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Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy laying in the grass. via Getty Images

Finding a responsible breeder you trust is your first—and most important—step to finding your new best friend. Breeders are invaluable resources. Not only are they a bridge between you and your perfect dog, but you can also rely on them throughout your dog’s lifetime. Think of a breeder as your own private guide to all things dogs, from choosing the right dog to caring for it forever.

If you’re looking for a puppy, AKC Marketplace can connect you with a responsible breeder. As with any major decision, it is important to do your homework before making a commitment to a breeder. Here are some tips for finding—and working with—a responsible breeder.

Meet the Breeder

The best way to get to know a breeder is to meet in person, which might be at their kennel or in their home. If that’s not possible in person, ask to meet your breeder and their dogs via a video-conferencing system.

Affenpinscher puppy sitting in the grass.
©loo_ni -

Observe the dogs and the breeder. Are the premises clean? Odor-free? Does the breeder show a genuine passion for dogs? Are the dogs well-fed? How do the dogs interact with the breeder—and with strangers? Both dogs and puppies should not shy away from the breeder and should be outgoing with strangers.

Ask Questions

One of the biggest benefits of working with a good breeder is that they can be counted on throughout your dog’s life. When you’re meeting with a breeder for the first time, come prepared with a list of questions about the breed and the puppy—you can never ask too many, and there are no dumb questions!

See how the breeder reacts. Are they patient with your questions? Do they explain things clearly? Do you feel like you have a good rapport? Responsible breeders want to see their dogs in happy, loving forever homes and will be happy to share their knowledge.

See the Pup’s Parents

There’s no better way to see how your dog will grow up than by looking at their parents! It will give you a sense of your dog’s temperament, size, and appearance.

Great Dane laying down outdoors next to her puppy.
Jim Craigmyle/Stone via Getty Images

Get a Full Medical History

Reputable breeders will be happy to show proof of health screenings such as Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) certificates. They will also explain any health conditions that typically affect that particular breed so you know what to watch out for in the long term.

Be Patient

Don’t expect to meet a breeder and bring home a puppy the same day. Usually, the breeder will keep the puppy at the kennel for the first two or three months of their life, so the puppy can mature and socialize with its mother and littermates. This transition is important, and it’ll give you time to puppy-proof your house and to get the necessary supplies before welcoming them home.

Check Out Breeder of Merit and Bred with H.E.A.R.T Programs

AKC Breeders of Merit (BOM) are dedicated to preserving breed characteristics and producing healthy, well-socialized puppies. Learn more about the Breeder of Merit program or find available puppies from Breeders of Merit in AKC Marketplace.

Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeders have continued their education and have met specific health-testing standards. Learn more about the Bred with H.E.A.R.T. program or find available puppies from Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeders in AKC Marketplace.

Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy laying in the grass.
Kindall at English Wikipedia / CC0

Once you find the breeder you want to work with, make sure to get documentation of your puppy’s pedigree. If you have a good meet-and-greet with a breeder, and you want to move ahead, don’t leave the premises without getting the appropriate documentation of your puppy’s pedigree, a.k.a. “papers.”

The words “American Kennel Club,” as well as the AKC logo, should be clearly visible. Be wary of a breeder who hesitates to give you papers, wants to charge you more for AKC papers, or tells you they will mail them to you at a later date.

 At AKC Marketplace, we can help you find your dream dog. You can find AKC-registerable puppies from responsible, passionate breeders, and we provide the tools you need for every step of the process. Visit to start connecting with dog breeders in your area!

Related article: Why Are Some Dog Breeds Rare or Not as Popular?
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Selecting a Puppy

How do you know what breed is right for your family? How do you find a reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder? Download this e-book for guidance on these questions and other important factors to consider when looking for a puppy.
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