There are certain things in life worth spending on and doing some research, and if you're going to buy a purebred puppy, it's one of those circumstances worth going the extra mile. Unfortunately, there are people out there who see puppies strictly as a business and care more about money than raising healthy animals.
So how are you supposed to identify these shady dealers and adopt a puppy that's happy and healthy? Here are a few tips to identifying whether your potential breeder is legitimate or if they might be a "puppy mill."
They Don't Know, or Don't Share The Puppy's Parents
For a dedicated breeder, even though it may be their business, every litter is greeted with passion and excitement. Their breeding animals are their loves, and they invest time in making sure they are comfortable and healthy. A female shouldn't be having more than one or two litters a year, and an indication of a good breeder is that they actually don't have any puppies available. If they are breeding their animal at a reasonable frequency, it's likely you'll have to get on a waiting list for a puppy. Without seeing the parents, not only could they be unhealthy, it potential the puppy you're getting could even be stolen or second hand.
The Breeders Won't Let You See The Kennel
The kennel should be a breeder's castle, clean, dog-friendly, and fun. If your breeder refuses to let you see the kennel or only offers to meet you in places like store parking lots, it could be a sign that they don't have a safe environment for raising animals.
Puppy mills are notorious for close quarters that can lead to disease spreading through the kennel, or confined cages where animals are trapped with their own feces. When you get your puppy it should have a clean shiny coat and should smell good. If it's dirty or smells badly, it could mean that it was in one of these small, enclosed kennels.
They Focus on More Than One Breed
Puppies aren't sold like a "big box store." You shouldn't be able to find multiple different breeds all under one roof. A reputable breeder generally only focuses on one or two specific types of breeds, so if you encounter a breeder who purports to be a "one-stop shop" for lots of types of dogs, be wary.
They Don't Ask You to Sign Paperwork
A good breeder doesn't just care about their puppy when it's in their hands, they care about it in yours. That's why they will make you sign contracts and paperwork that ensure the puppy gets its shots, is spayed or neutered, is taken to the vet, and even that if you ever give up the dog it will be given back to them. If your potential breeders seems more eager to collect your money and get the puppy out the door than they do to make sure the animal will have a safe and healthy home, it should be a warning sign that the dog may not be coming from a very loving breeder.
They Offer The Puppy When It's Too Young
One way puppy mills cut their costs is by adopting out puppies as early as possible. A competent person knowing all about puppies would know how bad this idea is. Leaving their mother too early can cause many problems for puppies because they gain valuable antibodies and fat from their mother's milk, and rely on their littermates and mom for socialization. A puppy shouldn't be leaving its litter until it is at least six to eight weeks old.
The Pup Hasn't Had Its Shots
This is a good sign that the puppy you're getting is either too young, or that they simply don't care about the dogs' health. This is another way mills manage to cut costs, and dogs frequently don't get the basic or preventative care that a growing dog needs. Also, any puppy mill will not provide you with a special American Kennel Club package, as provided by Puppy Spot. So, ask not only about what shots your puppy has received, but what vaccinations it's parents have received as well.
Finally, be aware that breeders are reading the same types of articles you are, just like this one. Disreputable breeders will be ready when you ask questions and may even present fake paperwork, so be willing to ask further questions, ask for more proof, and dig deeper.