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Green Light:

Identifying a Quality Breeder

Nikki came from a responsible breeder.
(Click on photo for a larger view)

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Twelve Points to Identifying a Quality Breeder:

"There are three types of 'pet providers' who stand behind their animals for life:
good shelters, good rescue groups and TRUE Quality Breeders."

 pawprint bullet point     Printer-Friendly Fact Sheet (PDF)    pawprint bullet point     Acrobat Reader     pawprint bullet point

Rosie, a champion Siberian Husky from Willo Siberans.       Raising sound, healthy, well socialized puppies is difficult work with very specific demands. Quality Breeders care about the animals they produce -- see Breeders With Pride: Responsible Breeders Speak Out for some insight into responsible pet breeding.

       However, the responsibility of finding and buying a great pet depends on YOU--before contacting any breeder, do your homework! Read the breed standard to learn all the important points about color, size, and traits of the breed. Two good resource for photos and brief descriptions are the AKC Recognized Breeds Listing and the UKC Library of Breed Standards. To round out your research, do a search for the specific breed(s) that interest you using an Internet search engine or your public library. (Hint: there is a rescue for every breed of dog in the US. Breed rescue websites frequently have pages devoted to frank discussions of breed characteristics.)

       The following list contains guidelines to help an informed buyer find a caring, Quality Breeder. If a breeder does not meet the following "Twelve Points to Identifying a Quality Breeder"…WALK AWAY…DO NOT BUY!

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will provide a list of specific health checks done on adult dogs before they are bred and/or on the puppies before selling them.  Examples might be CERF (eye), OFA (hips, heart), thyroid tests, von Willebrands Disease (blood clotting) and BAER (hearing) as appropriate to the breed. You must know which problems are likely to occur in your breed and what checks should be done. That is why researching the breeds that interest you is SO important.

WARNING:  If the breeder or ads simply say "Vet checked," BEWARE. This statement is too general.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will provide a lifetime "take back" guarantee and will require that you return the dog or get approval for a new home if you cannot keep him.  Good breeders do everything in their power to prevent their puppies from winding up in an animal shelter or a pen in some friend of a friend's backyard. A Quality Breeder will require that if you must ever give up the dog, he / she MUST go back to the breeder or to a new home the breeder has screened.

WARNING:  Don't just take the breeder's word on this…get a "take back" clause in writing.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will require a written (or on-line) application from you; he/she will also provide you with a list of references (people who have purchased dogs from him/her) and encourage you to check him/her out, as well.  Good breeders put a tremendous amount of work into their dogs. They care deeply about their animals, are justifiably proud of them, and will not sell to "just anyone." Experience has taught them what kind of homes are likely to be the very best for the dogs they have produced. They will require a written application and will screen YOU to make sure you have the proper home, lifestyle and finances to properly care for your new puppy. At the same time, they welcome your questions.

WARNING:   A breeder that will sell a dog to you without getting an application and references from you does not care about you or the animals. Don't deal with a breeder who cannot or will not give you references.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder makes sure you know the breed's temperament and needs.  All breeds have special characteristics. If the breed you're considering drools a lot, is hard to housebreak, has a high "prey drive" or isn't good around small children, for example, a good breeder makes sure you understand those traits of the breed. If your dog must be kept as an indoor dog, must always be leashed or fenced, requires lots of grooming, a responsible breeder tells you these things upfront.

Many kinds of breed "faults" are okay for a pet. To a Quality Breeder, a "fault" is a trait that is not exactly to breed standard. For example, the breeder might say "This puppy is going to be oversized, so we won't be able to show him," or "Look at the way he carries his tail -- that's a fault." This is the sign of an honest breeder who wants you to know the specifics of breed and the puppies he/she is selling.

WARNING:  If a breeder starts to sound like a used-car salesman, telling you only the good things about the dogs and refusing to talk about the bad ones, or is misrepresenting breed faults as "rare" or desirable characteristics, find another breeder.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will provide a written contract with specific requirements and guarantees for both the seller/breeder and the buyer.  Your signature on a well-written contract with health guarantees, a spay/neuter requirement for "pet quality puppies," and specific recommendations for care and training is always required by quality breeders when you buy a puppy.

WARNING:  If the breeder guarantees health for a short period of time , such as a few days or weeks. then you are NOT dealing with a Quality Breeder. Also, steer clear of breeders who want you to allow your puppy to be used as "breeding stock" at a later date.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will provide a written health record for your puppy.  This should include the date of whelping, any health problems he has had, the date and kind of each shot he got, and the dates of worming and drug that was used. Your vet will want this information and having it in writing makes it much more likely that your puppy has gotten the care he needs.

WARNING:   If the breeder just writes some information on a scrap of paper off the top of his/her head, the record is NOT accurate and may not even be real.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder carefully plans and "pre-sells" each litter.  You will need to be patient and wait for your puppy. Quality Breeders usually breed only when they have enough qualified buyers for the number of puppies likely to be produced from a breeding. You will most likely be put on a waiting list if the breeder feels you are qualified to purchase one of the pups.

WARNING:  If you are not patient and want to rush out and get a puppy, any puppy, you will most likely end up with a puppy mill or backyard-bred dog.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will invite you to his/her home or place of business.  You will have an opportunity to meet the parents of the puppy and observe the conditions in which the animals are kept. The atmosphere should be clean, warm, healthy and friendly.

WARNING:  Never meet a breeder in a parking lot, a park, a rest stop, etc. to "make the deal." Quality Breeders DO NOT operate this way.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder specializes and will only offer one (or possibly two) breeds of dogs.  It takes a lot to get to know a breed and the dogs' heritage, needs, requirements, temperament and health. Quality Breeders take this work very seriously. It is very difficult for one person to be a "specialist" in many breeds.

WARNING:   Puppy millers and back yard breeders will breed any animals they think will "sell." They often breed more than one breed and may even be dealing in more than one species (cats and dogs, for example, or even cats, dogs, and birds).

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will socialize the puppies.  The pups will be accustomed to people and a home environment.

WARNING:  Be very wary of puppies that are kept in isolated environments away from people and normal experiences they would have once they "go home" with you. Isolated puppies will probably not be socialized.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will NEVER allow you to take a puppy before it is AT LEAST 8 weeks old.  The puppy's age should be verified on well-kept records provided by the breeder. A good breeder knows that a puppy learns many of its "life skills" from his/her mom and litter mates in the very early stages of life. The difference between a well adjusted, social puppy and a fearful biter can be determined by a few additional weeks spent in the security of the litter.

WARNING:  Backyard Breeders and Puppy Millers see their animals as a "cash crop;" they want to get the money in their hands as soon as possible and will sell dogs long before they should be leaving their litters. Studies have shown that dogs taken from their litters too early are more susceptible to behavior and health problems.

 Good breeders get the Green Paw   

A Quality Breeder will be accessible.  He or she will give you his/her phone number, email address and other contact information. Quality Breeders will invite you to call them if you have any questions or problems with your puppy. They will return your calls when you leave a message. You will know where they live and have visited the place where the adults and puppies live.

WARNING:  If the breeder is difficult to find or is elusive about his/her operation, location or contact information DO NOT buy from him/her. You need to have a breeder who will be available should you have questions or problems. Go to and click on the Reverse Lookup tab. Type in the breeder's phone number. If it comes up as unlisted or not available BEWARE. This may be a breeder who is trying to "hide." This is not a sign of a Quality Breeder. Quality Breeders have nothing to hide.

Additional Resources:

 pawprint bullet point   Finding Your New Best Friend   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Before You Buy or Adopt   pawprint bullet point   Guide to Finding a Pet   pawprint bullet point   Red Flags: Disreputable Breeders   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Identifying a Quality Breeder   pawprint bullet point   Breeders With Pride: Responsible Breeders Speak Out   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Essential Questions to Ask Before Buying a Dog or Puppy (pdf)   pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Puppy Shopping (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Shopping for a Puppy   pawprint bullet point    DATCP: WI Licensed Dog Sellers Listing   pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Information for Consumers   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT Against a Dog Seller in Wisconsin   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   What Does Breed Registration Really Mean?   pawprint bullet point   Rehoming: Free To Good Home?     pawprint bullet point


Nikki was carefully bred and placed.
Nikki is a healthy, energetic, good-natured pup from a
responsible breeder.
What Is A Puppy Mill?
What Can I Do?
Laws/ Legislation


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Article Copyright © 2005, by Eilene Ribbens. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
"Nikki" photo Copyright © 2005, by Pat Crean, Flying Spots Photography. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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