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24 November 2008


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Oddly enough, those are also some of the indicators of a good rescue organization. Those of us in the rescue business don't want just anyone adopting one of our animals, because if the critter ends up at a shelter or being abused, it defeats the purpose, you know? The group I volunteer with isn't impossible to adopt from, but we are thorough, and with good reason.

Now if only everyone would get a clue about how to find their new furry family member, this country would be a much better place.


I'm not in the market for a dog right now...but I recently found myself wondering...surely there are some good, reputable breeders who happen to also have a website (Bullmarket Frogs comes to mind). Are there any clues, from a first look at a website that could tell you if it's even worthwhile to investigate them further?

Gina Spadafori

You really need to think of a Web site as a "business card," just a place to find out contact information and start asking questions.

One sure sign of trouble, though: If a breeder has more than two breeds (and really, more than one) .... don't bother clicking on the contact link. It's hard enough to be good at one breed. Selling a handful of different ones (especially if they just happen to also be the "trendies") and you're not looking at a responsible, ethical and knowledgeable breeder.

I'm sure others will have more. I need a nap now. :)


So "Get your doodles, he-yah, we got your doodles: golden, labra, you name it. First class doodle daddies. You want it we breed it" not the way to go, you mean? :O)

Gina Spadafori

You forgot: We got 'em all sizes and colors. Same day shipping, paypal accepted, no questions asked. :)


Good breeders' websites are often just brag sites, with lots of pictures of their show champions, maybe a little about how they got into the breed, etc., and precious little info to help you figure out whether they even plan a litter in the next year or so. Sometimes puppy pictures of cute puppies from two or three years ago...:)

Puppy pictures with prices beside them are right out.

My dog's breeder's website went down because she was too busy with the dogs--that's a positive sign.:) (She promises it will be back up soon. Really soon. Honestly! But there's a show coming up, and a dog just came back from a good owner whose life circumstances changed, and Thanksgiving is this week...)

People who are in the puppy-selling business make sure the website stays up, and is updated with the latest "products" available for sale.


In theory, I think the "Acid Test" is totally out of line and I wrote a scathing analysis of that clause in my "Breeding Ethics 2" post from a year ago.

Interestingly enough, I turned out to be one of the sentimental breeders I wrote about and included a take back / right of first refusal clause in my contract. While I still feel that the ethic is a breeder on breeder snipe tactic, I realize now that other breeders really don't matter and who cares about their silly negative politics against each other.

What matters is the dogs and I'd hate to lose track of them or find that they'd been put down or sold without having at least a chance to help with the situation.

I'm in contact with my puppy buyers all the time and I wouldn't have it any other way, contract or no.


Thanks, Gina. I hadn't meant to get under Christy's skin.

I was enjoying a bit the flack between you and Chris when it occurred to me that it was really counter to what Christy had started out to do.

I have no problem with aficionados of a particular breed being obvious proponents of that breed, and all that goes with promoting their chosen line. Responsibly.

I, personally, have had good luck with strays and rehomes, of impure lineage.


Whoa! I started reading this blog to help me figure out where to get a puppy from. I have some basic requirements decided on but I'm not decided on the breed of dog yet. I know I want small, but tough enough to run with me; not a watch dog that barks alot (neighbors close by); etc etc. I've been researching on the internet and calling/emailing breeders on the East Coast trying to talk to them to help me decide on the breed best for my family. One of the rudest calls I ever had with a breeder, I see she's putting a response on this blog! Since she hung up on me, I just want to say, excuuuuuusssseeeee meeeeeeeeee!

Anne T

A general Rule of Thumb About Web Sites

If the puppies are posed at 4-6 weeks against a velvet & floral backdrop, click off. Ethical breeders will post informal puppy photos, but rarely show individual puppies at that age on their site.

If prices are posted, click off. No ethical breeder posts prices.

If the site says we take all major credit cards, paypal or wallyworld money oreders, click off.

If the site spews some verbage about the puppies are health checked by a vet, click off. You want CHIC information about the genetic health of the parents: OFA, CERF et alia, not a 'return' policy.

If it takes you 2 or 3 persistent emails and a phone call before the breeder actually addresses your inquiry about a puppy, that's a good sign. He or she is waiting to see if you are really Serious.

Your best bet if you want a purebred, is to find a local show or several and go and watch the breed(s) of your choice. Buy a catalogue. Make a note of the dog(s) you really like. Look especially for the Bred By Exhibitor classes, because that means the person who bred the dog in the ring is on the other end of the leash. Seek him or her out, and don't be surprised if you are rebuffed. The person may have a bunch of dogs in a variety of classes, and if showing a coated breed, busy readying the dog for the next class. If the breeder has time, and your questions are intelligent, he or she will make time for you.

Do your research. Go to the Breed Club, and check out members websites. Often the members will have gems of information good and bad about the breed that you won't find elsewhere. Buying a healthy, well adjusted dog is not an exercise in immediate gratification. However, once you accept that fact, and establish a relationship with a responsible breeder, you are getting 2 friends for life: the dog and the breeder. It's worth it!

Gina Spadafori

We always say "go to a show" and that CAN work as a first contact step for many breeds. But what about a non-AKC breed, or a breed (like JRTs and BCs) with strong networks of really top-quality breeders who wouldn't be caught dead dealing with the AKC?

How can we help people find THOSE breeders?

And what about Labradoodles, etc.? I actually now do believe there are some (albet not many) who truly are trying to do a good job with these cross-breds, all the right stuff from OFA certs to in-home raising and careful and appropriate socialization. How can we get people to them and away from puppy-mill scum?

What do you think, guys? I know *I* could find these good breeders, but hey, I'm a damn reporter. Is there some GENERAL information and advice we offer that will get people wandering out there in the puppy-seeking wilderness to the right breeders when you can't (or don't wanna) say, "go to a show"?

Let's get some good advice in here not just on IDing and avoiding the BAD but finding the GOOD.


Some of those non-AKC breeders are UKC breeders. UKC has shows, too.

Responsible breeders of breeds not recognized by either AKC or UKC will have their own organizations, their own breed clubs and standards and events. They'll still talk to you about what the health concerns are in their breed and/or the ancestor breeds--especially if this is not an old but non-AKC breed, but a new mix not yet really established as a separate breed.

Responsible breeders don't operate in isolation or rugged independence.


Ann T -

What kind of pictures people take has NO relation to what kind of breeder they are.

Nor do their webpage skills. You might be jealous or dismissive of such things, but those are MARKETING tactics, not breeding qualifications and marketing is not evil.

And the other points you made suggest that the snobby arrogant political show folks are good breeders? These are the exact same pool of people that have bred in diseases, inbred excessively, and whose shoddy philosophy is out of line with breed health and diversity.

Showing isn't everything, it isn't the only thing, and the groupthink matrons are not the only good breeders. Many of them, despite all their education, care, and expertise, continue to do very stupid things. Contracts, websites, photos, or no.

Remember, these are the people who want to win beauty contests, they might, just might, not have pet homes as their top priorities. Pet homes are places to dump dogs that don't work out for their breeding programs.

Finding a good breeder is easy, just find a good breeder. What makes a breeder good is different to different people and the very act of doing an aggressive search is likely to give you the results you seek.

Not everyone needs a hand on busy body breeder who is an elitist and demands to co-own your dog and forces you to show them. Other people would love all those things.


A good breeder helps breed rescues. Not just the show dogs, not just the dogs with "papers", but all the dogs of that particular breed.

A good breeder is also interested in other breeds and will talk dog breeding with other breeders, share referrals across breeds, etc.

A good breeder is always interested in the world of "dogs".

My two bits worth. (Maybe I've been hanging out at the dog park too much...)


"Ethical breeders will post informal puppy photos, but rarely show individual puppies at that age on their site."

At what point do they start showing "stacked" photos? Seems to me I've seen some youngins on ethical breeder sites starting very young in individual shots, usually held face forward. One of my "procrastinations" is cruising Dal sites for litters. It's fun watching their spots develop etc ;) I like watching them put their puppies through their socialization routines on some of the sites. There's a step program that's pretty cool with surfaces etc. Most of the Dal sites that I've seen start showing the puppies very young. First info is sex and patched or not and color (they're born all white). It develops from there. Extra points to the sites with a puppy cam!

If I were looking for a Dal (and yes, I've thought a lot on this), I would look for not just champs, but other activities. Agility, Ob, tracking, road work, therapy. Obviously health is an issue and top priority, so they need all the required tests. History is important also. Health and activities. I want a Dal that isn't just physically correct, it needs to be able to do what Dals were born to do and have a good temp. Otherwise, a rescue is just fine for me ;)

I think the first thing a puppy buyer needs to learn is what they really want in a dog long term. And do they really understand the commitment. Long before they ever start wondering whether a breeder is good or not. They can't ask the right questions if they don't have a good handle on the situation. I do think the Obamas are setting a good example that way. They made it pretty clear they've thought about it from what type of dog would work and the best time to get one with the pending move etc. Have to give them major props for being very clear about not getting a puppy until they are settled.


Dorene, charging a rehoming fee is a "good practice." "Free to a good home" is potentially dangerous for the dog.

A rehoming fee helps to screen out those who are not serious about a dog. Someone who won't pay somewhere between $50 and $300 for a dog is just not serious enough to be a secure home for a dog who is already being rehomed because the original family can't/won't give it the time it needs. Sometimes people who are really serious about rehoming their pet safely will use the willingness to pay the rehoming fee as initial screening, then ask for references and check the references, and then in the right circumstances will waive the fee. I know someone who did that recently, when they had to rehome one of their two females, because of serious aggression between them. (They had tried everything to resolve it, including having a behaviorist in to evaluate the situation, and concluded it was never going to be safe for the older dog. The younger one was rehomed to an only-pet situation, with continuing contact between original and new owner.)

A rehoming fee also weeds out the Class B dealers, who collect "free to a good home" pets and sell them on for distinctly non-pet uses.

So unless the "rehoming fee" is outrageous, no, don't go ballistic! Encourage the woman to make contact, ask questions, and evaluate the situation and the pup.

Gina Spadafori

I was just thinking on the drive home for lunch -- homemade soup with my pets! -- that it IS very true that good breeders often don't look at the big picture. "If you're not ME, doing things like ME, you're not a good breeder," in other words.

Which reminds me of a conversation I had a couple decades ago. (I have to STRESS for my flatcoat friends that this IS NOT about a flatcoat breeder, so don't get all hot and bothered thinking I'm writing about someone we know.) It's not about a breed I think has EVER been mentioned here, at least not by me, and the conversation was a casual one at Westminster, maybe the first or second time I was sent there to cover it.

The breeder (whom I did not know) mentioned in passing that another breeder was, and I quote, "a puppy mill." Now, I had just BEEN to a puppy mill, pit of dead dogs and all, so I pressed her for details. Turns out what Breeder A meant was that Breeder B bred more than Breeder A thought appropriate. There were no other complaints by Breeder A about Breeder B.

Me, I can't always keep my mouth shut, so I told Breeder A that I had been to a REAL puppy mill, and that maybe she should use her terms more accurately in the future.

So yeah, maybe a little perspective isn't a bad thing, sometimes.

Gina Spadafori

“How do you recognize a good dog breeder?”

They’re the ones sniping at each other, ready to wash the commoner in “Acid Tests”.

Come on folks, it’s the holidays!

Comment by eli — November 25, 2008

Eli, we really ARE trying to come up with some good directions for people who will TRY to avoid a puppy-mill retail outlet if you help them to do so.

Shelter adoptions are GREAT: We encourage them AND we've done them ourselves.

But some people do want a certain breed and they want a puppy. We want to help those people find that puppy, and not patronize puppy-millers.

We're trying to offer advice to help both people AND pets.

Anne T

If I were looking for a quality Russell terrier type, I'd type "working terrier" into the search engine of choice. I'd type "earth dog" as well, and I would personally email Mr. Burns, seeing if he would take the time to recommend sites I could search.

As with ethical breeders of labra and golden doodles ( I have no doubt they exist) I am sure there are ethical, responsible breeders of other crosses who are trying to stabilize their mix of choice, by choosing crosses of known and CHIC parentage ( if they can obtain an intact dog from a reputable breeder...good luck). However, given what I know of ethical breeders, the likelyhood of the original parentage being relatively genetically free of inherited disease is slim to none, meaning the original parentage very likely was deeply flawed to begin with.

However, isn't the creation of those crosses into a new 'breed' putting them genetically at greater risk facing all other breeds with closed studbooks? You are potentially mixing a breed already subject to A,B,C, and mating them with another breed that carries the recessives for X,Y and Z.

So you have added say a propensity for Leggs Perthe, or MvD, or osteosarcoma into another breed already known for say hip dyslpasia, PRA and epilepsy. I don't remember enough about genetics from my college days 45 years ago, but I do question the wisdom of breeding the flawed to the flawed. Nor am I convinced that the average dog in US shelters is any less genetically "safe" than any purebred.


Gina's question hit the nail on the head - one of the problems is that SINCE reputable breeders don't spend a lot of time and energy marketing their puppies (they don't have to, and they usually don't have puppies that often, anyway) they are a lot harder to find. Especially for the average person who has never shown a dog, and knows nothing about the various events and competitions, and only wants a nice, healthy pet. Advising people like that to go to a show usually isn't very helpful unless you can give them specifics of where, and when, and what to do when they get there.

More and more parent clubs are starting to post breeder referral lists on their web sites - not just AKC clubs, but many of the working breed organizations too. They can't totally promise that every breeder on the list is as ethical as we all would wish - different people have different definitions of "ethical" anyway. But it's a good start, and one IMO that is easier for the average pet owner to find. If you Google a particular breed, usually a national organization will pop up pretty early in the results. I would like to see more national organizations keeping updated breeder referral lists. That would help answer that question "Where can I find a reputable breeder?" with specific information the person can use, rather than just giving them a list of what to look for.

Anne T

Oh contraire Christopher, the advertisements on websites are huge clues as to what kind of breeders they are. I don't know what Internet Neverland you are living in where everything is happy and gay, but believe me, a well crafted dog savvy website is important, versus the plethora of 4 week old puppies or younger posed in front of expensive floral arrangements that except any means of payment possible. This isn't elitism, and I don't care if I am one of Spiro Agnew's orginial "effete, intellectual snobs". It's an advertising Internet fact. Go look for yourself.

I don't wish to name my breed of choice on a public blog like this because I don't want to draw unwarranted attention to it. It's bad enough for it to be part of Andrew Hunte's corpoiration and have the puppies show up in Petland stores across the country. However, I would be glad to supply you with the links to commercial millers' eye catching websites, and to forums devoted to peddling the breed to the uneducated puppy buyer.

I am attempying tyo offer concrete help for the novice to be able to seperate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Internet sites. Do you have something concrete to offer?


Going to a dog show to find a breeder is like going to JonBenét Ramsey's parents to adopt a baby. It's subjective, it's political, it's sexual, but it has very little to do with how you're going to like your puppy.

Really now, you might not like me making fun of the matrons, but when 90% of the serious show world can be grouped into one or more of the following categories {lawyer, hair dresser, groomer, matron, metrosexual+} and these are the very same people who have propagated every malformation we care to complain about in our breeds in the name of their beauty pageants, why should we expect they're any better at making sound breeding decisions than the proof of their pudding would tell us they are?

All the value added services a breeder wants to advertise mean little if they have failed from the start by breeding the wrong dogs together for the wrong reasons. You can overcome not having a contract, a take back guarantee, the right kind of photos... but you can't overcome your dog's crappy genetics.

By your standards, whoever bred that monster foot stool Peke would be the greatest breeder on the planet. So much for dog shows and websites.

Christie Keith

Although I didn't mention finding breeders at shows -- in fact, my piece was about EVALUATING the breeders you have found, not about finding them in the first place -- whether or not that's a good idea depends entirely on the breed in question. I'd no more look for a Border Collie breeder at a dog show than I'd look for a Scottish Deerhound at a herding trial.

In my breed, you would definitely not go looking anywhere but among the show breeders for your hound, although over the decades I've been in deerhounds, there have been, once or twice, good breeders who didn't show. But we all knew them and could recommend or vouch for them, so they were still part of the same network as the show breeders.

The bottom line is this: whether you go looking at a show, a trial, the Internet, or the classified ads, it's up to you to do the homework to figure out what that breeder's ethics are like, and if you want to support them with your dollars. There is no magic place to find a breeder where you'll be able to skip that step. There are good breeders who have never set a toe in a show ring, and scumbags milling toy poodles in the garage. You owe it to your puppy, and your puppy's mother, to figure out who it is you're talking to.

Gina Spadafori

You know how we got here? People thinking those Matrons knew what they were doing and that no real harm could come from making dog shows the measure of success.

Comment by Christopher — November 25, 2008

That's not the "measure of success" by any of the reputable breeders I know. It's just one of the factors, at best, and you well know it.

Honestly, Christopher, I've just about had it with your attitude. You need to deal with your issues with gays and middle-aged women in therapy, not on this blog.

You're not adding anything to the discussion except your bigotry and arrogance. You have a chronic inability to distinguish between "light" and "heat" and a pathological need to be seen as the expert without ever listening to or considering the views of anyone who actually is one.

You are well aware how much I hate to moderate or ban people. Bring something to the table in terms of contributing to the discusssion or take your toys and go home.


How much will some Chicken Soup (tm) cost me?


Gina, don't leave us hanging...


oh there it is, couldn't see the story the first time the page loaded! ::blush::

Gina Spadafori

My bad. Hit "post" before done. All fixed now.

Gina Spadafori

Since you are not really set on any breed, why not adopt a shelter dog? Something on the small side of medium, like a terrier mix, spaniel mix, Sheltie mix, cattle dog mix or something like that? Those should all be good running companions.

Look on Petfinder!


2 quick responses to other comments:

About price - Anne, I know a number of reputable breeders who DO put price (usually a "Our pet puppies are $x on a spay/neuter contract, regardless of color, coat, or sex" type announcement. I've seen this mostly on golden and lab breeder sites, and I think it's probably jsut to weed out the people who don't get that just because the labs in the paper are $400 and the classified ad says 'hips tested, hunting labs" doesn't equal a dog with a field championship or a pointed, MH dog with all the health certifications and that yes, that puppy IS really $1200 (seems to be about the going price for PQ goldens when I last helped one of my training clients find one after the death of their older dog.)

On the puppy picture thing? I'm planning a litter right now and I'm totally doing a puppycam. :P It means my friends who don't live close can see the puppies in all their fluffy adorableness, and frankly? I spend a LOT of time when i've fostered litters in the past just sitting and watching them play in between cleaning. :P Of course I'm goign to take photos! There will be ZILLIONS of photos. There will not, however, be 'available' notes underneath them- can't tell who is worth keeping until they're almost ready to go anyway!

Gina Spadafori

I actually know exactly what sites Ann's talking about -- and I bet if you'd quit obsessing over "matrons" you'd realize that, too.

Check out the puppy-mill retail outlets that also take online orders. Lots of puppies, lots of breeds/crossbreds, all posed with price tags in cute baskets and in front of flower displays.

Please remember that many of us "matrons" don't engage in groupthink at all. Otherwise I'm gonna have to smack ya.

H. Houlahan

Ask breed rescue for references. If there are multiple rescue organizations, ask them all. Any that hate all breeders, just ignore and move on.

There are two ways that a breeder may be "known" to the national or regional/local rescue organization. You want the good way -- the breeder who helps with fostering and transport and evaluations, does home checks for rescue, sends money, whatever -- and is known as someone who takes back her own dogs in a heartbeat.

The other way is the breeder who "contributes" to rescue with cast-off, misplaced, and/or genetically screwy dogs.

Also, talk to breeders who aren't trying to sell you anything. Most good breeders won't have a pups available most of the time. They will have networks of other breeders whom they respect.

When you find a guide or two to the breed (lurk on internet discussion lists for the breed, and see who is reasonable, knowledgeable, helpful, but not pollyanna), toss names at them.

Responses will vary from "Never heard of 'em" -- which may mean nothing in a populous breed, but be ominous in a rare breed -- to "I'd buy a dog from him" to "Does your vet give you a big discount?" to "."

A good breeder wants to make a good match, and that includes referring out.

Last litter, I was contact by a lady who sounded like a good home for a milder pup than the ones I typically produce, and also had a strong preference for a quite different physical type within the breed. I knew just who to send her to. I probably won't ever breed to this other breeder's studs or buy a pup from her, because I personally don't care for that physical type or enjoy that mild temperament, and I don't think they'd make a good cross with my girls. But the dogs are sound, healthy, sane, and the breeder is conscientious. The potential buyer later told me that two or three other breeders had sent her to the same person -- she'd been trying to get a pup closer to her -- and lo and behold, she found just the pup for her, even though she had to drive a long distance to get him.

Anne T

Geesh. I should have paid attention to my spell checker. Sorry for the typos, but the sentiment stands!


Okay, I need to talk about "bad practices" for a moment. My elist is still trying to help the poster find a Golden. Someone found a sob story on Craigslist about someone who is too busy to care for a Golden puppy. Everything sounds fine until the last line "There is a rehoming fee."

Do I channel Heather and go ballastic? ;-) I'm the list owner and if this is out of the park, I'm all over it.

nancy freedman-smith

Here is an angle that hasn't been posted yet-good trainers know the good breeders. If they don't know the breed you are looking for, they most likely have an idea of who you can call to find out more info and get on the right path to the right puppy. Good trainers also see first hand the misery bad breeders bring to good families and we know who they are to.


Just a note about craigslist and "rehoming fees". Craigslist tried to do the right thing by prohibiting outright sales of animals. However, they said they would allow the charging of a nominal "rehoming fee".

So now you see "rehoming fee" listed for EVERY animal on craigslist - from "the Golden we don't have time for any more" to the "Ooops!" litters of puppies that just keep "turning up" every six months or so.

Just another example of human beings always seeming to be able to find a way to corrupt every good idea someone tries to come up wiht.


Just wanted to say that fruitful back and forth discussions on great posts like this are why I love this blog and think the people who comment are Class A. <3 This information will be helpful when I finally get my Gordon Setter. Someday. :O)


My two cents (which may only be one cent, I have a cold) - Some buyers are put off if the breeder does not offer the option of returning a defective dog for a replacement/refund. They fear the dog could be deemed defective by the Vet two days or two months after they get the dog home. Buyers are accustomed to seeing guarantees elsewhere for non-dog purchases that offer a return for replacement/refund and so there is some familiarity and comfort when they see the same in a breeder's contract.

I think my contract offers the OPTION of returning a defective dog or keeping a defective dog for a partial refund. As a buyer, I would like to have that option myself. If I purchased a pup which turned out to need veterinary care beyond my means to provide, returning the dog might be an option worth considering if I hadn't yet formed a strong bond with the pup and the breeder said he could in fact provide the needed vet care and give me a replacement pup or refund.


"Going to a dog show to find a breeder is like going to JonBenét Ramsey’s parents to adopt a baby. It’s subjective, it’s political, it’s sexual, but it has very little to do with how you’re going to like your puppy."

Not true at all. My mom found her next Golden Retriever by watching dogs work at an obedience trial. It was a specialty, so breed showing was going on too. She found nothing there, but found her breeder after seeing 2 great working dogs in obedience, and finding out that they had been bred by the same person. She got the contact information, researched, visited...and got a puppy from a good breeding.

Gina Spadafori

Shows ...

And it probably depends on the breed, as well. For some breeds, the ONLY place to start your search -- stress: start -- is through show channels.

Let me add another idea that just came to me.

Look for breed-specific e-mail lists. I joined the flatcoated retriever e-mail list a full two years before I ever got a flatcoat. Two years of reading and reading between the lines was really helpful.

As it turned out, my first flatcoat came to me because of the list. He was 18 months old and in need of a better placement. The owner of his sire was trying to find that for him ... and I became that new home.

So yes, look for e-mail lists and join them. Don't jump on immediately asking for puppy referral ... just lurk and learn. You'll probably get a good idea who the good breeders are after a while.

And look for those re-homing and rescue situations. Ben wasn't anything but "just" a pet, but he was the sweetest, most stable dog I've ever had, and he was the best "book-signing dog" ever. Never set a paw wrong in any public situation.

Bennie ... I still miss you!

Christie Keith

Christopher, thanks for bringing that up. It reminds me of a point I failed to mention.

Age, weight, race, degree of physical attractiveness, religion, sexual orientation and gender have absolutely no bearing at all on whether or not someone is a good breeder, and should under no circumstances be taken into consideration when making this evaluation.

Gay people Hairdressers and fat women matrons have bred some of the finest dogs and most loving companions on the planet. It would be a tragedy if someone were to pass by their puppies out of blind ignorance and stupid prejudice.


I own a pet supply store but have never sold pets. Still, I receive stacks of monthly trade magazines sent out to all of us pet store owners. In these, they always have those nice, slick ads promoting puppy dealers like the Hunte Corporation and others. And there are always those articles meant to guide pet store owners to truly believe that dealing in puppies can be done ethically. “Experts” in the industry are forever touting the “superior animal care” of certain dealers, how there are scores of “ethical” breeders pet store owners can choose from when buying puppies wholesale and how we can work smarter to persuade our customers to buy more puppies while, at the same time, “selling” the ethics and good practices of whatever wholesale breeder is linked to the store’s puppy supply.

It occurs to me that maybe some pet store owners are being duped just as much as all these puppy-shopping consumers we hope won’t buy from a pet store.

I remember a few years ago speaking to the owner of a pet store dealing primarily in puppies. To me, she seemed genuinely convinced that her puppies were being shipped in by loving, ethical breeders and that they never, ever originated from puppy mills. This pet store owner spoke adamantly about her disgust of puppy mills and how she would NEVER support one. I believed her; I mean I believed she believed…ya know? ….she was just so sincere (bless her) when she insistently described how the breeders she purchased from were not puppy millers but devoted and respectable breeders!

I knew some of the breeding operations she was purchasing from and these are the same ones with the touching ads in the trade publications. Like you guys described with the websites; cute and cuddly pups photographed with backgrounds of velvet and flowers or in fields of green grass romping with children… and all the promises of “family raised“, healthy, socialized, pedigreed and adored by the oh-so-ethical breeder (who will ship you 12 breeds for a discount price and promises that your customers will pay a premium for such cuteness).

That pet store owner eventually went out of business after too many parvo deaths, protests outside her store and one really bad newspaper article about all her troubles with sickly pups and outraged customers. But that woman went down STILL insisting that her puppies came from ethical breeders!

I wonder, do enough pet store owners really, truly know how duplicitous the industry can be? Are they being duped by the articles written by industry leaders and the compelling advertisements published in those trade magazines? Maybe we should try more education and awareness with pet store owners directly.

One thing I’ve learned though, its useless to send articles in to the publishers of those trade magazines…if it includes a negative view of puppy dealing, they won’t publish it.


Breeding a loving companion is not a hard thing to do. These are puppies after all. Come on now, we should raise the bar a bit higher than that.

And be a caring person isn't enough either. The road to hell...

I'm sure 9 out of 10 Cocker Spaniel owners who have dogs with RAGE would tell you that they are cute loving companions.

If you take a step back for just one second, you will perhaps notice how horribly ironic it is that you support a system that treats harming dogs through gimping their genes as a virtue.

You know, it's not caring and good breeding to create animals that suffer from MRSI/MRSA and need their limbs cut off on a regular basis, or who die of Cancers more than 50% of the time.

You know how we got here? People thinking those Matrons knew what they were doing and that no real harm could come from making dog shows the measure of success.


> If it takes you 2 or 3 persistent emails and a phone call before the >breeder actually addresses your inquiry about a puppy, that’s a good >sign. He or she is waiting to see if you are really Serious.

Also very true for rescues.


"How do you recognize a good dog breeder?"

They're the ones sniping at each other, ready to wash the commoner in "Acid Tests".

Come on folks, it's the holidays!


Years ago, when I was looking for a sphynx cat, the most useful thing I did was join a mail-list for fanciers and breeders. Not only was it an introduction to the Sphynx community, I got to chat about cats in general and learn about the breed in the process. It made the wait comparatively painless, and just to think, at the time I wasn't even aware I was being vetted!


ooh ooh, I have one! A good breeder will give you the name and email/contact number of someone who owns her dogs. A breeder can talk up and down about the dog's health and breeding, but I like to hear it from someone who owns one of her dogs. This is what I did before I got a pup from the breeder this year.

For those wanting a purebred or cross, and not sure what breed, I recommend searching out the local agility, obedience, flyball, schutzhund, tracking, herding, lure-coursing, etc. dog clubs and ask them where they got their dog, were they happy with the breeder and the dog's outcome? Of course this won't work so well if you want a toy breed.


For Roberta-

Earlier in this blog, I joked that I had spent too much time around the dog park! Actually dog parks are another place to look for breeds and breeders. Many dog parks have websites and post information about their members, dog clubs and meetup groups, local animal rescues, etc.

If you talk to people at dog parks, they will usually tell you where they got their dogs, they will have (likely) researched their dogs breed(s), etc.

So dog parks are another source of information about breeds and breeders...

To see what I mean, here is the website for a dog park in the Sacramento area


Shannon Vanderburgt

I recently purchased a mini australian puppy from colorcountryaussies located in Cedar City Utah. The puppy arrived in on close inspection, just very skinny. Took her to my vet 2 days later only to find the pup was infested with lice, had a staph infection, and a parasite "Giardia". The pup had a lot of blood in her feces and was plagued with diarrhea. The vet stated the pup was also under-nourished. You could feel all her ribs and the neck area. Had good contact with breeder, or I had thought so. Once she received all my money, she started to let little things out of the bag that would start with, Did I tell you.... many little things that would have been more prominent had I not already sent the money by paypal to her. Keisha Bowman from colorcountryaussies has said she would fax the pups papers, it's been 2 weeks. She still has not faxed the pups pedigree and AKC papers either. She did however send me an email in which she typed out the dates and shots the pup was given.

To sum it up, a $1000 later I have indeed learned my lesson. I will never again buy from a breeder from another country, regardless how thorough their website is and how informative they sound on the phone.



Here's a good post on how (or how not) to approach a breeder at a show:


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