There are many ways to define reputable. For the purposes this article, reputable would mean a breeder that is:
- ethical with dog management practices as well as upholding agreements/contracts
- who chooses breed stock carefully,
- health tests their breed stock,
- aims to produce progeny of sound mind and body,
- has good husbandry practices,
- and is honest and upholds any contractual agreements with clients.
How you do fine such a breeder? It is not as easy as you might think. A breeder may present well on paper, or rather your web browser, but being able to see under the veil of pretty html and photos to determine if that breeder is just as good as they appear will take a bit of work. Going down our list of attributes that define reputable, we first come to ethics. To find out if a breeder is ethical, really it is easiest to find others that have dealt with this breeder already and find out about their experiences. You can do this by asking for references from the breeder directly, or just doing some digging to find owners of that breeder’s stock on social media, and finding families that own a dog from that breeder already. A dog owner will be happy to tell you everything about their dog and their experiences, good and bad. When it comes to ethics, ask things like:
- Did the breeder handle the transaction professionally?
- Did the breeder take the time to evaluate the family to determine what character of puppy would be a good fit?
- Was the breeder transparent and honest about all aspects of their rearing and husbandry, puppy evaluations, and placement?
- Is/was the breeder available for any support after the transaction?
- Does the breeder’s contract require dogs be returned to them, anytime during the dog’s lifetime, rather than end up in a shelter? (WSSCA requires this actually)
Next is to look at “choosing breedstock carefully”. Does the breeder have a specific goal in mind for their breeding program? If so, does their choices of breedstock and descriptions of their dogs compliment reaching that goal? You will also want to find a breeder whose goals are aligned with your needs. Health testing is one of the biggest indicators of a reputable breeder. Every generation of breed stock should be evaluated for all known issues in the breed. A great breeder may even go beyond those tests and monitor other aspects of a dog, to ensure parents have a totality of healthy body. Absolute minimum testing would be x-rays for hips and elbows, and DNA testing for multi-drug sensitivity gene (MDR1) and for degenerative myelopathy (DM). A list of all recommended health tests can be found at OFA’s Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). The totality of recommended testing for a CHIC certificate would include hips, elbows, MDR1, DM, dentition, thyroid, eyes, and basic cardiac. Results of all tests should be public and accessible through the breeder’s website if they have one and proof in the way of certificates provided upon request. Sometimes small anomalies can occur in the health of a dog, that can be expressed stronger, or worse, in puppies when both parents have that same anomaly, or carry a recessive gene for a particular health related trait. A dog with any negative trait should never be mated to another with the same negative trait. This holds true for structure and character of dogs too. We also cannot throw out all dogs with small anomalies from our breeding pool, as then we would have low genetic diversity in the gene pool, which we already do by the way, and that would ultimately result in serious health problems arising from excessive inbreeding. A reputable breeder will always be wanting to improve the breed as a whole, and has the future of their breed in mind when making decisions.
Sound minds are hard to see from your keyboard and screen. There are many dogs out there that have amazing character and no performance titling, just as there are awful temperaments with no titling. Having titles in various areas is indication of stable and suitable character, but if you cannot get proof by seeing titles, then try to meet your prospective breeder. Meet the dogs and see how the dogs act toward the breeder and toward yourself. If your breeder is far away, try to find some dogs that live closer to you that come from that breeder. Good husbandry says much about a breeder. Are the dog areas clean? Do they have access to water and items to keep them engaged? Some breeders have dogs in a kennel setup and some have dogs in their homes with them. Either is fine, but the dogs behavior should serve as evidence that they are regularly getting human contact and attention. With puppies, their area should be filled with many types of toys and things to do and enrich their experiences, and by 6 weeks having started on a potty training program within their designated puppy area. Toys should be clean regularly and fresh water available at all times.
To recap, here are bullet points of what was covered:
- Find reviews, get references, and find clients of the breeder and ask questions about their experiences. If there were any problems, how did the breeder handle them? Does the breeder encourage open communication between buyer and breeder, or do they have a system setup so clients can exchange info in a group forum?
- Does the breeder, based on health testing results, structural and temperament qualities of breedstock, make sound decisions that align with producing a dog of sound character, structure and good health?
- Does your prospective breeder test all breed stock at a minimum of hips, elbows, DM, MDR1. Or do they have extensive health testing performed and earned CHIC certificates for their breed stock that indicated that hips, elbows, DM, MDR1, thyroid, eyes and hearts have been tested? Does the breeder provide proof of test results? Given the test results, is the breeder making wise mating decisions based on those results?
- Does the breedstock have titles to indicate sound character? Temperament testing or some other indication of stable character? If not, when. you meet the breed stock, were the dogs acting in accordance with how a WSSD should behave?
- Is there the ability to check on the quality of care provided to the dogs? Are dog areas clean and maintained well? Do the dogs appear to get regular human contact if they do not live in the house? Are puppy areas clean and set up in an enriching environment?
- Does the breeder have a contract that was provided upon request? Do the terms give the impression to protect both parties, and most especially the dog? Will the breeder take back their dogs anytime throughout the dog’s life? Are the contract terms comfortable?