We’ve all heard the horror stories about puppy mills and pet shops. But how can you tell whether or not you’ve found a reputable breeder? It’s easy to claim that you do health testing, that your dogs come from “champion lines”, and that you’re associated with the AKC, but what does that actually mean? Here are some basic things to look for when you’re looking for a breeder:
- Is the breeder involved with showing his dogs? This is important because it shows the breeder is committed to breeding dogs that are as close to the breed standard as possible. The goal should be to better the breed with every subsequent generation.
- Is the breeder a member of any local dog clubs? Although a lot of breeders proudly claim to be members of the AKC, and yes, a pure bred dog should be AKC registered, anyone can be a member. The only requirement is to own an AKC registered dog. Involvement in a specialty or all breed club, on the other hand, is by selection. Just like with being involved with showing, it demonstrates the breeder’s commitment to furthering his knowledge and being part of a network of likeminded people.
- Does the breeder do the correct health testing for all of his dogs? You’ll find a lot of breeders, most in fact, that claim to have health tested their dogs. Do your research and find out exactly what they‘re referring to when they say that. Ask to see their dogs’ CHIC certificates. What is CHIC?
“The Canine Health Information Center, also known as CHIC, is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The CHIC, working with participating parent clubs, provides a resource for breeders and owners of purebred dogs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds.” (http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/)
Every parent club (i.e. the Havanese Club of America) determines the appropriate testing for their breed based on that breed’s known medical issues. That then becomes the standard health testing recommended for that breed and should be the minimum amount of health testing a breeder does. Once a dog has passed all his required health testing, he is issued a CHIC number by the OFA. Information about what health testing an individual dog has gotten can be found on the OFA website (http://www.offa.org/) by searching for the dog’s registered name.
- Are the dogs and puppies in the breeder’s home, or are they kept outside? How many dogs does the breeder have? Does the breeder welcome visits? Any breed that is considered a companion breed should be kept in the house, not a kennel. It’s very important for the puppies’ development that they’re exposed to everyday situations as they’re growing. I.e. the normal noises found in a house like the vacuum cleaner, phone ringing, people talking, etc. Also, as basic rule, your breeder should not have more dogs than they can give adequate love and attention to on a daily basis.
- Is the breeder willing to make a long term commitment to you as a buyer? Your relationship with the breeder should not end when you walk out of the door with your puppy. Your breeder should be your best resource for information and support as your puppy grows and they should encourage that interaction. Your contract with the breeder should have a stipulation that you can return the dog to them at any time for any reason. They should be as picky about you as a buyer as you are about them as a breeder as the goal should be to place the puppy in an appropriate home, not just make a sale.
The following quote sums it up pretty well I think:
“I am a dog breeder. I spend a lifetime learning pedigrees, going over dogs, talking, and learning from those in my breed and those outside it. I raise each litter as if I gave birth to them and spend an equal amount of time finding them loving forever homes. I only bring puppies into this world that I think will be the… healthiest (mentally and physically) and best examples of their breed. I support each family who chooses one of my puppies and let them know they are now a part of our extended family. I treat them all well. I am there if one needs to come back and will aggressively pursue the return of one of my dogs if it’s in the wrong place. I support my breed in rescue and education. I hold them when they arrive and leave this world. I share my knowledge and socialize my dogs so that they will be the advertisement for my dedication. I don’t keep track of the money and time I put in to my love of dogs, it would not be a true measure of how I feel. The price I charge for my puppies is never profit, but investment in the next generation. I am not ashamed of who I am… I work hard at being a good dog breeder and encouraging others. I am a breeder and I am proud of it.”