A very few breeders are downright evil and fail to provide for even the basics of their animals’ needs. A few more are mentally ill, living in filthy homes packed to the rafters with freely mating dogs. These people are fairly easy to spot and avoid — unless their pups are cleaned up and sold elsewhere.
Some backyard breeders are not uncaring, they’re just uninformed. They don’t know that many of the dogs they produce can end up in shelters or spend their lives in pain from a congenital illness. They want a litter “so the kids can see,” or because “puppies are fun,” or because they heard breeding dogs is an easy way to make a little money. They aren’t bad people, but they’re still not good breeders.
A few things that should give you pause when dealing with a breeder:
Lack of knowledge about the breed. Someone who doesn’t know about the history of the breed or how suitable it is for different homes probably isn’t someone who’s too concerned about producing puppies that are fine examples of the breed.
Ignorance or denial of genetic defects. Every breed has some problems, and some of the most common ones — such as hip dysplasia — can cause great pain and cost big bucks. A person who isn’t aware of congenital defects almost certainly isn’t screening breeding stock to avoid the defects.
No involvement in dog sports. Every dog doesn’t have to be a champion before he’s bred, but you improve the odds of getting a high-quality purebred if you buy from someone involved in showing or otherwise competing with their dog. The point of a dog show, in fact, is to evaluate breeding stock.
Not letting you observe the litter, meet the mother or other dogs, or see where the puppies were raised. Healthy, well-mannered adult dogs and a clean, well-run set-up are a breeder’s best testimonial. If a person doesn’t want you to see anything except the puppy he’s trying to sell, you ought to be wondering why.
No documentation. If the purebred puppy’s represented as “AKC-registered” then registration papers should be available. (This goes for other registries, too.) So, too, should papers backing up health claims. A sales contract spelling out the rights and responsibilities of both parties is highly desirable. Such a document provides you with recourse should the puppy not turn out as promised — if he has congenital health problems or isn’t suitable for showing, if that was part of your intent in buying him.
Doesn’t seem to understand the importance of socialization. Puppies need to be nurtured, loved, and handled to make good pets. Someone who can’t explain what they’ve done in this area, or who tries to sell a puppy less than seven weeks old, probably doesn’t understand enough about puppy-raising to be breeding dogs.