1. Research breed(s) : Read books, articles, etc., go visit dog shows, AKC club meetings and owners. Good places to look are AKC.org, GDAC.org and conformation
shows to meet owners / breeders. Consider what temperament you are looking for in a dog, grooming and care requirements (also ensure that you will be able to properly maintain the required grooming, care, etc.), breed related health risks, exercise needs,
size, etc. and how all this will fit into your lifestyle. Consider the commitment and if you are ready to invest the time and money to a new family member for the next 10 + years.
2. Outline what specific interests and requirements you desire : Are you looking for a pet companion or do you want show in conformation or do performance sports?
3. Do your research on breeders, find one whose morals, ethics and values align with yours : When you research a breeder, ensure that you do so via reading about them, contact puppy previous puppy owners (if
you can), see reviews if available, testimonials, contact them, speak to them over the phone and in person (if possible). ***see note about proper etiquette at the bottom of the page before inquiring*** There are three main types of breeders you should know
about and will encounter in your research :
- Puppy Mills – this is a commercial dog breeding facility,
specifically meant to pump out as many dogs as possible with no regard to health of the parents or puppies. They breed dogs for profit alone. We associate this practice with filthy inhuman conditions which is what a lot of puppy mills are, but you also may
not realize that many “clean” and “well-kept” kennel facilities that are actually puppy mills. When there are many dogs (most of the time multiple different breeds) and many litters at once. There is little to no commitment and limited
knowledge from the “breeder” regarding the dogs they have produced. Depending on the prices charged, these dogs can be VERY cheap or very expensive (most of the time this depends on gender, “rare” colors and if you want breeding rights
or not). The risks associated with these practices if the future heartbreak for you and your family (behavioral & health conditions along with early death or structure breakdown) and breaking your bank (vet bills, diagnostics, multiple surgeries, etc.).
I do not support this practice and try to help people steer clear of these types of operations. Most of the time puppy mills will sell to pet stores and brokers.
Breeders or BYB – this is not a literal term that they breed or raise dogs in the backyard, but rather that they breed their dogs with little to no knowledge about the dogs they are breeding, including pedigree, issues in the lines, etc. and have no
direction for their breeding program aside from just breeding dogs. Most of the time the dogs being bred are “pets” bred together producing more “pets” for “fun” and money alone, they are practicing “backyard breeding”.
Granted many of the backyard breeders are well intentioned, the risk for the future heart break and money spent are very likely because they are breeding blindly, without knowledge of the pedigrees, health, longevity, genetics, etc.
- Reputable/Preservation Breeders – these types of breeders are unbelievably dedicated and committed to the betterment of the breed, for each puppy they produce and to each puppy family. They use the breed’s
written standard as a “blueprint” for what they want to produce. They are knowledgeable and willing to share all the information they have with you. They are involved in conformation (and possibly other working activities) because this is where
they learn more and have their dog’s structure and temperament “judged” for possible future breeding. Their dogs are fully health tested with all the testing recommended by their breed parent club and are of appropriate age and condition
to be bred. They carefully and meticulously interview prospective puppy families and a minimum of a two-year health / genetic guarantee is provided along with a contract of the expectations the breeder has of the puppy family (i.e.: spay / neuter requirements,
limited registration for pet homes, etc.). These dogs may cost more (usually reputable breeders pricing is similar to a backyard breeders or even less because a reputable breeder doesn’t charge differently for the “rare” colors) because the
breeder has invested so much into producing a quality dog with quality and longevity in the bloodlines, is very dedicated to their wellbeing in the first critical 8 + weeks and they follow up with their puppies for the life of the dog.
Some questions to consider and ask breeders:
- What is the overall goal of the breeder's program? Do they have a goal for their program?
- Are they knowledgeable and thorough about their bloodlines?
Have they done all the research necessary? Do they know the issues in the bloodlines?
- What is their experience in raising/breeding dogs and in the breed?
- Are they active in show/working venues?
- Do they fully health test their dogs prior to breeding? Do they
provide you with all documentation and links to show that they have completed these tests?
- Are the dogs being bred at appropriate age and condition to be bred? Are
the dogs being bred before two years of age? Do they have an excuse as to why the dogs was bred before two years of age?
- What environment are the dogs and puppies raised
in? What temperament testing and socialization is done? What types of socialization do they use for their puppy raising? Do they do early neurological stimulation on their puppies? **The first 8 weeks of a puppy’s life are critical for proper socialization
and positive experiences acclimating to the BIG world. This include walking on new surfaces, playing with not only their litter mates but also their mother and other dogs in the household, outside time, attention & interactions from their breeder and trusted
friends / family, new toys, etc. Getting this type of stimulation early on will produce well-adjusted puppies that are outgoing and happy, rather than a puppy who hasn’t received any of these experiences will likely be very scared, nervous, hesitant
and will likely never grown out of it***
- Do they breed carefully thought out selective litters or do they have puppies all the time? How many times do they breed their
females? Are they breeding their dogs every heat cycle? At what age do they retire their breeding stock?
- Read over and ask any questions you have about the contract.
- Do they provide you with instruction and commitment to answer your questions and help you along once you get your puppy? Do they care to receive future updates?
- Overall do you get a good, trustworthy impression? Are they professional?
- If you are unsure, is the
breeder happy to provide references for you to contact? Did they have an issue providing references?
- Does the breeder thoroughly interview you or are they more focused
on a "sale?"
- When you talk about price, are they upfront with you? Do they get offended if you ask about pricing first? (I prefer potential puppy owners to ask about price as I would hate to have an entire puppy interview only to find out that my puppies are outside of their price range.)
- Do they arrange for the ears to be cropped by an ethical and skilled veterinarian? Will they stay involved with aftercare and expertise for posting the ears? Vaccines/deworming? *** Ear cropping should be offered and arranged with the breeder
to be done by a veterinarian thet they trust. If the breeder doesn’t offer this service, they are essentially saying they don’t care how it is done or what the end result looks like. For a crop to be successful, ears should be done between 7 and
9 weeks of age, any later then 12 weeks of age is risky as the ears will be less likely to stand and / or need to have a shorter crop done.***
Many reputable breeders are in no rush to place their puppies in the first home available, or the first family to show up with cash in hand. This means that
they will be VERY selective and particular where they place their puppies. This also means that you cannot be demanding and are in no position to negotiate with them. Placement of a puppy comes down to timing of each litter, aligning with the best matched
owner for each puppy.
- Price - If price is the first concern and/or first question, I usually don't mind as I would
prefer for someone to know what price range, they are looking for rather than waste a ton of my time with the entire application process to find out my puppies are put of their price range. And don't ever ask a breeder if they will come down or negotiate with
you on price. This is the adoption of my precious baby to your family - not a sales transaction and I want to ensure that I am finding my puppies their forever homes. There are plenty of reputable rescues with great dane’s needing homes that will adopt
a dog to you for a lesser price then a puppy (usually).
- Professionalism - Please don't have your receptionist call me about a puppy. Yes, that has happened.
Try to arrange a time when your available and not around distractions. Choose a time when you will be fully available to have a quality discussion. Crude language is not appreciated either. Treat it like a job interview almost, have some information and questions
- Track Record – I will ask you about your current and previous pets. What your household consists of, your lifestyle, etc. If you have
been irresponsible in the past with your pets (lack of prompt veterinary care, lack of proper training, breeding mixed breeds or “accidental” litters, etc.) then it is unlikely that I would be able to trust you with one of my babies. BUT people
learn from their mistakes so the best thing to do is be 100% honest and upfront from the beginning. If you just aren’t a good fit with the breeder’s expectations, understand that they can deny you a puppy, this doesn’t mean that you are a
bad pet owner this just simply means that the breeder has high expectations. Many of the questions I will ask on the phone are similar to the ones I require answered on my puppy application. I do require that a puppy application be submitted before we
Besides the obvious from the above questions here are some RED FLAGS on breeders:
Giant / Supersized / “Euro” vs “American” : There is a breed standard for a reason, it is a risk and unethical to breed for overdone or underdone dane’s.
If you insist on an extremely small or large version, consider looking in rescues but be prepared for health and physical conditions or consider another breed that better suites your desired look.
Rare Colors / New Colors : Note there are 7 acceptable colors for Great Danes : black (black with white and solid black), blue, fawn, brindle, merle (merle and merle mantle variety), harlequin and
mantle. No breeder's lines are "perfect" especially in dilute varieties, but some have better reputation. And dilute variety is NOT RARE and should never cost more.
“Health Certified” : If you see a statement like "health certified" and nothing else, it is a red flag. Verify that the specific tests were done, and not just an overall veterinary checkup. (See the EDUCATION tab for
Breeding for pets only : A reputable breeder breeds for the betterment of the breed. They breed according to the standard
and for health, longevity and temperament. They will also be proving their dogs deserve to have their genetics passed on. Showing and competing is costly and requires a lot of time from the breeder. In every litter there will be puppies that are not to standard
enough for showing in conformation and they will be placed in a pet home with limited registration. Breeding only for pets shows they have no interest in improving the breed. If a breeder is only breeding for pets, this does not excuse them of needing to do
health tests and titling.
Always has puppies available : Quantity over quality.
Multiple Breeds and / or too many dogs to handle / maintain : Breeding requires so much knowledge and commitment from a reputable breeder, it would be almost impossible for a breeder to be able to
do all the proper research necessary to breed multiple different breeds responsibly. Some breeders prefer to specialize in a single breed, but it is very reasonable for a breeder to do very well in a couple of different breeds. Breeding several breeds is generally
a huge red flag and could mean the breeder is acting as a puppy broker (reselling dogs for profit) or a puppy mill.
Guarantees : No dog can
be guaranteed against everything, but reputable breeders will stand by their dogs and be there for any issues you may encounter while raising your dog. Many breeders will include a guarantee when they place their puppy in a home – this does not mean
that the dog will never contract any of the issues the guarantee covers, if it is in the guarantee this means that it is always a possibility. What the guarantee means is peace of mind and commitment from the breeder that IF the dog does develop any of the
listed issues, the breeder will compensate or assist as the contract states.
Absence of detail or interest in their dogs / breeding program / questions
Lack of pre-screening of potential puppy owners. This shows that they truly don’t care about their puppies / dogs.
No pedigree knowledge : This is a simple test that can show you a lot about the breeder and where their heart truly is. Ask them about their bloodlines, are there any issues,
ask about the pedigree, etc. They should be able to tell you many things about the dogs in the pedigree.
Website : This one is more of an
opinion and can be taken with a grain of salt, but practically everything is done online now a days. A breeder should WANT to show off their dogs and share all the information they have acquired over the years. They should be aiming to educate and advocate
for the breed. Remember some breeders are tech savvy therefore don’t have a website. But this could also reflect their program goals / desires or lack of. You will have to decide for yourself whether this is important to you or not.
4. In the end, select a breeder you feel good about and maintain contact : After careful consideration to the questions above and more, go with what
you feel comfortable with. Fill out the necessary paperwork and pay your deposit when the puppy/litter that suits you is available. While you are waiting for your puppy, follow the steps in our PUPPY PROCESS to ensure you are prepared for your new family member.
5. Enjoy your puppy and follow up with your breeder : Don't forget to thank and update the breeder! Raising puppies is hard work involving
many sleepless nights and lots of puppy poo-poo. The real reward is hearing and seeing how successful and loved the offspring are in their placements. Also keep in mind that puppy phase can be challenging for the new owner, but just enjoy and love your pup
and with proper training they will mature into a reliable adult in proper time.