sometimes the puppies for these issues. Be sure you can get paperwork showing these tests.
How many litters do they have at any given time and how many different breeds?
A responsible breeder will not have an outrageous number of dogs (likely no more than 20) and will likely breed only 1-3 different breeds. Properly caring for and raising puppies is a lot of work, so a good breeder will be sure to not overload themselves with more than 1-2 litters at any given time.
Good breeders will have a contract and be sure you are a good fit for a particular puppy. They will also ask that the puppy be returned to them if you are unable to keep it.
If you aren’t asked to sign anything or fill out any questionaire, consider that a flag. A responsible breeder cares a lot about their puppies well being and would want to be sure they are going to a home that is a good fit for their breed and particular temperament of puppy.
Below are some additional links to more information about what makes a good breeder and what questions you should ask before purchasing your puppy.