- Ask people who have well-tempered, healthy dogs of the breed you want. Attend dog shows and talk to people. Talk with veterinarians, trainers, groomers and day care operators to see who they might know and recommend.
- Check reviews for breeders online — not just on the breeder’s website, but do some extended searching.
- Call the breeder(s) you are interested in and talk to them. Ask a number of questions:
- How many litters do they breed each bitch for per year and at what age do they retire them from breeding?
- Where do they keep the puppies and mothers (in their home, a breeding kennel, barn, etc.)?
- What do they do for neurological stimulation, enrichment and socialization before they sell their puppies?
- What veterinary care will the puppies have before they are sold? Ask to see all health certificates and testing for the parents and puppies.
- See where the puppies and mother are kept. Is it clean? Is it a stimulating or stark environment? Is there human activity and interaction with the puppies?
- Meet at least the mother and find out something about the father. If either parent shows signs of being asocial, fearful or aggressive, don’t buy their offspring!
- Does the breeder ask you questions about your lifestyle, dog-owning experience, why you want a dog, etc.? Quality breeders want to make a good match.
- Ask the breeder if they will take back the dog at any point if there are problems or your circumstances change. (Great breeders always stand behind their dogs for life.)
- Will the breeder send you updates and keep you informed on how your chosen puppy is doing before going home with you? Do they encourage you to make several visits before taking your puppy home?
Picking Up Your Puppy
- Your puppy should not leave his mother and littermates before eight weeks of age. Period. Earlier or much later exposes your puppy to socialization risks. The first 12 weeks of your puppy’s life are incredibly important to his overall development. Refer to our Your Puppy’s Development Stages handout for much more detail on the Whys and Wherefores of this advice.
- Go to the breeder’s home to pick-up your puppy. Don’t meet the breeder somewhere else. There’s a number of reasons for this, but the big ones are to limit your puppy’s exposure to infection in public places and to ensure you are getting the puppy you agreed to buy.
- Give your puppy some downtime after coming home, but not too much. You want your puppy to be exposed to the people and places that will be a regular part of his life.
- Get started on training, socialization and enrichment as soon as possible. Our Puppy PLUS class is a great way to do that. Plan ahead, though, as class fills up.
- Get your puppy to your veterinarian for a check up, vaccination boosters and fecal test soon. Even if there are no vaccinations needed, it’s a great way to do a Happy Visit to set the right tone for your puppy’s relationship with your veterinarian.
Well-bred Dogs Are Expensive
The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is never more true than it is for buying a purebred puppy. Breeding temperamentally and physically sound dogs is an expensive process. Expect to pay more than $1000 for a puppy — more for certain breeds. If you make price a primary decision criteria, you may well be paying for that choice in the long run with expensive veterinary care and/or training and behavior modification services. Sound too expensive? Then we encourage you to work with local rescues and shelters to adopt a puppy.
For more information on identifying reputable, quality breeders, please refer to this blog post from Dr. Nancy Kay and this piece from the Humane Society of the United States.