How To Find A Reputable Dog Breeder

So you have your heart set on a specific dog breed. You’ve done all the research and know they would be the perfect dog for you. You’re just not sure how to find one.


We’ve all heard horror stories about backyard breeders. A reputable breeder is not even in the same category. Good dog breeders are in it for the love of the breed and to help preserve the breed standard. So how do you go about finding a good, reputable breeder?


We’ve put together a quick guide to finding a reputable dog breeder. We’ll cover what to look for, the questions to ask, and red flags that should make you walk away. Ready to get started? Let’s go!


Where To Find Dog Breeders


Before you decide on a specific breeder, it’s important to do your homework. Start by compiling a list of names, so you can start narrowing your search.


Start by asking people you trust. You can speak to your veterinarian, or talk to a friend who has the breed you’re looking for.


puppies find a reputable dog breeder

Call local breed clubs, or take the time to visit a local dog show. You can also check the AKC website. They have very strict rules about who is allowed to post a breeder referral. You can find breeders online, but proceed with caution because appearances can be deceiving.


If you are still uncertain if buying from a breeder is right for you, these resources can also help you find a breed-specific rescue.


What To Look For In A Dog Breeder


Once you have a few names, you can start doing a deeper dive into finding the right breeder. You may find that all the names you have are reputable. In that case, your only problem will be finding one that you mesh well with.


Give the breeders on your list a call to find out if they have any puppies available. If they do, you will want to see the space the puppies are being raised in. They should be in clean conditions, and the puppies should be bright-eyed, well-groomed, and healthy.


Since a reputable breeder doesn’t breed on a large scale, you are generally meeting them at their home. They may have a kennel on site, but it should not be crowded, and it should be clean and comfortable for the dogs.


You should be able to meet the parents or at least, the mother. Since many breeders use studs, the father may not be on site. The breeder should still be able to answer any of your questions about the father. The mother should be as healthy as her pups. She should be well socialized and friendly. She may be a little shy with you, but she should overall be a happy dog. Her temperament and appearance will tell you something about her puppies’ temperaments and appearance.


Any other dogs on-site should also be happy, well-fed, and healthy. Every dog should obviously receive the same level of care, whether they are used for breeding or not.


The breeder should be willing to supply you with the medical history of both parents. This includes the results of any screening they’ve had and any health certifications.


Also, the breeder should ask you questions. They have a vested interest in the homes their puppies go to. Breeding is not an endeavor they should be focused on profiting from. Instead, their focus is on improving the breed and finding good homes for their litters.


Finally, the breeder should readily hand over the breed registration. AKC registration is not a guarantee, but an ethical breeder is more likely to register their litters.


Questions To Ask A Potential Breeder


  • How long have you worked with this breed? When did you start breeding? Ideally, they should have enough experience to answer any questions you may have about the breed. Membership with breed clubs, active participation in breed events, and breed rescue is a good sign.


  • Is there a health guarantee in the contract? Most reputable breeders will have a health clause in the contract and will be willing to take back the puppy, no matter how old, if you can not take care of it.


  • Have the parents been screened for genetic diseases? Proper screening helps ensure the litter will have few to no genetic diseases common to the breed.


  • Have the puppies seen a veterinarian? Depending on the age of the litter, the puppies should have had at least one visit with a vet. The breeder should also be willing to give you the name of the veterinarian.


  • Have the puppies been socialized? Early socialization helps the puppies adapt better to new environments. Socialization is critical to a puppy’s development.


  • When can I take my puppy home? 8 to 12 weeks is the earliest puppies should be placed in a new home.

Red Flags


Pay attention to details, and trust your gut. The flags may be obvious, but some may be very subtle, and you won’t know why until later. These are some signs that you need to walk away and not consider working with a particular breeder. In some instances, such as filthy, sick, and injured dogs, you should also file a report.


If the breeder won’t allow you to see the premises, even through a Zoom meeting, or insists they meet you in public, this is a reason to be wary. They may be trying to hide ill cared for dogs or dirty living conditions.


dog breeder find a reputable one

If you are allowed to visit, and there is a strong odor of urine and feces, or if there seems to be an attempt to cover up a smell, the conditions may not be the cleanest.

If there are crated dogs who don’t have room to turn around, red flag! If they all look run down and sickly, and if there are more dogs than one or two people could reasonably care for, you may have stumbled into a puppy mill.


If you can not meet at least one of the parents, and if they are not forthcoming about the number of litters they have in a year, this is a huge red flag.


If anything at all about the situation feels “off” to you, it’s time to walk away.


The Dangers of Backyard Breeders and Puppy Mills


Puppy mills are a nightmarish situation. Due to large-scale rescues and news stories regarding puppy mills, most people are at least passingly familiar with what they are and why they are a big no-no.


Backyard breeders are also a problem in the dog world. They don’t function on the large scale that puppy mills do, but they contribute to full animal shelters and genetic diseases.


Backyard breeders are people typically not very educated on the breed who simply decided it would be fun to breed their dog. Some are in it for the money, and others are of the thought that every dog should have at least one litter… or because their dog is cute.


No genetic testing has gone into these dogs, making the chances of passing genetic issues down much more likely.


Backyard litters are often sold for less money, undercutting knowledgeable breeders. The puppies often have had no medical care, and the buyers are not properly vetted, meaning these pups may be going to bad situations or other backyard breeders.


Dogs from these situations are more likely to show aggression, fear, and anxiety. This is often caused by poor socialization. They may also have problems with potty training, over-excitability, and training issues.


Needless to say, you’ll want to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills when selecting your puppy. But thankfully, there are so many amazing, reputable breeders out there. It just takes a little searching!