How to recognise a reputable breeder
Reputable breeders . . .
. . . breed only from bitches aged two to six years, no more than once a year each, and not more than three litters in the bitch's lifetime. They will not have puppies constantly available - most reputable breeders only have a few litters a year. Beware of breeders who constantly advertise litters for sale (especially if they offer several breeds) - they are often dealers or large scale commercial enterprises.
. . . allow you to see the mother of the litter - bear in mind that she may be a little thin and tired from weeks of caring for and feeding her puppies. If the puppies aren't weaned yet she may not be at ease around strangers, but she should not growl or be aggressive. The breeders may not be able to show you the pups' sire if they do not own him but they should be able to describe his good points and any short-comings, and be familiar with both parents' bloodlines. Beware of breeders who make an excuse for you not being able to meet 'mum' or who offer to deliver the pup direct to you, thus preventing you seeing where the litter has been reared (a tactic often used by puppy farmers).
. . . allow you to see the litter interacting, although they may then separate the sold-but-not-yet- collected pups so you can compare the available ones.
. . . know all their puppies and dogs individually, and obviously love and care for them. They will allow you to meet their other dogs, unless they have young puppies. The dogs should look as you imagine the breed should, and should be friendly and confident, alert and interested. They should be in good condition and kept in good conditions.
. . . have premises which are clean and relatively odour-free. They should be suitable for their purpose (e.g. purpose built with well fenced runs, not ramshackle sheds) The premises should appear well organised, clean and tidy.
. . . are helpful, answer your questions fully, but don't try to 'hard sell' you a puppy. They may insist on meeting you in person, will ask probing and even intrusive questions and may ask for: a vet's reference, photos of your house, garden or other dogs. Beware of breeders who ask few questions - don't they care enough about their pups to ensure they find the right homes?
. . . can advise you on the various hereditary problems that may occur in the breed and will be happy to let you know what health screening tests they carry out on their dogs e.g. eye-testing, hip-scoring. Beware of breeders who are unwilling to discuss this, or who seem to have no knowledge of the possible problems.
. . . spend time talking to you about feeding, worming, vaccinations, exercise, etc. and provide written information on all aspects of caring for the puppy.
. . . will not normally let puppies go to new homes before they are eight weeks old. They may ask for a non-refundable deposit of say, 20-25% to reserve your puppy if the litter is not yet ready for new homes. You should receive a receipt showing the balance due on collection.
. . .will provide a diet sheet, worming information, pedigree certificate and Kennel Club Registration Certificate. Many also supply information on grooming, training etc, free insurance for the first few weeks and a small quantity of food in case you have difficulty obtaining the same brand. Whilst registration is not a guarantee that a puppy has come from reputable breeders, all reputable breeders register their litters, and caution should be exercised if a litter is advertised as unregistered. The registration may be endorsed to prevent the puppy from being exported or bred from - this is for the protection of the puppy and the breed.
. . . provide a full, lifetime backup service. They will want the puppy returned if at any time you are unable to keep it and may incorporate this into a sales contract. You will not necessarily get your money back.
. . . will often be involved in activities such as showing, obedience or field trials. They will usually be a member of at least one breed club. There are some reputable hobby breeders who have no interest in showing/working but most breeders do something with their dogs besides breeding from them!