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, you can 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.
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:
- Get at least two references. Remember that breeders work for you, and just as you would when hiring anyone, you should ask for references. Ask the breeder for at least two references from clients in the past year so that you know they’re recent. Ask if they were happy with their experience, how problems were handled, if any, and about the pros — and cons — of working with that particular breeder. You can also find out if a breeder is in good standing with the AKC by contacting AKC Customer Service at 919-233-9767 or email@example.com.
- Don’t rely on the phone. Go in person. The best way to get to know a breeder is to meet in person, which might be at their kennel or in their home. 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 he or she 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 he/she reacts. Is he/she patient with your questions? Does he/she 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 his parents! It will give you a sense of your dog’s temperament, size, and appearance.
- Get a full medical history. Reputable breeders will be happy to show proof of health screenings such as OFA and CERF 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 its life, so it can mature and socialize with its mother and litter mates. This transition is important, and it’ll give you time to puppy-proof your house and to get the necessary supplies before welcoming him home.
- Check out our 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.
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, or wants to charge you more for AKC papers, or tells you he/she will mail them to you at a later date.