A woman has bought two puppies from ethical dog breeders

How to Find Ethical Dog Breeders


Recent Blog:

Ethical dog breeders are finding their competition stacking up as the pandemic lags on.

Not because these ‘good eggs’ of the breeding industry are few and far between. New Zealand has plenty of caring, professional breeders. The real problem is that unethical dog breeders’ increasingly clever tactics make it harder to separate the wheat from the chaff…

Do you know about puppy mills in NZ?

If you don’t know much about this problem, read our article on puppy mills in New Zealand after you’ve read through this one. Sadly, these mills sometimes lead to a spike stolen dogs, here and in many other parts of the world too.

One of our most popular PD Insurance surveys revealed pets are helping Kiwis deal with the pandemic, leading to increased pet adoption. With heightened demand came more people wanting to take advantage of that demand by becoming part of the supply chain. And here we are.

Let’s explore how you can focus your attention on the ethical breeders when buying a new puppy.

dogs in a puppy mill

Finding ethical dog breeders in 10 steps

As a result of the heavy demand and short supply of purebred dog breeds, prices have reached an all-time high. Sellers are asking as much as $6,500 for a puppy, sometimes even more.

This new economy has resulted in a surge in black market dog trade. Puppy theft syndicates and unethical breeders are taking advantage of our desire for new canine besties. Especially purebreds and crossbreed ‘designer dogs’.

But you know what? We don’t have to buy from corrupt sellers. We can all help stop this problem in its tracks. How? By knowing how to identify ethical dog breeders and then sharing the knowledge with others.

So, without further ado, here are 10 ways to find ethical dog breeders…

1. Don’t mail order a puppy

don't mail order a puppy online - see the breeder in person

Although you can buy a puppy fairly easily thanks to the internet, they aren’t a ‘product’ you should purchase online. A dog is a friend for life, so don’t be in a rush.

Online ads often read “healthy dog for sale” or “both parents healthy”. In reality, the only way to know it’s true is visiting in-person. More on this further on.

Ethical breeders are selective and like to allow time for their breeding dog to recover. This is especially true for breeds that require a caesarean. This is why there can be waiting times for puppies. Be patient and don’t buy into scams.

Classifieds sites like Trade Me don’t filter what they sell or who sells it. So it’s up to you, the buyer, to be discerning when buying a puppy. To sum it up, avoid the mail order. You don’t want to be supporting puppy mills and you certainly don’t want to be a puppy scam victim.

2. Research registered breeders on Dogs New Zealand

Ethical dog breeders like this will be interested in ensuring these puppies go to a good home.

A breeder registered with Dogs New Zealand (the national kennel club) is more likely to be an ethical dog breeder. Make sure the breeder’s kennel is also registered with them. Dogs New Zealand goes through a number of checks during this process which helps rule out unethical breeders.

Is this the only step you need to take? We’d love to say yes but the fact is, different people have different values and morals. In other words, make your pre-purchase research is broad. This way you can ensure you’re purchasing a pup who’s bred in a way you are 100% happy with.

3. Get the dog papers

ethical dog breeders will give you the dog papers at no added cost

If you’re buying a pedigreed dog, the papers should come at no added cost and are standing proof your breeder is registered with the national kennel council.

Read how to prove your dog is purebred and part two in that series –  how to tell if a dog is purebred – so you know what to look for.

4. Ask questions and expect ethical dog breeders to do so too

ethical dog breeders like this one are happy to answer buyer questions

Get to know the breeder by asking basic questions about the puppy. For instance, ask about the pregnancy, birth and general questions about the breed. This will help you get to know the breeder’s standpoint and see they care about the puppy.

Expect ethical dog breeders to ask you questions too because it shows they care about the puppy’s future wellbeing. A breeder will be concerned about their puppies and want to know all about who you are to make sure each puppy has a good home for life.

5. Health reporting is key

Breeding dog gets health screening at vet

At the very minimum, ethical purebred dog breeders have a vet do regular health checks on their dogs, so ask your breeder for the latest vet report. Read our article on purebred dog pros and cons to find out why this is so important.

And if you’re set on getting a purebred pooch, do a bit of research on the breed’s common health issues. That way you can ask a breeder if they’ve done the required health checks and testing, which could include any of these:

  • Dog DNA tests
  • Hip scoring
  • Elbow grading
  • Thyroid tests
  • Heart testing
  • Eye testing
  • Hearing tests

When it comes to the above, the more the merrier so to speak. It’s a great indication that the breeder is professional and considered in their work. It’s important to understand what you are buying, along with a lifetime of love.

If your breed does tend to have certain health issues, ask the breeder what they’ve done to help prevent these from being passed on from parent to pup.

6. Use the dog professional network to find ethical dog breeders

man uses online network to check dog seller's reputation

If you want to find a trusted breeder, speak to your vet about a referral. Ask around at puppy schools, local dog clubs and events. Also talk to other pet parents or ask their breeder or vet for a reference.

The internet is a good place to check out what others say, e.g. on a breeders’ social media pages, but getting a trustworthy in-person reference is often more valuable. Read how to buy a puppy safely too.

7. Visit in person, more than once

Puppies start to open their eyes

Visit the puppy multiple times at the breeder and at different times of the day. This gives you the best chance to see if they’re healthy and happy. If you only visit once, a scammer can put on a show making it look like the puppy is in a safe environment.

Plus, be aware some unethical breeders may meet you at a house that they say is their homely breeding premises but is actually a front.

8. Meet the parents at the ethical dog breeders

Check a mum dog's living conditions to see whether she's well-treated

We’re not being paranoid – puppy theft is becoming a major problem. Read about stolen dogs in New Zealand here. If you meet the parents, this a) shows the puppy isn’t stolen and b) gives you a chance to see how healthy they are.

Puppy mills may keep breeding dogs chained/in cages, only releasing them to put on a show for potential buyers. Take note of whether the parent dogs show signs of fear. (Read is my dog scared to know what to look for).

9. Check the food and water bowls

check food and water bowls are clean and full

Check if food and water for the puppy and parents is clean and well kept. This is a good indication of how the dogs are being treated. Take a look around at the areas the dogs occupy – does it look conducive to healthy, happy puppies?

10. Consider adopting a shelter dog instead

There could be a lovable furball bursting with love and waiting to lock hearts with you in a shelter. Read our dog adoption checklist and bringing home an adopted dog.. Then you can both settle into life together quickly and relatively easily.

If your heart is set on a purebred pooch watch this video with Dr Cath Watson on how to find an ethical dog breeder:

Once you’ve watched this, it’s also a good idea to find out the top checks you should have on your ethical breeder health checklist. Here’s our vlog with Dr Cath to share some top points:

Pet insurance for dogs and puppies (and cats too)!

If you’re a first time pet owner you’ll be happy to know that, depending on your pet’s age, we offer one or more months of pet insurance free if you sign up online. If you have more than one pet, you may also be eligible for our multiple pet insurance discount.

Got your pup in your sights? Click below to get started.

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