Signs of a Responsible Breeder – American Kennel Club (2023)

For the uninitiated, expertise imparts a shroud of mystery: If you have no idea what a carburetor is, or think a meniscus is a sport they play at the Olympics, how in the world do you pick the best car mechanic or orthopedic surgeon?

Dog breeders present an even more vexing conundrum: There’s no perfect directory to help you find a responsible, reputable breeder. Instead, you’re going to have to do some research, leavened with a dollop of good, old-fashioned gut instinct.

Here are some considerations to guide you in your search.

Show Me Who Your Friends Are

It’s human nature: Like-minded individuals who share the same values and goals are drawn to one another. For their part, breeders often belong to their breed’s parent club – the organization recognized by the American Kennel Club as the official steward of the breed in the United States. To join a parent club, members often must sign a code of ethics that usually includes mandated health testing and a disavowal of “fads.” (More on that later.)

(Video) What Responsible Breeders Really Do

Beyond basic membership, look to see how involved a breeder is. Does she belong to any committees or hold any offices? Does she volunteer to help put on any club activities? Does she attend the national specialty, which is an annual show that gathers all the breed faithful? Does she belong to any regional or local clubs for the breed?

A caveat: While belonging to a parent club is a good sign, it shouldn’t be your only criterion. The occasional bad apple can find its way into any club. And, conversely, some very respected and successful breeders do not belong to their breed club because of politics and personality conflicts. But a breeder should have some involvement in the dog fancy at large, such as membership in an all-breed dog club, or a performance or obedience club.

The underlying question is: Has this breeder done anything to give back to the breed?

Signs of a Responsible Breeder – American Kennel Club (1)

Experience Counts

Obviously, the longer a breeder has been breeding, the more experience he has, and the easier it will be to research him. Oftentimes, skimming his Facebook page will give you a good sense of how well regarded he is, and by whom: Look for comments from fellow breeders who themselves appear well established and reputable.

Long-time breeders will often have waiting lists of repeat customers who understandably will be given priority over newcomers. So don’t discount a breeder just because he is new and having his first litter. We all have to start somewhere. If he is doing things right, he will almost always have an established mentor or co-breeder who is guiding him. Ask about that individual, and then do some more research.

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While breeders should be very knowledgeable about their breed, no one – no matter what their experience level – knows the answer to every question. What’s most important is having a network of smart and responsive peers to rely on for guidance in situations they haven’t yet encountered.

Tradition Over Trends

Reputable breeders have one goal in mind: To produce healthy, and physically and behaviorally stable dogs that meet the standard – the written description of the breed. Most would rather gnaw broken glass than purposefully breed for any trait that defies the requirements of the standard.

Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who is actively marketing puppies that deviate from the breed standard. This includes Toy dog breeders who boast about their “teacups”: These cleverly marketed runts are susceptible to a variety of health problems – starting with the inability to maintain their blood-sugar levels – and are not a recognized size in any breed.

Fad colors should also send you streaking for the exit. The only reason to intentionally perpetuate them is to cash in on the naiveté of buyers who are willing to pay top dollar because of their “rarity.”

Signs of a Responsible Breeder – American Kennel Club (2)

Healthy Habits

Dogs are living beings, not widgets on a shelf, and as a result, breeders can’t control everything that happens with them. Nature can be cruel, and sometimes unforeseen health issues develop in the most carefully contemplated breedings. What breeders can do is ensure that the dogs in their breeding programs are as healthy as possible.

(Video) What Responsible Breeders Really Do

There are two kinds of tests for breeding stock: Health screenings, such as hip X-rays and blood tests for thyroid levels, can confirm that a dog is free from disease; while that does not guarantee that the dog won’t produce that defect in its offspring, it certainly improves those chances. DNA or genetic tests can determine if a dog is a carrier for a particular disease or disorder; by knowing the genetic status their dogs, the breeder can effectively prevent a disease from manifesting. (Paging Gregor Mendel: This doesn’t mean breeders must remove carriers from their programs: Instead, in the case of recessive traits, which require “two to tango,” breeders can simply breed carriers to non-carriers without any chance of disease manifesting.)

Organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, or OFA, maintain databases of the tests that breeders do on their dogs. Be sure to look not just for your potential puppy’s parents, but their siblings and ancestors: You want to see evidence of a long-established family of dogs with documented health testing that goes back for many generations. (In the case of long-established breeds, this might encompass many decades.)

Seeing Is Believing

Before COVID, many breeders required potential puppy buyers to visit their home or kennel as part of their screening process. Today, these introductions often take place via Zoom, and access to the parents and puppies is understandably more limited. Still, you can request to see videos of the dogs. Pay particular attention to the environment and the dogs themselves. Does the house or kennel look clean? Do the puppies appear to be in good weight, lively and vigorous?

Keep in mind that the sire of the litter is often not on the premises, as a breeder’s criteria in planning a mating revolve around finding the most suitable match – not the most convenient one. But the mother should be there, interacting with her puppies, and appearing comfortable and settled.

For her part, the breeder should be just as interested in assessing you as a suitable home. Expect lots of questions about previous dogs you have owned, the number of people in your household and their ages, your work schedule, where the puppy will live, and how it will be trained and socialized. Breeders whose first questions are about how soon you can leave a deposit are giving you a very clear signal of their priorities. Also beware of breeders who place puppies before they are eight weeks old. Puppies need this time with their littermates to learn proper canine manners. Because of slow maturity rates, toy-dog breeders will often hold their puppies back for as long as 12 weeks.

Signs of a Responsible Breeder – American Kennel Club (3)

"Last one to the finish line has to take a bath first!"

(Video) How to find out if a dog breeder is legitimate

Sign Here, Please

Reputable breeders require buyers to sign a contract, whether they are acquiring a show dog or a family pet. (And many dogs are both!) The contract will outline the basics about the puppy – including the names of both parents and the puppy’s AKC registration number – and will always include a return-to-breeder clause: No matter how old the dog, no matter what the reason, reputable breeders require that any dog they bred be returned to them. In this way, they keep track of and take responsibility for all the dogs they have brought into this world, and do not contribute to the rescue problem.

Who You Gonna Call?

Even after completing all your due diligence, choosing the right breeder can still feel overwhelming. And that’s perfectly normal. After all, a puppy is more than a product, and a breeder is more than a salesperson: This is someone who should be a valuable resource and mentor for you throughout the life of your dog. In such a long-term situation, personalities matter. No matter how well recommended and well regarded a breeder is, if you don’t hit it off, that’s as good a reason as any to keep searching.

One tried-and-true approach is to ask yourself this question: If I had an emergency with my puppy in the middle of the night, would I feel comfortable calling this person? If the answer is yes, then you may need to look no further.

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(Video) AKC Breeder Webinar: Are you ready to breed a litter?


How do you know if it is a responsible breeder? ›

Most reliable breeders earn their reputation by providing healthy pups to good homes resulting in “word of mouth” references. Meet breeders at local dog shows or look online for local breed clubs and review the AKC Breeder Referral page on their website

What defines a responsible dog breeder? ›

Responsible breeders provide their dogs with a high quality of care, which includes: Providing all dogs with quality food, clean water, proper shelter, exercise, socialization and professional veterinary care. Keeping dogs clean and well-groomed. Raising dogs intended to be pets in a home environment.

What are 2 red flags that you might be dealing with a puppy mill breeder? ›

Look for these red flags:
  • The seller has many types of purebreds or “designer” hybrid breeds being sold at less than six weeks old.
  • Breeders who are reluctant to show potential customers the entire premises on which animals are being bred and kept.
  • Breeders who don't ask a lot of questions of potential buyers.

What are 4 signs of a facility acting as a puppy mill? ›

How to Tell if Your Dog Is from a Puppy Mill
  • They Don't Know, or Don't Share The Puppy's Parents. ...
  • The Breeders Won't Let You See The Kennel. ...
  • They Focus on More Than One Breed. ...
  • They Don't Ask You to Sign Paperwork. ...
  • They Offer The Puppy When It's Too Young. ...
  • The Pup Hasn't Had Its Shots.
Nov 23, 2016

How do you tell if a breeder is scamming you? ›

Signs of a possible scam include:
  1. You find the "seller" through an e-commerce marketplace. ...
  2. You're required to make a deposit before contact. ...
  3. Puppies are available immediately. ...
  4. The cost seems too good to be true. ...
  5. Dogs must be shipped. ...
  6. Photos of the animal seem illegitimate. ...
  7. Payment is requested in gift cards.
Feb 15, 2022

What is an unethical breeder? ›

Unethical breeders -

Unethical breeders give little to no concern about the welfare of animals. They breed dogs without considering the genetic traits they pass on to their offspring. They do not provide proper medical care or adequate, clean, and safe housing.

How many litters does a responsible breeder have? ›

Responsible breeders will ensure that female dogs are bred no more than once per year, and typically will breed no more than two, maybe three litters per year so they can ensure they have enough time to dedicate to raising them properly. Any more than that is indicative of a commercial operation or puppy farming.

How do I prove I am responsible enough for a dog? ›

Prove to your parents that you're responsible.

Start by completing all of your household tasks, without being nagged to do so. Make your bed, pick up your room, take out the trash, and do the dishes. You might even get extra credit for taking on additional chores.

What are 3 characteristics of being a responsible pet owner? ›

Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship. Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s). Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation. Properly socialize and train your pet.

How do you tell if a kennel is a puppy mill? ›

Here are 9 ways to see if that sweet puppy is from a puppy mill.
  1. Puppies Are Unclean or Unhealthy. ...
  2. Puppies Aren't Vaccinated. ...
  3. Puppy Mill Owners Won't Meet You At Home. ...
  4. Puppy's Parents Aren't Present. ...
  5. Pet Store Puppies are Usually from Mills. ...
  6. Multiple Breeds are Available. ...
  7. Many Litters Can Be Found.

What should you not say to a breeder? ›

Don't use commodified terms – like “stock” or “product”. Don't expect to turn up, pay money, and get a puppy. That is not how the process works. We don't need to get the puppy 'off our hands', so don't bargain or haggle.

What should I look for when picking up a puppy from a breeder? ›

In order to select a healthy puppy, it is important to do your research:
  1. Talk to the owner. Ask about appetite and eliminations. ...
  2. Observe the litter mates in action. Do they all play together or is there a quiet one that retreats to a corner? ...
  3. Survey their overall appearance. Do the puppies' coats shine? ...
  4. Watch them move.

What are red flags in puppies? ›

Growling, snapping, biting, stiffening, cowering, lunging, prolonged alarm barking, prolonged raising of hackles in response to people or animals. Seek behavioral help NOW.

How do you tell if a puppy has been neglected? ›

Signs of Animal Abuse
  1. Tucked tail, flinches at human contact.
  2. Unexplained fractures or limping.
  3. Unprovoked aggression, whining, or whimpering.
  4. Overly submissive (rolling onto back, tail tucked, urinating)
  5. Suddenly avoiding any physical contact.
  6. Attempts to bite or scratch when petted.
Sep 6, 2018

How do you validate a dog breeder? ›

All reputable rehoming organisations will have a unique RON number that must be included in their advertisements (or provide microchip details for the specific animal). In NSW, you can visit Pet Registery NSW to verify a microchip or RON number.

Is it normal for a breeder to ask for a deposit? ›

Following an accepted puppy application, most breeders require a deposit to hold a puppy or to hold your spot in line if there is a waitlist. Most often this deposit is nonrefundable. Finally, many breeders require further payments once your puppy is older.

What is a code of ethics breeder? ›

1. A breeder should plan each breeding with the paramount intention of improving the breed. 2. A breeder should select sire and dam with an eye to conformation, temperament, and working ability with a careful study of the ASCA Breed Standard, pedigrees, and basic principles of genetics.

Can you report irresponsible breeders? ›

Walk away and report your concerns to the local authority or Trading Standards team, to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or to the police on 101.

What is breeder mentality? ›

Breeder is a pejorative term coined by homosexual people particularly for parents who purportedly over-focus on their children and allegedly abandon their previous friends and lifestyle; or to women who give birth to many children, often with the derisive implication that they have too many offspring.

How many litters can you breed without a license? ›

A breeding licence is required for anyone breeding three or more litters in a 12-month period and/or anyone that breeds dogs and advertises a business of selling dogs.

How long should a breeder wait between litters? ›

Back in the day (and between myself and Hariamrit, we can go waaaaaay back!), best practice for breeding was to wait until a dog was at least 2-4 years old, had at least 3 heat cycles to breed, and also to skip at least 1 cycle between litters.

What is considered over breeding a dog? ›

However, an overbred dog occurs when a bloodline is continuously mated with disregard for the quality of the breeding stock. It is a practice of negligence and exploitation. Overbreeding endangers and harms the mother and her puppies, and can lead to the development of health issues.

How can you tell if you are a responsible owner of a pet? ›

10 Ways to Tell You're a Responsible Pet Owner
  1. You Invest in Your Pet's Basic Needs. ...
  2. You Establish a Routine with Your Pet. ...
  3. You Take the Time to Properly Train Your Pet. ...
  4. You Enrich Your Pet's Environment. ...
  5. You Care About Your Pet's Health. ...
  6. You Schedule Regular Vet Visits. ...
  7. You Prepare for Emergencies.

How do you prove your pet is yours? ›

Establish your ownership rights through the following:
  1. Registration. Registration is not always mandatory. ...
  2. Veterinary records. ...
  3. Microchipping. ...
  4. Tags. ...
  5. A recent photo of your pet. ...
  6. Adoption or purchase records. ...
  7. Consider a pet agreement form.

How do you prove that you are responsible for a pet? ›

One of the best ways to show your parents that you're responsible enough for a pet is to take care of a pet! Offer to pet sit for a friend or family member for a few days. It will give your parents a chance to see your responsibility in action and it also gives you a chance to see what it's like to care for a pet.

What are the most important parts of responsible pet ownership? ›

Make sure pets get regular veterinary care along with a good diet, fresh water, shelter, and exercise. Many pets need routine vaccinations, de-worming, and flea and tick control to protect them, and their owners, from certain diseases.

What should a responsible dog owner do? ›

keep your dog under control at all times. provide proper care and attention to your dog. provide sufficient kai, water and shelter to your dog. provide adequate exercise to your dog.

What makes someone a backyard breeder? ›

A backyard breeder is an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided effort towards ethical, selective breeding.

What is the difference between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill? ›

A good breeder will almost always have a lot of questions for you about why you're interested in their breed and their dogs. They'll want to know a lot about your lifestyle and will work to match you with the right dog. A puppy mill, meanwhile, will simply sell you a puppy for the right price.

Does AKC registered mean not puppy mill? ›

While many people believe AKC registration means their puppies came from reputable breeders, being AKC-registered means nothing more than your puppy's parents both had AKC papers. While there are some AKC standards, they do not restrict puppy mills from producing AKC-registered dogs.

What do breeders want to hear? ›

Ask Any & All Questions

For prospective puppy owners, that wealth of information is an incredible resource. So, breeders encourage buyers to ask anything and everything that they might want to know. This includes questions about temperament, training, care, nutrition, exercise, or anything else.

Do dog breeders give refunds? ›

Not every breeder's contract is the same, but the most common way for breeders to structure the return or rehoming of a puppy is to refund the buyer based on what the breeder is able to resell the dog for minus any costs incurred such as transportation or boarding.

Is it OK to give a puppy back to the breeder? ›

Circumstances, where you should be able to return the dog, include an illness not being mentioned or discovered by the breeder but was present during their care of the dog. If this is just a minor cold or something that will pass without required treatment, then return should not be an option as this is circumstantial.

How do you tell if a breeder is a good breeder? ›

Check that the breeder is affiliated with the local and national breed clubs and a national kennel club (such as the AKC). Most importantly, make sure you visit the breeding facility and meet the puppies' parents (mother at least).

How do I make sure my puppy breeder is legit? ›

Do your research. Ask if the breeder is a member of an AKC-affiliated club and contact that club to verify membership or check recent listings of available AKC Litters from breeders. You can also check with the BBB ( and the AKC (919-233-9767) to see if there are any complaints about the breeder.

How do you identify a good breeder? ›

Tips for Finding and Working With a Responsible Breeder
  1. Meet the Breeder. ...
  2. Ask questions. ...
  3. See the pup's parents. ...
  4. Get a full medical history. ...
  5. Be patient. ...
  6. Check out our Breeder of Merit and Bred with H.E.A.R.T Programs.

How can you tell if a puppy is going to be aggressive? ›

The most common aggressive puppy behaviour warning signs include snarling, growling, mounting, snapping, nipping, lip curling, lunging, dominant body language/play, challenging stance, dead-eye stare, aggressive barking, possessiveness, and persistent biting/mouthing.

What is not normal puppy behavior? ›

Besides stealing and playing keep-away, common puppy behavior problems include lack of house-training, hyperactivity, nipping, chewing, eating feces and getting sick in the car. Lack of house-training usually stems from giving the puppy too much freedom too quickly.

How does a dog apologize? ›

One of the common ways your dog will try to say sorry is by making “puppy eyes” or tucking its tail between its legs. Avoiding eye contact and lowering their ears are also common ways for dogs to apologize. They also watch for your reaction.

Can you traumatize a puppy? ›

Like humans, traumatized cats and dogs can develop fear and anxiety disorders, says Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

What does a guilty dog look like? ›

The “guilty” dog may squint his eyes and blink more frequently. He may also avoid eye contact or lower his head and look at you with the whites of his eyes exposed. He may press his ears back, closer to his head. He may lick his lips and yawn, lower his tail and sink to the ground in a cowering motion.

What to check before buying a puppy from a breeder? ›

Ask about health checks, worming and vaccinations and what documents will come home with your puppy. A good breeder will make sure all puppies have a full veterinary health check and are microchipped, vaccinated and treated for worms and fleas before they are sold, and will provide you with records of these treatments.

What papers should you ask from a breeder? ›

When you pick up your new purebred puppy from a registered breeder, you should receive pedigree papers. These are sometimes known as “breeder papers” or a “pedigree certificate”. Certified purebred dog breeders often supply pedigree papers to guarantee the pedigree of their puppies.

What is a standard breeder guarantee for a dog? ›

RETURN AND REPLACE: The most commonly offered type of guarantee, this allows you to return your puppy if diagnosed to be suffering from a congenital disorder covered by the guarantee. This is for a limited time period (usually 1 – 3 years) and normally covers things like crippling hip displasia.

What makes a registered breeder reputable? ›

A responsible, ethical breeder:

Has facilities that are clean and spacious and their dogs are healthy and well socialized. Keeps puppies clean, warm, well-fed and allows them to stay with their mother until they are weaned. Doesn't allow puppies to go to new homes before 8 weeks of age.

What information should a breeder give you? ›

Responsible breeders will provide you with written advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and immunisation.


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