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How to Find an Ethical Breeder

Adopt or shop responsibly is a mantra that I strongly believe in. Adopting can be difficult for those renting, high standards of the agencies (which is another topic for another day), and they may be interested in a dog for either sport or work ability! There are many reasons why someone would choose shopping over adopting but regardless of choice there are many hidden rules about shopping.

These "rules" are guidelines on how to support an ethical and responsible breeder. After all if you're going to be spending a minimum of 1.5k on a dog you want to make sure that the money is going to someone who cares about their dogs and not just trying to make a quick buck.

Where Do I Look?

Now where would you begin? A quick google search might bring up local breeders or it might bring up one of the many puppy broker sites that operate on the internet. These sites like "Lancaster Puppies" should be avoided. They are often used by puppy mills and back yard breeders who breed irresponsibly. The start of your search should be with the associated breed club.

For example the Labrador retriever has a club called the Labrador Retriever Club which is an organization that strives to give accurate information about the breed and it's needs. This includes any health testing the breed may need, the history, and most importantly a list of breeders who will probably be more responsible than anything you can find on Craigslist or other marketplace websites.

While the breed club will have a higher amount of responsible breeders you need to know that not all of them will be good still. It's important to make sure that the breeder you're interested in does all the appropriate health testing and titling.

What is Health Testing/Tested?

A common misconception is that health testing is simply going to the vet and being cleared by that veterinarian. While that is an important part of making sure your new addition is healthy the testing itself actually is more about the parents than it is about the puppies. After all many conditions may appear later in life or are simply not an issue until the dog gets older.

Let's take a look at the Labrador again. According to their breed club they are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, EIC (exercised induced collapse), and eye issues. A good breeder will test these dogs and use those results to determine if the pair of dogs will make healthy offspring.

But don't take the breeders word for it! Ask for proof or search for the proof yourself. If the testing was done through OFA you can actually search for the results here:

This is another reason someone may choose a well bred dog over a shelter dog. A good breeder will make sure that the puppies are as healthy as they can be and often offer a contract that will cover any inherited issues should they arise.

Titles? What's That?

"I just want a pet though!" or "I just want pet quality" are two very common phrases that I hear all the time. The thing is though is that even if you took two dogs who both made it to grand champion in their field it still doesn't guarantee that the puppies will also make it that far. Out of a standard litter of 6 maybe 1 dog might be considered a true prospect for the sport or confirmation. That leaves 5 puppies who have been excellently bred, who have great tempered parents, and who have extensive lineages to be bought by, you guessed it, homes looking for a pet.

Titling even with something as simple as a Canine Good Citizen by the AKC can show that the dog was evaluated by a third party who assessed that the dog was able to do what was required of it. It doesn't always have to be a confirmation (think the Westminster dog show) or sports.

Titling also shows that the breeder cares about their dogs beyond just making money. These events need extensive training no matter what the goal is and shows a bond between the breeder and their dogs. It's also not cheap either. So next time you wonder why a dog costs $2000 remember that the breeder spent much more than that on the parents and proving that they are worth it.

Final Thoughts

If you ever have any questions about how to find an ethical breeder I would reach out to your local trainer. They often see many of the dogs bought around the area and may have a few that they recommend. My inbox is also open to anyone who wants a little help as well!

With that I hope you are armed with new knowledge and you find that special pup to add to your family.


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