A few months ago, I was at a dog show. It was the Staffordshire Bull Terrier National Specialty. i have owned and lived with Staffords for the last 16 years. I love the breed, and enjoy going to our national club’s show as well as local club shows because the Stafford is a breed that is relatively small in numbers in the States. So when you go to a Specialty, there is a much higher number of dogs than what you’d see at an all breed show. While I was ringside, I sat and listened to many of the owners, some who are breeders, others who are both breeders and judges, talk about the dogs. This is a breed with history, and the people who love them are extremely devoted to the dogs. As I listened, I overheard some of the people who had been in the breed much longer than I – they are able to talk about the breed standard as if memorized, they can look at a dog and say, “that dog goes back to CH so and so from…” etc. Breeders look at their dog and say things like, “oh, yes she makes that face – that is her mother in her” or “she sounds just like her aunt,” etc. My point in mentioning these commentaries is that I was struck by how observant these people were, and how they knew their dogs, really knew them inside and out, knew the lines they came from, where certain mannerisms come from, where a likeness stood out from the past. It stirred me to think about what good, responsible breeders do.

As a trainer, I work with all dogs, purebred, mixed breed, dogs of unknown background and heritage, dogs that have come from great breeders, dogs that have come from not-so-great breeders, dogs who were the product of irresponsible and unplanned breedings, dogs from cruelty and neglect cases, dogs from pet stores, dogs who were given away…you name it, trainers have worked with it. As a pet owner myself, I have owned both purebred and rescued/adopted animals. I am often asked by prospective new dog parents, “where should I get a dog from?” So, here I am writing the first in a series – which will include segments on purchasing a dog from a breeder, selecting a dog from a shelter, and selecting a dog from a rescue. This article will focus on considerations when making an educated purchase from good breeders. When I purchased my first purebred dog – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 16 years ago, I knew nothing about buying a dog from a breeder. I made a lot of mistakes. I still ended up with one of the most fantastic dogs to have ever walked this earth, my dear sweet Rumble. My clients have often asked me how do they know if a breeder is a good, reputable one. This article will contain some info on what prospective puppy buyers should consider. Where you choose to get a dog from is a personal decision; regardless of where you decide to get a dog or puppy from, you should go into this decision with as much knowledge as possible.

If you are new to purchasing a dog, and have never bought a purebred dog before, it might be helpful to know: What do good breeders do?

Contract/purchase agreement
When you buy a dog, most breeders will have a contract of some sort. The contract or purchase agreement will include information about health, training or showing obligations, spay/neuter requirements, your responsibilities as a new owner, and the obligations of the breeder, as well as the agreed upon cost of the dog, among other things. You should read the agreement carefully before signing and agreeing to the purchase. Ask questions ahead of time from the breeder so there is no confusion about your responsibilities and that of the breeder’s.

Health testing
A good, reputable breeder will health test his dogs. This may include things like testing for specific conditions that may be more common in the breed. If you research your breed first, you will know which health issues your chosen breed may be prone to. Testing can include things such as health screening for: juvenile cataracts, hip dysplasia, heart conditions, specific medical conditions that may affect your breed, orthopedic conditions, etc. A breeder will disclose to you what tests your puppy may have already had, and what tests the parents of the pup have had.

A good breeder will guarantee that the puppy is healthy at the time of purchase in his/her purchase contract. A guarantee means they are selling you a dog that is free of contagious disease and any known medical conditions. It may mean that if something does come up that the breeder was unaware of, he/she will take the dog back, replace the pup, or refund your money. Read your contract carefully and discuss it with your breeder before signing.

Assess temperament
Reputable breeders are assessing personalities and temperament of their pups and will gather information about temperament based on their daily interactions with the puppies; these observations will help them decide who to place the pups with. Some breeders will even conduct formal temperament assessments or have a qualified trainer/behavior consultant perform assessments. Either way, a good breeder will be able to look at the behavior of the puppies and make placement decisions based on that. For example, a good breeder isn’t going to place a shy puppy with first time dog owners, or an over-the-top working dog with people who are unable to properly exercise and train the dog.

Train and/or compete with dogs and achieve titles
Reputable breeders will train their dogs and some will achieve some type of performance titles on the dog. If your breeder states your dog’s sire or dam is a champion dog, this means the dog has shown in the conformation ring and achieved a CH title. If the breeder says your puppy “comes from champion lines,” it may mean other dogs in the puppy’s lineage have achieved championship. You should be provided with a copy of your dog’s pedigree – this paperwork will show you what organization the dog is registered with (ex. AKC) and it will outline your dog’s sire and dam, their parents, etc., going back a few generations. Initials before and after a dog’s name may indicate special achievements such as high performance in the conformation ring, agility, obedience, lure coursing, herding, etc. If you are unsure what any titles before or after a dog’s name is, ask the breeder, and check with the registry. For example, the AKC has a handy list of acronyms that indicate what titles are given in various sports.

Active in a breed or dog club
Good breeders love their breed are and are usually active in a local and/or national breed club. They will promote the breed in a positive light. Good breeders network with other people who are also enthusiasts in their breed; they will refer you to other good breeders if they do not have the right pup for you!

Proper puppy rearing
Knowledgeable, reputable breeders engage in good puppy rearing practices. This means that the puppies are handled daily, fed proper nutrition, and kept clean daily. Good breeders will also practice handling activities with their puppies to get them used to being handled by people. They will expose them to the things that they will encounter in their new homes, including different smells, sounds, sights. They may have other people over to handle the puppies when they are old enough to get them used to new people. Some breeders may even have structured activities or routines to get the puppies ready for their new homes.

Veterinary care
Puppies from reputable breeders will have seen a veterinarian at least once, possibly more than once, depending on the age you purchase the pup. A good breeder will have taken their puppies to the vet for a wellness examination and/or deworming and vaccinations. Some breeders may do their own deworming and vaccinations – even so, the puppies should see a veterinarian before being sold for a general wellness examination AND for the socialization experience of going to the vet.

A puppy purchased from a reputable breeder should be microchipped prior to sale. There are several reasons for this. Good breeders keep records of their microchip information for all the puppies they produce. If by some chance, the puppy lands in a shelter or is re-homed, the chip will be one piece of information that can be used to identify where the puppy originated from. Some breeders will even keep their names on the microchip registration as a secondary contact; they want to know if the puppy they place turns up stray or missing.

Knowledge of breed
A good breeder will be knowledgeable about the breed he/she is producing. This means being aware of breed traits, breed history, proper care for the breed, etc. A good breeder will be able to tell you about the purpose your breed was originally bred for be it sport or companionship, hunting, ratting, retrieving, etc. While there is always the potential for individual differences within a breed, in general, purebred dogs who have been selectively bred for a certain purpose will have certain breed traits.

Knowledge of their individual lines
A reputable breeder will be able to give you information about the individual dogs within your dog’s lineage. Be aware that your breeder may not own both parents of your puppy, however, he/she should have information about both parents as well as the dogs they derive from.

Resource for questions about breed, behavior, etc.
Your breeder should be able to answer questions about your breed, your individual pup, as well as general questions about raising your pup. If you have specific behavior questions that he/she cannot answer, your breeder should be able to point you towards resources. Most breeders want you to contact them with questions and updates about your puppy!

Screen buyers, and make matches
Reputable breeders will have a screening process for prospective buyers. This may include an application, an interview by phone, and in-person visit. They may ask a lot of questions; remember, to the reputable breeder, this is an important decision and they want to ensure their puppies are placed in forever homes with people who are committed to lifelong and proper care of the puppy as a family member! Your breeder will want to meet you and your family! Sometimes new puppy buyers do not understand why they cannot pick the puppy they want – your breeder may guide you towards a pup that he/she thinks is right for you. Breeders also may ‘hold back’ certain pups that they are potentially interested in showing, or selling to show or working homes only.

Take back dogs for any reason, any time
Good breeders do not want their dogs landing in shelters or rescue. They will take back their puppies at any time, for any reason. Sometimes, despite all of the best efforts on the part of both buyer and breeder, there are occasions when a dog does not work out or a person’s life circumstances change and the buyer cannot keep the dog for some reason. A good breeder will want that dog back and/or will help re-home the dog.

Stay in touch with buyers, follow-up, support, and mentor new owners
Reputable breeders want to know where their dogs go and how they’re doing. They may ask you for updates and photos. They may invite you to be involved in a breed club. They may email or call you to check on the puppy. This is normal for a reputable breeder 🙂 They want to answer your questions and help you to be successful with your new puppy!

Don’t let their dogs go before 8 weeks of age
Most breeders will keep their puppies until at least 8 weeks of age, some will keep them longer before placing. Some sport/working/performance dog breeders may place dogs as early as 7 weeks, but in general, 8 weeks is the minimum age. Puppies learn important skills from their mothers and siblings. Many breeders are often working with their puppies to socialize them and to develop skills that will help them in their new homes.


There should never be an “I don’t know” or vague response to your questions about the breed, your pup’s lineage, the puppy you are looking at, or health testing.

Breeder is unwilling to let you see parents or relatives of the dog or other dogs in his/her home. Note: sometimes the breeder may not own both parents of the dog, but you should be able to get information about the sire/dam if not owned by the breeder.

Breeder sells dogs online to buyers he/she has never met. There are few exceptions to this – sometimes a breeder will sell a dog to a person who is already active within the breed and has been vouched for by another person whom the breeder trusts.

Breeder does not do any screening or application process for buyers.

A breeder who breeds for certain fad colors or looks.

c 2017 Andrea Kilkenny/Our Gang Pet Services, LLC

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