What questions should you ask breeders before buying a puppy from them?

Sadly, not all people professing to be reputable and responsible
breeders are. A good breeder will all but interrogate you. You should
also have the chance to question the breeder. If you are not sure or
uneasy with an answer, do not hesitate to ask for an explanation. If
at any time you get an uneasy feeling or just are not satisfied, look
elsewhere. A few things to ask about are:

  1. What is the asking price of the puppies? Some breeders will ask
    the same for pet quality and show potential puppies. Compare prices
    with other breeders of the same breed and if the price is
    considerably higher or lower do not hesitate to ask why. Do not
    hesitate to ask why if there is a big difference in pet and show
    pups. Unless there is a visible disqualification or the puppy visibly
    will not be showing potential, the younger the pup the harder it is
    to determine show quality. A person who really knows the breed can
    have a good idea what pups have show POTENTIAL and what may not. Much
    happens while the puppy grows and that eight week show prospect may
    not be show potential at 9 months! And avoid ANY breeder who charges
    different for males or females or who charges extra if you want a
    pedigree or registration. It is not that expensive to register a
    litter so the potential owners can individually register puppies.
    (Many kennel clubs like the AKC require all litters to be registered
    by the breeder. Then papers are sent out that are given to buyers of
    puppies so the owner can register them in their name).

  2. What health tests have been done on BOTH parents of the litter?
    Any breed should have hips (OFA or PennHip) eyes (CERF) and ideally
    thyroid. Then is up to you as potential buyer to know what other
    tests the breed you are looking at should have. The breeder should be
    able to show documentations of all tests. Do not blindly accept their
    word – some dishonest breeders will lie and say all tests have been
    done. And if the breeder says there is nothing in the line so testing
    is not important, avoid this person as well. Some health problems are
    polygenetic (more than one set of genes involved – not a simple
    dominant/recessive). Some health problems take years to show fully or
    may be there but not showing outwardly. For example, some dysplastic
    dogs never show signs of having it and it is only diagnosed upon

  3. What temperament testing and socialization has been done? Granted,
    young puppies should not leave the property due to a growing immune
    system; however, the breeder should expose the puppies to as many
    things as possible like vacuum cleaners, children, house sounds, etc.
    The older the puppy, the more experiences it should have. Has the
    breeder temperament tested and what method was used? A good breeder
    will help match the right personality to you. If you are a quiet
    family and the breeder pushes a dominant pup on you, leave. On the
    other hand, if you like the look of one puppy and the breeder, after
    interviewing you, decides it is not the right match, respect that.

  4. What goals does the breeder have with the breeding program and how
    does the breeder go about to achieve this? If the breeder breeds just
    to produce more dogs, for pets only or anything that does not go
    towards the bettering of the breeder’s lines and the breed as a
    whole, go elsewhere. And if the breeder breeds for working ability
    first, you could end up with a handful! Look for one who breeds for
    companionship as well as type and working ability – unless you are
    looking exclusively for a working dog.

  5. What does the breeder feel are the strengths and weaknesses in the
    breed and the breeder’s program? The breeder should be open with you
    about the program and where they hope to go with it. Avoid the
    breeder who insists there are no better dogs around then his.

  6. Can you see the pedigrees of both sire and dam? Can you see at
    least the dam? The sire may not be on site but the dam should be. If
    not, you could be dealing with a broker (one who sells dogs not bred
    by that person).

  7. What type of contract does the breeder have for pet or show
    puppies (it should include a spay/neuter agreement and health
    guarantee)? Do not get pressured into becoming contracted to show or
    breed your dog – even if you do plan to show and possibly get into
    breeding someday. Everything should be spelled out in the contract.
    And be wary of a breeder sells you a young puppy that is “definitely
    show quality.” So much happens during growth and development – the
    younger the puppy; the harder it is to tell show quality. A breeder
    who really knows the breed can tell if a young pup has POTENTIAL but
    should not be guaranteeing the dog will be a show dog.

  8. What does the breeder feed the puppies? You want to try and keep
    the puppies on the same brand of food. If the breeder uses something
    you do not, gradually wean the puppy to your preferred brand. If the
    puppies have no boosters prior to leaving the dam, look elsewhere.

  9. What inoculations have been given? Eight-week-old puppies should
    have had their first set of inoculations and you should be given
    documentation of this. If not, go elsewhere.

  10. Can you get references of previous puppy buyers? If the breeder
    will not give them, go elsewhere.

  11. Can you have your own vet examine the puppy before you fully
    commit? You may be asked to put down a deposit but you should have
    the option of having your vet examine the puppy with in a couple days
    after purchase (always a good idea to have this done and the breeder
    may require it).

  12. Are you active in any breed clubs (all breed or ideally breed
    specialty)? Many clubs have a breeder code of ethics that they want
    their members to adhere to. Just being AKC registered is not a Good
    Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It just means the puppy was from
    registered parents and the breeder has taken the steps to begin the
    registration process for the puppies. Even pet stores can sell AKC
    registered pups if the miller registers the dogs. The AKC cannot
    police everyone professing to be a breeder so again, being and
    educated consumer is very important.

Use your gut instinct and do not get suckered by cute faces.
Remember, this pup will be yours for the next ten years or much
longer depending on breed. You should get the best possible puppy
possible from the most responsible source you can find.

Many of these questions can be adapted to ask at a rescue as well. Do
not hesitate to ask what is know about the background of the puppies
(or adult dog), what medical care they have had and has the staff
noticed anything about their temperaments that could be of concern?
Ask about the adoption agreement and have it gone through carefully
with you.

From Karen Peak of West Wind Dog Training,

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