How to find a reputable dog breeder (and what to ask them)

Jul 11, 2023

So, you’re thinking about welcoming a bundle of puppy love into your life? Congratulations!

If you’ve made the decision to get your dog from a breeder rather than a rescue, let’s look at how to find a reputable dog breeder – so you can avoid all the heartache and trouble that can follow if you buy your puppy from the wrong place.

Breeding and raising puppies well takes commitment, skill and dedication. When you find a reputable dog breeder, they will have put a huge amount of time and forethought into every step of the journey.

I’m going to walk you through all the vital points you need to consider so you go into this with your eyes wide open. The ‘lesser spotted’ reputable dog breeder does exist! They’re not a myth, I promise! Let’s help you find one!

Research your breed

Before you start your search for a reputable dog breeder, you need to do your breed research. Think about your lifestyle and what characteristics your ideal dog would have.

  • Do you want a dog who is happy with short walks and snuggles on the sofa?
  • Are you looking for a high energy dog who’ll want to work, train and go on huge hikes with you?
  • Do you care if your pup moults a ton, or is a natural alert barker?

Try to put looks aside and consider what day-to-day life you want with your dog.

Make a list of the things that would be a complete no-go for you, and when you read up on your desired breed, be honest about whether the reality matches up with your dreams.

Then review the information on the Breed pages here to help narrow down your search.

Get clued up on common health issues for your breed

Different dog breeds have predispositions to particular health issues. You want to be aware of these before you approach a breeder. Reputable dog breeders will have health tested the puppy’s parents before deciding to mate them.

When you speak to any breeder, you want to ask about health testing and see evidence of this. Both parents should have been health tested, so make sure you see results for mum and dad.

You can find information on the health issues specific breeds should be tested for here.

Temperament is as important as health. Ask about the temperaments of both parents, as this will affect the temperament of their puppies.


Finding a reputable dog breeder


Wherever possible, go via a recommendation. If you know someone who has a wonderful dog who is exactly what you’re looking for, then ask them for their breeder’s details.
Be prepared to wait

A good dog breeder will often have a waiting list – this is a good sign! I can assure you; a well-bred puppy is completely worth waiting for.

But a recommendation alone doesn’t mean you can skip doing your own due diligence; it’s just a starting point.

Read on for the questions you should ask and what to expect from a truly reputable dog breeder. Plus, the warning signs to look for that raise alarm bells.

What to look for in a reputable dog breeder

A reputable dog breeder will not only have the health and temperament of the parents tested but they will also be committed to raising the puppies well once they arrive.

Those first 8 weeks of your puppy’s life, when they’re with the breeder, have a huge influence on the dog they will become.

  • Have the puppies been socialised to people, sounds, being handled, the car, for example? The more a puppy has been gently exposed to, the more confident they are likely to be as they grow.
  • A reputable dog breeder will often have a website or a social media presence – they are not hiding, and they’re proud to show off their babies. (But bear in mind, although it’s helpful for your research, there are people who simply don’t like being online but may well be excellent dog breeders!)
  • Does the breeder have lots of questions for you when you inquire? This is a good sign. A reputable dog breeder wants to be absolutely certain that they match their puppies with the right homes. They won’t just home them with anyone who hands over the cash.
  • If the breeder is satisfied you could be a good match, you should be invited to visit the puppies. When you do, you want to see mum with the puppies. Look to see how both the mum and puppies interact with each other and with the breeder.
  • You don’t want to be rushed out of the door or pressured to make a decision. Depending on the breed, dogs will live anywhere between 8 – 18 years! So, you want to be absolutely sure about your choice. Taking your time to think carefully about all aspects could be the difference between the start of a long and wonderful relationship or that pup ending up in rescue in the future. And you really don’t want to go through that heartache. As hard as it is when presented with a bundle of adorable pups, go home and sleep on it before making a decision.
  • A good breeder will guide you on which puppy in the litter is right for you. Remember that list you made back when you were deciding on a breed? Share it with your breeder and have an open and honest conversation.
  • Nobody knows those puppies better than your breeder. Forget choosing by colour or looks, and let the breeder tell you which puppy is your perfect match!


16 questions to ask a dog breeder




  1.  Ask for references from previous puppy owners and the breeder’s vet
  2. Ask to see evidence of health testing – if you need help understanding the paperwork, show it to a vet
  3. Ask them to tell you about the breed – warts and all!
  4. How old is mum, and how many litters has she had? (She should be at least two years old and not have had more than four litters.)
  5. Ask to see evidence of their license
  6. (If you’re in the UK) Ask if they are on the Kennel Club Assured Breeder scheme if you’re buying a purebreed
  7. Ask about their breeding experience and any relevant courses they may have taken
  8. Ask about mum and dad’s personalities
  9. Ask where they keep puppies
  10. Ask what socialisation the puppies will/are experiencing
  11. Ask what happens if the puppy has any health issues
  12. (In the UK) puppies must be at least 8 weeks old before being sold, they must be micro-chipped and will likely have had their first vaccinations at this time. So check what your selected breeder is planning
  13. Ask what their vetting process is for potential puppy owners
  14. Check out their social media profiles and Google their name and their number (to help ensure they are legitimate breeders and not ‘puppy farmers’)
  15. Check out Facebook groups dedicated to your chosen breed – you can ask if anybody has personal experience of the breeder

What paperwork should you get from a reputable dog breeder?

When you buy a puppy from a reputable dog breeder, you should expect to receive:

  • Vaccination, microchip and worming paperwork (your vet will need to know what vaccines pup has had and their worming schedule)
  • Pedigree papers for a purebred
  • Information on what food your puppy has been weaned onto – you want to stick with the same diet initially while your puppy settles in
  • Insurance cover for the first few weeks
  • Copies of parent’s health check certificates
  • Instructions on how to care for your puppy for the first couple of weeks
  • Emergency contact numbers should you have any problems
  • Contract of sale

How to spot a backyard breeder / puppy farm

Here are some common scenarios that you may run into if you find yourself talking to a backyard breeder or a so-called ‘puppy farmer’.

  • They don’t ask you any questions about yourself
  • They’re in a hurry to take a deposit
  • They won’t let you visit the puppy or not with its mother before you commit to buy
  • They want to drop the puppy to you or meet you at a location that isn’t where the puppies have been raised
  • They’re not licensed
  • They have no health test documents to show you
  • They’re vague when you ask questions
  • They have multiple adverts for various litters (Tip: Google the phone number to see if there are multiple adverts!)
  • They have no medical records for the puppies
  • They sell puppies before 8 weeks of age

In Conclusion

The most important thing you can do is trust your gut. If anything feels off or you’re just not sure, then keep looking.

Waiting for the right breeder and the right puppy for you is one-hundred percent worth it. You don’t want the heartbreak of bringing home a sickly puppy or a puppy who grows up to have behavioural issues as a result of poor breeding. You never want to find yourself unable to cope with nowhere to turn but the local rescue centre. A reputable breeder will offer backup, ongoing support and assurance that you can trust them implicitly.

Good luck with finding your new puppy. Be patient, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to wait.

By Rebecca Walters, licensed dog breeder and the founder of Pupstarts Breeders, delivering a range of courses for dog breeders.