Being a responsible pet owner starts by being informed
The term "backyard breeder" is often used to describe dog breeders with little experience or knowledge. Typically, they breed dogs without taking the time to make good genetic matches, or to have dogs registered through the appropriate kennel club/breed club. Though the backyard breeder is not considered to be as unethical at those who run puppy mills, one can consider a backyard breeder the opposite of a responsible dog breeder.
Some backyard breeders are just looking to make a profit off of so-called purebred dogs that they own. They let them breed together without knowledge of their family histories (health and behavioral, in particular). They pay little or no attention to genetic health issues in both the parents and the puppies. They often charge less money for the puppies than a responsible breeder, but still more money than they should (no one should pay for puppies that were bred carelessly). These dogs may seem less expensive, but in the long run you may end up paying more for these dogs when health issues develop. In many cases, these breeders will not take back the puppies if something goes wrong. Never trust a breeder who won't guarantee the puppies.
There are other cases where someone has dogs that were accidentally bred and a litter of puppies was the result. Or, a family decided to breed its dogs "just one time" or "just for fun." These methods are not recommended, as the result could be unhealthy and/or unwanted puppies (and there are way too many homeless pets out there already). These people are not usually aware of the fact that their actions are unethical. However, if they try to charge money for the puppies, it is unethical. Be aware: even if you get a free puppy from this situation, you may or may not end up with an unhealthy dog down the road. In these situations, it is best to ask the dog owners to spay and neuter their dogs (they need to stop breeding the dogs). If you don't mind getting a puppy with unknown genetic history, go to your local shelter or rescue group. You can find a cute puppy that had already been checked by a vet.
How to Avoid Irresponsible Dog BreedersHave you decided that you are ready to get a dog? If you are determined to get a purebred puppy, then you will probably want to start looking for a dog breeder. If "papers" (registration) or parentage are not important to you, then you should consider adoption instead. Seek out a breed-specific rescue group or even your local animal shelter. If you care about dogs, one of the worst things you can do is purchase a dog from an irresponsible breeder. Perhaps the only thing worse is purchasing a puppy from a pet store. Supporting a business that puts profit over the welfare of its animals is not something a dog lover would do.
When you find a dog breeder, it is essential that you check references. Talk to other families that have purchased dogs from that breeder. Check that the breeder is affiliated with the local and national breed clubs and a national kennel club (such as the AKC). Most importantly, make sure you visit the breeding facility and meet the puppies' parents (mother at least).
Questions to Ask The Dog Breeder
- What type of care is required for this specific breed? Does the breed have specific needs I should be aware of? The breeder should be able to give you detailed answers that confirm what you have learned from your own research on the breed.
- How long have you been breeding dogs? How long have you bred this specific dog breed? It should be several years, and the breeder will have ideally worked with a mentor in the beginning (someone else who had worked with the breed for a long time).
- Do you sell your dogs online or to pet stores? If the answer is "yes," walk away.
- Can I visit the facility where you breed your dogs? If the answer is "no," walk away.
- Can I meet the litter of puppies and their mother (and father if possible)? If the answer is "no," walk away.
- What is the health and behavior history of this line (parents, grandparents, etc)? The breeder should be able to tell you about the dogs going back a couple of generations.
- What genetic issues do you test the adult dogs for before breeding? What tests do the puppies get before you sell them? Research the breed and find out what tests (OFA, CERT, etc.) are recommended by the national breed club. If this breeder has not tested the dogs, you should look for another breeder.
- What happens if my dog is diagnosed with a hereditary disease? The answer should be that the breeder will take back the dog, and/or refund all or part of the fee you paid for the dog, and/or work with you to have the dog treated (if you want to keep the dog).
- What happens if I can no longer keep my dog? The breeder should tell you that you can return the dog if at any time in the dog's lifetime you determine you cannot keep it.