When it comes time to get a new dog, there are generally two choices. Either get a dog from an animal shelter or find a breeder. If you’ve never gone the purebred route, there are some things to know about making the right choice. Not everyone who says they are a breeder is actually a responsible breeder. You need to make sure they are following the right guidelines for a happy, healthy dog that betters the breed, and not just reproduces it.
Finding the Right Breeder
First, you need to know what kind of dog you would like and it can’t just be based on what you think is cute. You need to consider your lifestyle, family size, and the amount of time you have to spend with a dog. Everything from the personality desired in a pet to the amount of hair you’ll be grooming comes into play.
If the dog breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), that’s a good starting point for finding the right breeder. There is a list of criteria breeders need to meet for the AKC to give its blessing as a “Breeder of Merit”. For dogs that aren’t recognized by the AKC, there’s the Foundation Stock Service Program that caters to rare breeds.
Should you find a breeder on social media or through the newspaper, you’ll want to ask what breeding certifications or merits they have before taking another step.
Interviewing for a puppy
If you want a dog right now, a breeder is generally not going to be your best choice. Proper breeding takes time and planning for health checks and a whole bunch of science you’ll never see to make sure the puppies produced are from a solid dam and sire.
It’s important to note that just because you want a certain kind of dog doesn’t mean that any responsible breeder is going to let you purchase that dog. You’re going to go through an interview process to make sure you are the right fit for the breed. You will be asked a lot of questions about your lifestyle, living arrangements, family size, and pet experience.
You should also be doing an interview with the breeder. Questions to ask:
- Can I come to see where the puppies are housed during their first 8 weeks? (Ask if a virtual option is available)
- Can I see the puppy contract? (Purebred puppies will come with an extensive contract outlining rules of ownership)
- What health guarantees do you give?
- Do you have references from others who purchased a puppy from you?
A responsible breeder will also entertain all the questions you have with patience, diligence, and humor when needed. They won’t rush you or give an ultimatum.
Getting the Medical History
It’s perfectly normal to ask the breeder for the health history of the sire, dam, and family lineage. Responsible breeders will have this readily available. Never take someone’s word for it. Get it in print.
Certain breeds are pre-disposed to health conditions. For example, bulldogs, boxers, and pugs are brachycephalic dogs, which means they have a shortened snout that could lead to some breathing challenges throughout life. This cannot be “bred” out of the dog. It’s part of their make-up.
Large dogs like German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers can be predisposed to hip dysplasia, a painful condition at the hip sockets. While this can’t be weaned out through generations of breeding, the breed can be bettered with a sire and dam that doesn’t have a history of those issues in their lineage.
There is never a perfect health guarantee for a dog, but a responsible breeder will clearly outline the process if the dog does show signs of a hereditary breed-specific health issue.
The Cost of a Purebred
There are purchase levels when it comes to buying a purebred dog. This is an area where you don’t want to look for the best deal, you want to look for the best dog.
Are you looking for a family pet? Do you want a show dog? Are you looking to add a dog to breed yourself? All these conditions come with different price points, but you’re going to come out of pocket anywhere from $800 – $5000 for a purebred dog.
Avoid puppy mills and pet stores in the mall. The lower prices on these animals seem like a good deal, but the real cost can come with ongoing health issues that rack up quickly, not to mention the emotional price you pay watching your family pet suffer.
There is also the AKC Rescue Network where you can rescue a dog in need without having to deal with the challenging puppy stages.
The Waiting Game
Once you have done due diligence on the breeder, and they’ve done the same for you, then you’ll have to get on the waiting list for a litter. This can be anywhere from a few months to a year.
A responsible breeder might only have a little once every two years, or if they have several females, you might get a little once a year. You’ll put down a deposit and be given a puppy pick order, like the “second male in the fall 2022” litter.
This waiting can be hard, but it also allows you plenty of time to research the breed and prepare for a new puppy. A responsible breeder will keep you updated on the pregnancy, birth date, puppy growth progress, and schedule a time to come see your puppy.
Get the Papers with the Puppy
One warning sign is if a breeder won’t give your puppy’s pedigree papers at pick-up time. If they claim to be an AKC breeder, there should be a clear AKC logo on the paperwork. You shouldn’t be charged extra for these papers or have any kind of delay. Some breeders might say “I’ll give you the paperwork when you’ve had the dog spayed/neutered,” and it’s important to know this is a red flag.
The AKC won’t let you register your family dog if you don’t show the paperwork and proof of spaying or neutering.
Final Paw Thoughts
There’s a prestige that comes with owning a purebred dog, but that shouldn’t be the motivating factor. Having a well-bred dog sets up a healthy lifestyle for you and the animal. Organizations like the AKC are designed to better a breed and a responsible breeder won’t just sell you a puppy. They’ll form a bond with your family and be available for questions and concerns throughout the life of the dog.