Responsible, Ethical Breeders: Why They Matter and What You Should Look For

When beginning the search for a purebred dog, one can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of people out there who breed and sell everything ranging from Chihuahuas to Great Danes to the more rare Dogue de Bordeaux and Tosa. Yet there is a MAJOR difference between a “breeder” who just pairs two dogs and produces a litter, and an actual reputable breeder who approaches the reproductive process responsibly, ethically, and professionally.

This breakdown will help you learn precisely what you should be looking for in a breeder, and what you should avoid.

(For the sake of clarity, this article focuses specifically on dogs. Cat breeders are very similar, and essentially you should look for all of the same points you see here when selecting a breeder to obtain a purebred kitten. That said, cats have far less differences among them in terms of breed, health, temperament, etc. than dogs. They’re also generally not specifically selected for working traits or functional features as in dogs. Thus finding a healthy, sound, family-friendly, purebred cat or kitten in a rescue tends to be more successful than it tends to be in dogs. Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue is an outstanding rescue that really does their due diligence in evaluation, veterinary care, adopter screening, etc.)

Breeder vs. Rescue

There are many reasons why selecting a trusted breeder is important. The main reason is simple: it’s the best and easiest way to find a healthy purebred dog.

That isn’t to say that a breeder is the only way to get a purebred dog; you can find purebreds at shelters and rescues as well, you just may need to be patient and wait until one becomes available. Unfortunately, puppies are almost never found in breed-specific rescues or shelters, or if they are, they are almost always mixes. Once in a great while one may pop up!

Every animal owner and lover supports rescuing, and it is absolutely a vital solution to the overpopulation problem. I am a huge supporter of rescue groups personally. However, it may not always be the right option for everyone, especially in the search for a purebred dog. The down side to rescuing is that the overwhelming majority of purebred dogs in shelters and rescues originate from irresponsible, unethical breeders, and therefore have no known pedigree, genetic history, temperament history, etc. These are what are referred to as “backyard breeders”. Some may be AKC registered, but as you’ll see further down, this means practically nothing and is not indicative of quality. This statistic means they often potentially come with health problems linked to their breed and/or behavioral problems caused by poor breeding or poor socialization/training growing up. There can be gems found in rescues that came from good stock (or just got lucky) and are healthy/stable, but these are few and far between. So if you would like to obtain a specific breed of dog from a shelter or rescue, please make sure you are fully prepared and ready to spend money on a professional trainer and potential extended Veterinary costs beyond the norm if it ends up being necessary.

 

So you’ve decided to seek out a breeder

When you have a specific set of criteria you’re looking for in a purebred dog, going with a reputable breeder is always going to be your best option.

Supporting responsible breeding is how we maintain and improve the standard among purebred dogs, and avoids funding the cruel puppy mill industry. As I mentioned above, good breeders are NOT the reason that unwanted dogs are euthanized in shelters across the country by the thousands every day. Choosing a reputable breeder who is known for producing the specific breed, temperament, activity level, etc. that you need is your best bet for getting a dog that will fit your life the first time around.

This is vital if:

You Want a Dog That’s Great With Kids

Puppies are far more easily socialized to children than adult dogs. And most professional trainers will tell you that early socialization between puppies and kids is the key to making sure you end up with a family-friendly adult dog. Especially with very small children (under 5), it becomes imperative that you can trust your dog with your little ones.

Reputable breeders who aim for even-tempered family dogs will more reliably produce calm and patient dogs than a shelter can ever predict from testing an adult dog with an unknown history.

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My Doberman, Leia, has been raised with kids from birth. First at her breeder’s home in Texas, then once she came home to our family at 10 weeks old. She spends every day playing and interacting with our daughter Holly, who will turn 2 in January 2019.

You Are Looking For a Working/Service Dog

As mentioned above, socializing and training a young, well-bred pup is going to be much easier than working with an adult shelter dog (or even a shelter puppy depending on their genetic background). This isn’t to say that rescue dogs cannot be trained or be service dogs. They absolutely can and do! It is simply easier with a puppy, especially when that puppy comes from a proven lineage of temperament and working capability that fits what you are looking for.

Working dogs also need to be in impeccable health and have even temperaments. These things largely come from genetics, not how you raise a dog. There will always be exceptions, but these are not the norm. For example, a dog cannot be a working/service animal if it has an undiagnosed genetic blood clotting disorder, or a genetic heart condition, or a genetic disease that will render it paralyzed by age 3, or unknowingly comes from a lineage of fighting dogs.

 

18-year veteran SGT Ed Soares and his K9 partner “Duke” serve the Menlo Park Police Department in California.

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Wounded Army veteran SPC Tyler Jeffries and his service dog “Apollo”.

You Are Looking For a Performance/Sport Dog

For reasons similar to above, it’s often easier to go through a breeder if you want a dog for a specific sport.

Not every purebred Border Collie or Jack Russell is going to be an agility star, but genetics are the foundation of things like musculature, proper conformation and gait, size, health, drive, focus, and personality/temperament.

Paired with socialization and training, good genetics are a key component for success. Good breeders produce dogs with good genetics.

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Dobermans and many other breeds make fantastic Schutzhund prospects as well as agility competitors, and thrive when they have a job to do!

You’re Considering a Breed Known for a Unique or Challenging Personality

Shiba Inus and Akita Inus are adorable, beautiful dogs. That said, both breeds are known for being aloof, stubborn, hard to train, and in the case of Akitas, aggressive when not trained properly. German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls were designed to be working dogs — therefore they are intelligent, driven, active, and easily bored. When not properly trained or from poor breeding, they can be destructive, neurotic, aggressive, self-mutilating, and difficult to manage. Huskies and Malamutes are gorgeous, but known for their stubborn nature and intense prey drive — even hunting cats that live in their homes with them. Shih Tzus, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, and Dachshunds are notorious for being too easily spoiled and neurotic biters. When it comes to popular little breeds from backyard breeders, their temperaments are often not from stable lineage and these problems are exacerbated.

Unfortunately this aspect is something we see DAILY in our hospital practice, and as a whole across Veterinary Medicine. This is why reputable breeders are so important — they breed for stable, reliable temperament and trainability, and work to minimize or eradicate negative traits.

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Talon, my beloved German Shepherd, came from West German lines with excellent stable, family-oriented temperament. As a result, he never so much as looked at a smaller animal even sideways. He happily co-existed with many foster kittens, baby snakes from my reptile breeding program, and orphans in my wildlife rehabilitation program.

 

Now that you’ve determined a reputable breeder is the route to take to find your healthy, stable, purebred dog, where do you go from here?

What does it mean to be Reputable?

Unfortunately in the U.S., it is FAR too easy to breed dogs and make money. There are literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of lousy, shady, unethical breeders out there, and there are more bad breeders than good ones.

Just Google “German Shepherd for sale” or type in “German Shepherd” in a Craigslist search, and you’re sure to find pages upon pages of puppies. The Craigslist here in Chattanooga makes me physically nauseated at the endless number of badly bred German Shepherds and Dobermans for sale. Almost all the puppies you’ll find will come from backyard breeders, who thought having puppies would be fun or be an easy way to make money. Others come from “accidental” litters. Others come from puppy mills. Avoid these at all costs. You won’t just be sacrificing your happiness and well-being, but also that of any dog you purchase from them.

Then, amidst the garbage, you will find the gems. The Diamond in the Rough. These breeders require extensive time, effort, and research to locate, but are absolutely worth it.

How will you know when you’ve found them?

 

Top 10 Things to Look For in a Reputable Breeder:

 

1. THEY HAVE ONE LITTER AT A TIME

Raising a litter of puppies takes an insane amount of work. The breeder must be dedicated to caring for and supporting the mother during her pregnancy and while she is nursing her puppies. Puppies must be monitored for proper growth, assisted and supported, dewormed, vaccinated, brought in for veterinary exams, socialized, desensitized to various stimuli, and begun training.

Breeders who have more than one (or two) litters of puppies “on the ground” at once are likely not giving the puppies the attention and care they need in this critically formative time.

While one litter at a time is ideal, female dogs may sync cycles when in estrus (“heat”), and may both breed if the stud is kept with females and allowed to breed naturally vs. planned mating or artificial insemination — leaving a breeder no choice but to manage two litters. This happens sometimes and is perfectly fine as long as both litters are cared for and attended to properly.

However, if a breeder has multiple litters (3, 4, 5, or more) going on at once, you may want to reconsider.

 

2. THE PARENTS ARE ON SITE

Ideally, you’ll really want your puppy’s parents to be on site and able to meet them.

However, it’s not necessarily uncommon for the male dog to not be around. Some breeders use studs owned by other breeders/co-owners, or may use purchased semen samples from chosen studs and implant them in their bitches via artificial insemination. If the male is not present, be sure to ask about him in detail. The breeder should be more than willing to let you meet the parents or meet the mother while telling you about the father.

The parents are the best reflections of what the puppies will be like as adults. You should also ask about any siblings (even half siblings) from prior litters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. that the breeder may have on the premises, as well as ones previously purchased by other buyers who are willing to share information/pictures with you.

 

3. PUPPIES ARE RAISED IN THE HOME

Unless you’re planning on having your dog live outside or use him strictly as a working dog, avoid breeders who raise their puppies in a kennel or in outdoor environments.

Puppies raised inside are far more likely to be exposed to kids, people, other animals, various sights, smells, sounds, and normal home activities, as well as being cared for and handled/interacted with regularly. As previously mentioned, early puppy socialization is really vital to the health and temperament of a dog — and if your pup is spending most of their time isolated outside, they won’t be making the most of those vital early months of development. It also means that the mother and puppies are exposed to the elements, and aside from not being closely monitored and cared for, they can easily pick up a wide variety of parasites and diseases.

Don’t be reserved when asking a breeder about this in detail! Are the puppies “inside” but raised in the cement basement? Or “inside” a shed or other building? That’s a far cry from being raised in or near the family living area.

 

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A properly designed “puppy room”, including a comfortable and warm whelping box, all the supplies needed, a chair to sit and keep an eye on everyone while interacting with the puppies, and a safe gated room for the puppies to grow and explore while being part of the family and part of the household. (Lone Star Pride Dobermans)

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A mother and her puppies, comfortable and warm in their whelping box with plenty of blankets and safe walls to keep them in one place. (Lone Star Pride Dobermans)

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Engaging and socializing the puppies from day one; including them as part of the family and exposing them to young children is vital to becoming a stable, balanced adult dog. (Lone Star Pride Dobermans)


4. EARLY CANINE NEUROSTIMULATION

The Early Canine Neurostimulation program was initially developed by the U.S. military to produce sounder, more stable working dogs.

It involves introducing young puppies to mild stress or common future interactions that elicit stress, and produces adult dogs that are more adaptable, more balanced, do not react to stressful situations, and handle new/unwanted stimuli better. Studies showed that the working dogs had lower heart rates in stressful situations than dogs who were not raised with ECN.

Here is a link to a study by Dr. Carmen Battaglia, which was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research in 2009:

Early Neurological Stimulation

This stimulation generally involves the following from age 3 days onward:

▪️Tactical stimulation between the toes (using a Q-tip or similar) or gently handling the toes/feet. After a few weeks, this can progress to trimming nails.
▪️Holding the pup upright (vertical).
▪️Holding the pup upside down (vertical).
▪️Holding the pup belly-up on its back, resting in the hands.
▪️Thermal stimulation; using a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator, the puppy is placed on the towel feet-down, allowing it to stand or walk across/away.

Each stimulation lasts only 3-5 seconds, and they are performed only once per day. It seems small, but the result is that the puppies will grow into adults who exhibit less stress and improved health, learning capabilities, etc. The excerpt link above really explains the benefits. A reputable breeder will take the time to do this (or similar stimuli) with their puppies, in addition to exposing them to other external stressors and social situations.

 

5. THE BREEDER CHOOSES WHERE THEIR PUPPIES GO

When I purchased Talon, my last German Shepherd, it was a two-way interview. When I purchased my Doberman, it was the same thing — even though her breeder is my friend and already knew me relatively well. It goes both ways: A buyer wants to find the right breeder, and therefore the right puppy. On the opposing side, the breeder wants to find the right forever home for every puppy.

A reputable breeder will NEVER, ever sell puppies on a “first come, first serve” basis. Nor will a reputable breeder sell their dogs at flea markets, in parking lots, on Kijiji, on Facebook Marketplace, nor on Craigslist.

A reputable breeder knows each individual puppy’s personality, temperament, and drive, and helps each buyer pick out the one that best fits their lifestyle and what they are looking for. Not every puppy will match every buyer. If a puppy and buyer are not a good fit for each other, or a buyer is proving to be sketchy, irresponsible, or uneducated about the breed with no desire to learn and improve, then a reputable breeder will turn them down in an instant.

When you’re working with a breeder who insists on meeting every family member and interviewing you about your home, your lifestyle, your expectations, your experience, your veterinary references, etc. before helping you pick a puppy that is right for you, you know you’re dealing with a reputable breeder who cares and wants their dogs in only the best homes who will keep them for life.

As a result of this effort into selecting buyers, and the effort put into properly testing and managing their breeding program and puppies, a reputable breeder will have you sign a contract before you take your puppy home.

This contract almost always includes a clause that states that should you ever find yourself unable to keep the dog, that it must be returned to the breeder. A good breeder understands that sometimes unforeseen and difficult circumstances happen, and dogs cannot always stay with their owners. They will ALWAYS require their offspring to be returned to them (or maintain right of first refusal).

 

6. THE PARENTS ARE OVER 2 YEARS OLD

Veterinarians don’t recommend breeding dogs until at least 2 years of age for a variety of reasons.  Primarily this is due to the fact that most dogs are not physically mature until 18-24 months of age. Some of the largest breeds (Great Danes, Mastiffs, etc) do not physically mature until closer to 3 years of age. It’s also important so as to obtain accurate health and temperament assessments of the parents at maturity, and prevent complications (from immature development) during pregnancy and whelping.

If you want a happy, healthy adult dog, you need to be sure that his/her parents are happy and healthy adult dogs.

This also leads into Criteria #7:

 

7. HEALTH TESTING AND VETERINARY CARE

This is one of the BIGGEST indicators of whether a breeder is shady, or whether a breeder is TRULY ethical.

Almost every breed is prone to several genetic health issues. Each breed has their own list, but many have shared or similar issues. Unfortunately this is a by-product of years of inbreeding way back in history when each breed was being created.

You will need to research specifically what diseases and issues your desired breed is known for, and therefore what testing a reputable breeder should be doing on the sire and dam prior to breeding them.

For example, Dobermans are prone to several genetic diseases:

vonWillebrand’s Disease (blood clotting disorder)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (fatal heart disease — 2 genetic types plus the acquired form)

Autoimmune Thyroiditis (causes hypothyroidism)

Degenerative Myelopathy (disease that causes eventual paralysis and death)

All of these diseases should be genetically tested for by ANY reputable Doberman breeder. The sire and dam should be completely negative/clear for any genetic markers. Some breeders also test the individual puppies (via Embark) to be on the safe side, and for the benefit of the buyer, and the report is included with the purchase of the puppy. A reputable Doberman breeder will also have the thyroid function tested on all breeding animals, and either an echo-cardiogram or Holter test performed to check heart function.

Dobermans, German Shepherds, Great Danes, and almost all large breeds are prone to orthopedic issues as well:

Hip Dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joint)

Elbow Dysplasia (abnormal development of the elbow joint)

Therefore all breeding animals should have their hips and elbows evaluated and cleared as “Normal” or better by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). OFA requires animals to be 2 years old or more for evaluation, to allow for full maturity to be reached and the physis of the long bones (or epiphyseal plates – “growth plates”) to be mostly fused. This is one reason why it is important to wait until at least 2 years to breed. Another orthopedic evaluation organization is available called PennHIP, which can be performed much younger than 2 years of age — however, the AKC does not currently accept PennHIP yet.

There is currently some debate on whether it is permissible to breed dogs who only have 1 copy of a gene for certain diseases — which means they are not affected, only carry the gene — as long as they are bred to a completely clear/negative mate and therefore the puppies cannot inherit 2 copies (be affected) and the odds say that roughly half will not even inherit one copy (become carriers). Some very reputable breeders abide by this in order to “clean up” certain lines and dilute/eradicate the gene.

While I understand that line of thinking and it has its merits, personally and professionally I disagree with this practice. I feel that any dog that carries even just 1 copy of these genes should never be bred. We should be holding our breeding practices to the highest standard, and removing these genes from the breeding pool entirely.

Nonetheless, a buyer MUST research what health testing their breed should have, and ensure that the breeder they choose has it done on EVERY breeding dog before it is bred. This is the hallmark of a truly responsible, ethical breeder and this cannot be compromised or overlooked.

If a breeder cannot show you the results of full, comprehensive health testing on their dogs, RUN. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

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The parents of my Doberman, Leia (“Payne’s Rebel Alliance”). The breeder displays all of the genetic testing and orthopedic evaluation that has been performed on both dogs PRIOR to breeding. If anything is pending, they provide the results upon confirmation. They also provide a full PDF report from the various labs, universities, and DNA testing organizations such as Embark. (Lone Star Pride Dobermans)

The same applies to veterinary care. Puppies should have their first DHPP vaccination (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo), Parainfluenza) at 6 weeks of age. This first vaccination will help begin the process of immune system antibody formation against the deadliest diseases that affect young dogs — specifically Parvo. They still have their mother’s antibodies at this age, competing with their own immune system development, so one vaccine is not sufficient.

The following is the recommended vaccination and deworming schedule for puppies:

6 weeks: DHPP (or DA2PP) and Dewormer (Nemex/Strongid or Drontal Plus)

9 weeks: DHPP (or DA2PP) and Dewormer (Nemex/Strongid or Drontal Plus)

12 weeks: DHLPP (or DA2PP plus Lepto) and Rabies

15 weeks: DHLPP (or DA2PP plus Lepto) and Bordetella

6 months: Bordetella

Alternatively, DHPP/DA2PP can be given at all 4 appropriate ages and Lepto can be given separately later on after 16 weeks of age in a 2 booster series 3 weeks apart, in order to minimize the rare risk for reaction. If Lepto is given as part of the DHLPP combination vaccine, and the DVM has concern for allergic reaction, an injection of diphenhydramine can be given 15 minutes prior to vaccine administration.

Puppies should have a full veterinary examination prior to adoption, and should have received the age-appropriate vaccination and deworming schedule from their veterinarian as well. Because 2 of those required booster sets fall below the usual 10-week age of adoption, they should be performed by the breeder prior to adoption. If puppies are not adopted until 12 weeks, then the first 3 sets of vaccinations should be performed.

Some breeders choose to administer their own vaccines that they purchase themselves from farm stores. While this isn’t necessarily discouraged, there can be issues with this as the puppies are missing out on vital veterinary examinations that occur prior to vaccine administration — therefore potential health issues can be missed. The other concern is that many breeders (and pet owners in general) are inexperienced in the proper storage, handling, and administration of vaccines. There is the risk that they are not properly refrigerated either prior to purchase (farm stores are notorious for leaving shipments out before putting them away) or post-purchase in the home of the breeder. There is also the risk that they were not reconstituted properly (particularly DHLPP) or the needle/vial becomes contaminated through improper handling. When it comes to administration, vaccines should be given subcutaneously (SQ) in the appropriate limbs. Many breeders and pet owners are not skilled in injection administration and inadvertently administer vaccines into the muscle tissue — or worse, into a blood vessel. This not only poses health risks to the dog, but renders the vaccine less effective.

A responsible, reputable breeder will have puppies vaccinated and dewormed on schedule, as they should always have the health and safety of their puppies in mind. 

 

8. PUPPIES DO NOT GO HOME UNTIL A MINIMUM OF 10 WEEKS OF AGE

Multiple studies show that puppies removed from their parents and litter-mates too young are more likely to exhibit problem behaviors like fear or aggression towards other dogs and biting issues toward humans.

Responsible breeders know this and won’t separate puppies from parents until the appropriate time.The longer puppies stay with their mother and litter-mates, the more well-rounded they will be. They learn bite inhibition among other social skills, and this is crucial.

6-week old puppies soon become 8-week old puppies in the blink of an eye. 8-week-old puppies soon become 10-week-old puppies in the snap of a finger. A buyer is losing nothing by waiting until 10 weeks to bring their new best friend home. They will bond just as tightly, if not more-so as they are right in the Human Socialization Period and Fear Impact Period:

Critical periods in puppy development

Yet by taking them too early, you risk gaining an entire list of problems. It’s just not worth the potential long-term behavior issues.

 

9. WAIT LISTS, HIGHER PRICES, DEPOSITS, & CONTRACTS

Since a good breeder only has one litter at a time, maybe two max, then they should have more customers than they have puppies. Many reputable breeders will not have puppies available year-round. They limit breeding to only certain times of the year and maintain a Wait List for those interested in upcoming litters. This is what you should be looking for!

Because of all of the testing listed above in #7, well-bred, healthy puppies are extremely expensive to produce. Do not expect to pay a few hundred dollars for your puppy; he/she will likely cost $1200 to $3,000 (depending on a variety of factors). Working dogs bred and trained to be service dogs, protection dogs, or police dogs cost upwards of $5,000+.

It’s absolutely worth it!

 

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“Talon vom Hokschhaus” a.k.a. Talon, my German Shepherd, was $1800.

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“Payne’s Rebel Alliance” a.k.a. Leia, my Doberman, was $1900.

You will need pay a deposit to reserve your puppy, and if there are none available yet, you will need to get on a waiting list. Waiting lists allow people to place deposits on upcoming litters from specific parents that have the appearance/traits the buyer is looking for, and allows the breeder to plan ahead.

Once you have purchased the puppy, a reputable breeder will have a contract that you will need to sign before they let you take your puppy home. This outlines things like health guarantees, veterinary care, breeding rights, if/when you are eligible to have Full registration released vs. Limited registration, etc. This protects you as much as it protects them.

Many people scoff at the cost of purebred dogs from reputable breeders, and this is what drives them to purchase cheaper dogs from backyard breeders. Just remember, like most things in life:

You get what you pay for.

Pay $1800 now for a well-bred, stable-minded, healthy puppy from proven pedigreed lineage and genetically tested parents (thus guaranteed free from known genetic disorders and diseases), and not have to worry about most behavioral problems or illnesses/death, and enjoy your dog for the next 10-15 years.

OR

Pay $500 now for a cheap, ill-bred puppy with unknown pedigree or non-guaranteed lineage, no genetic testing, and risk behavioral problems around your family, any number of genetic diseases popping up (several of which rapidly cause death), and several thousand dollars in veterinary bills when the dog ends up with a congenital disease and/or his hips blow out from dysplasia and require surgery on both sides to remove the damaged bone.

Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder is an investment.

You’re not just investing in the health and stability of the dog, the security and happiness of you and your family, and the lifetime of bonding and love you will share without the worry of the unknown and the genetic gamble, but also saving the miserable lives of ill-bred dogs by not promoting/encouraging backyard breeding. This is an investment that yields MANY positive returns.

 

10. THEIR DOGS HAVE PROVEN LINEAGE IN LINE WITH YOUR GOALS

If you want a truffle hunting dog, find a breeder who has a line of proven sniffing dogs. If you want a bird hunting dog, find a breeder with a line of proven birders and who actively hunts. If you want strictly a family pet, you generally will not go to the same breeders as you would for a working dog.

I see this issue all the time in German Shepherds. This breed is extremely popular as family pets and as working dogs, but those are two very different uses. The average pet owner will want a breeder that specializes in producing family dogs (usually West German). The average police department or protection sport enthusiast will want a breeder that specializes in producing working dogs (usually East German/DDR or Czech). The energy level, focus, and drive of a dog bred for work is almost always too much for most families to handle. That energy needs an outlet — a job to do — or it turns into destruction or training problems. Families that are active and into sporting activities, protection sports, agility, etc. would do well with a dog that comes specifically from West German working lines. They have the easygoing temperament that a family dog needs to have, yet still have moderate drive and workability. This is what my Talon was, and he was literally everything I could have ever asked for.

A reputable breeder will know exactly what lineage they are working with, documented and going back at least 6 generations, and will be able to demonstrate workability or successful showing in their lineage via titles and champions:

 

Talon’s Sire: V Tony von der Burg Haidstein SchH3, KKL1. His father (Talon’s paternal grandfather) was 2006 World Sieger and 2008 Crufts “Best of Breed” VA1 Zamp vom Thermodos SchH3, KKL1 from West Germany — one of the top producing and top performing German Shepherds in recent history. (Hokschhaus German Shepherds)

Talon’s Dam: V Finchen vom Fiemereck SchH1, KKL1. Her father (Talon’s maternal grandfather) was VA8 Quantum vom Fiemereck SchH3, KKL1 from West Germany. (Hokschhaus German Shepherds)

AKC (American Kennel Club) registration is always desired, as it documents purebred lineage and basic pedigree. It also is required for participation in any AKC events — showing, conformation, tracking, obedience, sports, etc. But AKC registration by itself is nowhere near enough. Many backyard breeders have AKC registered dogs. However, they lack everything else mentioned in this list — specifically the genetic and health testing, and proven successful lineage, and that is what makes all the difference. Without those, AKC registration is literally just a piece of a paper.

UKC (United Kennel Club) is another registry and the second oldest in the U.S. They permit new registration for purebred dogs that either come from UKC-registered parents, or can provide proof of AKC registration (or another international purebred dog registry) plus a 3-generation pedigree. They are a reputable organization that focuses more on the full picture of appearance, conformation, health, genetics, and temperament. Most of the aspects of their breed standards overlap with AKC. They have specific UKC events and are rising in popularity.

Then there are shady registries like NKC (National Kennel Club), CKC (Continental Kennel Club — not to be confused with the Canadian Kennel Club), etc. which are very sketchy and permit many backyard breeders use to subvert the AKC and UKC regulations. These registries are big in the Pitbull circles specifically, but show up in all breeds. CKC specifically permits dogs to be titled as “purebred” just by the owner signing a piece of paper that swears to it. It doesn’t get more unethical than that.

Be realistic with yourself and your breeder about what you’re looking for and what you can provide for your puppy. They in turn should be honest about whether or not their lineage is a good fit for your needs.

 

Now What?

As a starting point, you can look up various breeders in your area that have the breed you’re looking for, and compare them against what you’ve learned in this list. You can also contact them directly and interview them to ensure they meet the grade as well. However, there are other methods that may be able to help you track down options to compare to this list as well:

UTILIZE THE AKC’S ONLINE BREEDER LISTINGS

This is a great resource and the one I recommend the most. The AKC website offers a Marketplace where you can find AKC registered breeder listings for every breed imaginable. AKC adds search options if you want to limit searches to only breeders with AKC Champions, high recommendations, etc. Paired with their Dog Breed Selector tool that helps you narrow down the breeds that are best suited to what you’re looking for, the AKC is really a fantastic starting point in your journey.

WORD OF MOUTH

If you know any friends or family who have purchased from a breeder in the past, ask about their experience and if they would recommend the breeder they used. Be careful with this method, however, as many people have unknowingly purchased from backyard breeders — so you’ll need to take these recommendations with a grain of salt.

VISIT A DOG SHOW/WORKING TRIAL

AKC/UKC dog shows, agility competitions, and Schutzhund trials are all places where the best of the best go to compete. You’ll find plenty of purebred dogs from reputable breeders (but not all!), and have the ability to meet them and ask their owners where they came from. Many reputable breeders show/work their dogs themselves at these events as well!

ASK A VETERINARIAN, GROOMER, OR DOG TRAINER

Grooming and training professionals may be able to offer the inside scoop regarding reputable breeders in your area as well, especially since they frequently work with reputable breeders who produce show/working dogs.

Veterinarians and veterinary technicians are also generally excellent sources of breeder knowledge. After all, we’ve all had thousands of purebred pups come through our doors and have watched them grow into adulthood over the years. We know which puppies came from good genetics with stable temperaments vs. which dogs grew into poor conformation, had horrific behavioral issues, and suffered medical issues later on.

And hey, we also write helpful articles! 😊

In the end…

Do your due diligence, research everything, and invest in your future dog. You will find yourself happy with a healthy, balanced companion for years to come, and all of the effort, time, and money spent will ABSOLUTELY be worth it.

 

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Worth every penny spent, worth the 4-hour roundtrip drive, AND worth the 5 hours combined of 2 plane flights and a layover in Atlanta.  Texas to Tennessee!

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