Finding the Right Breeder for You

Once you are done researching the exact breed of dog you want, you should decide where you will begin your search for your dog.  There are many pure breed dogs ready to be adopted from breed rescues and shelters, and these are both great options to consider.  If you’ve made the decision you want a puppy obtained from a breeder, it’s important to find a responsible breeder. Responsible breeders are those that can provide background on their puppy’s parents and lineage, adhere to best breeding practices, and will be your mentor as you integrate your new puppy into your home and family. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the largest and oldest dog breed registry and provides easy access to resources to help you find reputable breeders that are recognized and approved as following best practices as outlined by AKC breeding standards.

Breeder Search Options

There are several options for finding a reputable breeder with knowledge and experience you can trust. These include:
  • Online Breeder Classifieds, which allow puppy buyers to easily locate area breeders with puppies for sale
  • AKC Parent Club Breeder Referral, a national organization that represents a breed recognized by the AKC
  • Local Club Breeder Referral, which allows you to locate a local club in order to contact local volunteers from all-breed or specialty clubs
  • Breed Rescue Groups, which provides more information about purebred rescue adoption opportunities

Screen Your Breeder

When you decide on the breeder you want to contact, make sure you take the time to ask important questions to help guide you through the decision-making process. You might ask:
  • How long have you been breeding?
  • Are you a member of an AKC Parent Club or any other dog-related club?
  • Can you describe the breed’s characteristics?
  • What is the breed’s temperament like?
  • Does this breed do well with children?
  • Does this breed do well with other pets?
  • Do you do health screenings prior to breeding a litter?
  • How big will the dog get?
  • How much exercise does the dog need?
  • At what age do you vaccinate your puppies?
  • Do you offer a health guarantee?
  • Your contact should be willing to answer all of your questions as honestly and completely as possible. In turn, you should expect to answer questions about yourself, your lifestyle and your family.

If a contact doesn’t respond to your inquiries, or doesn’t show any interest in the life the dog will lead after it leaves, that is probably a good indication that you should look for another breeder. Responsible breeders are committed to making a good match between prospective owners and the dogs in their care.

Schedule a Home Visit

Once you have established a dialogue with the breeder, ask to schedule a home or kennel visit. This will give you a better idea about your dog’s future appearance and temperament. Check to see if the facility is kept clean and odor-free. Notice the conditions of the dogs and puppies to see if they look clean, well fed, friendly and healthy. Signs of malnutrition, protruding rib cages or skin sores, and signs of illness, like runny noses, dirty eyes or lethargy, should be recognized as red flags.

Also pay attention to how the dogs and puppies interact with the breeder. See if the breeder is attentive and shows genuine care for these dogs. The dogs and puppies should be both outgoing and friendly.

Research Your Puppy

Make sure you ask about the health of your puppy and its parents. Also ask to see at least one of the parents. Breeders should be willing to be honest with you about the breed’s strengths and weaknesses, including sharing any knowledge about genetic diseases that can affect the breed and any information about what is being done to avoid the risks.

A breeder should also be able to show proof of health screenings, such as Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certificates, to potential buyers.

Before You Bring Your Puppy Home

Your puppy will not be ready to come home with you until it has reached eight to 12 weeks; this can vary based on the breed. A puppy needs enough time to mature and socialize with its mother and littermates.

A responsible breeder may ask you to sign an agreement that if you cannot properly care for your puppy or are unable keep it, you will return the puppy to the breeder. It is in everyone’s best interest to have this type of agreement.

The breeder should also offer to be a resource and breed mentor for you throughout the life of your puppy. You should feel comfortable that you can contact the breeder to ask questions to help with the integration of your puppy into your home.

Registration Documents

If you would like to register your puppy, you must have all of the appropriate documentation of the dog’s pedigree supplied by the breeder. The official registering club name and logo should be clearly visible on these documents. You will need to send these when you submit your registration application.

If the breeder refuses to give you the documents, tries to add an additional charge, or offers to mail them to you at a later date, these should be recognized as red flags.


If you experience or notice any major issues with the breeder or the facilities, you should contact the registering entity. For instance, the AKC does not have penal or regulatory authority, but it does conduct thousands of its own inspections each year.

Breeders who have major kennel deficiencies may lose club privileges, the ability to register litters or compete in events. In some cases, fines will be imposed, and privileges may be suspended indefinitely and appropriate law enforcement authorities contacted.

If you would like to ensure that a breeder is in good standing, contact their parent club with your inquiry.  If your breeder is registered with the AKC, contact AKC Customer Service at 919-233-9767 or