In rescue we really appreciate our adopters and people who want to help by finding a rescue dog. Unfortunately, the supply is limited. That’s wonderful for the dogs, but it means we will never be able to fill the demand. It means some of our applicants will look to breeders for their next Sammy.
Finding a good breeder feels like an impossible task. How do you find one who is doing it for the right reasons, and not just to make money?
We have worked at some point with nearly every breeder in the northwest, and we support their efforts. Here are some tips to help you find the puppy you’re looking for with much less worry about health problems down the road.
We used to say that if a breeder doesn’t want you to see their home, they are hiding something and you should avoid them. Times have changed. Now breeders have to worry about security, puppy theft, and animal rights extremists. Bio security is also a factor, since diseases can be introduced. Ask to see the parents, but respect that there may be reasons they might refuse. How do you know which breeders are reputable? Check with your closest rescue group. We are always happy to tell you about the good ones.
Does the breeder do health checks on the parents before breeding? This is a big deal. All our dogs come from a small original number of dogs, and there are problems in every line. If someone says “We don’t have to check. We don’t have those problems” you should run the other way. ALL lines have problems with hips, eyes, heart, or other issues. An honest breeder will explain that to you.
How do you know for sure? Go to www.ofa.org and type the kennel name in the search box. That will return a list of the tests they have done to ensure puppies will be as healthy as possible. The column on the right lists the names of the tests: hips, eyes, elbows, CERF, cardiac, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), or others. Click here for a sample (this is for Mystiwind, who no longer is breeding her Sammies; she only had a litter every couple years, but shows 167 tests).
A responsible breeder is going to ask you a lot of questions. Lifestyle, environment, work hours, and many other things. Someone who wants to make money on puppies asks if you want one.
Good breeders show their dogs. It’s not about showing off, it’s about the structure of the dog. The judge is charged with finding the dog that is most like the breed standard, a technical list that describes everything from the head to the tail. They want a dog who can do what the dog was bred to do.
Here’s an example: We had a dog named Charlie who came from a backyard breeder. Because she combined two dogs with faults in structure, his rear legs were too straight. It put stress on his cruciate ligaments and he suffered his whole life. He went through three separate major surgeries to repair problems. This was a breeder who didn’t care because she was selling puppies as fast as she could to pay for her daughter’s college expenses. That may be a good cause, but it was a lousy way to do it. It’s likely every pup she sold needed thousands of dollars in surgery. Or maybe they were put down. Be careful. Good breeders understand genetics.
Look at the pedigrees. Do the parents of the puppy have a CH in front of their name, or perhaps a string of letters after the name? It means they have been shown to multiple judges who said they are well bred. Don’t be fooled by those who say “there are champions in their bloodlines.” That means they bought dogs from people who cared, but it means nothing about the current generation. The breeding dogs should have those letters. (before anyone complains, I know some dogs just hate to be shown and will never be champions. That’s OK if enough other dogs in the pedigree are champions).
Does the breeder you are looking at have puppies available all the time? A reputable breeder will require you to apply and wait. You can’t get a puppy quickly without resorting to a backyard breeder or puppy mill, both of which we have in the northwest. We also have a few “retail rescues,” who charge as much as a reputable breeder. One even breeds rescue dogs and sells puppies. Northwest Samoyed Rescue has never asked for more than $500. The remainder of our costs are covered by donors who respect what we do.
A puppy might cost $3,000 or more. That’s really expensive, so breeders must be rich, right? Wrong. If they do all the health checks, both on parents and puppies, it only takes one c-section or a problem during pregnancy to put them in the hole financially. Of all the breeders we know in the northwest, none are what you think of as “rich.” Most have real full-time jobs and their breeding is done because they love the breed and want to make it better.
Please don’t ever judge a breeder by their website. A slick site saying all the right things only means they hired a good website developer.
This isn’t everything you should think about, but please keep these things in mind as you search for a puppy.