How to Find a Good Dog Breeder

Anybody can produce puppies, and does. Here’s how to find a good, caring breeder instead.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
8-minute read
Episode #65

Let’s say you want a puppy of a particular breed and you’ve done some research about what breed that is. How convenient to have a pet store around the corner, right? Well, most of you are aware the answer to that is a loud no. And most of you probably also know that if you do want a pedigreed puppy, you should go to a breeder. But then what? Who’s a breeder? How do you find a good one?

How to Find a Good Dog Breeder

A bit of vocabulary and a disclaimer, right off the bat. You’ll notice I speak of full-bred or pedigreed dogs, not of purebreds. Historically, the idea of breed purity has been linked with the idea of racial purity, so I find the term “purebred” distasteful. (1)

Your default setting for dog choice should be “a dog that’s right for me,” and that dog may happen to belong to a particular breed. But breed registration doesn’t mean a dog is better in any objective, absolute way, any more than a birth certificate makes you a good citizen. A kennel club registration tells you nothing about a dog’s health or personality; in some breeds, especially working breeds, many dogs may not be registered at all. (2) 

Does Dog Breed Matter?

Most breeds of dogs consist of relatively small populations, and conformation competitions-- dog shows -- reward a very narrow range of looks. For these reasons, pedigreed dogs are more or less inbred. Genetic diversity is limited. That, in turn, means most modern breeds are troubled by at least a few inherited disorders. Many breeds routinely suffer from serious health conditions that shorten their lives. (3)  

I’d be wary of a breeder whose dogs competed only in conformation shows, like Westminster and Crufts. Conformation is a beauty contest; the dogs who meet narrow and exaggerated criteria for looks are not necessarily the nicest and they’re not likely to be the healthiest, either. (4) It’s a much better idea to look for a breeder whose dogs participate in activities, such as agility and herding, that require actual physical functionality. Be aware, though, that if a breed is more or less divided into working lines and show lines, the working-line dogs are often more intense and energetic.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).