Updated February 2023
Finding the right breeder starts by asking the right questions.
Picking a puppy from the endless different breeds and the plethora of breeders can be a daunting task.
But by using the questions below as a starting point, you will be able to significantly narrow down who you want to work with.
After all, choosing the right breeder is the first step to choosing the right puppy.
1. Have the parent dogs been health tested?
A new puppy will be with you for many years.
So of course you want a dog that has the best potential for living those years in great health.
Thanks to modern technology it is possible for breeders to genetically test their breeding dogs for hundreds of genetic conditions.
This will allow the breeder to make smart decisions when choosing which dogs to pair together for breeding. The wrong pairing can result in various genetic conditions and even blindness.
That’s why buying a dog from parents that weren’t health tested is unnecessarily risking future emotional and financial burdens.
2. How long have you been breeding?
Breeding is booming.
Not least in part due to the pandemic.
This has created such a demand for puppies that many people have jumped on the breeding bandwagon with little or no experience.
How long a breeder has been in the business can help you determine if they are in for the long haul or if they are just trying to make some money off of the latest market trend.
3. How do you socialize your puppies?
What’s the difference between a fearful dog and a confident one?
This determines, in large part, the future demeanor of your puppy.
It is so easy for inexperienced breeders to overlook this step.
And poor socialization can result in a dog that is fearful, aggressive, and nervous in new situations.
This can be a nightmare for new dog owners.
Socialization should include exposure to not only people and dogs of all ages but also to new sights, sounds, textures, and smells.
After 16 weeks this socialization period has closed.
At this point remedial training to help a puppy that wasn’t socialized properly becomes exponentially more difficult.
That’s why this is one of the most important questions to ask any potential breeder.
4. Have the puppies been dewormed?
Almost all puppies have worms.
Most puppies are born with these buggers!
If they didn’t get infected while in utero they have a chance of being infected while nursing.
These parasites can include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, all of which can create nasty health issues if not treated in the first few weeks of life.
Symptoms can include chronic ill-thrift, a dull haircoat, failure to gain weight, vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia.
Deworming the puppies every 2 weeks, starting at the age of 2 weeks to 8 weeks, is recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Life Stage Guidelines.
These treatments should be followed up with a monthly dewormer.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to dealing with intestinal parasites.
5. Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccinations?
We know vaccines are no fun but they are a part of the puppy parenting life.
Puppies should receive their first vaccines between 6 to 8 weeks of age while they are still with the breeder.
When the puppies go home a responsible breeder will send records of these vaccinations with the puppy parents.
This will allow their personal veterinarian to continue the required vaccines on the recommended schedule.
Most vaccines are given on 2 to 4 week intervals until the required protection is achieved.
The very basic, or core, vaccines that your puppy will receive will be the
- DHP (also called DAP) which stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvo.
- Rabies will also usually be required by state or local laws which dictate the age and frequency for the vaccine.
Other vaccines that may be recommended based on lifestyle and location include:
- Canine Influenza
6. When do I need to go for the first vet visit?
As soon as possible.
Many breeders will require a vet visit in the first few days after getting your pup home.
This ensures the health of the puppy and many times is required to maintain the terms of the contract you’ve signed.
This first vet visit should include:
- Weighing the puppy
- Check of heart and lungs
- Temperature check
- General body and genital check
- Teeth and mouth
- Palpate abdomen and the lymph nodes
- Fecal examination (for parasites)
- Continue vaccinations
- Discuss any questions with your vet
7. Do you provide a health guarantee and a contract?
Reputable breeders stand behind their puppies.
A breeder that has done all they can to ensure a healthy breeding has no reason not to offer a guarantee on a dog’s health.
Many times this guarantee will be for a certain number of years and guarantee a dog against congenital defects.
But a contract isn’t only used for health related issues.
It serves as a means of clearly outlining both interested parties’ expectations.
The breeder may require spay or neuter by a certain time, require feeding of certain dog food brands, or veterinary visits to maintain a valid contract.
Make sure you take the time to read and understand your contract.
The breeder should be more than willing to discuss any questions you have.
8. When will I be able to take the puppy home?
As hard as it is to wait, it’s detrimental, and many times illegal, to take a puppy away from its litter mates before 8 weeks of age.
It’s during this socialization period that the puppy learns from interactions with its litter mates, other dogs, and people and forms attitudes and behaviors they’ll keep as an adult dog.
As we’ve discussed earlier, a poorly socialized puppy can be a real headache for new puppy owners.
9. What do you provide with the sale of the puppy?
The breeder should send you home with:
- Health and Vaccine records
- Several days worth of current food
- A blanket or soft toy with the litters’ scent
Breeders commonly choose to also include:
- Leashes and collars
- Carrying bag
10. What requirements do you have of people looking to get one of your puppies?
Puppy ownership is a breeze.
Requires no work.
And is basically free.
Part of a breeders job is to help dispel unrealistic expectations of puppy ownership and encourage an educated decision when becoming a puppy parent.
Breeders should screen prospective buyers to make sure that they are ready to own a puppy and that the breeder’s puppies meet the buyers needs.
Many breeders have applications that serve as the start of this screening process.
Puppies require food, toys, and medical care.
They can’t be left alone for long periods of time.
They require stimulation and play along with dedicated training and they will chew and destroy things, however sweet they are.
A breeder that cares about their puppies will do their best to educate potential buyers on the realities of puppy ownership.
Realistic expectations helps ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.
Asking breeders this question will help determine if they are more concerned with making sales than they are about their puppies future well being.
11. Do you provide continued support after I get my puppy home?
Breeders that care about their dogs will be responsive to your questions both before and after you’ve bought a puppy from them.
How can you know that they won’t disappear as soon as the money is exchanged?
A few red flags would be:
- Lack of online presence
- Inactivity on online profiles
- Brand new pages
- No face to put with the name
- Unwilling to do video calls
The breeder may just be new but they may also be running a fly by night operation selling potentially unhealthy dogs raised in inhumane conditions.
You’re All Set!
Once you’ve screened your potential breeders you should have one you’ll be confident to buy from.
Experienced breeders will have recommendations for all your questions from potty training to crate training.
If the breeder has done their job both the puppy and new owner should feel confident in their new found situations.
Raising a new puppy may not always be easy, but it’s so worth it!
And with an experienced breeder on your side, you aren’t going it alone!