Due to lockdown, there are a LOT of ‘breeders’ cropping up. The prices of puppies have risen to an astonishing level as the demand has increased.
This means that lots of people have chosen to breed from their dogs to cash in on the high demand for puppies.
Because of this, the dogs that are being bred from may not be the best, no health tests (BVA have paused their hip/elbow scoring so these can’t be done any time soon), poor temperaments, and raised in suboptimal environments with people who don’t know what is needed to raise happy, healthy and well-balanced puppies.
It is a minefield trying to find a good breeder, I completely empathise with that. The good breeders generally have a long waiting list that could be years long and may have even taken the decision to stop breeding until things get back to normal.
My first suggestion would be to wait. Get on a waiting list if you need to and just hold out until things get back to a level of normality.
If you do decide to go ahead and get a puppy now, then things to look for in a breeder include:
1. Kennel club registered assured breeder. This means, to a degree, the breeder has been vetted by the Kennel club to be breeding to a specific standard. This alone unfortunately isn’t a guarantee of a good breeder
2. Meet the parents. Obviously this is hard at the moment with lockdown restrictions, but try to at least meet the mum. You could do this in a public area, maybe go for a short walk to get a feel for the mums temperament and have a chat with the breeder. You can see how she responds to the breeder and interacts with you (strangers) as well as passes other people and dogs. the temperament if the parents is so so important in judging the temperament of the pups. So if there is anything you don’t like, (i.e. avoidance of you, barking, disconnection with the breeder, or any issues with dogs) leave it.
If this isn’t possible at all, make sure the breeder will FaceTime with you and show you the mum in detail. Not just her sleeping or mooching, but possibly send you some videos of her behaviour on a walk or with visitors.
3. Health tests. It is paramount that BOTH parents have been fully health tested for the breed. For example, hip and elbow scoring, eye tests as well as DNA tests for any hereditary conditions the breed may have. If the breeder doesn’t know which health tests the breed should have, run. You can find a list of the relevant health tests on the Kennel Club website. Make sure you know which ones you will be looking for!
4. Breeder approachability. It is important to have a good relationship with your breeder, as if you come across any issues during your pups’ life, you need to be able to go back to them to chat about things. This may include an illness the puppy has within the first few weeks, or behavioural issue the pup develops as a teenager. It is important that the breeder (if not you) have contact with the other owners of the siblings. It is handy to ‘compare notes’ in terms of health and temperament, as well as for the breeders’ records on which dogs to breed from (or not to breed from) again.
5. Make sure your breeder is breeding for health first, then temperament, then things like colour, conformation and working ability. These should NEVER come before health and temperament, so avoid any breeders that are breeding for specific ‘rare’ colours of a breed or put a lot of weight on their looks. Generally, the rarer the colour, the more of a genetic bottleneck that has to be created, restricting the variation of health and especially temperament with those dogs.
6. Ideally breeders should have a form of qualification or education in dog training and behaviour, and make sure they recommend a professional (and science based) trainer to help you on your way with your new puppy.
7. The environment the puppies will be raised in. this is SO important as the first 8 weeks will mould your puppies’ personality and expectations. Ideally the environment the puppies are raised in will be as close as possible to your home environment. For example, if you have young kids, the breeder should also have kids around the puppies. If you have a cat, the breeder should have a cat, if you live in a build up area, the breeder should also live in a build up area so the puppies can get used to the noises. If you get a puppy from a barn at the back of a farm and bring them into a lively family home, they are likely to struggle.
8. Lastly but most definitely not least, breed. It may be tempting to get a breed that fits your ideal of a ‘cute’ dog, or one that you have seen on TV doing cool tricks, but it is so important to make sure the breed and the breeds needs suits your lifestyle. For example, it is unlikely a working line border collie will suit a retired couples lifestyle, or a boxer a family with very young children, this isn’t about temperament, but the exercise and psychological needs of these examples as young dogs. if you have a particular breed in mind, chat to multiple people who have this breed to get a feel for the requirements. See how people with the same lifestyle as you cope with that breed. Don’t be afraid to change your mind and have a few options to choose from. Along with temperament and physical needs, consider grooming, size, food intake and trainability. For example, don’t get a newfoundland if you life in an apartment and don’t have time to mop the floor 10 times a day! Think about it!
The key here is to keep an open mind and not let heart rule head. Getting a puppy is such an exciting time and should be enjoyed to the fullest, but to ensure a lifetime of fun and happiness you need to seriously consider the place you get a puppy from.
If you are in any doubt about the breeder/environment, walk. There WILL be more litters and you WILL get your puppy. Don’t rush. Think.
And of course, I have to say, rescuing is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Like anything, nothing is guaranteed but you have a good chance of being able to get a dog that suits your lifestyle as the rescue centre will be able to match the dog to you.
Archie is a rescue, and I have never looked back. What an incredible dog he is!
I hope this helps, happy hunting!