A reputable breeder is one who cares more about the dogs than the money. They frequently lose money on each litter they breed because of the extensive testing they do to ensure a healthy, genetically sound litter. Their passion and primary motivation is the creation of the perfect representative of their breed. This is not the result of "boy meets girl" breeding, but rather an exhaustive study of genetics and pedigrees. Breedings are planned months in advance, with all the anticipation and preparation of a NASA space launch.
These breeders love to talk about their breed, and will often tell you the good as well as the bad. They may actually try to turn you off of their breed. They're also the first ones to send you to someone else if they don't have what your family needs.
Another sign of an ethical breeder is they'll insist you neuter your pet unless you're going to show the puppy (and then they'll usually insist on co-owning the dog with you until the puppy has achieved his/her championship). Many insist on "limited registration" from the AKC which means any litters produced by the animal are not eligible for registration. (Should your little pet quality puppy grow up into a potential champion, the limited registration can be changed to full registration by the breeder.)
The final sign of an ethical breeder is a contract. Usually the contract does nothing more than stipulate that if there is ever a reason you need to place the dog elsewhere, that the dog comes back to the breeder. Good breeders never forget their babies and always have an open door policy for all of their "kids".
Back Yard Breeders
Back yard breeders are frequently the "boy meets girl" breeders. You'll see their ads littering the internet and your local paper. "Sandy, our miniature dachshund, needs a boyfriend who's willing and able." Often what separates
"BYB" from reputable breeders is knowledge.
A sure sign of a backyard breeder is the lack of contracts you have to sign and the lack of neutering requirements. It may sound good upfront: no contracts, no requirements, but it also means when you want or need information, the
"BYB" probably won't be there or know the answers. Also if tragedy strikes and you need somewhere for Spot to stay (either on a temporary or permanent basis), the backyard breeder is no where to be found.
Backyard breeders often don't test for genetic diseases either, which means your adorable little puppy may end up costing you more than a new roof in vet bills.
First you must be aware no one wears the term "puppy mill" with pride. They never, ever advertise that their primary motive is profit.
The image that comes to mind when you think of "puppy mill" may be one that you've seen frequently on the internet and local
tv, of up to a hundred matted, sick and lethargic dogs living in squalor and in cages with barely enough room to turn around. Those are indeed puppy mills, but their primary purchasers are large pet store chains. Some puppy mills can appear to be a clean, well kept kennel. These puppy mills target the end consumer. Remember, conditions alone do not define a puppy mill. While searching for a breeder, do not hesitate to remove one from consideration if their kennel conditions are deplorable, do not choose one solely on this criteria.
The primary motive of the puppy mill is to make a profit. Beware the breeder who breeds five or six different breeds or always seems to have puppies available. Also beware the breeder who's overly anxious to "sell" you a dog.
Make sure you're dealing with
the first type when purchasing your puppy.