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How to Recognize a Reputable Breeder



How long have you been involved with this breed?

The ideal response: at least several years. But a first-time breeder may fill the bill if she can show that she's being mentored by more experienced breeders.


What activities do you do?

Good answers to this question include conformation or obedience, agility or field trials. Less traditional activities, such as raising puppies for service work, are also great.


Why did you do this breeding?

Any response that indicates the breeder wants to improve the breed is a good sign.


Have you tested the parents? What tests have the parents had?

The breeder should show you certifications that the father (sire) and mother (dam) have no genetic diseases common to that particular breed.


What shots and worming’s do the puppies receive?

The breeder should list the puppies' immunizations and de-worming procedures or explain why she adopts an alternative plan.


How do you socialize the puppies?

Ideally, the breeder raises her puppies inside her home, so that they feel comfortable with a human household's sights, sounds and activities. If raised in a separate kennel, the puppies should have frequent contact with people of all ages.


Do you provide a health guarantee?

The only acceptable answer to this question is "yes." Generally, breeders agree to replace a puppy found to have a serious health condition within a few days of purchase.


Do you provide a contract?

Again, the only acceptable answer is "yes." The contract should outline spay-neuter requirements, provisions for returning the puppy to the breeder if necessary, and other aspects of the sale.


When can we take the puppy home?

No reputable breeder allows a puppy to go to a new owner before 8 weeks of age. Small-dog breeders often keep puppies longer.


How can we contact you after the sale?

A good breeder will want to stay in touch with you throughout your dog's life. At the very least, she'll give you a telephone number. At best, she'll call or e-mail you periodically to check on the puppy.

What is a Responsible Breeder?

A responsible breeder:

  1. Allows or requires you to visit and willingly shows you all areas where the puppies and breeding dogs spend their time.  Those areas are clean, spacious and well maintained.

  2. Has dogs who appear lively, clean, and healthy, well socialized and don’t shy away from visitors.

  3. Keeps their breeding dogs: not overpopulated, crowded, dirty, or continually confined to cages.

  4. Allows their breeding dogs plenty of space and plenty of time to exercise.

  5. Breeds only one or a few types of and is knowledgeable about the breeds and their requirements.

  6. Doesn’t always have puppies available, but may have a waiting list for the next available litter, or refers people to other responsible breeders or breed clubs.

  7. Meets the psychological as well as physical, needs of their dogs by providing toys, socialization, exercise and enrichment that befits the breed.

  8. Encourages you to spend time with the parents, at a minimum the mother when you visit.

  9. Has a strong relationship with one or more local vets, and shows you records of veterinary visits of your puppy.

  10. Explains the potential genetic and developmental problems inherent to the breed.

  11. Can provide documentation showing that the parents, and grandparents have been evaluated, (this includes testing for genetic diseases for which there are valid testing protocols available).

  12. Offers guidance for the care and training your puppy, and is available after you take your puppy home.

  13. Can provide a list of references form other families who have purchased one of their puppies.

  14. Is actively involved in one or more local, state, and/or national clubs.

  15. Sells puppies only to people he/she has met in person.

  16. Refuses to sell puppies to pet store’s, or to unknown buyers over the internet.

  17. Provides you with a written contract, and health guarantee, and encourages you to read it through thoroughly and will clarify any concerns you may have regarding said contract.

  18. Encourages multiple visits with your puppy and wants your entire family to meet the pup.

  19. Requires you to provide veterinary references if you have/ have had other pets.

  20. Requires you to sign a contract that you will spay/neuter the puppy unless you will be actively showing him/her.

  21. Requires you to sign a contract stating you will return the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep the dog at any point in the dog’s life.

  22. Require that you provide proof from your landlord or condo board that you are allowed to have a dog.

  23. Explain why you want a dog, and what you know about the breed.

  24. Explain who in your family will be responsible for the daily care and training; where the dog will spend most of his or her time; and what “rules” have been decided on.

  25. Impress upon you the importance of obedience classes.

What is a Good Breeder?

A good Breeder (with a capital B):
1. Breeds with the welfare of their puppies first and foremost in mind.
2. Stands behind their puppies for the life of that puppy/dog.
3. Refrains from breeding litters in which there is a good chance of producing unhealthy puppies.
4. Strives to produce good examples of their breed.
5. Breeds to meet or exceed their breed standard.
6. Does health testing on the parents, siblings and other relatives for possible genetic diseases.
7. Breeds on a limited basis.
8. Loses money on every litter.
9. Thirsts for knowledge and never really knows it all, wrestles with decisions of conscience, convenience, and commitment.
10. Sacrifices personal interests, finances, time, friendships, and fancy furniture.
11. Goes without sleep, in the hours spent planning a breeding, or watching over the birth process, and afterwards, over every little sneeze, wiggle or cry, or from the every 2 hour feeding’s of the babies that need to be fed because mom doesn’t have enough milk or because of the loss of the mother.
12. Screens homes carefully.
13. Provides support for owners, and is willing to take the puppy back or helps find another home if it doesn’t work out.
14. Does not let their puppies go to new homes before the pups have reached 8 weeks of age or older.
15. Ask for references from your vet, or friends and family members and will call and check the references.
16. Ask questions about you, your family and your life.

American Shetland Sheepdog Association Guidelines for Ethical Behavior

These recommendations are meant as guidelines for what the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA) considers ethical dog-related practices in the areas of breeding, selling, buying, and exhibiting the Shetland Sheepdog.


1) The ultimate goal of the responsible breeder should be to improve the breed by producing attractive, healthy, puppies with good temperaments, whether for pet or show.

2) Breeders should have a basic knowledge of genetics, the breed, dog breeding in general, and the specific faults and virtues of their chosen genetic lines. They should also be aware of potential health problems, associated both with the breed itself, and the specific lines. This is to encourage improvement of the breed by using top quality stock, along with extensive, researched knowledge.

3) A breeder should be discriminating in the placement of his stock. A breeder should not sell to, or aid in selling a Sheltie to any person who he, or she, has reason to believe will not provide proper care and environment, or who may use the dog in a fashion which is detrimental to the dog itself, or the breed.


4) It is recommended that breeders not sell puppies under the age of eight (8) weeks and/or without proper, documented, immunization and health protection for their age.


5) Breeders should be honest and forthright in answering questions pertaining to their Shelties.


6) Breeders should recommend future immunization and worming schedules, as well as ways to deal with various health and/or behavioral problems that might occur. Breeders should also inform new owners of any health clearances that have been performed on one or both of the parents.


7) The ASSA encourages all Sheltie owners that breed Shelties to assume more responsibility for dogs produced throughout their lives rather than just until the first sale.


8) Breeders should maintain the best possible health, safety, cleanliness and veterinary care for their animals, as well as proper nutrition and socialization; and should pass these recommended measures along to new owners.


9) All agreements should be in writing, and be clearly understood by all parties.


10) Breeding arrangements should never be established which would encourage the pet buyer to undertake a breeding program. If a "breeder" does not have the time, facility or desire to themselves have a litter out of a particular brood matron, that dog should not be passed to a pet buyer just to produce puppies.


11) Responsible breeders should require the spaying/neutering of all non-breeding animals and follow-up should be done to ensure that this aspect of the contract has been fulfilled.



1) Shelties used for breeding should conform as closely as possible to the breed standard.


2) Breeding animals should be screened and clear of discoverable genetic defects prior to breeding.


3) The following is a partial list of possible screening recommendations:
     Eyes certified normal.
     Hips clear.
     Thyroid tested.
     Males should be entire (monorchids and/or cryptorchids should not be used.)
     Dogs with questionable temperaments should not be used for breeding.
     Dogs on medication intended to alter the dog's physical or mental condition should not be used for                   



1) A responsible breeder prohibits the sale of animals or the provision of stud services/brood matrons to commercial operations, including puppy mills, pet shops, brokers, laboratories, auctions, raffles, or contest giveaways.


2) Motivation for breeding the Shetland Sheepdog should be the creation and improvement of the breed, rather than solely for financial gain.


1) Complete and accurate records must be kept; and those necessary forwarded to new owners.

2) Breeders agree to abide by all AKC rules and regulations, whether pertaining to breeding, exhibiting, record-keeping or any other aspect of purebred dog ownership.

3) Breeders will breed only AKC-registered dogs.


1) Sheltie owners should encourage public education, represent the breed honestly to prospective buyers, and help people to make informed canine-related decisions.


2) Breeders should make themselves available to the purchaser after the sale has been consummated to help with education counseling, grooming and other care questions as well as solving behavioral problems.


3) Breeders should make available to fellow breeders any information they have that might aid in that breeder's efforts to improve the breed.


4) ASSA members should be an example of leadership and outreach to encourage proper ethical behavior.



1) Maligning of others or others' dogs is inappropriate. Good sportsmanship is appropriate at all times.


In general, all dog owners have a responsibility to their canine companions to provide proper care and humane treatment at all times, whether in a multiple or single dog household. Proper care and humane treatment includes adequate and nutritious diet, clean water, adequate exercise, clean comfortable living conditions, regular veterinary care, kind and responsive human companionship, and training for appropriate behavior.


Dogs should not be kept in circumstances or numbers where all of these needs cannot be adequately fulfilled.



Approved by ASSA Board of Directors - May 1996

Courtesy of ASSA Guidelines for Ethical Behavior – American Shetland Sheepdog Association

Evaluating a Breeder


Five questions to ask every breeder

  1. How long have you been breeding dogs?
    The answer should be be several years, and the breeder will have ideally worked with someone else who had worked with the breed for a long time.

  2. Do you sell your dogs to pet stores, puppy brokers, wholesalers, or online?
    If the answer is "yes," walk away immediately.

  3. Can I visit the facilities where you breed and house your dogs?
    If the answer is "no," its likely they have something to hide. This would be a good reason to look elsewhere.

  4. Can I meet the litter of puppies and their mother?
    If the answer is "no," walk away. (Note that it is normal for the father to be in another area or even offsite.)

  5. Can I see the veterinary records of the puppies and their parents?
    If the breeder cannot produce these, that's another reason to walk away. If the breeder has the records, but the puppies haven't been vaccinated or dewormed (and there are no plans to do so), look elsewhere!


What to expect of responsible breeders

To ensure you're not supporting inhumane breeding practices or commercial puppy mills, it's critical that you thoroughly research any of your potential breeders. At minimum, ensure the breeder is licensed, request to tour their breeding facility, and be sure to ask questions (like the ones above) to ensure they comply with expectations of responsible breeders.


Responsible breeders should:

  • Be inspected and/or licensed by the USDA and/or state regulators — and adhere to the regulations for breeders and breeding facilities ,

  • Allow tours of the premises where the breeding operation takes place and to meet the mother of animals being bred

  • Sell their animals only to individuals (never to pet shops), often selecting pet owners in advance of pet’s birth

  • Specialize in one or two breeds

  • Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the breed’s history, traits, temperament, etc.

  • Breed their animals only a limited number of times — not every year or multiple times each year

  • Consistently evaluate the health of their breeding animals and their offspring to ensure the well-being and optimal health of all animals in their care

  • Do not separate offspring from their mother before 6-8 weeks of age

  • Provide registration paperwork and/or health certificates related to the animal prior to purchase

  • Accept check or credit card payment and provide a receipt at the time of sale


Beware of breeders who are unwilling or unable to comply with any of the above expectations. Keep in mind that there are many breeders, shelters, and even breed-specific rescues — don't let your desire for a specific breed prevent you from making an informed decision.

Non Commercial
AKC Rules
Evaluating Breeder
What is a Responsible Breeder
What is a Good Breeder

     This information is provided purely to help you make an
"EDUCATED" and "INFORMED" decision!

ASSA Guidelines
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