Choosing a Responsible Dog Breeder
Choosing a Responsible Dog Breeder
By Beth MacLeod, CPDT-KA, Baypath Behavior & Training Coordinator
At Baypath, we understand and appreciate the desire to have a dog. While we love working with families to help them find a great fit for them, we also understand that sometimes a match can’t be made and – for a variety of reasons – a breeder may be the way to go.
In the sheltering world we have seen the difference between animals who have come from responsible breeders – and those who have not. But how can you tell the difference, right? In order to shed more light on this critical topic we turned to our trainer, Beth MacLeod, CPDT-KA, who is well-versed on the topic. For over twenty years Beth has worked with dogs, both in-home and teaching classes locally.
What’s are the main differences between a responsible breeder and one who is not responsible?
Ask these questions of any breeder. A responsible breeder will answer YES to ALL of the following:
- Can I visit and see the parents on site, or at least one of them? (sometimes breeding is done through artificial insemination or one of the parents is owned by someone else)
- Can I tour the breeding facility/house where the animals (inspect for cleanliness)
- Can I see a long pedigree showing the health and longevity of the line?
- Can I see the medical records of all the tests performed? (their health certificates should be posted on their website)
- If I need to return my dog for whatever reason, do you want your dog back?
- Do you stay in contact with owners of previous puppies?
Are there accreditations for the breeding world to help people navigate?
Unfortunately, no. It’s a pretty unregulated industry.
Then how does someone know where to start?
I can’t advocate for the following two groups enough – they are great resources for responsible breeders who breed for structure, but also health, temperament and longevity.
- Avidog – https://www.avidog.com/avidog-associate-breeder-list/
- Good Dogs – https://www.gooddog.com/
What is the AKC?
The AKC is the American Kennel Club. They are a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States and track/maintain their genetic identities. They also promote events that focus more on breed standard looks and structure, but not necessarily temperament.
What if someone is unsure of the breed they want?
The AKC is a good place to start – https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/
They have a good snapshot/overall picture on all the breeds, including:
- Typical breed temperaments
- Typical size
- Typical longevity
Then I suggest visiting the above sites, Avidog and Good Dogs, to search for breeders that – again – consider structure, but also health, temperament and longevity.
Are pure bred dogs always ‘true to the breed’?
In general, a responsible breeder is breeding health and temperament. You can expect, within reason, that their dogs will embody most of the characteristics of that breed.
Does the breeder’s training philosophy matter?
Yes! You want a breeder who uses training methods that are based in science – not in anecdotes. The breeder’s day to day and training interactions can affect the health of the litter – even when the litter is still in utero. Countless studies have shown that aversive training causes greater stress to the animal whereas positive-reinforcement-based principles result in desired behaviors and a stronger human-animal bond based on trust. Breeders who are Informed and educated in both breeding and training philosophies ensure that least invasive, minimally aversive (LIMA) principles are applied in order to create as stress-free a pregnancy and rearing as possible.
Can you share an example of a responsible breeder so people can take a look at their website?
Gayle Watkins, PhD, Gaylan’s Goldens – https://gaylans.com/
Dr. Gayle Watkins and her husband Andy Chmar have been breeding dogs for over 40 years. Gayle sets the bar for the definition of a responsible breeder. (Disclaimer: Gayle breeds primarily for competition homes – pet owners often wait several years for a puppy from Gaylans. If you are looking for a Golden Retriever, check the Avidog or Good Dog databases.)
Do responsible breeders have an application process?
A responsible breeder will have a lengthy application process, as well as conducting an interview, either in person or via phone. Furthermore, most responsible breeders have a waiting list. Be prepared to wait even after the application process has been completed. It may take a year or two to find the best match for your home.
What can someone expect to pay for a dog from a breeder?
- $2000 to $4000 is reasonable – rarer breeds may be more.
How does someone choose the right puppy for them?
In most cases, you don’t. Responsible breeders will review the overall litter and administer temperament testing somewhere around seven weeks in order to match each individual puppy to the ideal owner for that particular dog.
What else should someone ask a breeder?
How closely have you tracked your breeding lines in terms of health and temperament?
- A responsible breeder will have a documented long line of all their dogs’ health and temperament histories.
What kind of early neuro-stimulation do you have in place once the puppies are born?
- Socialization is key. Puppy play dates are not enough – and just exposing them to other humans is not enough. The puppies should have exposure to multiple smell, sights, sounds, surfaces and textures. A good breeder will have a thorough plan they can share with you.
What environment are the puppies raised in?
- Are they all in a crate? Ideally not. Ideally, they are in a whelping box at first. Then they are in a safe enclosed space with multiple opportunities for stimulation.
When will you release your puppies?
- Most good breeders will not release their puppies until at least 8 weeks, allowing puppies to learn about interaction from their littermates and other adult dogs on the property.
What if I can’t visit the breeder because they are not local?
- If you can’t visit due to your limitations, you ideally know someone who has first-hand experience with the same breeder.
- Ask for references. A responsible breeder encourages checking their references!
What is your favorite resource once you have your new puppy?
Lots of great resources on raising your puppy here!
- Avidog Puppy College – https://www.avidog.com/shop/courses-for-new-puppy-owners/avidog-puppy-college/
- Puppy Culture – https://shoppuppyculture.com/
Are there pitfalls of choosing a breeder who does not breed or rear responsibly?
Look, we all know numerous stories of great dogs coming from a less than ideal breeding situations. However, most of us who are considering getting a dog from a breeder and making a substantial investment are not willing to play Russian roulette. For every great dog that has come from an ‘irresponsible breeder’, my classes are filled with dogs that have innumerable health and temperament issues. So can you just pick a breeder willy nilly, sure, as long as you’re prepared to live with the results.
What is your best advice to someone looking for a dog from a breeder?
Do your research! Ask lots of questions!
We hope this article is helpful should you want to go the breeder route. Wherever you end up getting a dog from, please know that Baypath is always here as a resource.