There seems to be a growing trend of spontaneous dog purchasing, and of course, asking on social media about where the best place to buy your chosen breed is. So I wanted to put something together to help people figure out where to look when choosing their next pet.
First off, be sure you're ready for a 10-15 year commitment. Dogs cost a lot of money and take up your time as well. It is not okay to just rehome them when you don't have time anymore, if you're having a baby or if you're moving. You've made the commitment, now be fair and see it through. You also have to factor in money for food, vet expenses, and very likely training and even grooming. Please do not assume you can do those things yourself as the average person doesn't realize how difficult it can be to train a dog or even cut toenails without professional help.
Next, you need to know that where you get your dog is very important for success. It's not all in how you raise them. That is a huge myth. You must start out with good stock which means parents have good temperaments at minimum. If a dog with a bad temperament is bred there's a good chance the pups could have that bad temperament too, so steer clear of pups with parents that are nasty.
The term breeder technically applies to anyone that intentionally pairs a male and female dog together for the purpose of creating puppies. This does not mean all breeders are equal. Breeders generally fit into one of three categories. There are puppy mills, generally thought to be dirty, with too many dogs that are not cared for, likely left in cages all the time, and mass-producing dogs of little quality. There are backyard breeders, who essentially just put any male and female together to have puppies with very little knowledge of what they're really doing, and not even necessarily using the same breed. Then there are the good breeders, often referred to as responsible breeders or ethical breeders. These are the ones you should be looking for, because you want to start our right, in hopes of good health and temperament in your new addition.
A good breeder will have a contract you will be required to sign. It should include things like when you need to spay or neuter your dog, it might require you to attend training classes, it will likely say that you cannot breed your dog, it may even dictate what you need to feed your dog. Something that distinguishes a good breeder from all the rest is having what's called a First Right of Refusal in their contract, which states that should the dog not be able to be kept by the owner, he must go back to the breeder. Ethical breeders will take their dogs back no matter what the age or reason for being given up and will likely even require that their name be listed as backup contact on a microchip. If purebred dogs are in shelters, generally they are a product of a puppy mill or backyard breeder, who are usually just in it to make a quick buck and don't really care where their puppies land. What this means is that responsible breeders are not contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. While this may not matter to you as a purchaser, it speaks volumes as to what a breeder is like.
Responsible breeders will heavily screen you as much or more then you'll screen them. They will ask questions like what kind of yard you have, do you own your home, how long are you gone during the day, have you had this breed before, what happened to past pets, etc. etc. This all shows they care where the pup goes and gives the dog the best possible chance of staying in it's home.
A good breeder will be able to show proof of health clearance certificates for common known issues within their breed such as hip dysplasia or Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is not as simple as a regular vet visit. They are actual certifications usually done by a governing body, often the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). You can find clearances for any dog as long as you know the registered name of the dog. Most of the time the breeder will likely only have the female on the premises, but they should be able to show you the clearances for the male as well. I would really have to question why a breeder might have both parents on site. To me, that means pure moneymaking and not genetic diversity and matching appropriate pairs together, because a lot of thought usually goes into finding a good match both in temperament and looks. Along the lines of health, a good breeder also provides a written health guarantee for the predisposed genetic health issues the breed is prone to. These things usually cannot be certified until the dog is 2 years old, so the contract should extend well beyond then, with the terms being full or partial refund, and not requiring you to have to return your dog. You need to do your research to determine what your chosen breed is predisposed to and question the breeder about these illnesses. Please don't be fooled into thinking mixed breed dogs are healthier, that is a myth. A mixed breed is simply 2 or more purebreds combined, possibly meaning double trouble.
Good breeders will usually attend dog shows in an attempt to get titles on their dogs. They often take great pride in their dogs and their accomplishments. The goal is to prove the dog meets certain standards as to how he should look, to keep things uniform. Breeders should also strive for obedience titles to prove the dog is easily trainable, and titles in whichever sport or job the breed was originally created to do.
Puppies should be raised in the home where they will get lots of exposure to household noises and see other dogs as well as people within the home. The breeder should allow visitors at predetermined appointment times, to help with socializing the litter. This gives you a chance to see the pups but also helps get them used to different people. The breeder will likely provide plenty of opportunities for the pups to explore new things and maybe even enrichment activities to help build confident puppies. Hopefully, the breeder will have the litter assessed by an outsider, someone familiar with litter assessments.
Puppies should not be going to their new home anytime sooner than 8 weeks old. The mother of your pup delivers important lessons right up until 8 weeks old, including teaching him not to bite. Trust me, you do not want your pup to miss that lesson. Because the breeder has been able to watch these puppies develop over that time and sees their individual personalities, a breeder knows much better than you which pup will be right for your family. Therefore, a good breeder does not allow you to choose your own puppy. Almost always people will choose the pup that bounds towards them, fooling themselves into thinking the pup chose them when in reality they just took home the most rambunctious, dominant dog in the whole litter.
The entire litter should have seen a vet at least once, and the pup should be coming to you with the first set of puppy booster vaccines already completed, as well as a full health check and worming. This also serves as a socialization activity.
Many good breeders even get their pups well on their way with crate training, and possibly even house training. Let me tell you, this makes a world of difference when your pup will easily sleep in his crate rather than screaming all night.
Do not be surprised if you have to get on a waiting list. It's always a bit of a red flag if the breeder has pups that are not yet spoken for. Are they breeding so often that pups are always readily available? If so, you should likely walk away because they're really showing they aren't in it because they care, but simply to make money. As hard as it is, the right puppy is worth waiting for. When screening potential breeders you do want to have a visit ahead of time anyway, to meet the Mother of your potential new puppy. Remember, if you don't like that dog's temperament then you might be best to look elsewhere.
And finally, reputable breeders register their puppies with the Canadian Kennel Club. If someone is breeding purebred dogs and not registering them, you really have to ask yourself why they are not. What this also means is that someone breeding a designer dog with a combination name breed really is not a responsible, ethical breeder, and likely unable to say they do much of what has been recommended in this article. So what is a designer breed? It could be anything, because the so-called breeders make up these new names like Doodle, Schnoodle Whoodle, Shorkie, Yorkie-Poo, Cavachon, Puggle, etc, etc. The list goes on forever. When in doubt, access the Canadian Kennel Club website. If you don't see it listed, it's not a recognized breed in Canada. That means you should most likely steer clear. The absolute only time you should consider a designer breed is if the breeder is doing the health clearances, taking their dogs back should they need to be given up, screening, homes, and generally doing everything else listed here that responsible breeders do.