Arts & Culture

Responsible Dog Breeders

by Valerie Broadway

Much of my life has been devoted to animal rescue. While I am a strong advocate for animal rescue and adoption, I do think people should have the choice to have a pure-bred dog if they really want one. However, there are a lot of people breeding dogs who shouldn’t be. In my opinion, if someone is going to breed dogs they should be focusing on the highest breed standard, both physically and mentally.

For those who have a specific breed in mind, it pays to take some time to investigate potential breeders. Sometimes the puppies they sell aren’t the breed they claim they are, and may not even be a pure breed at all. It is common for pups to be sickly. Sometimes people feel like they are rescuing the puppy from the breeder.

There are many scam artists in the dog breeding world. To protect yourself from them, it is best to visit potential litters in person. When breeders want to meet at a location that is not their home, this is a red flag. They don’t want you to see how they are keeping their dogs. Also, be wary of buying from a website. Many are smoke and mirror covers for puppy mills. The picturesque photos and videos they post do not reflect the reality of filth and trauma the puppies and their parents really live in. Puppy mills are all over the country including in North Carolina, and some are right here in Chatham County.

Another type of dog breeder is the “backyard breeder.” These are typically people with little to no experience in breeding dogs. Their dogs are usually not a good representation of the breed standard. The dogs may have never had veterinary care, much less been examined for common congenital health problems which may lead to thousands of dollars in vet bills and potentially an early death.

When purchasing a puppy from a breeder there are questions that should be asked before meeting the puppies. Has the breeder had the dogs screened for common breed-related health problems? Does the breeder offer a health guarantee for their puppies? What happens if puppies get sick soon after they are sold? Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccinations and deworming? Ask to see the health records for the puppies and their parents. Can you meet the parents to see if they seem healthy and friendly? Does the breeder seem knowledgeable when answering questions?

When visiting puppies pay attention to some things. How many dogs does the breeder have? Are there multiple litters at the same time? The more puppies, then the less attention each individual is likely to have received. It is also an indication that the breeder is only in it for the money. Are the surroundings, the parents, and the puppies clean and parasite free? Can you see the litter interact together? They should be comfortable being handled and should show no signs of aggression.

It greatly benefits puppies to stay with their littermates for a full 8 to 10 weeks. It is during this time puppies learn a lot about social graces that will ultimately make them easier to live with. Is the breeder willing to keep the litter that long? I’ve heard stories more than once where people were told by the breeder to get the puppy at five weeks old because they will bond with them better. That is not true. These puppies will be wracked with anxiety for the rest of their lives. The breeders didn’t care about the puppies or the purchasers. They just wanted to get the money in their pocket as quickly as they could.

While puppies are still with the breeder there are important things that should be done for their health and wellbeing. Puppies’ parents should have been screened for health issues and passed before they are used for breeding. Mothers should have received health checks during pregnancy. Puppies should have received vaccinations, dewormings, and at least one vet exam while still in the care of the breeder.

Socializing should begin by three weeks of age. Puppies should be handled by many different people. They should experience different types of footing, like sand, carpet, concrete, grass, etc. They should spend time inside and outside. Puppies who have spent all of their first weeks in a pen with little human interaction will have a difficult time adjusting to a new home.

Good dog breeders are passionate about their breed. They are in it to produce the best dogs possible. Responsible breeders will have questions for the buyer. They truly care about the beings they brought into this world and want to be assured their puppies will be going to wonderful homes to live long happy lives. They may even ask for periodic updates and pictures as the pups grow up. When breeders questions only revolve around how they are getting paid, that’s a sign they don’t care much about their puppies. Good breeders are a valuable resource and knowledge base for the buyers to ensure that their puppies are transitioning well to their new homes.

What happens long before puppies leave the breeder can set them up for a lifetime of success or failure. Early puppy development is extremely important. Future problems can be completely avoided when things are done correctly in those first crucial weeks of life. Taking the time to investigate breeders before committing to a future member of the family is very important and is time well invested.

Valerie Broadway, the Canine Coach, is a dog trainer and behavioral specialist. Contact: 919-542-4726 or