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22 Key Questions To Ask a Dog Breeder Before Purchase

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Wednesday 9 February 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
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Before you head off to visit your new furry friend, arm yourself with the key questions to ask a dog breeder before purchase. While it may be tempting to rush your fur baby home, it’s important to ask plenty of questions, first. This will ensure that your puppy is healthy, sound, and ready to start its adventure with you. By asking plenty of questions, you ensure that you only support a reputable breeder who aims to produce high-quality puppies whilst also bettering their breed.

There are many questions to ask before purchasing from a dog breeder. These questions range from asking to meet the sire and dam, to questions about the breeder’s goal for their litter. Ready to find out more? Read on with us!

Can I Meet The Parents

A responsible breeder will allow you to meet your puppy’s parents. This allows you to see their temperaments, get a general idea of their health, and check them against the breed standard yourself. These things are important because the temperament and health of the parents will make up part of your puppy’s own genetic makeup. However, there are some situations where it may not be possible to physically meet both of the puppy’s parents.

Keep in mind that a reputable breeder is looking for the perfect match for their dam. This match may not necessarily be a stud dog who lives with them. Those breeders who use stud dogs from across the country are doing so despite the potential extra cost to plan breeding that meets their goals. So, in this case, the stud may not be on the premises. But, the breeder should be able to show you pictures of him, share the results of his health tests, and articulate why they chose him for their bitch.

How Old Are The Puppies

Never buy a puppy who is less than 7 weeks of age. Although it was once normal to collect a puppy as early as 6 weeks old, newer research shows that it is vitally important that your puppy stays with their dam and siblings up until they are 7 weeks old. At this age, your puppy should be fully weaned and they should have had valuable experiences playing with and growing with their littermates. Because of this, a 7-8 week old puppy is both physically and mentally prepared to go to their new home than a younger puppy.

How Many Litters Has The Dam Had

Answers will vary from breeder to breeder. However, generally speaking, most breeders agree that having a dam produce two to three litters is acceptable for most breeds. The number of litters should depend largely on the dam’s health and breed – if she is still healthy and a great example of her breed, it is not unreasonable to go for a third litter. If she is beginning to suffer from health issues and she has had problems with her previous litters, a third is not a good idea.

And, generally speaking, it is never wise to breed a bitch for the first time if she is not more than one year old. For most dog breeds, two years of age is the safest minimum. While some breeds will come into their first heat relatively early, such as the Chihuahua, it is not advisable to breed them on their first cycle as they are too emotionally and physically immature.

breeder of dogs
A dog breeder makes sure their dogs are well-fed, rested, cared for, active, and socialized. 

Can I See And Handle The Full Litter

Your puppy’s breeder should allow you to visit the entire litter if they are still in the household. On your first visit to the litter, it pays to stand at a distance and observe them unobtrusively. In doing this, you can watch to see the normal behavior of the puppies. Do they play nicely? Do any of them show unusual aggression? Are they similar in size, health, and temperament? Observe the mother and puppies interacting, too. Some puppy mills will use houses as “storefronts” to put up an act of being a responsible breeder. Where this is the case, the “dam” may not show interest in the puppies at all.

Where Were They Bred

A responsible breeder will house their dogs in clean, safe, and spacious quarters. Does the breeder make sure that their dogs are living in a suitable environment? Or are there signs of neglect? Be sure to only support a breeder who maintains high standards of hygiene for their dogs and puppies! Their dogs must also have access to clean, fresh water at all times.

Have The Parents Undergone Health Tests

When it comes to buying a healthy puppy, health tests for both parents are paramount. Your breeder should carry out testing for the health conditions that commonly affect their breed. For example, German Shorthaired Pointers should receive the following evaluations: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, ophthalmologist evaluation, and a cone degeneration DNA test, according to the AKC. These tests should apply to both parents.

How Long Have You Been Breeding Dogs

Some of the best breeders are those with experience. An experienced breeder should have extensive knowledge of their breed. In contrast to an inexperienced breeder, an experienced breeder should also have a steady reputation in the breed and should have plenty of reviews for you to look over. However, that’s not to say that a newer breeder cannot be just as reputable – if you are looking for a family pet, a newer breeder may be perfect for you. For a champion dog, however, an experienced breeder may be a better fit for you. If the breeder is new to dog breeding, they should tell you about their mentors who have helped them to establish a good breeding program.

What Are Some Ways You Socialize Your Puppies

The first 7-8 weeks of your puppy’s life are in the breeder’s hands. Part of the breeder’s responsibility is to make sure that the puppies get a solid start on their socialization. That being said, though, there are many limitations at this young age. Until your puppy has had their first round of vaccines, it is very risky to get them out and about. Ideally, your breeder should expose the puppies to all types of environmental stimuli and noises. They should also introduce trusted people to the puppies.

Are The Puppies’ Vaccinations Updated

Some breeders will get their puppies vaccinated before they go to their new homes. Not all do, however, and whether you get a pre-vaccinated puppy may be down to your own personal preference. Some pet parents prefer to go to their own vet for their puppy’s first vaccinations. This is because different vets may use different brands, some might insist on starting the course again if the breeder’s vet has used a different brand. If your puppy has not been vaccinated with the breeder, the breeder should at least have the entire litter vet-checked prior to them going to their new homes.

Has The Puppy Received Treatments Like Deworming

It’s important to ask if your puppy has been de-wormed. De-worming is a critical measure for your puppy’s breeder to take, as puppies are extremely prone to worm infestations. Your puppy should be wormed at 2, 5, 6, 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and then every three months thereafter. It also pays to ask what brand the breeder uses for their puppies.

Can You Provide a Health Guarantee And Contract

A puppy health guarantee is a type of contract. It is often offered by reputable breeders to provide protection and reassurance to both parties, regarding the wellness of the puppies. However, be aware of tricky wording in the contract and thoroughly read it before signing it. Many unreputable breeders are aware that you are unlikely to want to return your new puppy to them in the event that something is wrong. If they offer a replacement puppy, how do they guarantee that this new puppy won’t have the same hereditary health issues as the first? Be sure to ask these questions before signing anything.

When Can I Take The Puppy Home

A responsible breeder will not allow you to take your puppy until they are 7 to 8 weeks of age. Any breeder who lets you take a puppy before this should be heavily questioned. Removing a pup before they are emotionally, mentally, and physically mature enough can have lasting behavioral consequences. Unless you are offering to hand-raise an orphan puppy, or some other special circumstances arise, there is no reason to take a puppy before they are 7 to 8 weeks old.

Can We Contact You After Picking Up The Puppy

A legitimate breeder will be willing to give you their contact information. You should check that their contact details are up to date and actually work before leaving with your puppy. There may be times when you need to get in touch with the breeder, for example, if your new puppy suddenly becomes unwell. So, be sure to get a phone number, e-mail address, and any other forms of contact that you may need.

What Requirements Do You Need From Interested Buyers

A responsible dog breeder will have plenty of questions for you. As a breeder, they must make sure that their pups are going to safe and loving homes with responsible owners. As well as this, a reputable breeder should be able to match you to the right puppy for you based on your lifestyle and needs. Do not trust a breeder who asks no questions about your lifestyle, needs, and ability to care for one of their puppies.

Good breeders put a great deal of time into caring for their dogs, researching and deciding which dogs to breed, and screening potential buyers. 

What Should I Feed My Puppy

Your puppy’s breeder may send you home with a supply of the food they are currently eating, or at the very least, should advise you on what to give them. Many breeders will recommend that you keep your pup on the same food they already eat. If you choose to change your puppy’s food, be sure to do so gradually. A sudden change can cause digestive upsets for your puppy.

What Is Your Policy On Pet-Quality Puppies

If you are looking for a high-quality working or show dog, there will be times when breeders produce puppies that are a “lower quality” than first expected. These puppies might have genetic defects or some other quality that leads the breeder to decide that the puppy should not be used for conformation showing or breeding. A breeder might sell a pet-quality puppy with AKC limited registration, which means that they can compete in most AKC events except for conformation. It also means that the puppy’s future offspring cannot be registered with the AKC. Your breeder may ask you to sign a contract to say that you will not breed from a pet-quality puppy as the puppy cannot better the breed.

Do You Have References

While it may seem like overkill at first, asking for references is actually a great way to ensure that you only support the best breeders. Ask the breeder if there are any previous puppy buyers who you could get in touch with for reference. If the breeder cannot provide this, they may refer you to online reviews or messages between themselves and other puppy buyers to show evidence. They may even refer you to other big-name breeders in the breed who can vouch for them – just be sure to check these breeders out, too.

How Many Dogs Do You Own

In some states, there is a maximum number of dogs that one breeder can own. Double-check the laws in your area to check if the breeder is compliant. Your breeder should not own so many dogs that any one of them go neglected, and the breeder should be able to tell you about all of them individually. Do not ignore signs of neglect, especially where there are larger numbers of dogs involved.

Many reputable dog breeders are active in their breed. Some will compete in dog sports, working trials, and shows, getting involved in the breed directly. This is especially important for working breeds, like the Black Mouth Cur. Many buyers of Black Mouth Curs are seeking hard-working dogs with innate working ability – the breeder should be able to show evidence that their dogs are great at what they do.

Are You a Member Of a Kennel Club

Membership in the American Kennel Club, Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, or the Fédération Cynologique Internationale is a helpful thing to look for in a breeder. However, a kennel club membership does not guarantee quality. As a general rule, kennel clubs don’t go out and do checks on every breeder to see if they are complying with their rules. Unless there have been complaints about the breeder, it’s safe to assume that the kennel club has only taken the litter’s registration and fee. And, while it is uncommon and easy to check for legitimacy, some breeders will attempt to forge AKC registration papers to pass off the litter as legitimate. Look for other credentials with the AKC, like the Breeder of Merit program, for example.

What Is This Breed’s Temperament And Energy Like

Your puppy’s breeder must be knowledgeable about their breed! Be sure to ask them plenty of questions about the breed and let them know why you take interest in the breed itself. Someone who is breeding solely for financial gain, or is backyard breeding, is less likely to be able to tell you about the breed in an extensive way. Also, a responsible breeder will outright tell you if they feel that their breed is not a good match for your lifestyle and needs. A good breeder wants their puppies to go to a suitable home, and not the first buyer who comes along with the money.

What Were Your Goals For This Litter

A responsible breeder who wants to better their breed will have clear goals when selecting the dam and sire. If their goal is to produce excellent working dogs, they may select high-drive dogs with proven working ability. If their goal is to produce laid-back companion dogs, they should be able to tell you about how they went about choosing dogs with the best temperaments. The breeder should speak knowledgeably about the selection process for their dogs.

Before bringing your fur baby home, be sure to arm yourself with plenty of knowledge and questions. Be sure to only support responsible breeders who can prove the measures they take to produce quality puppies. And, as always, if you cannot find the right breeder for you, there are plenty of dogs in shelters who are looking for a loving home like yours!

2 comments on “22 Key Questions To Ask a Dog Breeder Before Purchase”

  1. Stephanie & Don Lucas

    It is too dangerous to allow strangers to come in and bring diseases (covid, parvo etc…) and maybe kill the breeder and steal the puppies. With the advent of messenger face time and websites? A breeder can be extraordinarily transparent and show everything needed to provide “safety” for a buyer. Longevity on AKC, Facebook and Google, reviews on Google, Yelp, etc… can tell a buyer everything they need to know about a breeder without allowing the client to enter our homes and putting us in danger.

    1. Hi Stephanie & Lucas!

      Each breeder has their own personal preference and I completely understand your concerns about allowing strangers to view your litters. It’s up to you as the breeder to set whatever rules you are comfortable with. Not allowing visitors is the best way to keep a litter safe from viruses and untrustworthy people. I think one of the main concerns with this, though, is the common belief that if a breeder doesn’t allow you to visit the puppies in person, you must be hiding something about the litter – which isn’t the case for dutiful breeders like yourself. I think a big issue comes with lack of understanding on the part of buyers sometimes – they must know what questions to ask and how to identify a reputable breeder. So many fall victim to these BYB ruses because they don’t know what to look for. That’s where it’s essential for responsible breeders to keep doing what they do to set the gold standard. Back to the point though, not allowing visitation is something I have become more open to upon further research and, as such, I would like to update this article to reflect that when I can get access to do so.

      The option to allow visitors can be good for socialization; but at the same time, if you choose to prohibit visitors but have a family at home, puppies can still get ample socialization. I think some people believe that not allowing visitors is detrimental to the litter as a whole in terms of socialization, but it can and does work out just as well and can be much safer. This is especially the case for areas of the world where diseases are more commonplace.

      There’s a few things that can be done to smooth out the process of in-person visits… And I do feel all of these things should be the norm, but sadly they’re not. Hand washing (sanitization) and shoe removal should be compulsory, perhaps even a parvocide footbath for good measure as well. Visits should only be for pre-screened potential puppy homes with whom you have already had plenty of correspondence with. Again, it’s entirely up to the breeder whether they allow visitors or not – there are pros and cons to both for both the breeder and the prospective buyer.

      Thank you for your insight as a reputable Chihuahua breeder.

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