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Dog Breeders: How To Find a Good Dog Breeder

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

dog breederWhen you hear the words "dog breeder", you probably don't picture Margie Denton.

Margie is 68 years old. She lives in an apartment with her two Shih Tzus, Dolly and Buster. Neither dog is neutered. When Dolly came into heat, Margie tried to keep them apart... but alas, she eventually had to put an ad in the local newspaper: "Purebred Shih Tzu puppies."

Would it surprise you to learn that with her single litter, Margie is a breeder? In fact, MANY breeders are just like Margie.

You might have been picturing a "dog breeder" as a professional person who knows a lot about dogs, owns magnificent "pedigreed" dogs, and carefully plans each breeding to produce excellent pets for you and me.

If so, you're going to be disappointed to discover how few and far between such people are. The reality is that most "dog breeders" are simply people who bred two dogs together, deliberately or accidentally, and got some puppies, which they're now trying to trade for money.

So a good practical definition of a "dog breeder" is a person who owns a female dog who has a litter. It may not be the dictionary definition, but it's what you're going to find when you start looking for a puppy. People whose female dogs had a litter.

  • Even if that person simply owns two pets who were bred together and the puppies advertised in the newspaper.
  • Even if the breeding was accidental.
  • Even if the puppies are crossbreds or mixes.

Unless a mother dog who has puppies is truly homeless with absolutely no owner.... every puppy born has a breeder. So whatever puppy you're looking at, whether purebred, crossbred, or mixed, the question you should ask yourself is:

Was this puppy's breeder knowledgeable and responsible.... or unknowledgeable and irresponsible?

The answer can make a big difference in whether that puppy turns out to be a good pet, or not.

You see, even within the same breed, puppies are not churned out of a mold. The puppies from one breeder may be very different from those of another breeder. The knowledge and skill of the breeder – first, in how he selects the parents, and second, in how he raises the puppies – can make a big difference in how a puppy turns out.

So how do you tell the difference between a knowledgeable, responsible breeder and an unknowledgeable, irresponsible breeder?

I'm writing about finding a good family companion, not a show dog or working dog. So I'm going to give you my own personal


which I believe every knowledgeable, responsible breeder should be following to produce good family companions.

The first requirement for a family companion is a STABLE, GOOD-NATURED TEMPERAMENT. Therefore, a knowledgeable, responsible breeder of family companions will make sure that....

  1. Both parents should have a stable temperament that gets along well with the world. Both dogs should be polite toward strangers – not nervous or belligerent. Beware! An aggressive or fearful temperament can be inherited!
  2. Both parents should show good trainability by being well-behaved and attentive to their owner.
  3. Both parents should not have strong working behaviors (very high energy, excessive barking, etc.)
  4. The puppies should be raised inside the seller's home, surrounded by normal family activities. Puppies who are going to be family pets should not be raised in a kennel building, the garage, or basement.
  5. The puppies should stay with their mother until at least 7 weeks old.
  6. The puppies should be friendly, curious, and unafraid.

The second criterion for a family companion is GOOD HEALTH. Therefore, a knowledgeable, responsible breeder of family companions will make sure that....

  1. Both parents have been TESTED for whatever health problems are a concern in their breed. (Or if two breeds are being crossed, whatever health problems are common to both breeds).

    Health tests include X-rays, eye tests, cardiac ultrasounds, blood tests, DNA tests, etc. The breeder must provide you with documentation that these tests were PASSED.

  2. If this is a purebred litter, both parents should have extended pedigrees (6 generations) so the degree of inbreeding can be fairly evaluated.
  3. Both parents should have healthy skin and coat. Itchy skin conditions can be inherited.
  4. Both parents should have strong white teeth. Ask the breeder to show you. Bad teeth can be inherited.
  5. Ideally, the puppies should have been fed a natural, homemade diet that includes real meat. This starts a pup's budding digestive system off on the right foot, and you can pick up the same diet when you get him home.
  6. Ideally, the puppies should not have been over-vaccinated. Overloading a puppy's young immune system with multiple vaccines can cause side effects in the short run and damage the immune system in the long run.

    Current immunological research shows that puppies needn't receive vaccinations until about 11 weeks of age, and then only distemper and parvovirus.

So that's my list of 12 characteristics that help me to sort breeders as knowledgeable and responsible, or unknowledgeable and irresponsible.

Whoever is offering you a puppy – whether it's Margie Denton trying to sell you one of Dolly and Buster's pups, or the breeder of the top-winning show dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Show – you should use this list to find out...

How many of my


did this seller follow?

book coverHow will you know whether a breeder is doing these 15 things? Check out my dog buying guide: Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams.

I'll show you:

  • how to find breeders
  • how to evaluate a breeder's web site, looking for specific things that give that breeder away as "good" or "risky"
  • how to contact a breeder by email or telephone – the exact questions you should ask, what answers you should expect, and which answers are "red flags" that mean you should stay away
  • how to verify that the breeder has done the right health tests
  • how to read and evaluate a pedigree
  • all about contracts and guarantees
  • how to test the temperament of puppies

Learn more about Dog Quest

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

Check out my other articles on finding a good dog

Pros and Cons of Owning a Dog

Do Dogs Need a Fenced Yard?

Should You Get a Dog If You Work All Day?

Puppies vs Adult Dogs

The Truth About Purebred Dogs

The Truth About Crossbred Dogs

The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs

Which Dog Breed Characteristics Are Right For You?

Male Dogs vs Female Dogs: Which One Makes a Better Pet?

Adopting a Dog From The Animal Shelter

Adopting From a Dog Breed Rescue Group

"AKC Registered Puppies" – Are AKC Papers Important?

How To Choose a Good Puppy

Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.