A pair of Golden Retriever puppies sit in a patch of grass.

How to Pick a Breeder for Your Service Dog Prospect

Picture by Chevanon Photography

Between pre-trained dogs from programs, puppies from breeders, and rescues, there are endless choices for bringing home your service dog prospect.

One of the safest choices is to get a puppy from a reputable breeder, for a number of reasons. Knowing the puppy’s parents is a fantastic advantage. Being able to see their temperaments and their health records can give you a look into your puppy’s future. However, in order to have these advantages, you need to be sure you’re picking a good breeder. So, how can you know?

Consider a Number of Breeders

In the beginning of your search the number of breeders intimidate you, but you should take stock of as many of your options as possible. Consider breeders both in and out of state; keep an eye out for breeders that have been highly regarded for the breed you’re interested in.

Once you have a good selection of breeders you’re interested, take stock of a few different things.

Check out the Breeder’s Practice

Every breeder should have a description of their personal practices and what they aim to do with their breeding program. Take note of any breeders who specifically mention a history of their puppies successfully going on to do any kind of service dog or therapy dog training.

Your service dog prospect’s health should be a major focus in your search; only consider breeders that state they health-test and readily offer the results of said tests to prospective owners. 

A reputable breeder will also clearly state how they raise their puppies. Puppy Culture is a popular and well-rounded program becoming more common among breeders. Socialization from a breeder is a crucial component in a puppy’s upbringing, and should be of the utmost importance to you and your breeder.

Read the Testimonials

If breeders have a Facebook page or website with testimonials from prior puppy adopters, read them thoroughly. People who have previously adopted from the breeder have the knowledge of what interacting with the breeder is like and what the conditions of their home and puppy-rearing were like. Consider reaching out to people who have made testimonials to see how their puppies are doing now.

Red Flags

There are a lot of important signs to keep an eye out for when breeder-searching. 

Puppy mills, though legal in most of the US, are companies that should be avoided entirely. Dogs from mills are oftentimes mistreated; puppy mills provide minimal medical care for their dogs, and do not socialize them in their crucial developmental stages. The conditions in puppy mills are typically poor, and dogs are often kept in enclosures far too small and not kept up with. Puppies from pet stores are almost always from puppy mills, so cross pet stores off your list, and avoid breeders who breed more than one breed of dog. Take any breeder who refuses to let you see the parents and where the puppies are born and raised off your list.

Backyard breeders are another common source of undersocialized and poorly bred dogs. Though not all backyard breeders have bad intentions, their breeding practices are often very basic and they may be under-educated. Breeders found on Craigslist, Petfinder, and similar websites should be scrutinized fully. You should familiarize yourself with the breed standard for the breed you’re looking at taking home, and look at the pictures posted by breeders to find any major structural concerns. Ask these breeders for their dogs’ health tests and pedigrees and analyze them fully. If you struggle with understanding pedigrees, reach out to dog-savvy friends or Facebook groups for assistance. 

Any breeder whose focus is a profit is a breeder you should avoid. Reputable breeders all know that the cost of a healthy, well-socialized litter will always be more than what money they receive after selling their puppies. 

The Breeder Should Be Just as Invested as You

Breeders put a lot of time, money, and love into rearing puppies. Reputable breeders will ask you about where the puppy will be living, who all is in the household, how you intend on training the dog, what your experience with the breed is, and more. If the breeder you’re looking into doesn’t show the least bit of concern about you in return, avoid them.

Finding a good breeder doesn’t happen instantaneously. Depending on the breed, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to over a year. Don’t lose hope, and never settle; this is a dog you’ll be entrusting with your health and safety. You should look for the best and nothing less. 

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