Here is a list of our ideas of things that are not necessarily standard advice of what 'to look for' in a breeder:
1. How quickly and thoroughly does a breeder respond to your inquiry? If they are truly passionate about dogs, they will respond to you even if they do not have any puppies available. We have often heard that the reason people sometimes choose us is because we respond quickly and thoroughly - and we show a passion for our dogs. We can't help but want to share pictures, stories, and insights.
2. Read the contract!! Several years ago, we purchased a goldendoodle from a large breeder. We were not astute to contracts or health guarantees at the time, and we just wanted the pup so bad - it didn't matter what it said. We have since reviewed the "health guarantee" provided and we were very surprised with what we found. The breeder's health guarantee was only good if we fed the dog food she recommended, and ordered from her account (that she was a retailer for) - WHAT!?!? While we highly recommend feeding high quality dog food, we don't know of any genetic health issues that are brought on by the type of dog food that is fed. This is a nonsense string attached.
3. How many litters does the breeder do at a time/per year? Even if the place is not a puppy mill, many large breeders do not hire the staff to properly socialize and work with the puppies. Come meet our Benji someday (from a large breeder), and you will see what social issues can come from a pup from that environment.
4. What are their breeding policies? How many times and in what frequency do they breed their ladies? If they are not open to you about this, run away. Do you really want to support an operation that has bred their females every cycle until they are 8 years old? That will be 9-12 litters!! Yes, dogs are quite a bit different and can handle more little beings than humans - so we won't humanize them (too much ;-). While we agree that the research out there about how often one can breed dogs is a bit scattered, we still believe a dog should have a life beyond puppies all the time - no matter the scientific evidence. We breed back to back, skip, back to back, done - or some close variation of that - basically, we would like 3-5 litters and no more from each lady (sometimes it will be less). We start early, at 2, so they can be done by the age of 6 - during their breaks, they go on trips with us and have adventures. We also do not have a lot of litters - just one or two a year. We are not a full-time breeding operation and we do this for the fun and satisfaction. Dogs should have a life with the humans and world that they've become domesticated into.
5. What food is the breeder feeding their pups? This isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but if your breeder is buying cheap puppy food - you can bet the pups are getting the cheapest care as possible. That means probably not a lot of worming or vet visits or cleanliness (although there are exceptions).
6. Do they sell many different breeds? This is a sign of a puppy mill or large breeder - a couple different breeds, especially if related (like poodles and doodles), is fine - but, those doing more than a few breeds will find it hard to specialize and be really good at one or two breeds. They could also just be a puppy broker and know nothing about the puppy that you are looking at.
7. Ok, this one is a little off in the clouds, but....do they have a barn? We are not against barns - many are great locations for pups to grow. If you get to go in the barn and it's all clean - then disregard this advice. But, we ran into a puppy mill recently that said they were raising pups in their house, and we saw 4 different mamas in their house - all nice and clean and cozy. We later heard that they were raided and over 40 different mamas were found in their barn!!
There are also the standard things to watch out for, but these are some different telltale signs that we thought we would share with you.
Things you shouldn't be concerned about:
1. In this day and age, you do not need to be concerned about there being no phone number on a breeder's website. We do not share our phone number or our address until we've conversed a bit with you. We do this for our privacy, but mostly for our and our pups safety. We will start with email and call you from there. You can visit the pups after you have committed to getting a pup. This is our home, and we value our privacy, as much as we do like to share the puppies.
2. No adult pics of puppies from the litter you are interested in. By the time adult pictures of puppies are available, the mama should be working towards retiring. And, if it's the first litter, then showing you pics of adults that they've had from other mamas and dads, doesn't do any good - right?
3. If you don't get to meet the dad. Many small breeders pay for sire services and do not keep the male in the house. If you feel energetic, you can get the location of the sire and go visit him at his home- but, it is unlikely that both parents will be available for you to meet.
4. With the digital world, it is perfectly fine and thorough to chose a pup off the internet without meeting them or seeing the home. You can see from the website and pictures if the pup is in a decent living environment. As long as you get enough visuals and feel comfortable with the level of communication and service from the breeder, you should be fine picking a pup out online. We have picked out pups online and have had wonderful experiences.
5. If the breeder ships. We have shipped and have received several puppies via airline shipping. We have never had a bad experience. The pups sometimes mess themselves, but if it's a long flight, that's certainly expected. Usually, the breeder will stuff the crate with paper or bedding and this helps keep the pup clean. The airlines are very attentive and we've always received great service.
That's it for now - we'll bring more to you later.
Please do not support puppy mills!!!