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

Good Dog Breeders Make Sure Their Puppies Go to Good Homes

She’ll want to meet you, and she’ll want answers to many questions about your life, your house or apartment, your landlord if you have one, what exercise and training you plan to give the dog, how much experience you have with dogs, and what drew you to her breed. She’ll make you agree in writing to return your dog if things don’t work out. She may even choose a puppy for you, because she’s the one who knows the litter best. I was once contacted by a breeder who refused to sell a perfectly nice but inexperienced woman a puppy unless the woman agreed to hire a reward-based trainer to work with her.

A Good Dog Breeder Welcomes Your Visits

A good breeder will encourage you to visit the puppy in the weeks before he’s ready to leave his litter.  Which is fine, because you’ll also want to visit the breeder, especially if you found her on the Internet. Probably most people know that all puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, but many haven’t caught on that anybody can put up a pretty website with stock photos of home-reared puppies. (7) Go in person to make sure the reality matches. It’s a red flag if the breeder will ship you a puppy without meeting you. Same goes if she asks all the right questions but discourages a visit and instead offers to meet you in a convenient parking lot halfway between your homes, where she’ll hand over the puppy of your dreams.

Do You Need to Meet a Puppy’s Mom?

It’s often said that you should meet both parents of the puppy you want. That isn’t necessarily so, because the sire may be owned by someone other than the breeder who has the dam. But if you’re warned away from the mother dog, or she’s mysteriously unavailable, go elsewhere. Temperament is largely heritable. An aggressive mother certainly can produce nice pups, but why lower your odds of getting a friendly companion? Besides, the person who has bred an aggressive dog is not someone whose work you want to support.

Find a Breeder Through the National Breed Club

If you plug into Google the name of your breed, plus “breeders,” you will be brought to despair at the bajillion hits on obvious puppy brokerages and puppy mills. You can cut through the commercial noise a couple of ways. The American Kennel Club’s website includes informational pages on all AKC breeds, with links to each breed’s national club. In turn, the breed club’s site will include a breeder referral page. The breed clubs have codes of ethics that members subscribe to, so this supplies an initial filter for your search. (But see note 4, below; the code of ethics isn’t always all that ethical.)

Find a Breeder by Word of Mouth

A second source of breeder referrals is word of mouth. I’m afraid this doesn’t mean your neighbor who has a nice dog, unless said neighbor has special expertise. Rather, talk to people who participate in formal obedience, agility, herding competitions, and the like.


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).