What Makes a Responsible Breeder?

Recently every time I sit down to write , responsible breeding is the only topic my brain wants to focus on. This is another hot topic where I myself have fallen prey to scams and poor breeding. Twice. I learned two very hard, very expensive lessons and I’m here today to help you avoid making the same mistakes I did. Before I continue I want to clearly express that I am in favor of responsible breeding AND responsible adoption. There’s a time and place for both and there’s no shame in either as long as you’ve done your research and are making the best choice for your family. Not everyone is ready to take on the behavioral or physical health issues that come with a rescue, just like not everyone is ready to take on a puppy and all that entails. I’ll say it again: Do your research and choose what’s best for you and your living situation. And there’s no shaming here if you’ve gotten a dog from a backyard breeder in the past without realizing it. I’m glad you’re actively choosing to learn more about this topic!

I want to start this off by sharing what a responsible breeder looks like. A responsible breeder works to better the breed. This means doing all health testing related to that breed and breeding to standard. Health testing depends on the breed, but results should be public or readily available and verifiable. A great way to verify that all breed club recommended health testing has been completed would be a dog having a Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) number. In addition to this, a responsible breeder will not breed a dog until they are at least two years old. The best way to prove that their dogs meet the breed standards and are worthy of being bred is to show and title them in conformation. Alternatively, they could title their dogs in performance sports or in working events that pertain to that breed. Ideally they would do both.

A responsible breeder will also have both parents on site (or have all paperwork readily available). They also spend countless hours researching genetics and carefully planning their next pairing. While this is not always the case, most responsible breeders will only have one litter on the ground at a time. This ensures the litter gets proper exposure and age appropriate socialization, another key to responsible breeding. They will also make sure the puppies have their first round of shots before going home. A detailed contract is another sign of a good breeder. This contract should include a spay/neuter agreement if you are not going to be showing the dog which should be no earlier than 18 months and ideally be no sooner than two years old. The contract will also state that if the buyer cannot keep the puppy for any reason at any stage in the puppy’s life, the puppy will be returned to the breeder. Most responsible breeders also have some form of interview or questionnaire they go through with all new prospective families in order to make sure that family the right fit for one of their puppies

Now let’s talk about what a responsible breeder won’t do. A responsible breeder will not send puppies home before they are eight weeks old. They will not charge more or less for a puppy due to its color. They will not breed for color, period. They will not cross their breed with any other breeds in order to create “designer” breeds. This leads to expensive puppies with unknown temperaments, terrible skin and coat issues, and a whole heap of health and behavioral concerns. This includes introducing another breed to their lines briefly just to get a color that is out of standard, such as merle in poodles or silver in labs. If you are looking for a responsibly bred puppy, I guarantee you there is an established breed out there that will fit your needs. I’m happy to help answer any and all breed and breeder related questions you have to help you find the best match.

Breeding for any reason other than bettering the breed with dogs that are proven to be good examples of their breed is backyard breeding. Please do your research and always feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or are looking for a breed to match your lifestyle. You can email me at You can also fill out my contact form on my website.

Image: 2013 Best in Show winner, CRISPY LEGACY, a Fox Terrier (Wire), dog show The Detroit Kennel Club (DKC), United States