What to look for:
So, we have found a breeder we think may be good- how do we make sure this is really a responsible breeder, and we are going to be getting the best puppy possible? Here are a few things for you to keep in mind when looking at the breeder's website. If they aren't listed, don't be afraid to send them a message and ask. Most breeders will be thrilled to talk about their dogs. But, they may want you to fill out an application first, which is pretty commonplace. Just like you want to make sure you are getting the best puppy for you, the breeder wants to make sure their puppies are getting the best home possible.
But, back to what you need to look for. The first probably being health testing as if this isn't done can be a quick way to eliminate breeders off your list. You are going to want to make sure they are doing hip testing through either OFA or Pennhip for the bare minimum. You also want to see genetic health testing as labs have some genetic diseases in the breed. Other kinds of testing include elbow, eye, and hear certifications. Ensure the breeder is willing to let you see certificates and genetic testing results before putting a deposit down.
Another thing to review before putting down a deposit is the breeder's sale contract. Take a look at what is there and ask the breeder any questions you have about particulars. Some specifics to really look for are what kind of registration is offered? Full? Partial? Do they allow pet only puppies with no papers? Can you eventually get full registration if you want it and do the work to title your dog and get health testing done? Is there a health guarantee? What happens if you need to use that guarantee? Is there anything that will void the contract and allow the breeder to repossess the dog? If something major happens in your life and you can't keep the dog, will the breeder take it back? What is their deposit and payment structure? And is there a spay or neuter clause?
The next thing you really want to speak to the breeder about is what they do with the puppy before it comes home to you. Do they do any socialization or desensitization? This is something that is incredibly important to allow the puppy to make a smooth transition into your home and puts a good foundation in place for you to build off of.
One of the biggest things you are going to want to make sure they offer is breeder support for the dog's lifetime. Your breeder can and should be an invaluable resource. If there are ever any issues or questions, you have you want to make sure they will be there for you and the dog. Even if the dog is five years old, can you call them with a question? So, pick a breeder that you like, and you could see yourself having a friendship with as the best breeders are in it with you and are equally as invested in the success of every dog they place.
What to avoid:
Now let's cover some of the things to avoid and some red flags. You can use these four questions to quickly determine if a breeder is a responsible one and one you should consider getting your next puppy from. These four questions are:
Where are the puppies born?
At what age do you start breeding?
Can you come to see the parents, or will they do a video call with you of the parents and where they live?
And lastly, at what age do the puppies come home?
If puppies are born outside, this is a red flag. Puppies should always be born indoors, even if they transitioned outside at a later date.
For when the breeder starts breeding as close to two years is ideal. Especially if they use OFA hip testing as with this test, the test can't even be done until two years of age. Pennhip, on the other hand, can be done as early as 16 weeks of age. But, normally, a dog is done growing and is mentally mature enough to appropriately deal with the physical and mental stress of breeding and whelping a litter.
Seeing the parents and where they live is important. You want to see what the parents are like and make sure there is nothing of concern or that they are living in bad conditions. Even if the stud is not on-site and you can only see the bitch it is still important. If the breeder won't let you come in person or do a video call, it is most likely a red flag and could even be a scam.
For when the puppies come home, eight-weeks is the magic number. Too early, and the puppy hasn't gotten enough time with mom and its siblings to develop some critical canine skills. Plus, it is illegal in most places for puppies to be sent to their new home before eight weeks of age.