I breed Labrador Retrievers. There, I said it, and I am not ashamed.

In this politically correct world we live in, breeding, or buying, a purebred dog has become something people are hesitant to admit.  There is no shame in acquiring a dog from a good breeder.

If you’re hoping to add a furry friend to your home, consider the rescue route. There are many wonderful dogs out there needing homes. But maybe you have specific desires. When you buy a puppy from a good breeder, you know what to expect in appearance, size, temperament and trainability. You can ensure the parent dogs have appropriate health clearances and know you have someone to support you and answer your questions. There are advantages to turning to a good breeder. But how can you tell that you’ve found such a person?

Puppies from pet stores are not produced by good breeders. Typically pups come from commercial breeding facilities and are not well socialized or well cared for as babies. They are shipped at the earliest legal age and then placed in a store where noise, confusion and attention by many different people is the norm. Puppies purchased from pet stores often have health issues, and some have been mentally scarred as well. Training in areas like housebreaking and basic skills can be much more difficult, and some develop other issues as they grow older.

People who breed pups as a money-making venture typically don’t take the steps necessary to ensure they’re producing healthy, balanced dogs.  If the reason the person is breeding seems to be to make a profit, you should avoid him.

A quality breeder loves the breed and is working to maintain or even improve it. This breeder is doing something with his dogs, be it hunting, herding, conformation or obedience.  His dogs don’t just hang out in the backyard, they’re out proving themselves. Ask your breeder about titles the dogs or their parents have earned.

Quality breeders also know and understand the genetic health issues that are prevalent in the breed and know how to avoid them.  Some can be evaluated by genetic testing, while others can only be avoided by careful study of the dogs in the pedigree. Buyers should research and understand what health issues may impact the breed they want to purchase and know what type of screening is available. When you find pups you’re interested in, question the breeder. Does he know what problems plague his breed? Ask for health clearances. If it is an issue where testing can be done, ask to see the results.  If the breeder becomes defensive or evasive, claims the testing wasn’t necessary because his vet said the pup was OK, or doesn’t have a good grasp of what the genetic issues are, buy your puppy elsewhere.

Good breeders take care of their dogs. The parents should be kept in sanitary conditions and receive proper nutrition, adequate exercise and lots of time and attention from their owner. A well socialized mother dog will raise people-friendly puppies. The phrase “parents on premises” used as a “hook” by many casual breeders should actually raise a cautionary flag.  With the ease of artificial breeding, the dog that best complements the mother in pedigree, type, temperament and genetic background might be far away. If the breeder can show you pictures and health clearances, don’t be disturbed by the absence of dad.  If they do have the father, ask why they chose this particular dog to sire the puppies. If a person has one or two males that they consistently breed to all their females, it’s doubtful that they’re worried about the betterment of the breed.

How the puppies are raised should be of paramount importance to you. Most good breeders raise their puppies in the house or in a home-like environment. Puppies should be kept clean and have a variety of toys to explore and play with. They should be handled by people every day. The breeder should have a socialization plan in place and should be able to describe it to you.

A puppy from a good breeder will typically cost you more than one casually bred, because much more goes into the pup in quality of the parent dogs, health testing and the effort and expense of raising the puppies. Your pup will be a part of your family for the next 12 or 15 years.  It’s worth the extra investment.

A puppy should become a family member who blesses your life for many years.  If you choose to buy from a breeder, make sure you purchase from someone worth the trust you’re placing in him.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.