Looking for a Breeder
January 5, 2005 6:59 PM   Subscribe

DogFilter : My SO and I are looking at getting a dog, probably a puppy, probabably something with Havanese in it. That's all besides the point. The big question is how do I know if the backyard breeder is a GOOD breeder. Takes care of the pups, gives them plenty of socialization, isn't a puppy mill, etc?

PS Ideally, we keep checking the dog shelter for a smallish dog that would fit into our lifestyles, but worse comes to worse, we'll have to get the pup from somewhere (purebreed, cross, dont' matter, cost matters a bit).
posted by eurasian to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What I've picked up from the dog newsgroups, when I was contemplating getting a dog:

A good breeder is one who wants to contribute to the breed in a positive way; who knows about the health problems specific to the breed, and test the parents and the grandparents and maybe even the great-grandparents of the litter for them; who probably breeds dogs that do well in show or obedience or what have you; and who is as careful about selecting you as an owner for the dog as you are about selecting them as a breeder (i.e., they probably want you to sign a spay/neuter contract except under special circumstances). They will almost certainly not advertise in the newspaper; you will almost certainly have to be put on a waiting list, and travel across a couple states if it's an uncommon breed.

It's a lot easier to get a dog from the shelter unless you have your heart set on a puppy of a particular breed (you can sometimes get an adult of a particular breed from one of the rescue organizations).

I have a cocker with ear, eye, skin, temperament, thyroid problems, and who knows what else, and I'm convinced it was because of bad breeding (we found him on the highway about eight years ago). So I think you owe it to yourself to be very careful--an extra hundred dollars is nothing compared to the potential vet bills.

A couple ethical breeder links
posted by Jeanne at 7:24 PM on January 5, 2005

Just one more really good link, because it encapsulates pretty much everything you need to know.
posted by Jeanne at 7:29 PM on January 5, 2005

If you haven't done this already, checking petfinder.com is a great way to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search of nearby shelters.

Included in the database are a bunch of breed-specific rescue groups, so you might want to check out their list of shelters/groups in case they have one for the breed(s) you're interested in.
posted by duck at 7:44 PM on January 5, 2005

I'll second petfinder.com... that's where I found my dog. It's a great place to see hundreds and hundreds of dogs with personality profiles and photos.

Where are you located? I know a bunch of good shelters in the New England area.
posted by evoo at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2005

Petfinder is awesome.

Scout out a couple different breeders you may be interested in. Take those names to a local vet (or the vet you may already or are planning on using) and ask them about reputable breeders in the area. While they may not be able to point to you every breed/breeder in the area, they're definitely going to know which are NOT reputable. (Or you could just work in reverse -- find out from vets which are NOT reputable and stay away).

You could also check bbb.org -- the Better Business Bureau website too. Some of the breeders may be listed.

Ask for references. Check out the living area of the pups. Are the dogs clean? Are they crated all the time? What's the house or breeding location like? Smell clean? Look clean? See if the puppies' parents are on site. If not -- why not? Was the puppy born on site? If not -- why not? Where was it born? When, and how often since birth, have they been checked by a vet? Which vet? If the parents are on site, see if you can visit with them -- alone, individually if you have to -- for a while. And then do the same with the puppies.

A good breeder may want you to bring your entire immediate family (those who will be living with the pup at your house) in for a visit first. They may want to see and visit with your other dogs if you have them. They may want to know what vet you'll be using. They'll ask to see your other dogs' medical records and vaccination history, even. A good breeder could insist that if anything goes wrong and you cannot keep the dog, that you bring it right back to them and they will take adopt it back. A good breeder will be screening you as closely as you are screening them.

Around Boston, there's been a rash of pet stores posing as breeders. They place multiple ads in the paper, one for each kind of dog, and make it sound like they have a new litter. They get a variety of breeds from out of state (most of the time, they originate out of Pennsylvania I am finding) and sell them just as a pet store would. Very sad.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:15 PM on January 5, 2005

Is there a breed rescue group for the kind of dog you want? They can be a great source of information on the breed and breeders, even if they can't find a rescue dog that would work with you.

A quick google shows there is a Havanese Rescue.
posted by QIbHom at 8:39 PM on January 5, 2005

how do I know if the backyard breeder is a GOOD breeder

First I have to commend you for asking the right questions and doing your homework. The term "backyard breeder" is normally used in a negative fashion to more or less imply a small-scale puppy miller, the term normally isn't used to mean people who breed ethically (even though the vast majority of ethical dog breeders breed in their homes and are in that sense "backyard" breeders), so a true backyard breeder is almost never a good breeder (where "good" = "ethical"). Ethical breeders do not purposefully breed mixed-breed dogs for a number of reasons (mixes do not have reliably predictable traits for one thing). If you want a mix (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with mixes), go to the pound or a rescue group, please do not support someone intentionally breeding mixes. Backyard breeders almost never offer any sort of health guarantee and do not insist that the dog be returned to them if at any time the owner cannot keep it (an ethical breeder will have both of these things in their puppy contracts). Don't get me wrong, there are far too many unethical backyard breeders of registered purebreds as well, but someone who intentionally breeds mixes is almost never going to be an ethical dog breeder.

An ethical breeder breeds purebred dogs (or is a member of a group with a written and ethical plan for creating a true new breed, not a "named mix" like a "Labradoodle" or "Cockapoo"), they do health tests (hip and eye certifications at minimum, additional ones depending on the breed), they show and title their dogs (to prove that someone other than themselves agrees that the dog may be worth breeding), they have extensive breed knowledge, breed very occasionally (no more than twice a year in most cases), and will have a battery of questions to ask you before they will consider placing a puppy with you (among other things). One reason for all this is that ethical breeders will take back a dog they bred at any time, and for any reason, so they want to do their best to ensure that the puppy and the home are a good match. Ethical breeders do not breed as a moneymaking venture, they breed to improve and maintain their chosen breed.

There are many wonderful mixed -breed dogs out there, but please get one from a shelter or rescue (I second petfinder.com's usefulness in finding a specific mix), if you want to get a purebred from a breeder, then please look for one who follows their breed club's code of ethics. See here and here for some further information. And I second much of what jerseygirl said, although I'd caution that vets are not necessarily good sources for finding ethical dog breeders, vets often consider anyone who provides adequate medical care to be a "good breeder", without consideration for the many other factors involved.
posted by biscotti at 8:43 PM on January 5, 2005

We found our dog through petfinder.com too. I looked for several months until I found a good match, so it can take some time. (I was looking for a dog that was good with cats.) Unless you have your heart set on a puppy, you might be happier with a somewhat older dog. A lot of dogs are surrendered or dumped around their 7 month because they're no longer small and as cute. But the older they are the less trouble they can sometimes be--less chewing, bigger bladders, etc. Also, many shelters have fostering programs, so you can find a dog that has been living in a home environment and has already gotten started on training. If a slightly older dog is in a foster home you'll have the advantage of knowing more about the dog's personality and temperament. Our dog was about 6 mos. when we got her and she's completely bonded with us, has learned the house rules, and couldn't be any better even if we'd had her since she was a small puppy.
posted by lobakgo at 11:47 PM on January 5, 2005

My SO fell in love with a Parson (Jack) Russell Terrier and we started looking. We found a local award winning breeder and called for recommendations. She pointed us to a colleague who had a lovely non-show-quality puppy and we now love our little Liza. The JRT's are very .... active - be careful. Our dog was not show quality because she is timid (and v calm) and her dam has a heart murmur.
posted by jmgorman at 11:58 PM on January 5, 2005

Ah, thanks! All great tips and links, we'll mull over all these considerations. I guess it's of the opinion that no breeder should be intentionally cross-breeding? Perhaps we'll have to hound the petfinder again and again until we see the sorta dog that fits our lifestyle.

Much thanks :D
posted by eurasian at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2005

If you do want a purebred, most breed clubs have a list of reputable breeders who follow the breed club's code of ethics available. Here is the AKC's list of breed clubs and breeder referrals for all their registered breeds.

I also recommend shelters or rescue. I have a purebred Welsh Terrier that I adopted from a local shelter, and he's the best dog on earth. : ) Many shelters do ask you a lot of questions and make you bring everyone living in the house, including other pets, in to meet the dog you want to adopt, but that's to make sure that it is a good match for dog and owner, so don't be put off by that.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2005

I guess it's of the opinion that no breeder should be intentionally cross-breeding?

More or less.

There's a right way to go about making a new breed. You start with a clear perception of which traits you want in the breed and which you want to exclude; basically a breed standard before there are any dogs. Then you cross appropriate stock until you get close to what you want. And then, and this is where things start to fall down, you keep breeding (including new crosses and line- and in-breeding) until the breed breeds true. Until you get to the point where when two NewBreeds mate, you know with some high confidence what the pups will be like. People have done this since the 1950s with Shiloh shepherds, black Russian terriers, and more, though both of those breeds might still be "unfinished."

That's the right way. But people breeding labradoodles and schnoodles and let's make up bichavese (bichon X Havanese) aren't doing that. They're just letting poodles fuck Labradors or vice versa. What you get then isn't a new breed with breed traits that breeds true, it's a mutt with very random traits. Maybe some labradoodles are less allergenic, other will be basically poodles with greasier coats and a thick tail.

Anyhow, if there is a path of righteousness, and someone isn't following it, then they're not a good breeder. Especially with the vast numbers of mutts already being put down in shelters and pounds; what, you want more?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:12 AM on January 6, 2005

Perhaps we'll have to hound the petfinder again and again until we see the sorta dog that fits our lifestyle

This is why purebreds can be more appropriate for people who have specific requirements for a dog, if they plan to get a puppy. I'm a strong supporter of adopting from rescues and shelters (and have done so more than once myself), but if you have specific requirements for your dog, it's better for the dog and for you that you know what a dog will be like as an adult. Most shelters/rescues and even veterinarians are fairly lousy at guessing the breeds that go into a mix (not least because the parents could have been mixes themselves, and because puppies often look very different from the adults they grow into), and more than once I've seen a dog whose owners had been told was a (small dog) x (small dog) mix which ended up being much bigger than expected. If you get a mixed-breed puppy, the odds are good that you won't be able to accurately predict what it will grow up to be like, partly because people rarely know the father(s) of any given accidental litter, and partly because it can be very hard to predict what a given puppy will grow up to be (since puppies from the same litter can have different fathers, even a partially witnessed breeding may not produce the same breed mix in the puppies, and even litters with a single father can produce extremely different puppies, since crosses rarely produce predictable results). If you specifically need a small, laid-back dog (for example), I'd suggest you either choose an adult mix from a rescue or shelter (good rescues tend to do far more extensive testing of the dogs they take in than shelters do, and for that reason I'd personally choose to go through a rescue), or choose a purebred puppy from an ethical and reputable breeder. Going to some dog shows in your area (check the AKC's site and the UKC's site to find some near you) can help you both find breeds that suit you and talk to some breeders.

I would run, not walk, away from any breeder who intentionally cross-bred to produce mixes (rather than working to produce a new breed, as ROU_Xenophobe describes), there are enough accidental ones dying in shelters without unscrupulous people producing more of them on purpose. If you can find someone who follows breeder ethics (like health testing, guaranteeing their puppies a home for life, etc.) and intentionally cross-breeds, I'd be extremely surprised.
posted by biscotti at 10:43 AM on January 6, 2005

Biscotti, there are a lot of breed-specific rescue groups out there. I've personally worked with groups for collies, shelties, and German Shepherds. So wanting a pure-breed doesn't rule out a rescue dog.

An advantage of rescue groups is that they will let you - encourage you - to spend time with and get to know a dog before adoption. You'll get a good sense of the dog's activity level, interactivity, etc., and I think that's a lot more valid than knowing what breed its parents were.
posted by tizzie at 11:43 AM on January 6, 2005

Definitely, tizzie, I didn't mean to imply otherwise - but going to dog shows to see and meet different breeds is still a good idea to narrow down your choices, and many good breeders are also involved with breed rescue (many say "if you don't rescue, don't breed"), which can be a good way to learn about rescues and individual rescue dogs as well. Good breed rescues also tend to be very serious about only taking dogs who are good candidates for rehoming, and test the dogs carefully for any temperament issues.
posted by biscotti at 3:15 PM on January 6, 2005

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