The Reputable Breeder Difference

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a disturbing number of conversations on various forums regarding health issues.  They go a little something like this:

“I have a puppy that has been diagnosed with bad (insert problem here…. hips, patellas, eyes, spine, seizures, skin disorder, etc.).  Does anyone else have experience with this? Is there anything I can do in addition to what the vet recommends?”

This is not the shocking part.  There are pets with health issues, bred by both reputable and negligent breeders.

THIS is the disturbing part.  Typical answers to a question like that:

  • “Yes, mine started to show symptoms of that at 4 months old.”  
  • “Yes, I bought a puppy who had to have surgery before it was two years old.”  
  • “Yes, I’ve had two over the past five years. One had to be euthanized, the other is on medication every day and will be for the rest of her life.”  
  • “Yes, I have one now that is starting to show symptoms. The breeder has no idea where it came from because her dogs are fine.”
  • “Yes, I have one right now with that problem, it’s common in the breed.”


In questioning further, none of them got their puppies from responsible and reputable breeders who health screen against these issues.  Because those problems are common in the breed is the very reason responsible breeders screen for it and attempt to eliminate it from future generations. Buyers are often unaware that they should be looking for this, and many breeders joining the conversation were not aware of the many potential problems they could be avoiding with simple health testing.

Here are a few of the misconceptions regarding health testing.

  • “My dogs are healthy and none of my puppies have ever had a problem.”
  • “My vet checked my dogs and they don’t have health issues.” 
  • “I have a guarantee on my puppies and I haven’t had any puppies returned.”

I had this eye opening discovery in one of my very first litters.  I started out with dogs I liked but I was new and didn’t know much about pedigrees, health tests, showing, etc. I just knew I loved these dogs and wanted to raise them.  One of the first puppies I placed had a health issue.  The new owner was devastated. I felt horrible and I returned a large portion of their money to pay their vet bill.  I decided then and there that I would not be the cause of anyone’s heartache when it came to placing puppies.  My first well bred puppy came to me BAER and CERF(CAER) tested, and with preliminary patella checks.  Her parents were also health tested.  Three other foundation dogs/puppies came to me that way as well.  It’s standard for many reputable breeders, and I adopted this practice, not only to preserve the hearts of my future potential puppy owners, but to preserve my heart too.

No one breeds with the intention of creating a puppy that has health problems, but there are things that can be done to greatly reduce the chances, and to increase the overall health of the litters produced.  Many breeders aren’t aware of the minimum health tests that should be done on their breeds prior to producing a litter.  Many are not aware of how easy it is to have them done, and how inexpensive many of the tests are.  There are some who do not care, some who do not think it makes a difference, and some who are purposefully ignorant of how to breed more responsibly.


But that does not mean that puppy buyers shouldn’t expect more.  If they’re going to invest 10-15+ years in a new member of their household, shouldn’t they expect a breeder to take the time and money to make sure that puppy has the best chances of living a healthy, happy, pain-free life?  Whether the puppy is $500 or $3500, an adult breeding dog can often be tested for many of the major issues in their breed for under $500.  When a breeding dog has multiple puppies in a litter and usually more than one litter, is money ever really an excuse?  We can find $500 for an emergency vet bill, why not find it to ensure the health of your dogs and the future of your breeding program?

Another type of issue I have seen in my own breed is claiming their dogs are “health tested”, yet they will do one very minimal test and ignore the others, one of which alone checks for dozens of problems.  Saying you are a breeder who “health tests” when only  a fraction of your dogs’ health testing has been completed, is like saying you have a college degree after taking only one class.  It’s better than nothing, but it’s still not being responsible.

These are things that a potential puppy buyer should look for AT MINIMUM. They may have to wait, and search, and be patient… because when it’s done right, there’s a lot more demand for responsibly bred puppies than for those puppies casually bred and available year round.

  •  Their breeding dogs should be health tested, and if available, the puppies should be health tested.  Not just ONE test, not just TWO tests, but ALL of the recommended minimum testing for their breed as recommended by their national breed club. Go to the club’s website and study the standard and the health issues prior to finding a breeder. Then question the breeder about their testing and breeding practices.
  •  Find a breeder who screens YOU as much as you screen THEM. Do they offer a health guarantee? Do they offer to take the puppy back if you can’t keep it? Do they seem to care more about how the puppy is placed than whether or not the check clears?
  • Are their dogs from health tested pedigrees? A pedigree typically doesn’t matter when it comes to buying a pet, but if a dog comes from multiple generations of health tested dogs, they are more likely to be healthy themselves.
  •  Does the breeder breed to the standard for the breed? Or do they breed for “fads” such as disqualified colors or patterns?  Many fad colors involve crossing with other breeds and compromising bloodlines, quality and breed type. Those who breed to improve the breed, do not breed disqualified traits or faults into their litters. They breed according to the AKC standard as defined by their breed club.

    English Bulldog bred for fad colors VS. English Bulldog bred to Standard

Unfortunately rescues and shelters are full of “special needs” dogs with hereditary health problems.  Puppies are purchased with the buyers expecting a long happy and healthy life with them.  Some health problems can show up right away, some can be more expensive than the family can afford.  Every pet owner should take responsibility  for their pets through thick and thin, but unfortunately many do not. Sometimes they have no choice.  Sadly many of the health issues could have been prevented through responsible breeding.

523811709_27ed84ef0c_qThose breeders who say they’ve never had a puppy returned, yet don’t health test, may not know the whole story. Who is to say the owners didn’t leave the dog at a shelter due to its health problems, but didn’t want to tell the breeder?  Or or put the puppy down because they couldn’t afford the treatment.  They would not want to call the breeder and tell them that either.


I know I harp a lot on responsible breeding, but seeing these conversations is heartbreaking.  These people don’t need to go through this.  These puppies don’t need to go blind by the time they are a year or two old when there is a $45 test that can tell a breeder which dogs can produce puppies that do.  A dog doesn’t need to suffer from hip dysplasia when a breeder can be breeding dogs whose hips are rated excellent, rather than breeding a young pair whose hips have never been screened and there’s no way of knowing if they will be in constant pain and lame  in a few short years, and produce puppies who will be the same way.

If breeders want to preserve their right to breed, they need to ensure they are doing it responsibly.  Keeping our dogs out of shelters starts with placing healthy puppies who have the best chance of living a long healthy life. Pet owners should take responsibility for the pets they bring home, but if they never have to make the choice between making a mortgage payment and paying for their dog’s surgery, we can greatly reduce the number of those who simply can’t.

3715823471_c804b71d1e_qAnd if a buyer wants a puppy that has the best chance of living a long healthy life, they need to be responsible as well when choosing their puppy…  Not leave it up to the breeder to simply tell them they “breed healthy dogs” or they “never have health problems”.  If buyers will not settle for poorly bred puppies,  then breeders who produce them or who are negligent in their practices, will either start being more responsible, or they will stop breeding.

Either way, the dogs benefit and their future owners benefit.







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21 thoughts on “The Reputable Breeder Difference

  1. Anti-Breeder legislation is increasing as breeders turn against one another. Only if breeders stand united is there any hope to retain the right to breed dogs in this country. I encourage you to re-write this article in a way that encourages genetic testing without being divisive by labeling some breeders “responsible” and others not. The animal rights activists are winning their goal to outlaw breeding with this kind of divisive mentality. If you have a large breeding operation or small, breed purebreds or designer dogs, keep your dogs in the house our outside, whatever the differences all breeders must stand together and support one another’s right to breed dogs.


    1. I’m sorry Barbara, but I’m not going to excuse irresponsible breeding practices. We all have the right to breed, we all have the right to breed how we want — whether responsibly or irresponsibly, but I’m not going to pretend there is no difference or that buyers shouldn’t insist on higher standards from breeders. We should ALL insist on higher standards for breeders rather than make excuses for negligent practices for fear AR groups will take advantage of the fact we have differences of opinion.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. What you seem to fail to understand with this post is that you are actually working towards losing us all the right to breed or own animals period. You are widing the gap in the ranks of breeders at the time when we need to STAND together to fight PETA, H$U$ and all the other animal rights activists that are out there working against us. We as breeders need to stand together. As long as they are breaking no laws or regulations, we need to shut up about them. We need to try and educate them, yes, but rants like this are detrimental to all breeders. A post like this sounds just like a bully as well. If we exclude those who we don’t like and make fun of them, put them down, talk about them behind their backs, we are no better than the playground bullies. We are no better than the breeders that stand by and watch their neighboring breeder get raided and don’t support them and help them because they don’t do things the way we feel they should be done. Know what? No two people do things exactly the same. And what one person does, is their right. It isn’t for any of us to judge them, as long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating any regulations. if they are, they need to be reported to the authorities, not be defamed on a public post where anyone looking for a puppy can read it and get fed more of the animal rights kool-aid that is working to divide us and eliminate our rights. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize my life is void of animals. i don’t think any one else does either. but if we don’t stop this petty bullying, name calling, and finger pointing, it is going to happen and happen quickly. This is educating the public that breedders can’t be trusted and that is NOT what we need. WAKE UP AND REALIZE WHAT YOU ARE DOING BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mir, I don’t know if you’re read any of my other articles, but feeding people “animal rights kool-aid” is about as far from my articles as you can get.

      I will not back down regarding my feelings on breeding responsibly. Period. I care more about the dogs and their potential owners than anyone else’s opinion.

      You may want to first remove the chip on your shoulder and then re-read the article. It’s actually about educating breeders and about buyers insisting on healthier dogs. If you could point out exactly which part of the article is untrue or “bullying”, perhaps I’ll look into editing the tone.


    2. Maybe if the title said, “How To Produce Healthy Puppies” instead of using the “Responsible Breeder” term that has begun to be widely used by the AR community. It is all about raising healthy puppies right? So lets put the focus on that instead of putting negative labels onto breeders. I see so many losing their breeding stock to illegal seizures and anti-breeder legislation. As that happens I also see many breeders stand back and not help as they say that they are “responsible” because they do things differently.


      1. I have yet to see any AR groups using the term “responsible breeder”. They don’t think ANY breeder is responsible. And there are many cases where someone has had their animals taken away and other breeders have rallied around them to help them, in defense of our rights.


  3. No, it isn’t about education, it is about being a bully and trying to force everyone to see your way. What do you call responsible breeding? What is it’s definition? I’m sure that every breeder that is reading this has a different definition and that is why we MUST STOP USING LABELS. Your article has wonderfu information in it. The way it was written however makes it a horrible and offending article. You basically say that if you aren’t doing things my way, you are an irresponsible breeder and should not be allowed to breed.


    1. But aren’t you saying that if I don’t buy into your ideals of treating everyone as equal regarding breeding practices, isn’t that trying to force me to see things your way? Responsible breeding is doing what is within your power to ensure healthy puppies. If there is a test available to someone that could prevent issues that are common in your breed, and you do not use it and end up with puppies with health problems that are passed onto the owners, that is irresponsible. It’s actually quite simple.


    2. I have yet to see any AR groups using the term “responsible breeder”. They don’t think ANY breeder is responsible. And there are many cases where someone has had their animals taken away and other breeders have rallied around them to help them, in defense of our rights.


  4. show me where i said everyone was equal? I never said that. I said we need to stop using labels and we need to stand together to retain our rights to even have animals in our lives and not play into the hands of the ARA


  5. There is absolutely no reason that Commercial breeders (USDA inspected) should not also be responsible for doing certified health testing (public lists on OFA etc), focusing on stable temperaments, solid structure and raising pets in nurturing environments. Making excuses and making inferior products is what is dividing us and gives power to the very agenda you dislike. Hobby breeders, commercial breeders, UNITE and prove that your dogs/cats are superior to what the AR agenda says. We are all RESPONSIBLE for the future of our animals.


  6. I agree completely with this article!

    In my experience, the basic requirements needed to be considered a “responsible breeder” are

    • Health testing each dog before breeding to ensure that it meets the minimum health requirements set forth by the breed’s parent club.

    • Temperament testing each dog before breeding. This can be a little more subjective, but it usually involves training the dog and either having them pass the breed club temperament test, getting their CGC through the AKC, or getting some other type of performance title. It also depends on the breed, but they’re ensuring that each dog they breed conforms to that breed’s temperament and is sound, not anxious or nippy.

    • Has a clear vision for their breeding program and comform to the breed standard. They can tell you in detail why they picked the parents for each litter and what their goal is for their kennel. Part of this is knowing and being able to prove that each dog they produce is improving the breed as a whole.

    There is much more that breeders can do to be responsible Stewarts of their breed, but many people agree that the list above is the bare minimum.

    Kudos to you for making it clear that there is a difference between disreputable breeders and reputable ones and encouraging puppy buyers to do their homework.
    I truly believe that most people who breed their dogs truly love animals. But the truth of the matter is that just loving your pet is not enough to ensure that their puppies live long, healthy, happy lives. Breeding is a lot of hard work, it’s expensive, and it can be heartbreaking.

    And to those arguing that we should embrace all breeders and stop labeling them as irresponsible, my answer to that is, “No.”

    An analogy: Gun Control advocates are trying to take away our right to bear arms! We need to stop labeling people as “responsible gun owners” and “irresponsible gun owners”, because that breaks us apart and we need to present a unified front to the gun control people! It doesn’t matter if you lock your guns in a safe and keep them unloaded or if you leave loaded guns laying around near your children – you’re both gun owners and should come together to preserve your rights!

    What that argument doesn’t take into consideration is that irresponsible gun owners are a large part of the statistics that fuel the gun control advocates. Whatever your feelings about gun control, we agree that an unloaded gun in a locked gun safe is much more responsible than a loaded gun lying within reach of a child. It would be inane not to try to educate the public on the difference and try to distance yourself in popular opinion as much as possible from the irresponsible gun owner.

    Irresponsible breeders are the source of many negative statistics about purebred dogs and dog breeding. They contribute to the view that purebred dogs are less healthy than mix breeds and to the idea that every dog bred is killing a shelter dog.

    Heck yes I want to put some distance between my breeding program and theirs! I want to educate the public about health and temperament testing and pet contracts versus breeding contracts and all of the things that set responsible breeders apart from backyard breeders and puppymills.

    I want to educate the public so when they hear someone is a breeder, instead of recoiling in horror, they respond with, “do you health test?” “What type of screening do you give potential buyers”

    Public perception and education is a huge tool in changing the way people act. When the general public is informed about what makes a reputable breeder, I believe it will be far more effective in stopping irresponsible breeding than any legislation could be.


  7. Well stated. Here’s hoping some of those people who are surprised when their pup comes up sick will educate themselves and put some hours into researching breeders with better standards. Here’s hoping even more do their research beforehand and avoid the heartbreak all together.


  8. Thank you for a well written article. I extensively health test my dogs before breeding and do far more than what our parent club recommends. However, no one can completely guarantee that health tested parents will not produce a puppy with an issue. I bred 2 dogs with OFA excellent hips and they produced a puppy with hip dysplasia. Mother Nature will always have a hand in our breedings no matter what we do to try to defeat her. I wholeheartedly believe in health testing but its not foolproof. I try to educate puppy buyers every time I get a call for a puppy but some are clearly shopping for the first puppy they can find instead of shopping for a good breeder. I hope that will change because that’s the only way to put disreputable breeders out of business.


  9. My sister believes she is a “responsible” breeder. She cranks out as many ghastly conformed/deformed Chihuahuas as she can. She doesn’t health test. She doesn’t temperament test. Her dogs are weak nerved physical train wrecks. Not one of her dogs has ever accomplished anything or been to a dog show. She is creating neurotic lap dogs with a proven tendency to bite people. They make horrible pets. I refuse to “stand together” with this sort of irresponsible nonsense. I wish you could see these sad animals, no one should have a right to create more of them.

    That said we purchase our dogs from an actual responsible breeder who does health and temperament testing. Her dogs have appropriate nerve and bravery for the breed and good working conformation. They will never prance around a show ring, but they definitely kick butt in working dog trials. I will go back to this breeder again and again and stand shoulder to shoulder with her to protect her right to product extraordinary dogs and family pets.

    If you stand with and support substandard breeders you are handing the animal rights movement everything they need to take down all dog breeders. You are feeding the crocodile in the hope that it will eat you last.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Quite frankly, we should ALL be trying to be the best breeders out there. As far as I’m concerned, our standards for many things have gone far lower than they should be, what we are looking for as or in breeders should not be one of them. In my opinion, there is no excuse for doing no or very little health testing. Those that don’t want to or see no need for it, don’t care about the breed, just the cash.
    As for the AR groups, piss poor breeding with preventable health issues feeds them much more than supporting reputable, health testing breeders.


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