How to Find a Reputable and Ethical Breeder

Picking out a new puppy can be challenge. Even if you have a breed in mind already and a little one picked out to take home, there’s all the work involving puppy proofing, getting supplies, and carving out time for exercise, grooming, and training.

But before all that happens, you need to fine a breeder to buy a puppy from. For a popular, well-loved breed like the Labrador retriever, there’s bound to be many breeders near you and even more that are a road trip away (some may even advertise an ability to transfer the puppy to you). It can be tough to sort through so many advertisements for puppies to find the right one for your household. There’s some basic tips to follow to find a reputable and ethical breeder so that you have a happy, healthy puppy.

  • First off, don’t adopt a puppy from a breeder without first visiting the breeder’s home or facility. This is a good way to guarantee you aren’t getting your dog from a neglectful situation such as a puppy mill operation. Ask to visit with the parents of your potential puppy; see what their temperaments are like and  briefly check to see if they’re in good physical condition and well-groomed. Look around the premises. Is there a buildup of dog feces in outdoor areas? Is the area where the dogs are living dirty or unkempt? These are red flags. If anything indicates the dogs aren’t well cared for, it’s probably best to move on and contact another breeder.
  • Is your breeder advertising certain coat colors or other specifications that shouldn’t be available? There’s a high demand for “rare” coat colors in Labs, such as silver and fox red. These dogs aren’t accepted by most (reputable) registries as they are actually just variations of the traditional black, chocolate, or yellow. Breeders offering these dogs, especially at outrageous prices, should be avoided. There’s also a plethora of “designer” dog breeds that are part Lab, such as Labradoodles, boxadors, and bassadors. Many breeders of these dogs are regarded as hobbyist breeders and need close inspection before any dogs are purchased from them.  Make sure your breeder is not pushing an outrageous price for any dog, even if it is special.
  • Are your puppy’s papers made available to you? Your puppy should come with some paperwork;, at least one vet checkup, and papers for whatever registry the breeder signed them up with. If your breeder is reluctant to hand these over, be cautious. Potential owners shouldn’t have any of their dog’s medical information hidden from them. If your breeder “lost” or otherwise can’t give you registration papers, be suspicious. Your dog may have never been registered in the first place. Look for a breeder that is honest about everything concerning your potential new dog.
  • How do the breeder’s animals interact with them? Pay close attention to how the animals respond. Do they show signs of fear or aggression? The animals should be comfortable and relaxed around the breeder (and around you), and shouldn’t display signs of abuse or trauma. While it can be normal for dogs to be wary or cautious around new people, if they seem overly bothered by your presence or shy away from people they are familiar with, the breeder may not be treating them well behind closed doors. If the parent dogs are scared of people or unfriendly, it’s not unlikely that their puppies will follow the same patterns.

A responsible breeder will not let your puppy go home with you until it’s at least eight weeks of age (some may like to keep their puppies longer, up to 12 weeks). Very young puppies should not be separated from their mother and sent to a new home, and while some breeders may urge you to take a puppy that is six weeks old , it’s not in the best interest of the puppy. It can be tempting to take your cute new friend home, especially if the breeder is pushing you, but any breeder that urges you to take a puppy before it is ready should come under scrutiny. However, it’s perfectly fine to ask for visits with your puppy before it comes home with you.

Remember – Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your new dog. It’s not pushy or rude to be concerned for their health and happiness. Good breeders welcome it. Take the time to look into the way your dog has been raised, their vet care, and overall happiness as this will benefit you both in the long run.

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