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This is to help make puppy buying easier.  The better informed you are the better your decisions will be.

Thanks to my good friend Cheri Bice of Rikon Boxers for this information.
Six Steps for Finding Reputable Dog Breeders

When those big brown puppy eyes stare into yours, it is hard not to wrap him in your arms and bring him home immediately no matter where he came from.

But if you purchase that adorable puppy from the wrong dog breeders, the decision could turn into a disaster.  From costly health conditions to dangerous temperament issues, cute puppies who come from bad dog breeders are more likely to grow into big problems.

That's why before you start browsing the newspaper for ads from local dog breeders, there are a few steps you should take to make sure the puppy you bring home is going to have a happy future with your family.

First, you have to do your homework. You need to know as much about the breed as possible before beginning your search. For example, some dog breeders advertise “teacup” breeds. These puppies are much smaller than their normal breed standard, and people will pay more just to get their hands on these tiny puppies. However, some breeds of this size have more fragile bones, mouth problems (their mouths are too small for all of their teeth), greater joint problems, and can be more susceptible to overall poor health. Doing some breed research on the Internet would save those buyers money and help them buy a healthier puppy.

Second, you need to know the common health problems for that breed. A good example is the Great Dane which has a tendency to develop hip dysplasia, a painful disorder that is expensive to correct. Reputable dog breeders often have their dogs and puppies certified to show that the line is free from incidents of hip dysplasia, so when you buy that puppy you'll feel confident you are still going to have a healthy dog a few years down the road.

Third, don't limit your search to local dog breeders. In many cases, local dog breeders who advertise in the newspaper are the type of dog breeders you want to avoid. The best dog breeders don't have to advertise because people give them deposits on puppies before they are even conceived. A good way to find reputable dog breeders is by checking with people who know, including veterinarians and your local American Kennel Club chapter. If you do choose local dog breeders, you can't afford to leave out the fourth step.

Fourth, visit the location where the puppy has lived and get a look at both parents (at least one). You want to make sure that those puppies were living in healthy conditions and that they had a chance to be socialized with other animals and people. Another reason to see the parents is because poor health and bad temperament can be passed down genetically. A red flag that something is wrong with dog breeders is when they avoid letting you near their location. This could mean the puppies are not being well cared for or that these local dog breeders are running a puppy mill.

Fifth, ask questions. Good dog breeders want you to feel comfortable with the puppy before you leave, so they want you to ask them questions, such as “Has the puppy been to the vet yet? If so, which vet and can I have a copy of those records?” They also don't mind answering questions about themselves, including “How many litters has the mother given birth to?” and “How long have you been breeding this particular breed?”

Sixth, expect good dog breeders to be cautious about who takes their puppies home. The best dog breeders put the needs of those puppies first, and they try to ensure that each of them gets a good home. These breeders may ask you lots of questions about your home, such as where the dog will sleep, do you have a backyard, and how many other pets do you have. Some local dog breeders may even want to inspect your home first. Remember, they're not doing these things to make it hard for you to take home that puppy you've fallen in love with - they just don't want to see that puppy end up in poor living conditions or abandoned at a shelter a few months later.

While these steps are far from being an exhaustive list, by keeping them in mind you will stand a better chance of finding good dog breeders from which to choose your newest family member.

A Reputable Breeder...
screens their dogs for genetic problems. They should be able to tell you about the genetic problems in the breed and show proof that the parents of the litter are free of those problems.

 does not breed dogs "to make money" or so "our children can experience the miracle of birth." A reputable breeder breeds to advance their breeding program and for their love and devotion to purebred dogs.

 will tell you the good points as well as the bad points of the breed. They want to make sure you are fully aware of what to expect before you buy the puppy. Cute little puppies grow into big dogs. Will you be happy when that cute little ball of fuzz turns into an 80 pound, shedding fur factory?

 usually only breeds a litter if they intend on keeping something out of the litter. They are breeding to further improve their breeding program, not just to produce puppies for pet buyers.
should be able to explain the reasoning behind breeding a particular dog to a particular bitch. They should be attempting to reach perfection as defined by the breed's standard. In the attempt to reach this goal with the resulting puppies, they should be able to explain the good points of each dog and what things they are trying to improve. If when asked about the breed standard, the breeder looks at you with a blank look on their face-RUN! If they don't know what a standard is, they shouldn't be breeding dogs.
should be able to provide you with a pedigree of the puppies, not just a copy of the parents registration papers. A pedigree usually has at least three generations of the puppies' ancestors listed.

 does not breed a volume of puppies. A breeder with 7 adult bitches is not going to breed all 7 in a single year. Bitches are only in very rare cases bred on consecutive heat cycles.
usually participates in some sort of dog related events such as dog shows, obedience, agility, schutzhund, sled dog racing, herding, field trials, lure coursing, earth dog trials, etc. They do something with their dogs.
usually belongs to some sort of dog club (i.e., all-breed club, obedience club, breed club, etc.).
is willing to give you references from previous puppy buyers. Those new to breeding should be able to give you references from other breeders of their breed or dog club members. They aren't offended if you ask them for references. Talking to references will help you to judge the character of the breeder.
may ask you for references or ask to visit you at your home. The breeder wants to be sure that the housing or yard is suitable for the dog. A large dog wouldn't necessarily do well in a small apartment. Some breeds need to have a fenced yard with secure fencing for their own protection. The breeder is looking for the ideal situation for the puppy. They want the owner to be happy and not return the puppy because it was ill suited for the environment of life-style of the buyer.
believes in service after the sale. If a puppy buyer has grooming questions, feeding questions, or training questions, the breeder will be there for you long after the puppy is no longer a puppy.
will usually insist puppies sold as pets be spayed/neutered or placed on an AKC limited registration. The limited registration makes the dog exempt from having any of its offspring registered by the AKC.
will usually take back any dog of their breeding at any age. Reputable breeders do not want to find out a dog they bred has been left in a pound or dumped by the roadside. They assume a lifetime responsibility for the canine lives they have put on this earth.
Would never sell puppies through a retail outlet, animal broker, or laboratory.