A question that I get in forums and groups is “how can you support reputable breeding and support dog rescue?” Many people feel that it’s either one or the other. We need to stop breeders from producing more dogs and find all the shelter/rescue dogs a home. That’s a great idea, but it’s just not possible, because there isn’t a consistent authority group who is going to make sure that people aren’t breeding. I believe that outlawing dog (or cat) breeding will result in a black market and that’s when puppy mills win.
This is what I think we should do…
It makes sense that we come together – dog rescue workers and reputable breeders. Together as a group we can (I hope) agree that there are two reasons why we have so many homeless pets:
- Irresponsible breeders and
- Dog owners who weren’t prepared for the responsibility of dog ownership and surrendered (or abandoned) their dog.
There are more reasons, but I think these are the first two. The dog lover community needs to work to educate people about dog ownership responsibilities. We need to help people understand the work and expense that goes into turning that sweet puppy face into a great dog. We also need to educate people about the dog rescue process and how to find a reputable breeder.
Some want to rescue, but have been turned away
I’ve connected with many aspiring dog owners who tried to adopt a dog, but were turned off by the many hoops that the rescue group wanted them to jump through. Personally, I can relate. One rescue group turned down our application, because we worked full time. They wanted one person in the home all day to be with the dog. I believe that these rescue groups mean well. Too many bad dog owners have inspired the strict rules that we experience.
My advice is not to give up.
Some People Want to Work with a Breeder
For a variety of reasons, some people prefer to buy a puppy from a breeder. It doesn’t sit well with me to attack someone’s choice. Instead, I would like to take the time to understand why they’re making this choice (it might surprise me) and then share what I know.
Going to a breeder doesn’t guarantee a perfectly behaved dog, a perfectly healthy dog, or a parvo free dog. These are just a few reasons I’ve heard recently. If a family would still like to work with a breeder after a polite, respectful discussion, then it’s our job to educate them about finding reputable dog breeders.
How to Find Reputable Dog Breeders
What breed appeals to you?
Decide which breed most appeals to you and will match your lifestyle. If you live in an apartment, you don’t want a Border Collie. Think about where you live, your family, your time, and your finances. Dogs aren’t cheap and they are work. They’re a tremendous amount of fun that has made every dollar and every moment a blessing, but they are work.
Research the breed…
When you decide which breed(s) appeal to you, do your homework. My boyfriend and I spent months researching dogs. We didn’t start out wanting Cattle Dogs. You can find dog breed books at your local used bookstore; I recommend buying several, because they’re all a little different. Once you narrow down your list, read books on specific breeds. Talk to your vet, connect with a trainer. We would go to the dog park and speak with the owners. Do your homework!
You want to know about a breed’s temperament, health issues, and what day to day life is like living with your future dog.
When you choose THE breed…
I recommend contacting a local, respected veterinarian for breeder recommendations. You may even be able to contact the rescue group for that breed. They can put you in touch with good breeders or – BONUS!!! – you may be able to adopt from them!
You can also go to the American Kennel Club (AKC.org) to find local breeders. I’ve been to the site and it has tons of great information, but I’ve also been told that there are unqualified breeders who are listed in the breeder director. I don’t know if this is true, however, the below steps will help you identify a reputable breeder.
Identifying Reputable Dog Breeders
Reputable dog breeders will…
- Show you around their property
- Introduce you to the parents of the puppies
- Show you the pedigree of the parents
- Show proof that both parents have been tested and found to be free of the hereditary disease(s) before they were bred
- Provides health certifications of their dogs including the shots and deworming records of the puppies
- Will give you the name of the veterinarian who cared for the puppies in the litter
- Have references
- Take a puppy back that isn’t a good fit
Questions you can ask a dog breeder…
- Does the breeder do health certifications (these differ between breeds) and certifications of all breeding stock?
- What are the goals of their breeding program?
- How are pups reared?
- Does the breeder do character tests prior to placement?
- Does the breeder offer a contract for health or temperament?
- Can you speak to prior puppy buyers for reference?
- May we review the contract before committing?
Reputable dog breeders require that the dog come back to them, not go to rescue or rehomed.
Reputable dog breeders know they are responsible for the lives of each and every puppy they produce, from the “cradle to the grave” so to speak. If that is not part of the puppy purchase, then that is not a good, reputable breeder.
If you come across a breeder who raises a red flag…
- Move on! You can also contact the local breed club for input. As hard as it may be, do not buy a puppy because you “feel sorry” for it. You are only keeping that breeder in business!
- Report the breeder to the authorities. In my area, I would call 911 if I came across a potential puppy mill. If you’re unsure who to call, dial 911 and say “non-emergency” – although it’s going to feel like a BIG emergency – and report what you saw and ask for directions on what to do next.
- Contact the ASPCA equivalent in your area.
Thank you to Annette Holbrook and Sandy Weaver Carman for your help with this article.
About Annette Holbrook:
Annette and her husband have been training and competing with working dogs and K9 units for many years. They also own a private dog club that offers training, daycare, boarding and a 12 acre off leash park. They also are on the board of our local Schutzhund club (a sport for working dogs). Annette used to breed Beaucerons and her husband has bred German Shepherds. They no longer breed (no time) but advise clients, police departments and club members on finding a puppy for their needs.
Annette adds that a puppy purchase is a big commitment. A buyer needs to spend the time and do the research. They need to determine their budget and find the best they can within that budget.
Understanding the specific aspects of their breed of choice is a must. When all is said and done however, it is a live being and the breeding and the first 8 weeks are just a start. The initial rearing and training in the first months home can undo all the hard work a breeder has put behind the pedigree.
About Sandy Weaver Carman:
Sandy has had Siberian Huskies for 33 years, and has bred and owned many Champions, Working titled dogs and obedience and agility titled dogs. She’s currently the Education Chairman for the Siberian Husky Club of America and an AKC licensed judge.