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How to Find a Responsible Dog Breeder

If you've checked shelters and rescue groups and still haven't found "the one," here's what to do

The Humane Society of the United States

So, you've decided to get a dog. You're prepared to feed, exercise, train, clean up after, work through problems with, and love a dog every day for the next 10 to 20 years.

You've evaluated your lifestyle and know exactly what sort of dog you're looking for (e.g., a high energy dog to go running with, or a more sedate dog to lounge on the couch with), and you know that you need to seek out your desired characteristics in an individual dog, not a breed, because a breed is no guarantee of temperament or likes and dislikes.

Start at a shelter or rescue group

One in every four dogs in animal shelters in the United States is a purebred, and mixed breed dogs also make great pets, so start your search there. Not only are you likely to find a great dog, you'll also feel great about helping a homeless dog find a loving home. Most dogs lose their homes because of "people" reasons, such as cost, lack of time, lifestyle changes (new baby, divorce, moving, or marriage), or allergies, and not because of something the dog has done.

Say you've checked out the purebred rescue group for your breed, but still haven't found "the one." You don't want to buy a puppy from a pet store because you know that most of those puppies come from mass breeding facilities—better known as puppy mills.

In the end, if you've decided to buy a dog from a breeder, you'll want to support one who has their dogs' best interests at heart.

How to ID a responsible breeder

Responsible breeders don't sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand. Too often, unsuspecting people buy puppies from puppy mills, or sometimes neighbors who breed their dog to make a little money or simply because they have a dog "with papers." Too often, the result is puppies in poor health or with temperament problems that may not be discovered right away.

A dog who has genetic health problems due to poor breeding practices or who develops significant behavior problems due to a lack of early socialization can cost thousands of dollars to treat—and result in grief and heartache as well.

Avoid the pitfalls

Download our "How to Identify a Responsible Dog Breeder" [PDF] checklist and take it with you as you visit different breeders. If the breeder you're working with doesn't meet all of the minimum criteria listed, The Humane Society of the United States advises you to walk away. Remember, your dog will likely live 10 to 20 years, so it's well worth investing some time now to be sure you're working with a responsible breeder who breeds healthy, happy dogs and keeps them in clean and humane conditions.

You can also check the PupQuest website, which is run by licensed veterinarians and warns against the health problems with puppy mill dogs.

Get a referral

You can find responsible breeders by asking for referrals from your veterinarian or trusted friends, by contacting local breed clubs, or visiting professional dog shows. Remember, a responsible breeder will never sell her dogs through a pet store or in any other way that does not allow her to meet with and thoroughly interview you to ensure that the puppy is a good match for your family and that you will provide a responsible, lifelong home.

Always visit where they were born and raised

Always personally visit a breeder's facility before buying a puppy. Find out where your puppy was born and raised. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you'll thank yourself for the rest of your dog's life.
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