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How to Find a Responsible Breeder in America

Freya a one year old Bouvier Des Flandres is standing ankle deep in the snow with the sun setting behind her.
Freya a one year old Bouvier Des Flandres

You have found what you believe to be the perfect breed for you, now what? You have to find the perfect breeder. There are several parts to finding the perfect breeder. Your biggest considerations should be health and temperament of the animals and the relationship with the breeder. You should expect to interview your breeder and be interviewed by them. You are basically starting a new relationship and need to get to know each other. That relationship should last at minimum the length of the puppy/dog’s life. Be aware that responsible breeders often have wait lists and may not have a puppy available for you right away in fact it isn’t unusual to wait up to a year for the right litter of puppies so be prepared and start your search early. You may be pleasantly surprised and find one sooner but be prepared to wait. Good things come to those that wait! Since some of the terms I will use below are specific to the dog world, I will define them as they are introduced.

How to find a breeder to interview:

Attend local dog shows or dog sport competitions and go up to a person with a dog you admire. As long as they aren’t about to go into the ring or are busy grooming or prepping, most people are happy to talk with someone about their breed and either point you in the direction of their breeder or they might be a breeder themselves. In America you can follow the links below to look up events in your area.

Go to the breed club (a collection of dog fanciers that participate in the same breed and aim to protect and promote that breed, can be both regional, national and on occasion international) website and look for a breeder list. It is important to note that more often than not these are just breeders that have paid a fee to be listed on the Breed Club List it does not mean the breed club endorses them in any way unless clearly stated. This list should merely be a place to start your search from.

  • Find Facebook pages devoted to the breed and ask for Breeder recommendations or seek out a mentor to help you find a Breeder that will suit your needs.

  • Be wary of fancy websites many Responsible Breeders are too busy with raising puppies, titling their dogs in conformation and competing in dog sports to build or maintain fancy websites. A great website doesn’t mean the breeder is a bad a breeder but it doesn’t mean their dogs are quality either. It is essential to do your due diligence and follow the advice in this article before you pass judgement.

  • Also be wary of third-party puppy sales websites, responsible breeders rarely sell on these sites again do your due diligence.

What to do and what questions to ask about

Health Testing and Guarantees

  • Go to the breed club website and look at the what the breed club recommends for Health testing for your breed.

  • If your breed club participates in the CHIC program (Canine Health Information Center) then they will have a list of specific tests a dog of that breed must complete to earn a CHIC number. Follow this link to look up your breed .***It is important to note that even if a dog fails all the tests listed as required it will still be given a CHIC number, therefore it is essential that you verify each result. ***

  • For example, with a Bouvier des Flandres the required health tests a dog must complete in order to earn a CHIC number is hips, elbows, cardiac certification by OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of Animals) and eye certification (Eye examination by an ACVO Ophthalmologist with the tests registered with either the OFA or CERF.)

  • A breeder should provide you with the registered names of each parent and the potential or actual litter pedigree. For Bouvier's you can also go to to look up pedigree information and health information.

  • Ask the breeder for the registered names of both the Dam (mother) and Sire (father) of the litter. With the registered names of the parents you can search the OFA website by following this link . You can put in a CHIC number, OFA number or Registry number (AKC, UKC etc.)

Why is independent health testing so important? Well when you submit X-rays or other tests to OFA or PennHip ( you are required to have a permanent identification of the dog that is verified prior to doing tests (microchip or tattoo). Meaning the dog that is tested is verified to be the dog on the report. I have heard of breeders showing the exact same x-rays to every potential puppy buyer even though they are not x-rays of the dog that was bred for this litter.

Another major issue in the accuracy of x-rays is the technique used to get the views needed to evaluate the joints appropriately both OFA and Pennhip have very specific protocols that must be followed by the Veterinarian performing the tests and then those x-rays are sent to OFA or Pennhip and are reviewed by independent Veterinarians.

An additional concern with x-ray evaluations of joints done at a local level is even if your local Veterinarian follows the same protocols there is an element of bias due to your relationship with the Veterinary. Independent reviewers remove this element of bias.

It is important to note that these tests are evaluating the phenotype of the dog meaning the dogs literally physical condition at the time of the test vs. the genotype which is the genes the dog has which it will pass on to its offspring.

Now that you have the results on both the parents of the litter it is time to look further back! This is where you can get a better idea of genotype. If the parents of the litter have passed their health tests did their parents? If one of their parents failed a hip evaluation then your puppy could still be at risk for developing hip dysplasia that is why it is so important to look into the whole pedigree not just the parents of a litter. What about their grand-grandparents? Health testing isn’t new and you should be able to find breeders with several generations of health testing behind their dogs.

Do your research: find Facebook pages devoted to the breed and search the breeders name, put the name of your breeder into a search engine and see what comes up and again go to breed club and ask members their opinion on the breeder you are looking at. Check with the breed club rescue or breed rescue organizations if they recognize the breeder. Because if they deal with a lot of dogs from a breeder that is a red flag. If you find anything concerning, do more research! Seek out the person who made positive or negative comments and ask for more information. Check how old the dog is of the person giving you a positive review of a breeder. Many individuals are happy with their breeder the first six months before any potential issues have risen. All breeders will have health issues, of some type, at some point. But it is the frequency of those issues, types of issues and how they handle those issues, that is the most important thing to look at.

If the breeder you are talking with says they have never had a health issue with any