Canine professionals recommend that you start choosing a puppy with the most important part of the process: you choose the breeder of that puppy. I asked dog professionals to answer a few questions about how they chose a breeder for their pup. Which qualifications were most important?

When you chose the breeder for your puppy, what qualifications did the breeder have that were most important to you? What was the process for having a puppy? How long did you wait? Did the breeder choose your puppy for you or did you choose your puppy? When it was time for your pup to come home, how did that work out? (I was particularly interested in the details of long-distance transportation.)

This week I’ll share some of the answers – next week more information.

Shelly Keel (Idaho) I chose Journey’s breeder and my puppy, Journey, as follows:

I knew the breeder personally and had worked professionally with her and several of her former puppies. The breeder has always been open and available for questions, has a written health guarantee, performs extensive testing on their breeding dogs, has out-of-service and retired breeders for health, emotional or behaviors, if any.

I loved the early socialization work she does by having all the litters whelped in the living quarters of the house (kept immaculately clean) so they are exposed to everyday sounds, the loving handling and interaction of her and her husband, the variety of toys, objects, surfaces and play structures to which the puppies are exposed, early potty training outdoors and dog door skills…and the fact that this breeder is a member of breed organizations, aligned with positive reinforcement, rewards based teaching, and she has a good relationship with multiple R+ trainers and excellent customer returns and loyal customers.

All puppies receive an initial vet exam and vaccinations at her location and if families have encountered any issues, whether related to the puppies or not, she takes her return policy seriously and will pick up and/or rehom puppies at the need. Not a “money only” breeder!

There is an extensive application process where all contract policies are clearly outlined and the potential owner’s goals, needs and experience are assessed so puppies can be better placed. The first to apply gets the first choice of puppy, but depending on goals, experience, existing pets and family dynamics, only specific puppies may be made available to potential owners.

I was able to interview the owner guardian mother and father to ask questions about temperament, behavior, health and traits, and when it came time to select a puppy, I was given personal access to meet scope and observe in person. (Due to COVID most families have all tutor questions answered through the breeder and instead of personal visits everyone has all day video access to watch and observe puppies to select their choices.)

Turns out the mother was a pup I had trained two years earlier.

I left with a full veterinary medical history for Journey, a summary of both parents’ medical histories, and a detailed multi-generational genealogy.

There is often a long wait for this breeder, but I was involved in parent learning shortly before breeding, then met the puppies when they were one week old, I have visited several times and then picked up my pup at eight weeks old.

Due to my experience and canine skills, the breeder allowed me to select my puppy according to the order of the application process in place.

I live in Idaho and the pup was in Northern California. I had made arrangements to pick up my puppy on the scheduled date. I had my RV, and the pup and I stayed there for a few weeks visiting friends and family, socializing. I organized a veterinary examination and the next vaccinations. From there, my pup and I embarked on a three-week camping and RV vacation before heading home to Idaho.

In the past, puppies may have been air-shipped to new homes, but for some time now all puppies either return home with their loved ones after being picked up, or a professional puppy escort is arranged to take the puppies in their new home.

This is my journey at six weeks after the breeder gave a bath, nail trim and butt trim – a weekly event with Lickimat and puppy pace.

Photo by Shelly Quille

Monique Feyrecilde (Washington) [I’d pick] someone who has adult dogs that I would love to live with!

Health testing, honesty about the pros and cons of individual dogs and bloodlines. Helpful answers on what they hope to accomplish with a specific cross. An interest in producing the type of temperament I seek. Willingness to act as a safety net for the dog if things don’t work out in the future. Open for visits, a safe environment for dogs that allows them to meet their physical, intellectual and emotional needs. Asks lots of questions to assess buyers to facilitate a good match. Willing to refuse buyers who are not a suitable breed, line or litter. Willing to answer many questions honestly and helpfully without embarrassment. Spends time with puppies daily and assesses them with an honest and expert eye.

Neighborhood Dale (North Carolina) For me, it’s a combination of things. Good temperament is of paramount importance to me. I want to see parents who are social and happy dogs, but I also want to see what the temperaments of previous litters produced by those parents are like. It is a good predictor of what future puppies will be like. I also want to see in-depth health reviews that are readily available for review. I also want to know that the puppies receive proper veterinary care. I am looking for an open and honest breeder. If they don’t provide information, I’ll look elsewhere. I am also looking for a breeder who uses Puppy Culture, or a similar program, to breed their litters. I want to see the edit. Are puppies stimulated with new sights, sounds, textures at appropriate times? Are they introduced into the outside world? Is cash register training in progress? Do they acclimate puppies to car rides? Do they meet different people? All of these factors give me the information I need to put everything in my favor when selecting a breeder.

Photo by Dale Ward

Amy Suggestars (Ohio) Because I’ve been a long time “hobbyist” of Flat Coated Retrievers, I know very well those I consider to be “reputable breeders” of FCR. I tend to choose the line of the puppy first based on the characteristics I’m looking for (temperament, health, submissiveness, proven performance of dam and sire, etc.). When I hear of a breeder I’m interested in, I seek out that reputable breeder and ask to be considered for a puppy. If I am accepted, the breeder will choose the specific puppy for me after doing litter assessments (temperament test, physical assessment, etc.). The breeder will choose the puppy that she thinks will best suit my goals for the puppy.

Alisha Ardiana (California) When I chose Papillon, I wanted to identify a breeder who focused on temperament, health and structure. I emailed prospects, also hoping to meet parents and/or possibly see where the dogs lived. A breeder wouldn’t let me visit, but said I was welcome to meet her and her dogs at a dog show. I was looking for a female puppy and a breeder in Washington had a ten month old female that was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a dog that was enthusiastic, eager to train and loved to play with toys. The breeder was also an agility trainer and she strongly believed that this dog would be perfect for dog sports. So it was encouraging that she became familiar with what I was looking for. Ironically, we flew to Washington State on February 14, 2020. I still can’t believe it. The dog was a training dream. She is a fun playmate for my wife. And I continue to be in close contact with my breeder.

Jean A. Roberts (California) My first Aussie was from a classmate (adult class, later in life). I have stayed true to (almost) the same lines of work for the past 30 years. The reflectiveness of these lines is what hooked me.

Marcy Rauch (New York) I choose breeders who breed rarely, and only when they want a puppy for themselves. They test for health and choose dogs that they know inside and out from their crossbreeds, who are exemplary workers and have a good temperament. I will not get a dog from a “big box” sport kennel. Some reproduce so much that they are just glorified grinders, in my opinion.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky (New Hampshire) I did a lot of research online. I chose a breeder and filled out an application online. She called me and grilled me. She checked my references. I had asked about ivermectin allergies in her lines and wanted to be sure she was breeding the blackbirds carefully. Within five minutes, the genetics of both parents were in my mailbox answering my questions. If for some reason I couldn’t keep her dog, she would take him back, always. We keep in touch. She likes to hear about her boys. He’s a breeder.

NEXT WEEK—More answers from canine professionals on how they chose breeders for their pup