Finding a dog breeder is not as easy as it looks. With online pet sales, poorly disguised puppy mills dogs, and backyard breeders, it is difficult to tell a reliable breeder from a scam.  The term “backyard breeder” does not refer to someone who breeds in their own residence. It refers to the innumerable breeders who are not registered, or who do not engage with breeding their cats or dogs in a responsible and invested manner. Don’t be fooled: just because a breeder seems to love their pet does not mean that  1) they are informed about a breeder’s responsibilities, or 2) they have fulfilled them.

Finding a good breeder does not have to be a painstaking process, as there are several ways to get in touch with people who value ethical breeding. The American Kennel Club often will provide listings of reliable breeders and online breeder classifieds, and the National Breeder Club Referral provides contact information for those who can help buyers find specific dog breeders near them. The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association provide breeder lists, and specific cat breed clubs, which also provide reputable referrals for breeders in your area.   Visit a local veterinarian to see if he knows any good breeders, or reach out to friends who have had a positive experience. Another way to network with professional breeders who have a long-standing presence in the business, is to attend a breed show for the cat or dog.  There you can observe the way the animals interact with their surroundings, their owner, and other animals, while observing how the breeder treats their pets.

Be picky with who you choose. There are plenty of phony breeders masquerading as trustworthy experts, so be sure to consider the following check-list of what a reliable breeder will do.

A good breeder will do the following:

  • Know the breed’s history and common health complications.
  • Only breed a few kinds of dogs.  Any breeder offering over 3 breed (including mixes and cross breeds) ought to be avoided.
  • Keep the puppies/kittens under close supervision in a safe indoor area.
  • Keep the puppy or kitty until they are at least 8 weeks old, having been weaned from the mother.
  •  Treat the mother delicately. The breeder should not use the same dog/cat to breed more than 3-4 litters in her life, and should be very attentive to her needs and comfort.
  • Plan the breeding times responsibly, based on the mother’s health and the promise of buyers who can provide good homes for future puppies or kittens.
  • Ensure that the animals get all necessary vaccinations, health checks and veterinarian visits for the kittens/puppies.
  • Provide proof of shots/ medical records both for the new puppy/kitty and the parents.
  • Ask any prospective buyer many questions about the home they live in, the lifestyle the pet will have, and any plans the buyer has for the cat or dog.
  • Be willing to provide references from customers in the past.
  • Act as a guidance resource for new pet owners.
  • Be contracted with the buyer to take back the pet if at any time the owner cannot provide for him.

Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder questions before you agree to purchase the pet.  Pet ownership is for life,  so be sure to choose someone you can trust.