So, you've decided to get a dog. You're prepared to feed, exercise, train, clean up after, work through problems with, and love a dog every day for the next 10 to 20 years. You've evaluated your lifestyle and know exactly what sort of dog you're looking for (e.g., a high energy dog to go running with, or a more sedate dog to lounge on the couch with), and you know that you need to seek out your desired characteristics in individual dogs, not breeds, because breed is no guarantee of temperament or likes and dislikes.
Because you know that about one in every four dogs in U.S. animal shelters is a purebred, you start there, because you want to do the right thing and help a homeless dog. You know that most dogs lose their homes because of "people reasons" like cost, lack of time, lifestyle changes (new baby, divorce, moving, or marriage), or allergies, and not because of something the dog has done. You've checked out the purebred rescue group for your breed, but still haven't found "The One." And you're way too smart to buy a puppy from a pet store because you know that most of those puppies come from mass breeding facilities better known as puppy mills.
So, you've decided to buy a dog from a breeder-but you don't want to support someone who doesn't have their dogs' best interest at heart.
How do you identify and find a reputable breeder? First, know that good breeders breed not just to make money-they don't sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand. Too often, unsuspecting people buy puppies from breeders (or neighbors) who breed their dog to make a little money or simply because they have a dog "with papers." Too often, the result is puppies in poor health or with temperament problems that may not be discovered until years later. Unfortunately, these new-pet families often end up heartbroken, with a dog who has genetic health problems or develops significant behavior problems due to a lack of early socialization. In some cases, these problems can cost thousands of dollars to treat.
To avoid these pitfalls, download our "How to Identify a Good Dog Breeder" checklist and take it with you as you visit different breeders. If the breeder you're working with doesn't meet all of the minimum criteria listed, The Humane Society of the United States advises you to walk away. Remember, your dog will likely live 12 to 20 years, so it's well worth investing some time now to be sure you're working with a reputable breeder who breeds healthy, happy dogs.
You can find reputable breeders by asking for referrals from your veterinarian or trusted friends, by contacting local breed clubs, or visiting dog shows. Remember, a reputable breeder will never sell her dogs through a pet store or in any other way that does not allow her to thoroughly meet with and interview you to ensure that the puppy is a good match for your family and that you will provide a responsible lifelong home.
Please don't ever buy a dog without personally visiting where he or she was born and raised. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you'll thank yourself for the rest of your dog's life.