Congrats on deciding that you want to bring home a new puppy!
Just like you did research on how to choose the right breed, you will now need to find the best breeder.
Of course, you want to buy the healthiest and happiest puppy from a legitimate breeder but how do you know which breeder to trust and which you should avoid at all costs?
I’ve made a comprehensive list of questions to ask a dog breeder that will help you draw a distinction between good and bad breeders to make sure you will have the best addition for your family.
While a lot of people promote “adopt, don’t shop”, I think there are valid reasons for buying a puppy from a reputable breeder and in the end, it’s entirely up to you.
If you’re open to adopting a rescue, check out this dog adoption guide.
Ready to avoid wasting time on a bunch of irresponsible breeders? Then let’s dive right in.
Visiting the Breeder
Getting a puppy is such a big decision and a
Ask the breeder if it would be possible to check out the place where the puppies live with their parents.
Your alarm bells should immediately start ringing if he refuses. What does he have to hide?
There is absolutely no legitimate reason why you cannot check out the facility before buying a puppy.
How a breeder passes successfully:
- Puppies live with their mother
- Clean and warm environment
- Access to enough water and food
It is not a shame if a puppy just urinated on the ground but there is a difference between somewhat clean and neglect.
Look around the property and see how well-kept the yard and the house are looking.
You are not a realtor and nothing needs to look perfect, it just shouldn’t be filthy and messy everywhere.
How a breeder fails spectacularly:
- Using the “protective mother” excuse not to show her
- “No visitors due to infection risk for puppies”, buyers have to buy blind
- The pups are at a friend’s house
Now, let’s dive into the questions to ask a breeder before buying a puppy.
1. Look for the Mother
It’s quite usual that the father of the puppies is not owned by the breeder but the mother should always be living with them.
- Stud lives with them: Make sure the breeders have purposefully bred and are knowledgable and not just randomly mating dogs
- Stud doesn’t live with them: Make sure they know the stud dog and confirm that it’s actually him (more below)
See if the mother looks healthy and clean and pay attention
Every mother protects her puppies but if she seems extremely fearful or aggressive, this would be a sign that you should look for another breeder.
Seeing the actual place and interactions between the mother and her puppies will give you a great first picture if this should be the breeder you will be buying from.
Looking for a specific appearance, size, coat color (if you reserve a puppy before he’s born)?
The parents are your best bet. The breeder should at least have some photos of the stud dog.
2. Are the Puppies Registered?
Your pup (and thus your pup’s parents) should be registered by a kennel club. It doesn’t have to be the AKC, it can very well be another reputable club.
Specific sub-clubs are sometimes even better because they monitor their breeders more strictly and are very knowledgeable about that specific breed.
These clubs aren’t perfect though.
Although the VDH is the biggest breeding club in Germany, they allow breeding with one dog that has mild hip dysplasia which isn’t desirable at all since it’s a hereditary disease.
If one of the parents is not registered, then the puppy will never be able to be registered. The breeder should provide you with the proper documents.
Papers are mandatory when you are planning on breeding with the puppy or want to compete in confirmation.
Do not pay extra for papers (except for breeding rights). This is a practice I’ve seen quite a lot lately, especially with some American Bully breeders.
Why do I need papers?
It’s not to brag about it with your friends, it’s to make sure your breeder’s dogs have been vetted and that everything is regulated according to the kennel club.
3. How Old Are the Puppies?
This may sound like a silly question but you want to make sure that the puppies are at least 3 weeks old for visits and 8 weeks when they move out.
Puppies under 3 weeks are too young to be visited and the breeder shouldn’t accept a visit. I saw my puppy for the first time when she was 4 weeks old.
Read more about the developmental stages.
If the puppies are older than 12 weeks, you should ask the breeder for a plausible reason why the puppies haven’t been sold yet.
4. Are the Puppies Healthy?
Ask the breeder for a vet report and examination and if there have been any issues concerning the health of a puppy and if so, what was the illness and what treatment have they received?
The breeder should be able to give you a medical history of the puppies.
You might want to discuss options (re: refund or financial support) if serious health problems occur in the first weeks/months.
A non-refund policy is not a deal-breaker and even common in some countries but having it is just another layer of protection.
5. Health Certificate of the Parents?
Demand to see the parents’ tests for breed-specific diseases and also X-rays to rule out any hip issues.
Every dog can have diseases in their genetic lineage that they will pass on to their offspring, purebred dogs are no exception.
Ask for a health certificate of the parents and check the health tests to assure that the parents don’t have any genetic diseases that are common for the breed.
For my Rottweiler puppy, it was very important to me that the bloodline had no history of hip dysplasia as the breed is prone to this. Other breeds have other specific common issues (Maltese, for example).
6. Can I see the Whole Litter?
Depending on what breed and size of dog you are looking for, the litter should be between three and nine puppies with large breeds having bigger litters.
Compare the puppies in size and character to see if they all seem to be equally healthy.
You will also be able to see how the puppies interact with each other and it will give you a
One might be a bit rougher and outgoing, whereas another might be shy and alone in a corner.
We knew from the beginning that we wanted a female puppy and there were only three females in the litter.
Amalia was the first one that came stumbling up to us and she never left our side.
I guess she chose us. Or at least that’s what most people think.
In reality, your breeder should help you choose a puppy that fits in terms of temperament.
More on that below.
7. Are the Puppies Social?
Get some information on what the breeder has been doing with the puppies in regard to socialization.
To give you an example: Once the puppies were old enough, my breeder took two each day and drove them to work or visited a friend.
They lived in a very quiet area, so they made sure that the puppies were still exposed to traffic, sirens, and other sounds.
They interacted with people, children, the cats that were living in the house and of course with each other.
They have been in the car at least once and had time in the exercise pen in the yard every day.
As a quick recap, the breeder should do these things with the puppies:
- Expose puppies to various sounds, surfaces, and smells
- Interact with people, children, cats, and other dogs
- Desensitize them to the car
8. Are There Any Limitations?
Some breeders have some limitations, for example, that you will need to be required to spay or neuter your dog. You will want to know all the requirements before deciding on the purchase.
Read up on the pros and cons of neutering. Spaying or neutering without a medical indication may not be the best choice.
If you do decide to do so, you should wait until the dog is physically and mentally grown (up to 2-3 years).
9. Are the Puppies Vaccinated and Dewormed?
During birth, puppies may get infected with worms by the mother so regular deworming is recommended.
How many shots did the puppies have and what will be the vaccination schedule after you bring him home?
Puppies usually receive the first round of shots when they are 6-9 weeks old and the second when they are 10-12 weeks old.
Read my socialization article to find out how old your pup has to be to meet other dogs. The facts I researched might surprise you since this debate is somewhat controversial.
10. How Are the Parents’ Temperaments?
This is absolutely crucial!
You are looking for a certain type of character in your puppy? Ask the breeder about the temperament of the parents (and maybe even the puppies).
If you are looking for a calmer dog and the parents are hyperactive and need lots of exercise, you might want to look for another breeder.
In case you’re looking for a guard dog for your family, you might want to find the balance between a timid and an incredibly outgoing pup.
What activities do they engage in? If you want to do Agility, make sure that the parents have enough energy or are even doing the activity themselves.
Keep your ears open for some potential underlying issues and see if the breeder is beating around the bush or if they selectively shine a spotlight on positive points only.
Also, ask if they have
You do not have to let the breeder choose for you but also don’t go to a breeder that provides zero support.
The breeder should know their dogs and puppies best and should be able to help you choose.
Recommended Reading: Does Genetics Determine my Pup’s Temperament?
11. Do You Have a Contract?
If the breeder has a contract of sale, what does it contain? Do they also provide a health guarantee?
We have waived our breeding rights and certain requirements were outlined: How the puppy should live, how she should be treated, not to give the pet up for adoption, and so on.
The price of the puppy was also stated very clearly. No surprises.
The contract should mention a fine to pay if you break it but depending on your country/state, that may not be fully enforceable. However, at the very least it shows that your breeder cares.
12. What Is Your Breeding Experience?
You will want to know what experience the breeder has and especially with the specific breed.
They should know all the characteristics the breed has, as well as the potential genetic illnesses.
You can also ask why the breeder is part of that specific breeding club or organization and why they decided to breed these two dogs specifically.
How many litters did this breeder supervise?
But also make sure that there were not too many litters with the same female (2-3 would be best) and that she was not too old for breeding.
Recommended Reading: How old is too old for a female to have puppies?
13. When Can I Take the Puppy Home?
Puppies should not be taken home before they are 8 weeks old. They need this time to develop into healthy puppies with plenty of interaction with their littermates and their mother.
Avoid a breeder that suggests that you can take them home earlier.
14. What Are You Feeding the Puppies?
It is important to continue feeding the puppy with what he has been fed by the breeder at least for the first weeks. A sudden change in diet can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
The food should be of high quality and well-balanced to ensure optimal puppy growth.
Some breeders can provide you with a diet plan and can help you out with any type of questions regarding nutrition.
After a couple of weeks, you can switch the diet to whatever you choose.
If your breeder doesn’t see eye to eye with you on nutrition and you did your research, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker as long as the food that was fed is of high quality.
15. Do You Have Questions?
While you are asking plenty of questions, pay attention if the breeder is interested in the potential owners too.
A good breeder will have his requirements and will turn down prospects if they don’t fit.
The questions could be something like, “What are you planning to do with the puppy regarding exercise?” or “Does he have to be alone often?”.
These questions will show you that the breeder really cares for the well-being of the puppies in the future.
Ask the breeder if there are any past dog owners that they have been sold to and call them for reference. What was their experience and how are the puppies doing?
If the puppies are from the same parents, ask every question possible to find out if this is the puppy you are looking for.
17. Do You Offer Any Support?
A professional breeder will offer you support after selling a puppy. They often have a puppy starter kit with everything you need to know.
Ask yourself if this is a person you would come to with your very important puppy questions. Do you trust them and why would you trust them?
A responsible breeder will give you an overall good feeling. You can ask them even more questions, there is no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your future puppy’s well-being.
I don’t want you to forget any of these questions, so I have prepared a checklist for you:
The conversation should come from both sides, the breeder should be just as interested in you as you are in them.
If you have any more questions, feel free to let me know in the comments. I wish you the best of luck with picking the right companion for your life.
Wednesday 21st of October 2020
Puppies do not have to be registered. Example if your puppy is a working dog ,people want them for pet only.Some people think because they have papers the can ask an out radius price. You can look at the mommy and the daddy and the puppies to see if they are a good breed and if the breeder is a good breeder to these dogs. You don't have to be a rich person and think that you have the best dogs average people breed good dogs.
Wednesday 21st of October 2020
it's not only about whether or not the puppies are registered. With registration there's often a requirement to submit health certificates (hips, eyes, heart, etc.) but you're absolutely right in saying that papers alone are not always a guarantee for a healthy dog or temperament.
If a breeder does all the health testing and decides against registering, that's fine.
The problem occurs when people don't register dogs because they can't due to the requirements. Depending on the exact breeding club, that's a red flag.
Being rich has nothing to do with that. Besides, if you can't afford $1,500 vs $3,000 (depending on rarity of your breed), then you might want to overthink getting a dog. A large dog like my Rottweiler will easily cost you 10 times that amount in food alone during their lifetime as laid out in my article. Not mention vet visits, especially when the dog is senior. Dogs cost money, but you don't have to be rich, you just have to spend money on the right things. Cutting corners with a breeder is never a good thing.
Rescues are way cheaper and people can do something good in the process, that's another solution too.
Average people who are excellent breeders breed good dogs, that's right. But average breeders breed average dogs.
Thanks for your input, Danielle
Thursday 24th of September 2020
In the UK there is just one question. Is the breeder a Kennel Club Assured breeder? If the answer is yes, then they have been inspected by an independent professional, and fit all of your criteria or you can have them struck off. One slight disagreement I have is that we chose the puppy for you, we don't allow people to choose (although of course you can always choose to not take the puppy we suggest). We do this so that there is no first come first served, we know the puppies better than you do, you might have only seen them twice, we assess our puppies carefully and match them to our prospective owners (we use the Volhard puppy test). Other than that and not mentioning the KC Assured Breeder scheme, a good article.
Thursday 24th of September 2020
Hi Adrian, thanks so much for your insight! My readers mostly come from the US and there is a big controversy around whether or not AKC breeders are really inspected and legit. Here in Germany there are also many reputable breeders that choose the puppy for you for the same reasons you have mentioned. I believe it to be a great way of matching the right puppy to the right people rather than picking one yourself when you have only seen him/her a few times.