The breeder you choose will be the most important decision you make when bringing a puppy into your family.
There are essentially three different types of breeders out there, the dreaded and horrific puppy mill, the widely accepted backyard breeder and the very rare professional breeder. I do believe that most all breeders fit into one of these three categories as defined below.
We are all too familiar with the horrifying scenes emerging from puppy mills all around our country. Sadly, the Midwest is home to many puppy mills and some of the greatest offenders. So what makes a breeder a puppy mill? What makes a breeder a backyard breeder? What is different about a professional breeder?
A puppy mill breeds dogs for no other purpose than financial gain. The dogs often receive the minimal care possible to keep them reproducing and to meet the laws of the state. Sadly the state laws in regards to breeders often support puppies raised in these situations as long as they meet the minimal space required per dog and have adequate housing, food and water as defined by the law. If you are purchasing a puppy from a pet store or a broker you can be assured that your puppy came from a dreaded puppy mill. When buying directly from a puppy mill breeder they most often do not allow clients on site and insist upon meeting somewhere else. They often require puppies to leave at 8 weeks of age, the youngest age a puppy can leave by law. To ensure that your puppy is not coming from a puppy mill, ask for references, ask for a Facetime or Zoom meeting with mom and the puppies when they are still young. Ask for references and take note of the number of litters that they are producing in a year. There are many puppy mills active on social media, but become easy to spot when you know what you are looking for! Puppy Mill breeders are easy to spot when they are only posting posed photos of puppies. You will note that there are not videos or photos of puppies having new age appropriate experiences and often theses puppies never see the great outdoors. Puppy mill breeders often have minimal or no information given on parent dogs on social media or on their website.
Backyard breeders may have the best of intentions, but they lack breeding knowledge and often have no direction for a program. Again the sole purpose for their breeding decisions is all to often financial gain. They have minimal or no understanding of inherited diseases and their prevention. (Also see our post on Health and Genetic Testing). Puppy parents are chosen because they are cute, or colorful. Not because of their exceptional temperament, structure or accomplishments. The dogs owned by backyard breeders are often unproven in regards to health and temperament testing. Just because someone tells you that a dog has an exemplary temperament does not mean anything. Look for proof. Look for temperament testing results, look for titles that prove the dog is as well tempered as the breeder claims. Backyard breeders are often not state licensed as the number of dogs in their care falls below the licensing requirement. Backyard breeders often do not provide the puppies with proper stimulation or socialization at appropriate times. With most backyard breeders there is a general lack of knowledge and application of basic canine genetics and development. As with puppy mill breeders, back yard breeders are often insistent upon puppies going home at 8 weeks of age or younger and often charge boarding fees for puppies that do not go home at that time.
The Professional breeder has goals for their program. They are invested in the health and genetics of their chosen breed/breeds are well studied in the best practices and standards. Professional breeders are always seeking knowledge and are willing to make changes to their program as evidence of new and better practices emerge. Every litter produced by a professional breeder is planned and is produced for a specific purpose. Sires and dams are studied, health and genetic testing is calculated, pedigrees and temperaments are considered and analyzed. After hours of studying and countless considerations, the professional breeder plans a litter, clears their schedule and puts their heart and soul into raising a litter of puppies to the best of their ability. Making sure that every puppy has individual attention and age-appropriate challenges to ensure that every puppy will develop to their full potential. Professional breeders make education a priority. Educating themselves on health, genetics and development. And educating their clients on proper support of health puppy development and canine behavior. Professional breeders often do not send puppies home until 10-12 weeks of age as they have studied the developmental benefits of puppies remaining with the litter during that crucial socialization period. Raising a litter of puppies beyond 8 weeks is tedious, expensive and absolutely exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. But professional breeders know that these weeks are critical to the puppies proper development and out of love for their puppies and respect for the families, the professional breeder dedicates the extra time and training to each litter.
How to protect yourself:
Look for puppies on reputable websites ONLY. We highly recommend Good Dog as the website does their own vetting of breeders that are listed. And while it is not fool proof, breeders are only listed on the site following a phone interview and submission of their dogs records.
Ask for references!
Ask for Facetime and Zoom meetings while the pups are young and with mom
Ask for lots of pictures, ask for videos (pay attention to all of the puppies in the video, look at the surroundings and any adult dogs that may be present)
LOOK FOR RED FLAGS:
A lack of health and genetic testing
A lack of temperament testing
A constant production of new puppies and litters
A lack of information and photos of puppy parents
Where are the puppies raised?
What developmental age-appropriate experiences and activities do the puppies have?
How are the pups socialized?
What age do the puppies go home?
Do they follow a curriculum? (Rule of 12's, Puppy Culture, Bad Ass Breeder, etc.)
Ask to visit!
And always, when possible, pick your puppy up on site where ALL of the breeders' dogs are present! (More and more, puppy mills and backyard breeders are setting up locations away from their day-to-day operations for buyers to visit and to pick up. The area is staged and the well being of the breeding dogs and general conditions are not known.
At Prodigy Farms, we pride ourselves on fully health testing our parent dogs on the recommendation of the breed specific CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program. The CHIC recommendations were formed for each breed after health testing data from dogs within the breed was collected and analyzed. The individual tests required by CHIC were chosen due to their prevalence or debilitating impact upon the breed itself. We invest in our dogs to make sure that your puppy will have the healthiest and happiest life possible. We want our puppy buyers to be informed and all too often we see puppies advertised as health tested when the puppy parents have only undergone a simple buccal swab DNA test. Too often people consider a dog to be health tested when it has ONLY had DNA testing done through Embark, Wisdom Panel, Paw Print, Genomia, or another similar lab. These DNA tests are essential in making wise breeding decisions for the health of future generations, but they are only one tool. A dog that has tested fully clear on it's Embark panel, can still have other eye issues that cannot be detected via a genetic test and can only be seen when a Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist performs a thorough eye exam on the dog.
Below is a list of what full health testing should look like:
FULLY HEALTH TESTED
A DOG THAT ONLY HAS A DNA PANEL IS NOT HEALTH TESTED
We know that having a dog can be one of life's simplest and greatest joys. Please ensure that the companion that you choose has been given the best chance at life from the very beginning and ask for documentation of proper health testing. It is one of the simplest ways that you can protect your puppy's future before you even bring them home.
I am the owner of Prodigy Farms and only second to the love for my dogs, is my love for educating dog owners on canine care and behavior. I am the stay at home mom of three amazing boys that are active in the rearing of our puppies. With a background in nursing and years spent competing in the dog world, I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve that I like to share with others here. So welcome to my blog, I hope that you are blessed by your visit and will find tools and information here that will enable you to raise and train a happy healthy dog to create a lifetime of joy with!