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Dog Breeders: Red Flags to Avoid

Updated: Jun 26

how to find a reputable breeder

Why choosing the right breeder is crucial

Choosing the right breeder is crucial because it ensures that you are getting a healthy and well-cared-for pet who is a good representation of the breed and was set up for success from the start.

Here are some red flags to watch out for when selecting a breeder:

  • Poor Living Conditions: Ensure the animals are kept in clean and spacious environments.

  • Lack of Health Testing: Make sure the breeder conducts health tests on the animals to prevent genetic issues. Just because a puppy is registered with AKC, does NOT mean that their parents have been health tested. You can find more information on this with the breed parent club. Different breeds have different recomendations. "My vet said they're healthy" is NOT health testing.

  • No References: A reputable breeder should provide references from past customers and veterinarians.

  • Unwillingness to Answer Questions: A good breeder will be transparent and open to answering all your questions about the animals. They WANT educated buyers and to ensure their progeny is going to apropriate good homes.

  • Price: If you're seeing a purebred pup listed for sale under $1500, you should probably run.

  • Lack of Waitlist: Reputable breeders ALWAYS have a waitlist. This is because their dogs are typically proven through genetic health testing and breed-specific performance based titling and testing. This is important whether you intend to compete, test, or use the dog in some way.

  • Breeding Dogs Under 2 Years Old: Full health testing cannot even be officially done and certified by appropriate organizations such as the Orthapedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) until a dog is 2 years old. Preliminary images are NOT official.

breeder red flags

Breeder Red Flags to Avoid

Breeders who refuse you to visit the facilities might have something to hide or are operating under poor conditions. Be wary of breeders who offer multiple breeds of puppies, as they may prioritize profit over the well-being of the dogs. Stay alert if the breeder doesn't ask you questions or seem concerned about the well-being of their puppies. Avoid breeders who are reluctant to provide health clearances or offer health guarantees for their puppies for at least 24 months.

Lack of Health Testing for Breeding Dogs

Breeders should conduct health tests on their breeding dogs to ensure the puppies are healthy. Health testing can identify potential genetic issues that could be passed down to the puppies. Responsible breeders typically test for conditions that are common in the breed they are working with which is typically under recomendation of the national breed club. This testing helps ensure that the puppies are less likely to inherit serious health problems and each subsequent generation is an improvement. Without proper health testing, there is a risk that the puppies could develop genetic health issues later in life.

Inadequate Living Conditions for the puppies

Puppies whelped and raised in poor conditions might suffer from health and behavioral issues. Some signs of inadequate living conditions in a breeder's facility include cramped spaces, lack of cleanliness, and limited access to food and water. Apropriate socialization and a clean environment are essential for a puppy's development. If a breeder does not provide adequate living conditions for their puppies, it likely indicates a lack of care and compassion towards the animals. The first 7-12 weeks of the puppy's life before you take it home leave long lasting impressions on your dog for life.

Breeder's Reputation and Customer Reviews

Good breeders tend to have a solid reputation and positive customer reviews. Customer reviews can give you insight into other people's experiences with a breeder but aren't everything. Many people don't know what they are looking for, looking at, or what it looks like to do things the right way. Reputation plays a role in determining if the breeder is trustworthy, but should not be the only thing you look at. Make sure to research the breeder thoroughly to avoid any potential red flags.

Transparency in the Breeding Process

Avoid breeders who do not provide information about the puppy’s parents or the breeding environment. A reputable breeder should openly share details about the breeding process, all health tests conducted on the parents, and the living conditions of the puppies. Transparency is key in ensuring that you are getting a healthy and well-cared-for puppy.

Communication and follow-up care

When looking for a good breeder, pay attention to their communication style. A responsible breeder should be reasonably prompt in responding to your queries and provide clear and detailed information about the puppies.

Follow-up care is also crucial. A reputable breeder will stay in touch after you bring your puppy home, offering guidance and support as needed. They will want to know how your dog matures, what you do with them, and if any problems arrise. Lack of communication or follow-up care are red flags that the breeder may not prioritize the well-being of their puppies.

Unwillingness to allow visits or provide documentation

Breeders who are unwilling to allow visits or provide documentation may be hiding something. Responsible breeders are transparent and open about their practices. If a breeder refuses visits or does not provide necessary documentation, it could be a sign that they are not following proper breeding standards or may be operating in unethical ways. While visits are not always a viable option, thorough documentation including puppy evaluations at various points once puppies become mobile are essential steps in ensuring that you are dealing with a reputable breeder.

Contract Terms and Breeding Practices

When looking for a breeder, pay close attention to the contract terms and breeding practices they follow. Ensure you thoroughly read and understand the contract before committing to anything. Look out for these red flags:

  1. Unclear Breeding Practices: A reputable breeder should be transparent about their breeding methods and ensure the well-being of their animals.

  2. Unreasonable Contract Terms: Watch out for contracts that seem one-sided or overly vague. A fair contract should protect both you and the breeder.

  3. Lack of Health Guarantees: A responsible breeder will provide health guarantees for their animals to ensure they are free from genetic and congenital defects.

  4. Return Clause: ALL good breeders will insist, contractually, that if something were to happen that you cannot keep your dog, they must be returned to them or at a minimum you must inform them and they have right of first refusal.

By assessing contract terms and breeding practices, you can make an informed decision when choosing a breeder for your furry companion.

Making an Informed Decision: Finding a Responsible Breeder

Reputable breeders prioritize the health and well-being of their animals followed by pairing the right dog to the right home. Here are some warning signs to watch out for to ensure you are getting your pet from a responsible breeder:

  1. Responsible breeders care about the breed and their animals. They provide a clean and safe environment for their pets and prove both the health and performance of the animals they hope to breed. They do not breed every animal they buy or own. Most dogs do not need to be bred.

  2. Avoid breeders who have multiple litters available at once or always have puppies available. Though females cycles can sync up leading to multiple litters on the ground, though not always, generally speaking this is a bad sign.

  3. A responsible breeder will ask YOU questions to ensure their puppies are going to a good home. If the breeder doesn't ask any questions and gets right to talking about your money, RUN!

  4. Health testing is crucial. Responsible breeders will have health certifications for their breeding dogs to ensure their puppies are healthy.

  5. Stay away from breeders who do not allow you to see where the puppies are kept or meet the parents.

  6. Choose breeders who are knowledgeable about the breed and are transparent about any potential health issues.

  7. Responsible breeders are willing to provide references from previous buyers or veterinarians.

BONUS QUESTION: Ask your breeder what the WEAKNESS is in their breeding dogs and/or the parents of upcoming litters. If they only tell you how wonderful they are and that they're "perfect", they are lying to you. A good breeder who wants to improve the breed is acutely aware where their dogs have weaknesses. No dog is perfect, but that is the goal.

Remember, taking the time to find a responsible breeder and doing thorough research will help you bring home a happy and healthy pet that adds to your life, not detracts from it! We will talk about selecting the right breed for you soon.

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