As a trainer, I am asked time and time again, "How do I find a good breeder?" The answer is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of investigation. So, I thought I'd make up a little check list.
1) Where do the puppies stay the majority of the time?
A good breeder will have them a clean, safe environment with shelter and access to the outside. A great breeder will have them in her home, as part of the family.
2) How much time is spent with the puppies?
Some breeders let the mom do all the work. They might be handled a bit as they get older, but really they only know each other. A good breeder will pet them and handle them from day one. A great breeder does more. Not only will she get them used to being held, she'll also make sure they are familiar with all the things needed in grooming or a vet visit. She'll touch their paws, check their ears, and open their mouths. These puppies won't mind being touched in any way.
3) Are the puppies potty trained?
Most people think an 8 week old puppy is too young to potty train, but such is not the case. Sure, that pup may only be able to hold his bladder for an hour, but in that hour he certainly won't mess his kennel. He'll make sure he goes outside...making your job much easier when you get home.
4) How many people have they met?
A good breeder will visit the kennel as often as possible. The puppies will meet her, her husband, and possibly a few friends. A great breeder will throw puppy-meeting parties. She'll want the puppies to meet as many people as possible as often as possible. (Note: This breeder also makes sure that safety precautions are kept so as to avoid the puppies getting sick).
5) Where have the puppies been?
I am not suggesting that breeders take their pups into the big, wide world. Rather, I'm suggesting they put their puppies on as many surfaces as possible. A good breeder has pups that are OKwith grass, carpet, and cement. A great breeder has pups that are OK with everything from linoleum to asphalt to grass to hard wood. Those pups may even be used to the sounds of cars (like in a parking lot) or to other loud noises.
6) Will they let you meet both parents?
Some breeders use stud dogs, and while this doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad breeder, it is not a breeder I would use. I want to know that my breeder knows everything about the parents from what they like to eat to when they like to nap. Also, keep in mind that the pups will take after their parents. Don't you want to know what their parents are like?
7) Will they let you see the facilities?
If not, run, don't walk away. Some breeders may not let you into the room where the puppies are born, or into areas where very young puppies are kept, and that's OK. However, other breeders don't even let you see a puppy or the area where they are kept until you've put money down. This is a bad sign.
8) What do other people say?
Find someone who has purchased a puppy from this breeder before. What is that person's dog like? Are they happy with the results? Do they have regrets or anything they'd change? Honestly, this will probably be your biggest tip off. If a previous adopter isn't happy then there is probably something wrong (Note: Some people are never happy. It's often best to call more than one person).
When I found Cody, I had no idea what I was doing, and I just happened to luck out. My breeder had actually taught Cody to sit in her lap, put his head and paw on her desk, and fall asleep. We still use this trick with some lower counter tops. Cody also potty trained very quickly, and I credit my breeder for part of that. Not everyone is so lucky, though. It's best to do your research. Definitely avoid pet stores where you have no idea where the dog is from, and keep rescue shelters in mind. You may not have a pure bred, and your dog may have other issues, but at least you know you're saving a life. Otherwise, GOOD LUCK!