10 Ways to Spot a Good Dog Breeder

All medical claims reviewed by Dr Pippa Elliott. BVMS, MRCVS.

Last Updated on

mother dog with her puppies

What makes a good dog breeder?

Getting a new puppy is as exciting as Christmas, birthdays, and summer holidays all rolled into one. But don’t let that excitement cloud your judgement…

Some dog breeders are more reputable than others. This matters for so many reasons, including the welfare of the mother, puppies, and the health of your new best friend.

Here are the 10 ways to spot a good dog breeder:

  1. Research their reputation
  2. Show ethical breeding
  3. They’re cautious about who they sell to
  4. They participate in health screening schemes
  5. Breeder socialised puppies from a young age
  6. They care about mother and pup welfare
  7. The mother is well-cared for
  8. Litter raised in the home
  9. Breeder accepts puppies back
  10. They satisfy your gut instincts

To find dog breeders you can trust, let’s look at #1-10 in detail.

1. Research their reputation

Fake news! There’s a tsunami of untrustworthy sources of information. When buying a puppy, this ranges from the man-in-the-pub to internet selling sites. Just because it’s never been easier to find a pup, doesn’t make it right. The only ‘safety in numbers’ here is making it easy for bad breeders to make a living out of dog-misery.

How to know if a breeder is reputable?

To find a good dog breeder go to trustworthy, knowledgeable sources of information. A good starting place is the Kennel Club directory of certified breeders. They have pedigree dogs registered with the Kennel Club. Use this as a springboard to find more details.

Also, speak to owners of your chosen breed and ask about their experiences with the breeder. Your vet or dog groomer is a useful resource. Ask to be put in touch with owners. Most pet parents are delighted to talk about their fur-friends!

Good questions to ask include:

  • Would you get another puppy from the same breeder?
  • Did anything about the breeder’s setup may you uneasy?
  • Have you had any problems with the pup?
  • Have you stayed in touch with the breeder?

Once you have a breeder’s name, dig a little deeper. Put their name into a search engine and see what comes up. Check their website to see if it looks authentic and informative, or hastily put together and neglected.

Of course, dog breeders aren’t necessarily techie people. But a website that contains useful information that exhibits a good level of knowledge, and photos of their dogs in a setting you later visit, is a good start.

Likewise, have a nosy round internet review sites, consumer affairs sites, and even dog breeder review groups on social media to see what turns up.

Use your common sense. Of course, not all dog breeders are big operations. There are plenty of small-scale breeders that produce occasional litters for the love of it. The trick is to find the responsible ones who breed out of a love of dogs. rather than money.

2. Show ethical breeding

The mothers are dogs too! A good dog breeder is passionate about the dogs they breed and take the welfare of all their breeding stock seriously. Things to ask the breeder when buying a puppy, include “How old is the mother?” “When did she have her first litter?” and “How many litters has she had?”

The mother should not breed too young

  • The bitch should have finished growing, before sparing precious energy to grow pups)

Neither should she be too old

  • Dogs are considered senior of eight years of age – (five years for giant breeds). At this life stage dogs should be retired from breeding)

Nor should the mother be a factory producing litters every heat cycle.

  • One litter per year is the absolute maximum, anything more than that is too big a drain on her body.

If the breeder can’t tick all these boxes, then walk away.

3. They’re cautious about who they sell to

In this case, it’s the breeder that’s picky. A truly good dog breeder cares about the homes they send puppies to. They carefully vet the prospective owner, checking they can provide for all the puppy’s physical and emotional needs.

This means asking you lots of questions, some of which may seem intrusive. But these are the dog breeder’s way of checking the owner has sufficient knowledge, commitment, space, and resources to give the dog a happy life. Be wary of the breeder whose more interested in your bank account than the puppy’s future home. Oh, and a final point. One query by the breeder should immediately press alarm bells.

If you phone and the breeders asks, “Which breed of pup are you after?”, put the phone down. Genuine dog breeders only have one breed available, so they’ve no need to ask this question. This is a classic ‘tell’ of a puppy farm, where they have puppies of all varieties available…at the cost of much canine misery.

4. They participate in health screening schemes

Good dog breeders are passionate about the long term well-being of the breed. They want future generations of pups to be healthy, and do everything possible to make this happen.

This means screening the parent dogs for health problems passed from parent to puppy. For example, Labradors should be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia, along with specialist ophthalmic exams for hereditary eye problems.

Do your homework and look into the health problems linked to the breed. Then ask the breeder which conditions they screen for, and ask to see the certificates. Screening costs money. So be prepared to pay more, but this is money well spent.

5. Breeder socialised puppies from a young age

Body and mind! A good dog breeder prepares their pups for the big wide world. One of the (many) horrors of puppy farming, is the pups are treated like farm animals. They’re not used to being handled or prepared for the noisy world outside of their cage. This makes for anxious pups that grow up into nervous adults.

Great dog breeders care about the mental well-being of their pups. As soon as the pups can be handled, they have visitors fuss and pet them. The breeder understands how important puppy socialisation is. They expose the pups to all manner of sights, smells, and sounds, in a positive way.

This gives a gold star start to the puppy’s young life. Down this path lies a confident, well-adjusted adult free from behavioural problems and the loving family pet you always dreamed of owning

6. They care about mother and pup welfare

Pups need their mum! Good dog breeders know this. Pups learn a lot about doggy manners by watching their mother. Staying with their mother to eight-weeks of age is crucial.

puppy with her mother

More than that, if the mother isn’t available to see with her litter, this should set alarm bells ringing. Again, this is another classic clue to a puppy farm. Puppy mills are immoral traders in canine misery. They treat dogs are breeding machines and take the pups away far too early so that the mother comes back into heat.

These breeders keep their dogs in pens with no mental stimulation and don’t want you to see this, so they offer to bring the pup part way to meet you. Now prospective owners are wising up to this, so the puppy mill breeders are changing tactics.

If you see a female dog with pups, make sure she seems to recognise them! Some unscrupulous breeders put any old female in with pups, to give a veneer of respectability. Don’t get taken in!

7. The mother is well-cared for

Speaking of the mother, is she a good dog?

By this, we’re thinking of her health and temperament. A good dog breeder invests time, care and effort into looking after the mother all year round. Check that the mother is up-to-date with her vaccinations (which also benefits the pups), wormed regularly, and has a glossy coat.

A reputable dog breeder only uses dogs with great temperaments. Ask the breeder directly, what their policy is to temperament. Know that a bad-tempered mum is likely to raise snappy pups that grow into aggressive adults. If the breeder claims the mother is only snappy because she’s nursing, then walk away.

An even-tempered mother will be protective but still tolerate strangers. A large part of the pups’ character comes from the mother. So with the interests of the breed’s future to heart, a good dog breeder will pass on breeding from an overly sensitive dog.

8. Litter raised in the home

A good dog breeder will always raise the litter in the home. This is reassuring in many ways. Firstly, it means they aren’t farming pups in pens out the back. Secondly, the pups grow up used to the sound of the washing machine and din of the TV, so it won’t freak them out in their new home…

9. Breeder accepts puppies back

A good dog breeder takes great care to place pups in the homes. But if things don’t go right, they accept the puppy back, indeed, they insist on the youngster being returned. Again, their priority is animal welfare, rather than their bank account (although the latter is obviously important…this is the real world after all.)

10. They satisfy your gut instincts

Last but not least. Trust your gut instinct. If an alarm bell rings in your head, listen to it. If the breeder is evasive and doesn’t know much about the mother then walk away. If you can’t view the pups with the mum, walk away. If the breeder is more interested in payment than puppy care, walk away.


Remember, to do otherwise encourages bad breeders, which perpetuates pet misery. Do your bit by supporting good dog breeders …or visit a rescue to find the right puppy or dog that suits you. 

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