Best in Show: Tips for Selecting the Perfect Breeder

It’s a really exciting time, you’ve decided to add a furry new member to the family! You’ve researched the breed you think would be most compatible with your lifestyle, you’ve made sure to check with your landlord (if necessary), and you might have even picked up some beds and toys in preparation for the new arrival. All that’s missing is that fuzzy little bundle of joy. But how to go about finding your new family member? You don’t want to support a puppy or kitten mill, and a backyard breeder could be dangerous – for you and your potential pet (not to mention your wallet). Is the internet still a safe source to research and connect with an animal breeder?

Absolutely! You just need a few handy tips and tricks to start your search.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

We know the internet has the potential to be misleading, and websites created by breeders that are merely out to make money are not an exemption to this rule. Such sites display pictures of beautiful homes with wide-open spaces for puppies to run and play or elegant living rooms for kittens to nap in and explore. They boast claims of strong breeding lines, national certifications, or even promises of pets that are completely free of any health concerns. All of it looks and sounds too good to be true, and, in some cases, it might be.

Luckily, there’s hope.

For puppies, the American Kennel Club (AKC) developed its Breed with Merit and Bred with H.E.A.R.T programs. These special designations are only granted to breeders who have met specific criteria set out by the AKC: membership within the AKC earned titles at shows, demonstrated health screenings, continuing breeder education within their selected breed, and compliance with the AKC’s Care and Conditions Policy. The AKC also performs random inspections of their registered breeders, so using their site to search for a puppy can ease your mind.

When it comes to kittens, there are a lot of cat groups out there. Most breeders will register with at least one organization, but the organizations aren’t as strict in their regulations as the AKC. Don’t worry, though, you’ll get some more tips to help you weed out the bad from the good below. In the meantime, here are a selection of cat organizations to peruse for that kitten:

Playing Twenty Questions

Now that you’ve identified a breeder you’re interested in, it’s time to get to work. You need to ask them a lot of questions, and they need to ask you a lot of questions. After all, if they’re a reputable breeder, they want to make sure their precious baby is going to the best home! They’ve invested a lot of time and money into those balls of energy in addition to their TLC, and they want it to be a good investment. They also know their particular breed backward and forwards, and they want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Whether your first contact is via email or phone, try to make sure you ask the following:

  1. How long have you been a breeder? An established animal breeder is going to have a history you can verify with their veterinarian and previous clients – not to mention Google reviews.

  2. How many breeds do you have? A solid breeder will only focus on one or two – not many. If they reply with “a lot,” you should run the other way!

  3. How many litters do you breed a year? Ideally, they should only have one or two litters available a year – this lets them focus their time and energy wisely. It might mean they only have a limited number of puppies/kittens, and you might have to go on a waiting list, but this is in the best interest of the animals.

  4. Where do the puppies/kittens live? The answer should be, “In the house.” You want a properly socialized pet who has been in the same environment you’re bringing him/her into. They should receive regular handling and be exposed to different people. A pat on the head once a day is unacceptable. If they’ve been kept away from human interaction, you may end up with a pet that is very shy, or worse they could be aggressive.

  5. Can I visit the house? You should be able to visit the house where the pets are kept – not a different location. The house should also match the pictures on the website; if they don’t, you need to bail. Make sure everything is clean and that there isn’t a heavy odor.

  6. Can I meet the parents? You should meet at least the mother, and she should be kept with the puppies/kittens. Being able to see both parents is ideal as it will give you a good idea of the size and temperament of your future bundle of fuzz.

  7. Can I see copies of the health certifications? A number of purebred animals have genetic conditions which the breeder should be aware of – and warn you about. The parents should have testing done in accordance with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), and the breeder should provide those certifications. Most conditions don’t show until the animals are older, which is why a responsible breeder won’t breed an animal until he/she is at least two years old. The puppy/kitten should have seen the vet for its first screenings, and you should be able to see those records, as well as documentation of all vaccines and dewormings.

  8. Can I speak with someone you’ve sold a puppy/kitten to? A breeder should want to provide you with references for their happy placements. If they don’t, you need to wonder why.

  9. How soon can I take my new pet home? Puppies should not go home until at least eight weeks old; kittens not until at least ten weeks old. Farm life pets range in acceptable ages too. Anything too soon will jeopardize the health of that tiny ball of fluff, and you don’t want that.

  10. What are the requirements of your contract? A good animal breeder is going to have you sign a contract. If you aren’t going to show your new darling, the contract will require you to spay/neuter them. There will also be a clause asking you to return them if you find you cannot care for them. Don’t panic – this is a good thing! It means the breeder genuinely loves that little bean and wants the best for them.

  11. Ask to video or facetime with the new young pets. Technology is now one of the big connectors in our time and nearly all good breeders would love to get some facetime with you and your soon-to-be new pet family member.

In return, be prepared for the breeder to ask for your references – including your veterinarian – as well as descriptions of your house/yard and family situation. They may also ask for your experience with the breed. Just be honest – you’re both working toward the end of a good home for that fur baby.

An Ounce of Preparation

While it’s true there are disreputable backyard breeders and puppy/kitten mill suppliers out there on the internet – displaying fake AKC symbols and using burner phone numbers – there are respectable breeders, as well. With careful research and the right questions, you can weed out the good from the bad. That way, when you finally bring your new family member home, you can feel confident you’ve made the right decision – a happy, healthy bundle of fluff to love.

Lastly, if you ever have a doubt or find an unacceptable animal breeder on PetPetGoose we want to know about it. Please email us with information so that we can ban them from this site forever. We take pride in only working with the best breeders who put their pets first.