How To Recognize The Different Kinds of “Breeders”

What exactly is a breeder? Isn’t anyone who brings a litter of puppies (or cats) into this world a breeder?

What distinguishes the "Ethical Breeder" from the "Backyard Breeder"? Or the Commercial Breeder? Or even worse the dreaded “PUPPY MILL”?

THE PUPPY MILL  The Bottom of the Barrel

A “Puppymill” is a commercial breeding operation where dogs are bred under totally abhorrent conditions solely for the purpose of creating a profit.

Puppy millers are most often found in rural areas where the barking and howling of the dogs is less likely to upset neighbors, leading to investigations.
One sign of a PM with these conditions is that you will never be allowed to see the conditions where your puppy has been raised, its parents or its siblings … it will be brought to you by the PM to a separate area away from their “kennels”. A puppy miller will also drive to meet you to drop off a puppy rather than have you come and inspect their facilities.


The commercial breeder is a little better in that they are regulated in the U.S. by the U.S.D.A. and watched in Canada by the S.P.C.A. The facilities that the dogs are in are kept cleaner, and many actually have kennel help on hand to spend some time assisting at whelpings and socializing the puppies.

Once again they can be recognized by the fact that many breeds are available, that no questions are asked about you or your facilities (come with Cash or a credit card and you have your puppy).

THE BACKYARD BREEDER – A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing!

A backyard breeder is someone who keeps a number of dogs and either breeds them deliberately or just lets them breed. Backyard breeders may have a few dogs or many, one breed or several. 

They usually have no understanding of or concern about the breed standard, genetics, socializing the dogs, and maintaining their health. Don't confuse them with "Hobby Breeders," who breed small numbers of dogs and care for their dogs well. 

A backyard breeder who is successful in selling puppies may decide to expand and become a puppy miller -- someone who breeds dogs with profit as the one and only motive and concern. More often, though, backyard breeders simply allow the dogs they have to breed, and they often keep many of the offspring.

They frequently end up with too many dogs to care for properly. Backyard breeders get new dogs from a variety of sources, among them from ads offering dogs "free to good home".

Also, the term “Backyard Breeder” or "Hobby Breeders" refers to someone who chooses to breed their family pet because she’s so cute, or because everyone wanted one of her puppies (and the homes disappeared when they were born), or because they wanted their children to see the “miracle of birth”, or because the bitch “wouldn’t feel fulfilled” unless she had a litter, or because “they live longer (or are more feminine) if they’ve had a litter”, or any number of other Old Wives Tales.

THE ETHICAL BREEDER - Your Adopted Family
When the breeder who choses to follow this path bred their first litter, they most likely did it with the advice and assistance of a “mentor” – a knowledgeable person in the breed who gives of their time and advice to help a Newbie learn the ropes. 

 Most people who mentor others in the breed are almost always willing to help and teach those who display their willingness to learn – by their attention, their intelligent questions, their participation in dog related activities. In this way there is a continuous progression of new breeders in a breed as the elders retire.

The Ethical Breeder would have had all possible health clearances for genetic defects done on their female before looking to breed her. Depending on the breed this could be x-raying hips and/or elbows, Von Willebrands testing, eye clearances, thyroid testing, etc. 

 The EB will be honest with themselves about the faults of the female that they wish to breed, and will search for a mate who is exceptionally strong in those areas. 

While the ideal mate MAY be in the EB’s own kennel, more often than not they will be breeding to someone else’s dog, because their ethics to not allow them to maintain a large string of stud dogs sitting in kennels.

THE PEDIGREE – Your Dog’s Family Tree

A breeder will supply you with a Pedigree of your dog. This is simply a family tree, it is not a registration paper, and it does not guarantee that you will receive registration papers. All it does is give you a listing of the dogs in the background of your puppy. Even mixed breeds have a pedigree if their parentage is known.

A BIS in front of the name usually means that the dog has won Best in Show at an All-Breed dog show, which is quite an honour. A SBIS or BISS, usually refers to a Specialty Best in Show (or Best in Specialty Show), where only dogs of that breed are shown. It is said that a “balanced dog” has a title at each end of its name.

REGISTRATIONS – What It Is & What It Isn’t

A registration is a proof that your dog is purebred, that its parents are registered with the kennel club of the country in which it was born and that it is eligible to compete in AKC/CKC sanctioned events.


Sadly this is true. No matter how poor an example of its breed a dog is, it is registerable with the Kennel Club as long as its parents were registered. 

Therefore the advertisements that say that pups are AKC or CKC registered do not mean a lot to the pet puppy purchaser. You need to learn to read the pedigree of the puppy you are looking to purchase if you are looking for an indication of quality.

In the United States some breeders may choose to register their puppies, but most will give the purchaser the blue registration slip and have the purchaser register the dog.