Finding a Good Dog Breeder – the Good the Bad & the Ugly!

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Categories: Puppy Advice

Finding a good breederWhere to start… I thought my years as a Veterinary Nurse may have stood me well in knowing how to go about finding a good dog breeder, however just typing a few things into the internet left me realising that I need to research this properly as things have changed drastically within this field.

I decided that the easiest way to see who may be available would be to type “Labrador breeder UK” into a Google search.

When I bought my first lab, the internet wasn’t as easy to access as it is now and so my first point of contact was call the Kennel Club and to request a list of registered breeders.

So here is where my objective to source a responsible breeding avenue begins. The basic advice I have always given to new owners is to make sure they see both the dam and sire (mother and father). This is just the tip of the iceberg when trying to get the right puppy.

If either one of them is displaying overly aggressive or nervous tendencies then this is a warning to ‘run for the hills’. Remember these dogs are passing their genetics onto your new puppy who will be living in your home!

I was absolutely shocked to read that at least one third of potential owners fail to see the puppy with its mum, even less ever see the dad and 50% of people never see the pups living environment. For those people buying a puppy from pet shops these figures increase to 60 and 70%.

To find a start point I have chosen to refer to what I know in the form of The Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club

The Kennel ClubI was pleased to see that the Kennel Club rank pretty high on most searches concerning breeding of dogs or acquiring of puppies, and for the most part they are at the top or on the first page.

This trusted organisation was founded in 1873 and is probably most recognised through its yearly prestigious dog show ‘Crufts’. I have recommended many people looking to find a breeder to The Kennel Club and have always been confident that this would protect new owners from unregistered breeders who were not following the rules!

However, it did occur to me that there is no way this organisation could physically check each and every one of their members every time a litter was produced. I guess, as with any large organisation trying to regulate an industry, there would be limitations to the levels of control that could be re-enforced. I was to stand corrected.

I decided to check the criteria for membership to see what was needed to register as a UK Dog Breeder with The kennel Club:

Background and Requirements for the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme

(As detailed on their website 2015)

  • They register 250,000 pedigree dogs and crossbreeds every year
  • Registration is open to all dogs and breeders are checked to ensure they are capable of the undertaking
  • New members are ‘policed’ by breed clubs and inappropriate behaviour is reported and dealt with accordingly
  • Each time a breeder sells a litter of puppies the dam and sire are checked for compliance of guidelines
  • Participation and proof of breed related health screens – in the Labrador the requirement is for annual Hip Scoring, and eye testing with a recommendation for Elbow grading and DNA testing – this is different for every breed as it relates to the breeds predisposition for contracting a hereditary problem
  • Members must provide new puppy owners with information on a variety of important topics, the kennel club provides these information leaflets for breeders to hand out.
  • New owners should be given a copy of the sales contract upon purchase, this should state; all the breeders contact details, Kennel Club Registration Number and Name of Dog
  • The puppy should have been inspected by a vet at least once while with the litter and this should be detailed in the contract
  • The breeder is entitled to place up to 2 restrictions on what can be done with the puppy with regard to future breeding and preventing export – this is normal and expected
  • Details should be given on protocol for return of a puppy, this should not happen if a responsible breeder has been chosen and new owners have done their homework on what to expect – I feel very strongly about this as the early days of a dog’s life will set it up forever, mismanagement is highly damaging
  • The breeder does not need to guarantee the ability of the dog to be able to fulfil working or sport capability. This applies to gundogs, security, agility, working trials etc
  • There should also have been a contract between the owner of the dam (bitch) and owner of the sire (stud) you can request to see this and it will confirm that the sire has also fulfilled the health assessment requirements
  • I was pleased to see this quote in their newsletter “ALL Scheme Members are now required to have an Assured Breeder Visit by one of the Regional Breeder Assessors (RBAs)”. This is great news and means that Breeders can no longer hide behind forms but they have to provide access to their establishments if they are to have Kennel Club approval – NB: A litter of puppies cannot be KC registered without this visit
  • Spot checks are also carried out
  • Breeding dams are monitored by a limit of how many litters they are allowed to have and their maximum age
  • Puppies are required to have a level of socialisation carried out, always ask what handling the puppies have had and are they living in a normal home environment or not?
  • If you are buying from an assured breeder scheme (ABS) breeder you will be given an ABS puppy wallet which contains a feedback form to be sent to the kennel club

Black Lab


Assured Breeder SchemeAll in all I was really impressed, they have come a long way in increasing requirements and ‘policing’ schemes since I was first introduced to them. They have an excellent website with loads of really useful information and advice and I would be confident that any breeder worthy of their ABS accolade would be a breeder I could trust.

On the ‘Flip-side’

This has led me to question how on earth pet shops and ‘puppy farms’ are still able to find a market for breeding. Surely when it comes to making such an important decision people would want to make sure they were bringing a dog into their home who had the best chance of good health and behaviour?

I investigated a few alternatives for sourcing our little puppy and was horrified to see how easy it was to order a puppy over the internet!

I was aware much of the poor selling of puppies was carried out this way as pet shop and internet puppies keep me busy enough as a behaviourist. Nothing prepared me for the sheer volume of choice and immediate availability of just about any puppy I might fancy.

Fortunately “buy Labrador puppy uk” in a Google search sent me the Kennel Club, Guide Dogs and Battersea first line. Sadly, this was quickly followed by ‘gumtree’, ‘preloved’, and ‘freeads’ to name a few.

Puppies Being Rehomed

One of the ad’s I read was the sale of a 10 week old lab, the owners had failed to consider that their 10 year old asthmatic and allergic son may be allergic to dogs. Hence he was, so this poor puppy will now be off to its second home before it has even established itself in its first! I really can’t sympathise with them, all I can see is the fate that awaits this dog via Gumtree!

There were also several ad’s for apparent ‘accidental mating’s’ and pictures of dogs that were listed as Labradors but looked more like a genetic mutation of something that once resembled a dog, let alone the perfect chubby Andrex puppy portrayed on TV.

I am now at the point where I could stop my search and investigation. I am no longer interested in reading about the negligent and selfish acts of the human race in order to supply the demand for the idealistic family dog, while making monetary gains.

Sadly though for the purpose of this blog I feel it is necessary to go on and expose the ugly side of dog breeding and why the industry continues to have a market.

Puppy Farming

Puppy farming gets its name from the mass production of puppies in the most cruel of conditions, with no welfare regard for the breeding dogs or their puppies.

The breeding bitches are bred over and over again and well into older age, kept in disgusting conditions, never seen by a potential buyer. Puppies are sold via the internet, pet shops and other third parties.

Puppies produced from this source are affected on every level from health, social ability, behaviour, and physical capability and commonly die from health related causes at a young age. Sometimes just a few days after they have been taken to a new home

In short this is animal cruelty in all its glory. The UK’s reputation as a nation of animal lovers is a façade when practices such as this are allowed to continue and are funded above all by the poor unsuspecting new puppy owner. In fact statistics state that as many as 1:3 puppies have been brought via a puppy farming outlet.

The only way this trade can be stopped is if the general public make a stand and stop buying these unwell, genetically affected and poorly socialised puppies…

My Check List of Do’s and Don’ts when buying your puppy

  • Never buy a puppy from the internet or pet shop (even if you feel you are rescuing it) you are funding the trade
  • Never buy a puppy from the side of the road/ pub or other public space
  • Always ask to see the mother with your puppy
  • Be prepared to be put on a waiting list for the right puppy
  • Choose a breeder registered with the Assured Kennel Club Scheme
  • Be prepared to pay good money for the right dog, it is costly to do it right
  • Always be suspicious of breeders trading in several different breeds
  • Make sure you see relevant health certificates for both parents
  • Check the level of social exposure your puppy will have – if the puppies are cage/kennelled away from the main house then you want to see evidence of them interacting indoors and in the garden

My Approach

As a result of my knowledge I knew better than to randomly source a puppy from the unknown. I have been lucky enough to know a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated breeder to help me in my search.

Unfortunately she will not be solely in charge as she is currently the owner of the Sire (father) ‘Hugo’ and not the Dam (mother). That said I am confident she will be fastidious in her efforts at finding Hugo the right mate and I’m confident she will ensure quality breeding criteria are met.

I am placing my confidence in one individual with more knowledge of the pitfalls of the breeding world than me and for that I am grateful.

Final Note

For those of you that are still with me, thank you. If you have any feedback or questions then I would be really happy to chat to you via email or Facebook.

My next blog is to focus on ‘Hugo’ for this weekend 14th February 2015. To continue on this journey we need to find him a Valentine – so please spread the word.

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Published: 11.02.2015

Author: Jo Croft

Canine Behaviour Practitioner - VN MCFBA GODT

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