You have your list of potential breeders finalized and ranked. Now you are ready for the final stage of your decision making: the breeder visit.
Visiting the breeder will be the single best way to evaluate whether a breeder is ethical, responsible, and humane. On your visit there will be a number of things to look for that can tell you about how they treat their dogs, what the living conditions are like, and if they are raising happy and healthy puppies.
Follow the tips listed here to help you make the best choice possible.
Make the First Visit “Adults Only”
Visiting the breeder, and seeing the puppies for the first time, is one of the most exciting experiences you will have. If you have kids and are looking for a family dog, this will certainly be a memory your children carry for a long time. However, it’s up to you – the logical, responsible adult – to make sure this memory is a great one. That’s why we encourage you to go alone, or with your spouse or friend, before taking your kids to see the puppies. Young children won’t be able to see past the cuteness of the puppies to the responsibility they require, and they won’t understand why you can’t take one home if the breeder fails to meet your high standards.
Make sure the breeder passes your final tests before taking your kids along to pick out their new dog.
Never Go Intending to Bring a Puppy Home
Just like with any other big decision in your life, it’s better to take a long time to make a choice than it is to rush into a bad situation. In chapter four we recommended that anyone adopting from a shelter or rescue should sleep on the decision overnight. It is the same for selecting a breeder; you will virtually always make a better decision once a little time has passed and you are more emotionally detached from the cute puppies you saw (and yes, you will become emotionally attached when you see them). Go into your first visit knowing that you won’t be taking one home.
If you had to travel a long way for the visit, and making a second trip isn’t possible, then go out to lunch or dinner to talk it over with your spouse or a trusted friend, and then come back later to make the final decision.
Fill Out a Visit Checklist
Your senses will tell you whether or not the breeder is ethical, responsible, and humane. You just have to make sure you are looking in all the right places.
Here is a checklist of things to look for while on your visit:
- Find out how many dogs the breeder has.
- They should have answered this question on the phone, but if the number you see doesn’t match up with what they said, it’s a big red flag. Why would someone lie about the number of dogs they have? Probably because they have more than they can responsibly take care of. Some quality larger breeders will have a few dozen dogs, but most that are that big (or bigger) will have a hard time keeping up with the health, and needs of their dogs. If the breeder you are visiting is that big, they should have several people (a large family or neighbors) who are helping take care of all the dogs.
- Inspect the sleeping and living conditions of the dogs.
- Most people don’t let their dogs roam free all the time, so inspect where their dogs sleep and live. If the breeder refuses to let you look around the property or see where they live and sleep, it’s a huge red flag. There is a reason they don’t want you to see it, and most likely the conditions aren’t good. Examples of good living conditions include large pens with lots of space to run around and a clean, dry sleeping area. Bad living conditions include small cages or pens, wire floors, and no clean, dry place to lay down.
- Inspect or ask to see the adult dogs.
- The breeder is certainly going to show you the puppies and their mom, and the temperament of the mother (and father) will be a great indicator of the temperament of the puppies as they grow older. In addition, you should also make sure you inspect the other adult dogs. Some bad breeders will clean up the mother and make a nice place in the garage for the puppies, while the other dogs remain somewhere else in less ideal conditions. The health of all the dogs will indicate how humane the conditions are at this facility.
- Beware of overwhelming foul odors coming from any buildings.
- This is a sure sign of deplorable living conditions in which animals are living in their own feces.
- Watch the temperament of the dogs.
- Are the dogs friendly? Or do they seem skittish? Do they look happy or worn down? Dogs are by nature happy creatures, and any that seem unhappy probably have a reason. Any dogs that seem agitated or aggressive are likely showing signs of mistreatment.
Kennel Club – Choosing the Right Breeder
This excellent video covers a lot of great information as you follow along with another family who is going through the process of finding their new pet.
Be Prepared to Say No to the Breeder
If the breeder you are visiting doesn’t measure up, walk away and find a better place to get your puppy. There are plenty of other breeders to look at; don’t settle on one that you know isn’t in it for the right reasons.