A responsible breeder will be more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding a potential puppy. Whether you purchase your dog from a kennel or a neighbor, reputable breeders care more about finding GOOD homes for their dogs than making a profit. Therefore, if your breeder does not ask YOU questions regarding their puppies' potential living situation, be guarded. High prices do not necessarily equate to high quality dogs, although you can expect to pay on average between $500 and $3000 for a pure bred dog.
Pay attention to words like, "always" and "never." A breeder that has been breeding a particular breed for any length of time will have, at some point, had a problem either with genetics or random health problems. If a breeder says, "We've NEVER had a problem, " he/she is most likely hiding something.
Keep in mind the type of breeder you are looking for. Find one that not only has the quality of dog you are looking for, but also one who fits your personality. A good breeder should be involved with you and your family for the life of the puppy. Breeders can be the best source of information regarding your particular breed of dog.
Reputable breeders are often FANATICAL about their particular breed of dog. If a breeder breeds more than one breed of dog in one kennel, be wary. Puppy mills and pet farms often breed several different breeds of dogs in order to increase the profits without any regard to the dogs or the breed standards.
Cleanliness is also important when visiting a potential breeder's kennel. You cannot have too high of expectations when it comes to a healthy environment. The bedding and play area should be relatively clean and free of foul odor. The coats of the puppies should be free of fecal material and should not be matted. The parents of the litter should also be clean and groomed.
Puppies should be at least 7 weeks of age and not more than 9 weeks of age when they are sent to new homes. It is important that young puppies stay with their littermates and mother for those first 7 weeks to gain proper communication skills with his/her own species. At 7 weeks of age, puppies have had sufficient exposure to their littermates and are ready to meet the rest of the world! Puppies older than 9 weeks have already begun to create their own impression of the world and if they have only seen their kennel, they are at risk of being undersocialized. The socialization window begins to close at about 12 weeks of age. It is important that your young puppy get as many experiences with you and the big world outside the kennel as possible before it becomes a socialization nightmare!.
The following questions are designed to help you choose a reputable breeder. Feel free to ask these questions and as many others as you can think of until you are fully satisfied with the breeder. DO NOT rush into a puppy purchase because the puppy is "cute." Make sure the breeder knows what he/she is doing. Please keep in mind, genetics are not 100% guaranteed. All the research in the world cannot spare you against random acts of mother nature. All you can do is try your best to weed out the "back-yard" breeders and find a breeder that meets your high standards. These questions may seem "excessive", however, many problems that arise in a dog-human relationship stems from bad breeding. If you do your research properly you can narrow down or even eliminate potential problems before they start.
1. How long have you been breeding this particular breed? What trait do you breed for? Size? Temperament? Show Quality? Service Dogs? Companion?
2. How many litters are you expecting? How old is the bitch / stud? What are their temperaments like? Did you buy stud or are the sires part of your kennel? What is the size and particular coloration of the bitch/stud?
3. How many litters have each bitch/sire had in the past? Have the litters been fairly uniform (i.e., size, overall quality, etc?) If they are proven, how many pups did they whelp and what was the sex ratio? How many times a year do you breed each bitch? Is there a resting period between heat cycles?
4. What is your socialization process and how early does it start? How many different people handle the pups (i.e., men, women, children, etc.)?
5. Do your dogs spend the majority of the time in their kennels or are they a part of your family? How many dogs (adult and otherwise) do you care for at one time?
6. What has been your past experience with hip/elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, epilepsy, and other common breed-related problems? Have there been any incidences of these problems in the lines you are currently expecting litters from? Have the parents of the upcoming litter been OFA Certified for hips / elbows? What was their rating? Have their eyes been CERF'ed? What about the parents of the bitch and sire? Had they been fully tested? You need to research your breed and find out common problems for that particular breed and ask the breeder questions regarding these health issues. ASK TO SEE PAPERWORK! Of course you want to trust your breeder, but there are many bad breeders who will try to scam you into believing what they are selling. A REPUTABLE BREEDER WILL BE ABLE TO PRODUCE PAPERWORK! OFA Certifications for parents, grandparents, etc., CERF exam findings, and AKC Pedigrees. ASK TO SEE IT. Reputable breeders will ONLY breed lines with OFA "Good" or "Excellent" hips. A "Fair", "Poor", or "Dysplastic" OFA should be avoided, especially in large breeds.
7. When do we pay for our puppy and how much would a male / female cost? How old are the puppies when they are sent to new homes?
8. What is the average life span of your dogs and what do they typically die from?
9. What is your vaccination / deworming protocol for your puppies and your adult dogs? When was the bitch last vaccinated and how soon after that was she bred? Do you vaccinate your dogs or does your veterinarian do this?
10. Will you be having an ultrasound done to confirm pregnancy or will you just "wait and see?"
11. How will you know what type of puppy my family is looking for? Is there a questionnaire or an application process? How do we go about picking out a puppy or do you pick one for us? Do you send out videotapes, pictures, etc.?
12. Do you have a list of people who have recently purchased a dog from you and may I contact any of them as references (people with young puppies from your kennel as well as dogs that are now adults)?
13. Have you ever had a dog returned to you for any reason? If so, why?
14. Do you have any kind of health guarantee?
15. May I call your veterinarian?