When you decide to bring a new puppy (or adult dog) into your home, you are not looking for a new possession, but for a new family member. Because your puppy represents a big emotional as well as financial investment, you will want to buy from a responsible breeder - one who has put his/her knowledge and experience into producing a litter that will be a credit to the breed and treasures to their owners.

But what exactly is a responsible breeder? A responsible breeder is one who always puts the best interests of the breed and of individual dogs first, above any consideration of profit, trendiness, or personal ambition. A responsible breeder does not produce a litter just to have pups to sell or just because a bitch happened to come in season. He/she produces a litter only after careful consideration of the physical qualities and temperament of the proposed parents, their individual strengths and weaknesses, how their pedigrees (ancestors) relate, and what the proposed breeding would contribute to the improvement of the breed. This is often a difficult and time-consuming process, therefore, it is not surprising to find that a responsible breeder considers the puppies as his/her "kids" and wants only the best homes for them.

A responsible breeder should be eager and able to provide detailed information about the breed(s) he/she is involved with, as well as information about the parents of the pup. Answering what may seem like "stupid" questions from a novice should not be a problem for the responsible breeder - it is an opportunity to educate that can never be taken lightly. This educational responsibility also include information about the negative aspects of a breed (amount of coat care needed, shedding, barking, unsuitability for small children or apartment living, etc). Beware of the breeder who claims his/her breed has no bad points, or is "perfect" for everyone.

A responsible breeder is also aware that all dogs, purebred or not, carry genetic flaws, just as humans do. The breeder must be knowledgeable about which flaws are most prevalent in his/her breed. Genetic testing is available to screen for many of these problems. The responsible breeder should make use of the tests that are available for his/her breed before a planned litter is produced. It is not possible to produce 100% genetically perfect dogs - but it is possible to screen out, or reduce the incidence of, genetic problems by pre-testing the prospective parents. Once the litter is born, the responsible breeder will ensure that the pups get the best possible start in life. This includes providing clean, suitable housing with temperature control, clean parasite-free bedding, nourishing food, fresh water, veterinary care (including vaccinations at the proper time), and lots of human attention and love. Good written records should be kept on each pup. This may include records of temperament testing as well as inoculation, worming, and weight and growth.

A responsible breeder searches for prospective owners for the pups he/she does not intend to keep. You can be sure that a responsible breeder will want to know as much about you, the prospective buyer, as possible. A responsible breeder's worst nightmare is to have one of his/her pups in an unsuitable home, unloved and uncared for, or worse yet, in a humane shelter or pound! So don't be surprised to be given the "third degree" by a breeder. Questions about your home, family and work schedule; veterinary or personal references; and possibly a home visit by the breeder, are all designed to help the breeder get to know you, in order to match you with the puppy "most likely to succeed" in your individual situation.

Most responsible breeders will provide some type of guarantee on their pups. These guarantees can range from a simple health warranty, to full money-back or exchange privileges, depending on circumstances. The good breeder wants you and your pup to be happy with each other. But the buyer must understand that not even the world's greatest breeder can guarantee a perfect puppy. Such a creature does not exist. (If it did, the breeder would keep it!) A responsible breeder does not bring puppies into the world without making some personal commitment towards their well-being for the length of their lifetimes. This being the case, you have a right to expect that the breeder will at least assist you in finding a new home for a pup that doesn't work out, or if your situation changes and you can no longer keep you pup. Also, a responsible breeder should help you deal with unusual or inherited health problems that may arise - if only to give experienced advice and veterinary referrals.


So where do you find one of these wonderful people? If you have a friend or neighbor whose dog you admire, ask to be referred to the breeder. Word of mouth can be an excellent referral method, especially since many of the better breeders do not advertise widely (they don't have to!).

Lacking a personal referral, one of the best place to initiate your search for the purebred dog of your dreams is at a purebred dog registry, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC)

In your local area, you may find a kennel club listed in the telephone directory. Check the Yellow Pages under such headings as "Dog Breeders Information & Referral" or "Dog Training". If you cannot find a listing for a local club, try to attend a dog show in your area. The dog show catalog will list all the owners of dogs entered at the show, with their addresses. While all the owners are not necessarily breeders, you can often get a referral to a good breeder through them.

What about the classified ads? Some national publications which are available at newsstands, such as Dog World and Dog Fancy have many ads for purebred dogs. Because these publications cannot screen their advertisers very closely, you must be cautious. Beware of breeders who advertise "rare" colors (which may actually be incorrect colors for that breed), or those who advertise several different breeds. Your local newspaper probably has lots of classified ads for purebred puppies. Here again, caution is in order. You may well find a responsible breeder in these ads, but many of these advertisers are "backyard" breeders. The advertiser may be someone who bred the family pet so his/her children could witness "the miracle of birth," and is now stuck with a litter which can't be cared for. These pups are often of poor quality and may be lacking such basics as inoculations and registration papers. The breeders are unlikely to be willing to stand behind their pups if anything goes wrong, and may be unable to help you with detailed breed information or advice.

If you bear in mind that you are looking not just for the first cute puppy you see (they're all cute at the puppy stage), but for a permanent member of your family, with patience and common sense you will find a good breeder. The effort will be well worth it. This breeder will not only have the pup you've been wishing for, but will also provide support in the form of knowledge, experience and commitment that will make your relationship with your pup a lifelong success.