As a Yorkshire Terrier breeder, I have some good pointers on how to look for a reputable dog breeder.
1) When you call a breeder she/he should be kind and friendly over the phone and excited to answer all your questions to help you find the right puppy. The breeder should also be interested in learning more about you and your reasons for buying a puppy. A good breeder will always make sure she places the puppy in suitable and loving home where the new owner will dedicate enough time to the puppy.
2) The parents of the puppy should be on site when you go for a visit. Sometimes the father will not be there if the breeder uses someone else’s stud(male breeding dog) or sometimes the mother will not be there if the breeder only owns the male dog and studs him out to other female dogs and receives the pick of the litter and sells the puppy. However, in these circumstances these are usually called hobby breeders. They should still be able to provide you an address or a phone number of the owner of the female or male dog so that you may see that parent in person. Breeders that do not have either mom or dad on site are usually not real breeders and are dog brokers! Dog brokers will give you reasons or excuses to as why the parents are not there. Most common excuses are that they are selling the puppies for their grandparents or helping a friend or a relative out that doesn’t have time to sell the puppy. There is no excuse good enough and you should NEVER leave a deposit nor buy a puppy until you see both parents! Dog brokers are extremely common these days and almost always pose as ”breeders” because they know that they will have far less sales if people find out they are brokers. Dog brokers usually almost always buy from puppy mills in the Midwest for dirt cheap and resell the puppies for 3-4x what they cost. This is the exact same thing pet stores do so be very careful about protecting yourself from dog brokers who pose as breeders.
3) Parents and all puppies should be groomed, clean, and well cared for. Good breeders in my opinion usually have a total of six or less breeding dogs. In my opinion, the less breeding dogs the better! The most breeding dogs I have ever had at one time were four and that was already a full time job for me. Three female yorkies and one male yorkie kept me busy all day long because I had to give them equal amounts of love, attention, and proper care. I know there are some breeders out there that can handle a lot more dogs than I can at one time but I would be careful if you see too many dogs running around. The breeders home should be clean and somewhat odor free. I know it may seem impossible to have an odor free home when you are a dog breeder but it is possible! I kept my dogs and home clean at all times so my home barely had any odor whatsoever and a good breeder will clean often to prevent bacteria growth and germs that can make the dogs and puppies sick. Always ask the breeder to see where the dogs and puppies sleep at night and where they play during the day. A good breeder will keep those areas clean and the dogs should never be caged or crated all day long.
4) A contract for the sale of the puppy should always be provided with a health guarantee of one year from the date of purchase (sometimes from the date of birth). In the contract it should include a 72 hour return policy if the puppy gets sick because if its within 72 hours, usually the puppy was already sick before you brought him/her home. I offer a full refund including the entire deposit if any of my puppies are found to be ill within the first three days however not all breeders are willing to do that. You have to decide how much you trust the breeder and go with your gut instinct. See how willing the breeder is to work with you and make you happy if you want to change something you feel uncomfortable with in the contract. A breeder should always want to help you and work with you: however, be weary if a breeder is willing to bargain with you on pricing of her pups because good breeders know the value of their puppies and usually will not budge too much on price. Good breeders usually have a waiting list of interested customers so there is no need for her to lower her prices.
5) When it comes down to finding a good breeder i always tell people that they need to go with their gut instinct. You should be able to filter out good breeder vs. a backyard breeder or broker instantly after given the few points above. After the purchase of a puppy, the breeder will want to keep in touch with all the homes she places her puppies in and call often in the beginning to make sure the puppy is doing well. I still keep in touch with many of my customers from years ago when I first started breeding! I cannot stress how important it is to take your time to find the right breeder. Most people get caught up about finding the right puppy. You can almost always guarantee that as long as you find the right breeder, you WILL find the right puppy. Just remember, “You’re buying the breeder, not the puppy”.