This is a controversial subject. Especially here in Taiwan where there are an abundance of strays and shelter dogs who would love a home. So let me be clear, i am not making an ethical judgement or discussion on the rights and wrongs of dog breeding and dog breeders. This post is for the people who have decided, for whatever reason that the dog they want in their life needs to be sought out from a breeder. There will always be people that want to do that, and in the future when all shelters are empty and all stray dogs are spayed or neutered, people will in these instances have to go to a breeder. This post is about how to choose the best breeder.
Firstly you should want to see both parents, definitely you should see the mother and if the father is elsewhere, photos, pedigree and as much information about the father as you can garner. Never buy from a 3rd party. Dogs sold via a 3rd party have already been sold to them, and they are now looking for a profit. You should want to see the mother, then you can see how she was cared for, is she clean, is she in good condition, is she happy and outgoing or is she nervous. The condition of the mother during pregnancy and whelping has a huge impact on her pups. How she is being cared for will tell you all about the motivations of the breeder.
Having seen the mother i would ask some questions
1 Why did you do this breeding?
You don't want the answer to be money related. Then the goal is not about the dogs at all but about the wallet. A good response would be something like 'the mother is a great example of the breed, she has won several shows. She has a great temperament and is great with children and people, she's very social. She has titled in various obedience competitions. All her health checks for breed specific problems came back clear, her hip x rays showed no abnormalities. We want to keep one of her pups, and we were lucky enough to find an excellent stud who had also been health screened etc. We studied their pedigrees and determined they were a good match'
This response shows care and consideration has been made with the breeding and that the pups could improve the breed.
2 What health checks have you done ?
As mentioned above, health screening is essential for a good breeder. Nearly all pure bred dogs have breed specific problems. Some breeds are prone to deafness, others to cleft palates, many large breeds suffer from hip dysplasia, the list goes on and on, a good breeder will have done all the relevant tests on the parents to reduce the risk as much as possible against the pups suffering from these conditions. If the tests haven't been done its because of a couple of reasons.
a. the breeder is unaware of the conditions and need for testing.
b. the tests are too expensive.
These are instant red flags, expense should not be a concern. Caring for a dog that has health problems will be an expense for the owner of the pups, a miserable life for the pups, and possibly an early death. Being unaware of the conditions, means the breeder is not a breed expert so why trust his opinion that the parents are worthy.
Ask to see any health certificates, don't worry about offending the breeder. A responsible breeder will want you to be a responsible owner, asking to see all documentation, will make you look a better potential owner.
3 Ask how old the mother is, how many litters has she had previously, can you see any puppies from previous litters ?
Knowing the age of the mother is essential, too young and its dangerous and unfair to the mother, she may not be a good mother either if she is too young, Likewise if she is too old it is unfair for her to go through the stress of a pregnancy and labor. As well as being unfair on the mother, it will also impact on the pups. But also it will tell you that the breeder, is not responsible.
How many litters has she had ? if it is multiple litters i would again be suspicious of the breeders motives. If she has had previous litters, enquire as to the quality of the pups, ask for references from people who have them. The previous pups should be good and have achieved something, otherwise why else breed again ?
4 Have any of the parents siblings or offspring had any health problems ?
If they have it does increase the risk of your potential pup having genetic problems. This is harder for a breeder to know, but if he is in contact with other owners of siblings and offspring, it demonstrates they are active within the breed community and not just someone who has a female he wants to make money from.
There are more questions you can ask the breeder. But these are a good start.
I would then expect the breeder to grill me about my experience and intentions. The tougher the breeder is on you, the better he cares about where his pups go, and if you cant answer the questions suitably, maybe you are not ready for this breed, a good breeder should be looking at you as hard as you look at him. If they only care about the deposit, and when you can collect the pup, its a concern.
A decent breeder should also be strict about when the pup can leave its mother and siblings, raising a litter of puppies is hard work, they make a huge mess all the time. But a good breeder who cares about their future wellbeing, will want them to stay with their mother until they are at least 8 weeks old. Many life lessons are taught by mum and the siblings.
As said at the beginning, this post is not written to promote breeders and breeding, that is an ethical decision that cannot be made on your behalf. This post is meant to make you think about what would make one breeder better than another, and what kind of things a breeder must do before you buy a puppy from them.