Many of you, whether first-time breeders or new puppy buyers, want to know what can be expected when working with or becoming a responsible breeder. Here is a sampling of questions posed by readers:

Dear Lisa: I am getting ready to breed for the first time my West Highland White Terrier. Would it be offensive to ask the stud's owner for her male's AKC number for verification purposes. I was told verbally that this stud is AKC registered but the breeder didn't have the paperwork when we met. Her stud is very handsome but I want my AKC registered female to only be bred with an AKC stud. Plus, she is getting pick of the litter. - Proof of Papers

Dear Proof: Before any mating is to take place you and the stud dog owner need to sit down and have a written contract agreed upon and signed so there are no misunderstandings. On the contract you should have the price of stud service the method of payment, any arrangements for a repeat breeding should the mating not produce puppies, how it will be determined when she gets pick of the litter and most importantly all the stud dog's information, including his AKC registration number.

I would also ask to see the AKC Registration certificate, his certified pedigree, his AKC DNA profile, and any other certificates that prove he has had certain health screenings. Having everything spelled out, agreed upon, and most importantly in writing and signed with help guard against any future problems.


Dear Lisa: How long are breeders responsible for the puppies they helped to create? - Breeding for Keeps

Dear Keeps: The hallmark of a responsible breeder is that they are "responsible" for any puppy they create for the life of the dog. If for any reason, an owner cannot keep the pet, the breeder should take the dog back regardless of the age of the animal or the circumstances of the owner. The breeder then is responsible for either keeping the dog or finding it a new home.


Dear Lisa: I am looking for a book so that I can do a better job at keeping up with vaccinations, worming, vet checks, breeding and birth of litters, etc. Right now I am writing it on a calendar which is fine until the year changes. I would like a book that I can record everything, attach their registration papers, pedigree, etc. I am the proud owner of Shetland Sheepdogs. - Breeding by the Book

Dear Book: The AKC has a wonderful booklet for record keeping which can be obtained from the AKC store. But if you have a computer and internet access there is a great resource called Online Record Keeping for breeders and dog owners which can be accessed through "My AKC" found on the AKC homepage.


Dear Lisa: I have a Shih Tzu that I would like to breed. However, I was looking on the pedigree of the stud and both the sire and dam have a distant relative (great-great grandmother) that was the same. Can I breed her with him? Can they have the same relative in a pedigree if it is distant enough? - Distant Relatives

Dear Distant: Before a responsible breeder decides on the pairing of two animals, a pedigree analysis is conducted. The purpose of this is to help the breeder make an education decision about which dogs to breed. The breeder uses a variety of tools beyond pedigrees to include health testing and comparison of temperament and conformation of each animal to help improve faults and minimize unwanted traits.

This is accomplished by looking to the dog's ancestors to see what traits they are prone to produce. Many breeders rely on line breeding to accomplish this which may include having similar dogs several generations back in the pedigree. What you have described is certainly fine and even borders on being considered an "outcross" breeding where there are no common ancestors in either side of the pedigree for many generations.


Dear Lisa: My husband and I have been looking for a Papillon and we found a breeder we are happy with. We can't see the puppy until next week, although we've seen pictures. My question is to satisfy my husband. The breeder wants a 50% deposit to hold the pup until we see him. She said that she will not cash the check and when we see the pup next week and for whatever reason don't want it, she will just give us back the check. I have done all the research and told my husband that all the breeders I've spoken with do require a deposit of some sort to "hold" the puppy. Is this normal business practice? - Deposit Required

Dear Deposits: Let me first congratulate you on doing your homework and finding a breeder you are pleased with. This is an important first step, as this breeder will become your 24/7 information hotline should you need any questions answered about your new puppy.

While it's important to note that each breeder decides what are their best practices to conduct their puppy sale, it is not uncommon for breeders to request a deposit. I have employed this method myself. I find that it is not only a good indicator of how committed a potential buyer is, but also that they have taken the time to study the breed and want to hold a puppy for them. In addition, from the breeder's point of view, it shows me that the new owner has confidence in me as a breeder as well. If you want some satisfaction about the breeder's deposit policy, ask for it in writing. Good luck with your new pup!


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses.

(c) 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.