Once you have narrowed your choices to a few breeds, it is time to search for a breeder. Anyone who mates two pure-bred, AKC registered dogs of the same breed to produce a litter is technically a “breeder.” However, AKC registration only guarantees that the dogs are pure-bred–it is NOT an assurance of quality. It is important to remember that not all breeders have your best interests, or the interests of their breed, at heart. Breeders generally fit into a number of categories, which can be described as follows:

Wholesale Breeder

Often refereed to as commercial breeders, or puppy mills, these are individuals or groups of breeders with large numbers of dogs who breed strictly for profit. Consequently, there is generally a lack of care in the selection of breeding stock, as there is little research into any health or temperament issues that may be lurking in the pedigree. Females are usually bred each season throughout their reproductive life, and nutritional needs of the dam and her puppies are often slighted. The puppies from wholesale breeders are often sold at auction, and make up a good portion of those found in pet stores. The prices charged for these puppies are usually higher than those from a reputable breeder.

Backyard Breeder

A Backyard Breeder is one who breeds casually, to breed a puppy “just like Missy,” or to provide the experience of childbirth for young family members. Backyard breeders care for their dogs, but perform little research into the background of their own dog or its mate, and rarely spend money on health-related testing. Consequently, they rarely place their puppies with any health guarantees, and because of their relative inexperience with the breed, are not a reliable source of information for their puppy buyers. Their pups are usually better cared for, healthier and better socialized than those from a puppy mill. Many backyard breeders believe they will have a large market for their puppies, but often find themselves with more pups than they can easily place. Backyard breeders are likely to advertise their litters in the classified sections of newspapers, and on popular want-ad -style online forums.

Responsible Breeder

Breeders who can be defined as reputable or responsible have the betterment of the breed at the core of their breeding program, and are interested and devoted to their pups throughout their entire lives. These individuals plan each breeding carefully, taking into consideration the conformation, health and temperament of both sire and dam, hoping to improve the quality of their dogs in all of these areas in each subsequent litter. Reputable breeders produce litters when they are looking for something for themselves to keep, and usually have a waiting list of potential puppy buyers. Reputable breeders show their dogs in sanctioned AKC events to compare their breeding stock, but also make available pet-quality puppies on limited registrations to those interested only in a healthy and well-socialized family member. Most responsible breeders place their puppies with a health guarantee, and if a dog does not work out, will either take the dog back or help the owners find a new home for their pet. Responsible breeders perform health checks on their dogs before a breeding takes place, and their pups have a health check-up and at least one set of shots before leaving their home. Puppies from a responsible breeder are bright-eyed, healthy and well-socialized. A breeder is considered responsible if he or she takes responsibility for the lives they bring into this world, while endeavoring to maintain their goal of the betterment of the breed.

What to Expect from a Breeder

When you have narrowed your selction of breeders, you should expect that they will ask to conduct an interview. This discussion enables the breeder to better assess your particular situation and to determine which puppy is right for you. Be prepared to answer a number of questions, but you should also prepare to ask your own questions as well. This is your best opportunity to discover whether or not this is a breeder that you will feel comfortable working with for the lifetime of your puppy. The breeder should be willing to answer your questions, within reason, and should allow you to meet some of his/her dogs in the process. During this conversation, clues to the ethics and responsibility of the breeder should become evident. Here are some of the signs you may encounter:

Good Signs

  • The breeder asks questions designed to find out if the breed is suitable for you. This may include why you want a dog, why you want this particular breed of dog, where the dog is to live, how much training will be performed, your past experience with other dogs of this type, ages of children in the home, whether or not you have other dogs, how long the dog will be left alone, whether you have a fenced-in yard, etc.
  • The breeder appears to have the welfare of his/her dogs as the main concern. This may manifest as a reluctance to sell you a pup. The breeder may try to steer you toward another, more appropriate breed to meet your needs, expectations, and life-style.
  • The breeder mentions, and is willing to discuss, the “bad” or “not for everyone” points of the breed. This may include activity level, grooming, temperament, possible health issues, etc.
  • The breeder will not let the puppies go until they are at least eight weeks old
  • The breeder enters his/her dogs in some type of AKC competition on a regular basis
  • In addition, upon purchase of a puppy, the breeder will provide you with the following:
    • Health Guarantee – a guarantee that the puppy is free from any known health defect, disease or temperament issues. Should any develop, the breeder will either take the dog back or help the owner find a new home for their pet
    • Medical Record – a record of the puppy’s vet visit(s) with at least one series of shots and vet check-up; should also include vet’s name and clinic contact information
    • Pedigree – the lineage of the puppy’s sire and dam, grand-sire and grand-dam
    • Contract or Bill of Sale
    • AKC individual puppy registration

Bad Signs

  • The breeder tells you how rare and valuable his/her dog is
  • The breeder tells you how much money you can make breeding the dog
  • The breeder declares this is the perfect dog for you
  • The breeder proclaims that he/she has never had any health or temperament problems in their bloodline
  • The breeder tells you there are not any genetic problems in the breed
  • The breeder who sells multiple breeds
  • The breeder refuses to show you a few adult dogs of his/her breeding
  • Anything that sounds like a “hard sell”
  • Anyone who will sell you a dog sight unseen, or without references
  • And most important, a breeder who does not ask any questions of you whatsoever!

Breeder Resources

How does one even begin to find a reputable breeder? It can be a confusing and seeming overwhelming task. And with the proliferation of breeders now advertising on the Internet, it is not always easy to determine whether or not a breeder is reputable and responsible. What is most important to remember, however, is to be patient and to research well. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

National Breed Clubs

Each AKC registered breed has a national organization formed to protect the breed. Many have a Code of Ethics to which members must subscribe. Most breed clubs maintain a list of breeders, organized by the area of the country in which they are located. If you are unfamiliar with the name of the national breed club in which you are interested, the American Kennel Club website has a list of all AKC national breed clubs.

Regional Clubs

Most breeds have regional clubs with an active membership. Many of these organizations also have breeder lists. In addition, if the club is localized, members will know of litters planned by others in the club, and can forward those names on to you. Local breeders may be able to put you in contact with the regional breed club. The AKC also lists some of these organizations.


Reputable breeders rarely advertise in the classified section of the newspaper or on want-ad-style websites and apps. However, many will publicize upcoming litters in magazines geared specifically toward dogs. The AKC Gazette is a publication that has extensive breeder lists. In addition, many national breed organizations list breeders in their breed magazine. To subscribe or to purchase a copy, contact the magazine editor of the national breed club in which you have an interest.

Dog Show Catalogs

Many all-breed clubs list breeders in the catalogs available for purchase at their shows. The DKC includes a list of breeders on this web site, as well as in the Show Catalog (available for purchase at this year’s Dog Shows). If you are attending a local show, check the catalog to see if there are breeders listed.

Dog Shows

Breeders can almost always be found ringside at a dog show. If there is a dog show in your area, check to see when the breed in which you are interested is scheduled to be shown. As most exhibitors are busy, not to mention stressed just before entering the ring, it is best to wait until the dogs are finished showing before approaching their owners or handlers. Most exhibitors will be happy to tell you about their dogs, and may also be aware of other breeders who are planning litters.

Increasingly, dog shows are hosting sessions called “Meet the Breed” which often take place in one or more of the rings at the show during the lunch hour (approximately noon – 1pm). These casual sessions invite any exhibitor to bring their dog(s) to the ring where spectators are also welcome to wander from dog to dog and talk with their owner/handlers. Because they are not in the hurried pre- or post-showing hustle, these sessions are an excellent way to meet a wide variety of dogs and speak with people knowledgeable about their breed.

To find a show near you, lists of upcoming dog shows can be found online and on the Helpful Links section of this web site.

Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows

Everyone is welcome to attend the annual DKC Dog Shows! Scheduled for June 22 and 23, 2019 at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, tickets are available at the door, with discounts for families.

To have the best chance of seeing your favorite breeds, plan to come early in the morning. Most show times start at 8am, with individual breeds concluding by approximately 2pm. At approximately 3pm the Group Competitions begin–these are the parts that are televised, if you have watched dog shows on TV. At that point, only the best dog of each breed is competing, so many owners and handlers have left for the day.

Also know that the DKC shows are two complete shows from individual breeds to Best In Show competitions each day. If you miss your favorite on Saturday, you can find out when they show on Sunday and come back. Most dogs are entered both days.

Word of Mouth

Most of the individuals you meet at dog shows will not be the breeders of the dogs they own. Talk to a number of folks about their breeder experiences to get a sense of the ethics and reputation of a particular kennel. Look for familiar themes among the people you talk to, then make an appointment with the breeders that appear to be universally respected.

Also remember that, whatever the resource, none can, or will, guarantee the reputation of a particular breeder. Only you can decide if a breeder is right for you.

NEXT — Activities you can do with your Pure-bred Dog