Contrary to popular belief, buying a purebred dog does not always mean you are buying a well bred dog. This holds true for any breed of dog but especially for popular or trending breeds (off-standard coloring, XL claims etc.) It is imperative to ask questions, educate yourself and do as much research as you can prior to making your purchase. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few different breeders and build relationships ahead of time so that when the time comes that you are ready for your purchase you have already established a good understanding with reputable breeders of your breed choice. Below are some comparisons of what a reputable breeder (well bred purebred) will look like vs a backyard breeder (purebred).
· Parents are BOTH registered with a recognizable kennel club (CKC, AKC, UKC, FCI) vs not registered at all or having only one registered parent / one parent that is unable to become registered. Breeder provides proof of registration. Be sure to look at the names and ages on the registration as some backyard breeders will show you papers from old dogs or dogs that are not their own. This ensures that your puppy is purebred and is or can become registered as well.
· Breeder has a specific goal. Generally speaking this would be to improve the breed in aspects relating to health, temperament and type. Breeding within the breed standard to create a better specimen or with a specific goal in mind (purpose-bred mixes would be an example of this. Breeding to create flyball dogs, agility dogs etc by using healthy and successful sport dogs as the parents). Some kind of goal vs just pumping out puppies for no particular rhyme or reason and with no thought put in.
· Health testing is completed and proof is shown. Some breeds can be predisposed to certain health issues (Presa Canario – hip and elbow dysplasia, Doberman – Von Willebrands Disease and Cardiac DCM, Dalmation – urate crystals etc). All breeds should be hip and elbow tested (Pennhip, OFA) and shown proof. Breeds with more particular issues should have the appropriate testing as well. OFA Eyes, OFA Cardiac, OFA Patellas, Genetic Testing etc. depending on the breed. Some breeders will test for everything regardless of breed and of course this is gold standard. If you’re dealing with a backyard breeder, parents are generally not health tested. Keep in mind that you cannot get official OFA Elbows done until 24 months of age. Preliminary OFA Elbows and Hips can be done before 24 months and Pennhip can be done as early as 16 weeks. * Note * DNA/Genetic testing alone does NOT mean the dog is fit to be bred. Many backyard breeders will write that to make it look like complete health testing has been done.
· Age of parents. Breed clubs have different requirements as to what is the appropriate age to begin breeding. Regardless of breed, if you see a dam of a litter is 10 or 11 months old, this is not a breeder I would ever recommend or consider. Breeding a puppy itself is surely for financial purposes only. A common excuse is that it was an accident. If it was an accident then surely you wouldn’t be selling the puppies for $3000 each. For myself personally, I would want my dam to be at least 24 months.
· Sells puppies on contractual agreements with spay and neuter clause and wants to keep in touch with new owners. If you go on Kijiji or Craigslist, drive up, pickup your puppy and leave never to speak with the breeder again your dog was most likely not well bred. Ethical and responsible breeders want to ensure that their stock/lines are not compromised and will only sell with breeding rights under certain circumstances. If the breeder doesn’t care what is done with your dog once it leaves the property, this is not a responsible/ethical breeder.
· Currently active in dog related activities (shows, trials, events). Some breeds are particular on show lines vs working lines. There is some debate here. Regardless, the breeder should be participating in either or both. Some reputable breeders who have been in the breed for many years may not be currently active in these areas but have produced generations of dogs who are/have been successful in these areas and often are currently acting as breed club members, mentors, judges, providing seminars etc. If you go to a breeder who has done nothing with their dogs (no show titles, no sport titles, no working titles AND no relevant history in the breed – likely not a breeder I would consider). Breeding on pedigree/lines alone (where they bought the dogs from may have been reputable) but that does not prove that THEIR dogs have the correct breed standard, temperament or versatility to be bred.
· Proper puppy enrichment. Is your puppy raised in a basement / garage with no environmental enrichment, exposure or socialization? Is there photo and video of the puppies being raised in a clean environment and being exposed to age appropriate auditory, visual and tactile stimulation? As a bonus - car rides, visitors (when they’re old enough), children (if possible). If the answer is no, the lack of that enrichment can have a long lasting negative effect on your puppy. Does the breeder have any photos or videos of the raising process (from birth to 8 week) or do they just start showing you photos when they’re almost ready to go? This could mean they’re hiding the living/raising conditions and maybe have not done much at all with the puppies until ready to list them for sale.
· Microchips and first right of refusal. A reputable breeder will have the puppies microchipped and MAY even keep the microchip under their own name. This ensures that if the puppy/dog EVER ends up in a shelter the breeder is traceable so they can retrieve it from the shelter. First right of refusal in the contract ensures that the puppy/dog cannot be rehomed or sold without the breeder first being contacted and having the ability to take the dog back. Reputable breeders won’t ever want their dogs to end up in the shelter and will always want to know their whereabouts.
· Temperament testing. A responsible breeder will not breed dogs with ill temperaments. Temperament has a genetic component so this is why we are seeing such a decline in proper temperament as the years go on. Backyard breeders will breed nervy, aggressive, fearful dogs and this trait can go forward to the puppies. There are many temperament tests available that some breeders may choose to do. If they have not temperament tested its best to inquire about the temperaments of the parents and you can ask to meet the parents as well (depending on the breed you may not be able to meet the parents ON the property and with some breeds prone to being stranger aggressive/aloof you may not be able to meet these particular types of dog but that is standard for the breed so it is not a fault).
In conclusion, there are many aspects that come together to ensure that a breeder is breeding for the right reasons. Overbreeding (too many litters for one female, breeding geriatric females etc.), breeding dog A with B with no thought given as to why, breeding solely for profit (spending little to no money on their stock in order to maximize profit off the litters) instead of breeding to better and preserve the breed are some of the points that differentiate purebred vs well bred and backyard breeders vs ethical breeders.