A reputable hobby breeder--in other words, the kind of person you want to buy a dog from--can be recognized by the following traits.
They're Not In It for the Money
Money is not a good breeder's primary motivation for breeding dogs. In general, good breeders breed dogs as a hobby. Their main priority is to produce healthy, quality dogs that are excellent examples of their breed. These hobby breeders spend huge amounts of time and money on:
* Researching pedigrees;
* Educating themselves about their breed and dog health in general; and
* Doing extensive health testing on potential breeding stock.
If the breeder you are considering isn’t doing health testing on his breeding stock, and does not offer written proof of that testing—in this breed, that means hips and eyes at a minimum—beware.
Expect to be Interviewed
Good breeders interview potential puppy buyers very thoroughly to ensure that they're prepared for the positives and negatives of their chosen breed of dog. Their main concern is to find an excellent home who will love and cherish the puppy or dog they purchase for its entire life. They do not sell puppies to just anyone who happens to have the money, no questions asked. They check potential puppy buyers' references and can offer a list of references of their own, if the buyer requests it. If the breeder you are considering buying a puppy from doesn’t interview you thoroughly to ensure that you’ll be committed to the pup for life, and seems mostly concerned about when your check will arrive—beware.
They Don't Disappear
Good breeders support and educate their puppy buyers for the life of the dog, offering knowledge about the breed and serving as a sounding board for any questions their dogs’ owners may have. They sell puppies on contracts that require the dog be returned to the breeder if the owner can not keep it for any reason, at any point in the dog’s life. Their dogs do not end up in shelters! If the breeder you are considering buying a puppy from doesn’t offer a written contract with a genetic health warranty and a clause that they'll take the dog back if you can't keep it—beware.
They Participate in Dog Shows, Clubs and Sports
Good breeders prove the worth of their breeding stock by competing with them in conformation, companion and performance events. They are active members of local and national dog clubs. If the breeder you are considering buying a puppy from doesn’t show or compete in events with their dogs, and they don’t belong to any dog clubs—beware.
They'll Tell You the Good--and the Bad
They are extremely proud of and honest about their dogs. They will discuss each dog's strengths and weaknesses and can clearly articulate how they hoped to produce better dogs with a planned breeding. They know the ups and downs of their breed and will gladly share both with you. If the breeder you are considering buying a puppy from cannot discuss in detail what the goals of a particular breeding were, other than to “produce good puppies”—beware.
Expect to Wait for One of Their Puppies
They breed dogs for the love of dogs and the love of their breed. Breeding of dogs is not done as a money-making venture. This means that you may have to go on a waiting list and be patient. Most hobby breeders only breed when they want a puppy for themselves and their breeding program--which means they do not have puppies constantly available. If the breeder you are considering buying a puppy from always seems to have puppies available—beware.
To find breeders of this caliber, here are a couple of places to start:
Attend local dog shows and speak with the handlers who are showing the breed you're interested in. Many breeders show their own dogs--if not, the handler can usually point you in the right direction. For the best response, wait until they're done showing before approaching them. Buy a catalog--these list each of the dogs being shown, with the names of both the owners and the breeders.
The American Kennel Club, or AKC, maintains a list of breed parent clubs (i.e., for the Alaskan Malamute, the parent club is the Alaskan Malamute Club of America), each of whom offers a breeder's list or at the very least, a breeder referral representative. You can find these clubs fairly easily using an Internet search engine like Google.