So You Want a Dog: Dog Breeders

You've decided you're in this for the long haul, till death do you part. Where do you get your new puppy? It may be tempting to check out one of the many pet stores that carry puppies, or online on Facebook or Craigslist. How do you know if these are puppy mills? You’ve probably heard of them but what are they and how do we avoid them? Let me make it clear that I'm all for breeders. However, there is a right way to go about it. Ethical breeders aim to have the healthiest dogs you can possibly have. They wait until both the male and female dog are old enough to breed. They don't over breed the dog. They don’t breed a dog that has any health issues they know of that can be passed down to the puppies. Ethical breeders make sure they know where the puppy is going and always let you know to bring it back if you no longer want it, not to a shelter. When breeding is done correctly it is an asset to the dog world, creating healthier and happier puppies. Not all good breeders will have all of the below recommendations but it’s a guideline on where to start to look for a reputable breeder.

What the heck is a puppy mill? This could fit into a blog series itself but the short explanation is a space set up to mass produce puppies4. The breeder cares more about the profit rather than the animal. This results in terrible living conditions for the dogs, lack of basic food and veterinary care, and often death. In the puppies this leads to numerous health concerns including skeletal deformities, parasites, Parvo, Distemper, blood disorders, sight and hearing issues, respiratory disorders, and so much more5. When a mama dogs can no longer produce puppies they are ignored or put down4. A puppy mill is the last place you’d want to obtain a puppy from. As the consumer you can help end puppy mills by not providing them with an income. Meaning not buying their puppies.

How do you know who is breeding good puppies and who is breading strictly for profit? You want to see that the puppies and parents are living in a suitable environment. Check if they have online photos of the dog’s area or if they would allow you to visit their home/facilities. If they don’t want people knowing how the dogs live, that’s a red flag. You want to see that the puppies are growing up to be healthy adults. Do they have photos of previous litters and/or testimonials from previous buyers? Are there bad reviews, what do they say and how does the breeder or company handle them? Do they simply say not our problem? You want the puppies looked at by the vet before they get to you. Many breeders will have vaccination certifications if nothing else. You want to make sure they care where the puppies are going. They might ask about your dog experience and what type of home set up you have. Basically, you want proof that these are healthy happy dogs and puppies.

Let’s talk about pet stores. Large corporate pet stores do not visit or check into the places they obtain their puppies from. They do not know where these puppies come from and do not know the quality of life the parents have prior to arrival. As a result after you bring the puppy home they can develop many issues caused from puppy mills, even if they don’t look sick at the store. The Human Society went undercover to Petland for research on how the puppies are treated once they arrive. They discovered even after the puppies are received they are not well cared for. Many are sick and even found dead in their crates1. With just a little research you will find that Petland has been involved in numerous lawsuits for sick puppies2. The stories are truly horrendous and it’s clear that in Petland’s past they have not care about the health of their pets3. This is the most wide spread pet store but I would recommend asking for further information even in small time pet stores. Checking online reviews is really important and typically very telling. Especially how they respond to criticism. They didn’t respond with concern to these allegations. They didn’t reach out to the customer to see what happened, they were incredibly defensive. This response shows they were looking to prove this customer wrong rather than look into the matter.

Scam Alert:

There’s quite a few scams out there when it comes to buying dogs. Especially if it’s the exact puppy or dog breed you’re looking for. Make sure you take a step back from your excitement and think every step through. An example: “My mom is moving and she can’t take her dog” The post shows the price and a photo of the dog. When you message the seller it turns out they’ve already moved but can ship the dog to you for an extra fee. They give you a sob story about how they need to get it off their hands ASAP because of where they live. Do not take the bait! They could take it to a rescue if it’s this urgent. More than likely because the story changed and now they want more money, this is a scam. If you’re certain this person is real tell them to take it to a specific rescue and you will work with the rescue to transfer the dog into your care.  This issue is one close to my heart because I almost paid $500 for an adult black pug that didn’t exist. If someone ever wants you to pay for shipping for a puppy that is an automatic red flag. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam but it will require more research. Make sure this is a real person. Would they let you come pick up the puppy in person? If their answer is no, it’s probably a scam. If the situation changes multiple times it’s probably a scam. If you’re unsure, I would recommend looking in your area for a puppy instead.

It’s easy to fall for ‘opps litter’. A post on facebook or craiglist states “Our pets accidently had a litter. We just want them to find a good home $50 a puppy.” Normally, not always but more often than not, this is a scam. They are actually just breeding dogs in their backyard but don’t want it to appear like they are. Do they have proof this was an opps or does happen every year?

Another common scam on this site is dog flipping. A person will buy or steal someone’s dog and then sell it online for a higher price. I’ve included some posts in my area that are sketchy. You want to make sure this dog really is in a rehoming situation and unfortunately that is hard to prove.

To summarize, the health of the dog and puppies is the most important part of this. If you’re worried it’s a scam or can’t track the puppy back to a healthy source buy somewhere else or go to a rescue. Come back next week and I’ll talk about rescues and shelters.


Petland: Jades Story.

Ann Zanuewski. Petland sold sick, worm infested puppies, lawsuit states. Detroit Free Press. 19 March 2018.

Kate Santich. Petland has a long history of complaints over sick, dying puppies. Orlando Sentinel. 11 June 2020.

Buyer Beware: The Problem with Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders.

The Truth About Puppy Mills. Roscoe Village Animal Hospital


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