Buying a Purebred Puppy or Dog From a Breeder
The first thing you need to know about buying a puppy from a breeder is that there are basically two types of breeders. We will call them "reputable breeders" and "back-yard breeders". Reputable breeders breed dogs because of their love of and devotion to their chosen breed. They do not profit from breeding dogs. In fact, they lose money from it. It is very costly to provide all the necessary veterinary care, nutrition, pet supplies, etc., not to mention all the time and energy necessary to show and breed the dogs, interview potential puppy buyers, and follow up with the new owners to make sure the puppies are healthy and happy. Many reputable breeders become mentors to the new puppy owners. Back-yard breeders, on the other hand, breed dogs for a profit. They think to themselves, "Wow, I just paid $1,000 for my purebred puppy. If I can just breed it, I can make $1,000 on each puppy I sell." They don't care whether their dog meets the breed standards, whether it might look healthy right now but carry a hidden genetic problem that can be passed on to the puppies. Take hip dysplasia, for example. It's a devastating health problem common in many breeds, yet won't start showing symptoms until later in the dogs' lives, usually way past the age you would breed them. A reputable breeder would know that their breed was prone to the problem, and would have had their dogs x-rayed and certified to have "good" hips before deciding to breed them. But a back-yard breeder, even if told about the potential problem, won't want to pay for the x-rays which would cut into their profits. Likewise, they won't pay for proper nutrition and veterinary care for their dogs and puppies once they realize how quickly the expenses start adding up. So needless to say, we do not recommend buying puppies from back-yard breeders, and the pros listed below are meant only for reputable breeders
. If you have read our section on pet store puppies, many of those same problems apply to back-yard breeders. In fact, the back-yard breeders most likely bought their dog from a pet store (or from another back-yard breeder who bought their dog from a pet store) originally, since most reputable breeders won't sell puppies to back-yard breeders, as explained below.
- Better Puppies - Reputable breeders use the best specimens from each breed as their breeding stock, and also test their dogs to make sure they do not possess and pass on any hidden genetic diseases to their puppies. As a result, you are much more likely to get a healthy puppy that has the right temperament and characteristics for the breed you have so carefully chosen to fit your lifestyle. If you have some basic knowlege of genetics, you'll know that when you breed two dogs, you will end up with a litter of puppies that won't be exactly the same from each other. Each breed was originally developed for specific reasons and have specific characteristics, and it is therefore very important to keep each subsequent generations of dogs from deviating too much from those sets of characteristics. Take size, for example. Let's say that you need or want a very big dog, and have decided on a Great Dane.
But what if Great Dane breeders everywhere took the smallest dog from each generation to use as their breeding stock? Over time, the breed would become smaller and smaller - not something we want to see happening. That is precisely why dog shows exist and why reputable breeders take their dogs through those dog shows and brag about all the championships their dogs have earned. Dogs earn points from dog shows by being the best representitive of their particular breed. Breeders will typically pick out the puppies from each litter that are most likely to excel in the show ring, the so called show-quality puppies, and either keep them or sell them to other breeders. The rest of the litter are called pet-quality puppies and are sold to the general public. They are usually still well within the desirable range for size and temperament for the breed, having come from the same show-quality parents as their show-quality littermates. On the other hand, if you buy a puppy from a pet store or a back-yard breeder, you might end up with a puppy that deviates quite a lot from the breed standards since those puppy mills do not select the best dogs to breed and over several generations of in-breeding might end up with dogs that are far from what you would expect for the breed. Pet-quality puppies are usually sold by reputable breeders on the condition that you will neuter/spay the dog and not breed it, sometimes by requiring a neuter/spay deposit they will hold until you provide a neuter/spay certificate from your vet once the puppy is old enough for the operation.
- Known Parentage - Most of the time when you buy a puppy from a breeder, you will be able to meet at least the puppy's mother, and occasionally the father as well. This is often very helpful as you will be able to see for yourself what the parent(s) look like and what their temperament's like as well. And even if you are unable to meet the father, you will know exactly who that father was, and what kind of genes he contributed to the puppies.
- Health Guarantee - Most reputable breeders take all the steps necessary to ensure the puppies they produce will be healthy and will stand behind their puppies. There are certainly some breeders out there who won't do this, so it's your responsiblity to do research and make sure you find a breeder that will. But please note that you should read the health guarantee carefully and find out what exactly the breeder will do for you in the unlikely event that you do end up with a puppy with serious health problems. Ideally, they should give you the option of keeping your puppy and would help pay some of the veterinary bills (usually only up to the price you paid for the puppy), if the health problem is fixable. If the health guarantee only allows you to return the puppy for an exchange or a refund, be forewarned that you will most likely have become too attached to the puppy by the time you find the health problems, and will likely give up the refund and keep the puppy instead.
- Mentoring - If you are new to the breed, most reputable breeders will be happy to answer your questions and help you along after you bring the puppy home. Some will even follow up with you proactively and make sure everything's working out. If you are interested in getting involved with obedience trials, agility trials, and/or other breed-specific sports (such as lure-coursing for greyhounds or water events for Newfoundlands), your breeder will likely be a good source of information and be happy to share their experience with you. Of course every breeder will be different, so if you know what kind of help you'll require after the purchase, you should ask ahead of time to make sure the breeder you choose will be able and willing to provide the assitance that you need.
- Breeder Approval Required - This is perhaps the biggest stumbling block for many potential dog owners. As we have said, reputable breeders are in it for their love of the breed and care about their dogs and puppies. They do not want any one of their puppies to end up in the wrong hands. They will interview potential dog owners extensively, sometimes even require home visits, to make sure you are capable of providing a good home for the puppy. Sometimes this makes the potential dog owners feel like they are having to beg for approval just to buy a puppy. But if you stop and think about it, they are trying to head off potential problems and might be doing you a favor if they determine that your chosen breed really isn't going to be a good fit for you. After all, they have personally actually lived with that breed of dogs (likely several of them), and know what these puppies will require in order to become happy members of their new families. Furthermore, when you feel like the breeder is giving you a hard time and forcing you to prove yourself worthy of a puppy from them, you'll know that you've found a reputable breeder.
- Expensive - Puppies from reputable breeders don't come cheap, even while the breeders are losing money on their end also. Producing healthy puppies will cost money - there's simply no way around it. But guess what? You will likely be saving money in the long run by not having huge vet bills to pay further down the road.
- Distance - Depending on whether you choose a popular breed, a rare breed, or something in between, you might have to travel far to find a reputable breeder. Some breeders may be willing to arrange shipping of the puppies so you won't need to go in person. However, keep in mind that if you go with that option, you won't be able to meet the breeder, the puppy, and its parents before you commit to the purchase.
The above information mostly refers to purchasing a puppy from a breeder. However, if you are looking to purchase an adult dog, you might be able to find one from a reputable breeder.
There are a couple of common scenerios where breeders would have an older puppy or an adult available. First, breeders typically have multiple dogs in their homes at any given time. When any of their dogs "retire" from breeding, they are usually kept with the breeders as family pets. But occasionally, if for various reasons a retired dog would be happier living somewhere else, the breeder will sell the dog instead. And though the term "retired" might put an image of a senior dog in your mind, in reality many of these dogs are quite young, sometimes only 3 or 4 years old. Secondly, when each litter of puppies are only a few weeks old, the breeders must make an educated guess as to which ones will be show-quality and which ones will be pet-quality. If any of the show-quality puppies later turn out not to be a good show dog for whatever reason, the breeder may put it up for sale as an older puppy or young adult.
Page Last Updated: October 4, 2021