8 Signs of a Backyard Dog Breeder

I received a call recently from a long-time friend who wanted advice about getting a dog. She’d always adopted rescue cats, but she wasn’t finding the right dog for her at the shelters and rescue organizations in her area. So she browsed the internet and believed she found the perfect puppy—1,000 miles away. When she described the scenario, I told her that she was looking at the site of a backyard breeder. She couldn’t believe it, as it looked so legitimate with all of the pictures and testimonials.

While I have never purchased a dog from a breeder, I realize it’s a personal decision for all. I support reputable, responsible breeders. However, sometimes they are hard to identify, and well-meaning people can get tricked into believing that any breeder with a website is responsible. If they all were, our shelters wouldn’t be overflowing with dogs in need of forever homes. Here are my red flags that can help you identify a backyard breeder.

1. It’s all about the dog

If you are talking to a breeder and they are telling you everything about your desired puppy, but they never ask anything about you and your lifestyle, that is not a responsible breeder. You should feel like you are being interviewed for the most important job of your life, because you are.

A responsible breeder’s first concern is the dog’s new life and will want to know everything about you. Will the pup live indoors or out? Do you have other pets? How much time will the pup be alone every day? Are you in the city or country? Do you have a fenced in backyard? Do you have the financial means to care for the dog for life? My friend wasn’t asked any of these questions.

2. There is no contract

Responsible breeders care about their puppies as if they were their children. A good contract will state the breeder’s expectations of you and will ask for results of health tests. It is of their benefit to know if any health problems arise. A provision about when you’ll be spaying or neutering your pup will also be stated in the contract.

3. It’s not forever

The contract will also state that the breeder will take back the pup at any time during its life. Responsible breeders don’t allow their dogs to be relinquished to shelters. This was the first question I asked my friend. It was a sad answer. Also, a responsible breeder will want to stay in touch with you forever and see pictures of the pup throughout its life. She’ll be available to answer questions about your pup even after she’s collected your money.

4. No education

A backyard breeder doesn’t educate you on the breed. A responsible breeder is passionate about teaching you everything about the breed. Not every breed is right for every person. A good breeder wouldn’t sell a Border Collie to an inactive senior. A responsible breeder is like a matchmaker. They care that it’s a lifetime partnership and provide sound education about their breed.

5. Going home too early

A tell-tale sign of a backyard breeder is their eagerness to collect money early and send off pups too soon. Anything before 7 weeks of age can be damaging to the pup’s longtime behavior. It is crucial that pups stay with their moms for seven to eight weeks of age. They are developing critical social skills. If you are told they are weaned from their mom at 4 weeks, that is a huge red flag. Responsible breeders don’t have any problem keeping their pups longer than 8 weeks. In fact, they usually have a hard time letting them go.

6. There is no meeting

A backyard breeder is eager to just ship you the puppy, no questions asked, as soon as they have their money. A responsible breeder wants to meet you, even if you need to get on a flight. You should be encouraged to meet the breeder and the pups before you are ready to purchase.

The breeder’s job is to socialize the puppies before you take yours home. Make sure they have had a lot of human contact. The best breeders will make sure their pups are introduced to children, men with hats, men with beards, etc. It helps ensure that the pups don’t develop fears later in life.

 7. You don’t meet the parents

While the sire may not be on site, you should ask for pictures and hear everything about his personality. And the dam should definitely be onsite to meet. You’ll want to know everything about the parents—behavior, size, special personality traits, etc. It can tell you a lot about your future dog.

8. No activity in breed clubs

A responsible breeder is very active in breed clubs, eager to learn everything they can about their breed. They are passionate about educating others on the breed. Their job is to better the breed, and they only have one breed.

Again, this is a personal choice for all. I know the slogan, “Adopt, Don’t Shop” is very popular. My purpose in writing this is to educate those that have chosen to shop so that it helps minimize dogs dropped off in shelters.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I like the insight on these tips. Thanks for sharing.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

i prefer mine directly from the street! :)

Michelle A.
Michelle a3 years ago

Best dog is definitely a rescue!!!!

Donna Davis
Donna Davis3 years ago


Wendy Harris
Wendy Harris3 years ago

The second sentence made my hackles rise.

william Miller
william Miller3 years ago

best dog is a rescue

Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Zarafonetis3 years ago

I will NEVER buy any dog anywhere!!!
Adoption is my only choice & or option because then u buy, shelter animals die!!!