Questions to Ask a Dog Breeder.

For those that are considering purchasing a dog from a breeder, it can be a little overwhelming finding the right breeder for you. This of course is under the presumption that you’ve already determined the type of dog that you want. I wanted very specific things in a dog and spent hours upon hours researching breeds then began vetting breeders.

As the dog I was looking for was purebred, you should find that most if not all purebred dogs will have a national association for that particular breed. Contact that association and ask them if they have a list of breeders. Also, the American Kennel Club is a good resource for both breed information and a list of breeders. You may find some smaller associations, but I would tell you that you can limit your search to these two or three venues so as to avoid information overload.

Now it’s time to play twenty questions… or more like 53 according to my list. As with most things, the more people you talk to the more you learn and in this case the more questions you have. So here is a list of questions to ask a breeder (in no particular order) some of which may or may not apply depending on what type of person/family you are and the breed of dog you want to buy.

  • Will you be having any litters of puppies for sale this year? When do you anticipate your next litter?
  • Will you sale your puppies as a family dog, hunting or other type of dog?
  • How long have you been breeding dogs? Breeding this particular breed?
  • What certifications do you have? Breed club or association affiliations?
  • Can you provide me with references if so desired?
  • Why did you choose this breed?
  • Do you show any of your dogs as well?
  • How often do you breed puppies?
  • Anything you would change about the breed positive or negative?
  • Is this a hobby for you, part-time or full-time job/passion?
  • How do you specifically train and socialize the puppies?
  • Will the dog fair well in the climate of which I live?
  • What are the grooming rituals and frequency?
  • Your thoughts on spaying and neutering?
  • Health concerns with the breed?
  • Health concerns compared to other dogs?
  • Likelihood of these specific health conditions happening?
  • Thoughts on pet health insurance?
  • Can you tell me about the two dogs you’re looking at breeding? Do they have a pedigree? AKC registered? Temperament? Size? How many litters have they had? Family history of the parents? All documentation available for me to see? OFA Hips, elbows, thyroid, eyes, cardiac K Locus checked? Any health problems with previous litters?
  • Do you alter the dog after birth in any way i.e. dew claws, tail docking, etc?
  • Can you provide advice for vaccination schedules, training, socialization, feeding, watering, bathing, etc.?
  • When picked up will puppies be up to date on vaccinations and dewormed?
  • How old will the puppy be before it can come home?
  • Will it be potty and/or crate trained?
  • Are the puppies born and raised at your place or somewhere else? Would you mind sharing the address?
  • Do I pick my dog from the litter or do you based on what I’m looking for since you would know their personalities better than I?
  • Can I pick the name of the dog?
  • Do you provide a health guaranty or return policy? In writing?
  • Do you operate using a contract?
  • Do you require a deposit and what is your deposit policy? When is it due? Is it refundable?
  • What is the cost of your puppies?
  • Do I need to give you my name to put on the waiting list?
  • Can I come pick up the dog or do you ship them? Cost to ship? Best airline? Other recommendations on picking up the puppy?
  • I know you may not want to speak poorly of other breeders, but any thoughts on breeders I should avoid?

So there you have it. As you can tell a conversation with any breeder might be a long one so you can spread the questions out over several calls or at the very least let the breeder know you have a lot of questions. You can even make a joke about it.

As the conversation progresses, you may or may not feel comfortable or feel the need to ask so many questions. I spoke to a number of breeders and once I began speaking to the breeder of which I ending up buying my puppy, I felt an almost immediate rapport with her and trusted her. And trust me when I say that if you talk to enough breeders, you will be able to decide whether or not you want to work with that breeder based on their responses and the manner of which they respond.

All you’re doing is having a conversation and deciding if you like and trust that person well enough to do business, but keep in mind that it is not an interrogation or job interview. A breeder can choose not to sell a puppy to you just as easily so be considerate and respectful of their time and needs as well. Depending on the breed you may have limited options so you don’t want to burn any bridges. As a matter of fact, I spoke to a breeder that declined to sell someone a puppy for what I feel were very legitimate reasons.

In a related matter and of my own personal opinion, having a dog isn’t for everyone. I volunteer at Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando virtually every weekend and we do see dogs surrendered for many reasons i.e. not enough time, too expensive, landlord issues, moving, health problems of owner, etc.

To me a dog is like a child and is something you prepare for in all aspects as you do have to change your life for your dog just like you would for that of a child. And they are not an accessory to an outfit or to project a certain lifestyle… they are a companion and part of your family.  You will have to spend money on them and they deserve regular attention. Currently, my puppy and I are going through training and there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel or paraphrasing when the AKC Owner’s Pledge says everything perfectly. Here it is: http://www.akc.org/pdfs/cgc/pledge.pdf

I recently read a quote about dogs from BarkBox that I believe sums up a dog’s life perfectly:

“They might only be here a part of our lives, but to them you are their whole life.”

OK… I’m off my soapbox now – haha.

Now, there are a few specific questions I want to touch on briefly because I just feel they are too important not do to so.

I contemplated getting on several breeders’ waiting lists, but most require a deposit so understand all the terms of the deposit as should you decide to get on more than one list you may end up forfeiting one of your deposits.

Regarding price, a purebred dog will likely cost more than a mixed breed dog and prices will vary from breeder to breeder although they should be in the same range. If you feel you can trust the breeder and they’re going to give you a good healthy dog that will live a long time then it’s well worth the price of the dog.

I want to share one last thing that surprised me when talking to some of the breeders. Some of the breeders may actually pick your puppy for you. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? If you had this image in your mind where you’d go to the breeder, play with a litter of puppies and have this magical connection then I hate to burst your bubble as it may not happen.

And after my breeder explained it to me it actually makes more sense. These breeders spend many weeks with these puppies taking care of them (often around the clock) and see each develop their own personality. They test them for a variety of things some of which include hunting ability, temperament, aptitude, etc. So I prepared a very detailed fact sheet for by breeder including information about: my home, how active I am, time I can devote to the dog and the type of dog I wanted (gender, alpha/beta/omega, previous dogs owned, hunting vs. family dog, my plan for training and socialization, etc.). I know some people are particular about the coat and coloration of the dog, but those traits can change as the puppy grows. I would tell you not to even consider this as there are no guarantees. And if you’re honest with your breeder (and yourself) about who you are and what you’re looking for in a dog your breeder can pick out the dog that best matches your needs. Trust me when I say having a healthy dog that meshes with your personality, family and lifestyle is far better than having a dog that looks a certain way.

And on that note, if you’ve been able to take away at least one thing from this blog that helps you in any way then that makes it well worth the time I spent writing it.

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Yep… my girl’s a Steeler’s fan!


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