The Complete Guide to Buying a Pet from a Breeder

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When you want to get a new pet, you have many resources, ranging from rescue groups and shelters to breeders and family and friends. If you’re looking for a specific breed of animal or an animal with a known background, you may want to work with a breeder. However, because purebred puppies, kittens, and other animals sometimes come with large price tags, it’s best to do your homework before purchasing your new pet. Here’s what you need to know when buying a pet from a breeder. 

Check the Breeder’s References

The most important first step is to find a breeder with an excellent reputation. If you know someone who purchased an animal from a breeder and had a pleasant experience, start there. If not, the American Kennel Club (AKC) website has a Puppyfinder Marketplace that provides a list AKC registered puppies.

The AKC also has programs breeders can enroll in — Breeder of Merit and Bred with H.E.A.R.T. — to verify they use only healthy practices when raising new pups. Finally, when you find a breeder who interests you, ask for two references from people who have purchased animals from them in the last year. A quality breeder is more than willing to provide this information.

Meet the Breeder at Home

The next thing you want to do is meet the breeder in person, preferably at the breeder’s home or the facility where he or she raises the animals. This gives you an opportunity to check out conditions to make sure you aren’t buying from someone who mistreats animals or keeps them in unhealthy or unsafe environments. Arrive prepared with a list of questions for the breeder about the facility’s practices. Again, a good breeder is willing to answer any and all questions, show you around and let you spend some time at their home.

Meet the Puppies (or Other Babies) and Their Parents

If the puppies (or kittens or other baby animals) are already born when you visit, ask if you can meet them. Even if they aren’t old enough to leave their parents just yet, you can get an adorable sneak peek. Spending time with the animals helps you get to know their personalities and decide if a particular breed or even one particular animal is a good match for you. Ask to spend time with the puppies’ parents as well to gain some insight into what your little guy or girl could be like as an adult. Puppies and kittens grow up and typically live anywhere from 10 to 20 years, and that adds up to a lot of time together.

Avoid Pet Shops, Online Ads and Puppy Mills

Sadly, not all breeders use safe and healthy breeding practices, and that puts the animals in their care at risk for having health problems that could be deadly or lead to thousands of dollars in vet care. First, avoid shopping for a pet on classified sites like Craigslist. Reputable breeders don’t advertise on the site. Additionally, avoid pet shops, as the care and heritage of these animals is sometimes questionable. Puppy mills are also a concern.

Beware of breeders who advertise online and promise to ship you a puppy without ever meeting you. Similarly, if a breeder wants to meet you in a grocery store parking lot, the animal is likely from a puppy mill or equally horrendous place.

Get a Medical and Behavioral History

Finally, after settling on a breed, a reputable breeder and possibly even a specific animal, get to know more about the breed and the puppy’s parents. Does the breed have a history of medical problems? How long does the breed usually live? Do these animals get along well with children and other pets? Visit the babies as often as you can until your pet is old enough to take home, and be sure to take your children so they can get to know their new pet too. You don’t want unpleasant surprises when you bring your new pet home. That’s not the time to learn your daughter is afraid of dogs or the pet requires more time than you have to give during the day.