It’s time to start looking for a new puppy or kitten. And this time you have decided you want a certain breed so you are going to seek out your new companion from a breeder. But how do you do this and where do you start? My family has always had a mix of purebred dogs and mixed breed adopted dogs. Why did we have purebred dogs? Because we had a specific purpose in mind for those dogs-whether it was conformation shows, lure coursing, agility, obedience, or another sport. We have been fortunate to find amazing, supportive breeders to get our dogs from. So here are my recommendations in trying to find the right breeder for your family:
**Be prepared that not all breeders and future pet owners will be the right match. It might take time to find the right breeder for your situation. Also be prepared to be placed on a waitlist-sometimes you may need to wait a year or more for the right puppy/kitten. Responsible breeders will typically have a waitlist prior to breeding a litter.
** Be prepared to have the breeder pick out the right puppy/kitten for you. The breeders spend every day of the first eight or more weeks with the puppies/kittens. They likely own the mother. They know these puppies inside and out. They obsessed over choosing the right sire. The best thing is to tell them what you are looking for in your new companion-temperament, goals (do you want a pet, to do agility, etc), and any other desires, then let the breeder decide which puppy or kitten is best. And don’t be alarmed if a breeder decides they don’t have the right puppy/kitten for you in that litter. For my first Belgian Tervuren, I was on the breeder’s waitlist for six months. They had a litter I was hoping to get a puppy from, but in the end they didn’t think they had the right puppy for me. So I waited until the next litter, over six months later. In the end, my breeder chose the perfect puppy for me and that puppy Kaden cemented my love for the breed! Also expect the breeder will keep the litter together until they are at least 8 weeks age.
**Breeders often have full time jobs outside of raising their litters, so be patient if they don’t respond right away. Also keep in mind some breeders may not be very tech savvy so if they don’t answer an email try calling.
** Expect to pay a fair price for the puppy or kitten. You are not just paying for the puppy or kitten. You are paying for the years of the breeder’s experience, the health testing that has been completed on the parents, the time invested into caring for the litter, and the years of support the breeder will give you for the lifetime of your new dog or kitten. Responsible breeders are lucky to break even when they breed a litter after paying all of the health testing, veterinary costs, expenses for the litter, and registrations.
** Responsible breeders do not breed for exotic colors, oversize or tea cup sizes. Responsible breeders breed true to the standard for the breed or the structure/function desired for the dog’s future job. Also responsible breeders will not breed parents that have health issues or temperament issues. The goal in breeding is to better the breed so responsible breeders will always strive to breed the best to the best.
**The breeder should allow you to see where the puppies/kittens are being raised. They may have strict requirements for the health of the litter (clean clothes, taking shoes off, etc) but they should not hide where they are raising their litters. The puppies and kittens should be raised in the house so they are part of the day to day interactions. The breeders should also allow you to meet the parents. However, keep in mind the father/sire is often not local (using frozen or cooled shipped semen is very common now). But at minimum you should be able to meet the mother.
**When visiting observe the interactions of the mother and puppies/kittens with the breeder and new people. Look for a mother and youngsters that are social, not startled easily, and generally out going. Keep in mind there will be differences for breeds. Look for a breeder that spends time exposing the youngsters to new experiences, people, and situations they will see later in life. They should get the puppies/kittens used to being handled so they can handle vet visits, grooming, and more later in life. If you are looking for a pet to do a specific job (ie agility, obedience), seek out a breeder that has dogs successfully competing in these venues. And if you have never met the breed prior take the time to ask questions, interact with the dogs, to decide if this is the breed you really want!
** Expect that the breeder will have you fill out a survey and ask for references. Don’t be offended if the breeder decides you are not the right home for a puppy. This doesn’t mean they think you are a bad pet owner, just that their puppy may not be the right puppy for your household.
**A responsible breeder will perform health testing as recommended by the parent/national club for the breed. The recommended tests will depend on what health issues are present in the particular breed. A good breeder will happily give you copies of these test results. And ask about other health issues-has the breeder had dogs/cats die form cancer, at what age, bloat, heart disease, etc.
** Responsible breeders generally breed and have a limited number of breeds. They will also generally have their dogs/cats as pet first and breeding stock second. This means they only have the number of dogs/cats that can live in their house as pets with them. There are exceptions, such as hunting dogs generally live in kennel situations in packs.
** Be prepared to sign a contract. Some things in the contract will include agreement to spay and neuter the pet, agreement that if you cannot keep the pet you will return the pet to the breeder, health guarantee of some nature. But avoid contracts that require you to feed certain foods or not allow your to make medical decisions for your pet under the recommendation of your vet.
** A responsible breeder will have the litter examined by a veterinarian and the first distemper vaccines, as well as dewormer given prior to sending the puppies/kittens to their new homes. They will also send copies of the records with the new owners.
** Use your breeder as your support system. Of course you have your veterinarian, trainers, groomers, friends, but remember that your breeder knows the breed and relatives best so they are a great resource! And they want you to use them as a resource. I would rather hear from a puppy owner when an issue first arises then later when it may be harder to correct. And of course breeders love pictures and happy updates!
** Where do you find responsible breeders?
Visit the AKC marketplace for AKC registered dog breeds
Visit Cat Fancier’s Association for cat breeds
Visit the parent club/national club website for the breed-this can be found by searching the breed name and national club.
Talk to your vet! We are happy to help counsel clients on the best breed for their family and help find breeder references. Also talk to your trainers, groomers, and other pet professionals.
And if you are not stuck on a puppy check with your breed rescue groups too!
And best of all bring your new puppy or kitten to visit us!
Boo Donoho, DVM