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What do I look for in a Breeder?

This is a question we often get asked. Everyone wants to be a responsible and informed consumer. (Yup, you are purchasing a product.) So, we put together this little checklist of things to look for when purchasing a pup. We've put this together for the Weimaraner specifically but it could easily be adapted to any other breed. We included space for you to add other information that is important to you, such as price, location, and availability.

We've organized this into areas to be explored with your potential breeder. The neutral areas are the minimum you should expect from your breeder. Red lights are things that should warn you away from a breeder. Green lights are kind of like bonus points - good extras to be looking for.

In any breeding situation, expect to find red lights and green lights. Your job, as a responsible and educated consumer, is to weigh what you find with the other factors important to you - such as price, location, and availability. Then, make an informed choice.

The AKC not too long ago did a study on which bitches were producing the puppies being registered. (The concerns being that puppy millers were producing the majority of pups.) It turns out that of the bitches bred who produce registered pups; the vast majorities are bred only once in their lifetimes. This would seem to indicate that the "backyard breeders" or those new to the fancy are producing most of the purebred pups out there. Consequently, this checklist is geared to assist you in finding the best of those one-time breeders.

We want this to be a living list - so if we've missed something, or you think this document could be improved on in any way, pleaseEMail us with your recommended changes.

Here are the areas that are covered:

This is a lot to take in so here's a text only version of this page to print.


This Litter/Puppy

My Needs

Use: pet only, hunting companion, field competition, formal obedience, tracking, search and rescue, show competition, etc. 
Temperament: soft, easy, medium, tough, drive, hard, etc. 
Family: no kids, small kids, older kids, other pets, cats, etc.






Neutral Expect your puppy to be registered with one of the reputable stud books: 
  • American Kennel Club (AKC)
  • United Kennel Club (UKC)
  • Field Dog Stud Book
  • Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
These kennel clubs make some effort to ensure the very worst "breeders" can not register. For example, persons convicted of cruelty to animals are suspended from the AKC (and UKC - I believe).
Remember however that a registration is simply a record that the dog is purebred. Registrations are given based upon the word of the breeder. No one from these organizations comes out to look at the litter or see how it's being raised. Registration is NOT a sign of quality.

Red Lights
  • If you come across a puppy that is registered at some other lesser-known registries, run away - very, very fast. There are a number of so-called registries that exist so that the puppy millers and others who have lost their privileges at the reputable organizations can continue to breed and sell puppies. It's not an easy thing to be suspended from these organizations. If someone has been, it's for a good reason.
  • You may come across a litter or a pup that is not registered for some reason. Why was the litter not registered? Does the breeder care so little about what they are doing? Be sure to ask why the puppy or litter isn't registered. And carefully consider the answer. If you are looking for a good family companion and care little about a registration - this may be less of a red light for you.

  • One tidbit to assist you in this situation. The genetics of the coat color of the Weimaraner are unique. If you are looking at a litter of silver-gray Weimaraners - they are purebred. They have to be because of the genetics. (OK, there are a very few crosses that might produce silver-gray, such as an Isabella Doberman to a silver-gray Weimaraner. However it's unlikely you'll come across this situation, as these crosses are very rare.) Blues, however are another story. If you crossbreed a silver-gray Weimaraner with almost any other colored dog you will get "Blue Weimaraners". This isn't to say there aren't purebred blue Weimaraners - there are. But you need to be extra careful in this situation. Finally, two silver-gray Weimaraners can only produce silver-gray pups. If some other color is mixed into the litter a different dog sired those pups. A Blue to Silver-gray pairing will usually produce a mixed color litter.

Green Lights
  • Puppies registered in multiple registries. This is called "cross registered". One of the registries will be the primary registry. Make sure it's one of the ones listed.
  • Expect your breeder to be willing to work with you when it comes to payment. Good breeders want their pups in the very best homes and will work with those homes to make that happen.
  • Expect to place some kind of deposit on a pup that is not ready to go home yet.

Red Lights
  • The ability to pay by credit card. This is a sign of a commercial operation. Commercial operations look to the bottom line - not necessarily the well being of their pups. It may be that the breeder has access to credit processing through another business. That would be OK, but check it out.
  • A breeder unwilling to work out payment arrangements. This is less of a red light, particularly in areas where demand is high and supply is low. In these cases, the breeder may have a waiting list of outstanding homes for pups and may not need to be a flexible in this area.

Green Lights
  • Breeders who offer "rebates" or "incentives". Breeders may offer rebates or incentives to their buyers for providing proof of excellent care and training. Examples might be: spay or neuter, completion of a Basic Obedience Class, or attainment of a title or award.
Neutral Expect to see some kind of advertising:
  • Local Classified Ads
  • Pet Store Flyers
  • Dog Club Ads

Red Lights
  • Out of area advertising. There is one exception to this, which is advertising on the Internet - it can't help but be out of area. If you see ads in the classifieds for out of area breeders or "puppy brokers" (people who will find a pup for you) beware. If breeders are advertising outside their own area that means they are producing enough puppies that they have to advertise at a distance. Lots of puppies generally mean poor puppy care. 
  • Short classified ads. As a rule of thumb you can judge the quality of the litter by the length of the ad. More information means a more informed and responsible breeder.
  • Dropping puppy prices. A breeder who has so many pups left over that they are having to drop the price on pups in order to sell didn't go into the breeding very well informed. The best breeders usually have much of the litter sold before it's even bred.
  • The biggest red light of all: Breeders who sell through an intermediary like a pet store or a puppy broker. These breeders truly don't care about where their pups wind up or what kinds of situations they go into. If they don't care about the puppies' futures, how much did they care about what they were producing?

Green Lights
  • Breeders who don't need to advertise. The very best breeders don't need to advertise. They sell puppies by word of mouth. Or other breeders frequent them . Or they have a lot of repeat buyers. If you're lucky enough to find one of these breeders - expect to sit on their waiting list for a while until they have the right pup for you.

  • And how do you find these breeders? Through word of mouth. Go to dog shows. Go to field events. (Go to the AKC web page at to find a list of your local events.) Contact the Weimaraner Club of America. Contact the local Weimaraner Club. Basically, beat the bushes until you find a breeder you like and are comfortable with.
Buyer Background Check
  • Expect to be interviewed.
  • Expect to answer a questionnaire.

Red Lights
  • Breeders who will sell to anyone walking in the door with their checkbook out. These breeders don't really care about the future of their pups. They'll sell to anyone, any time, who has the money. If the breeder doesn't care where their puppies go - what kind of care did they take in planning the litter? And what kind of care will they give you if your pup has problems?

Green Lights
  • Home visits. More difficult when purchasing at a distance, the breeder may be able to arrange to have someone else do the home visit for them.
  • References required. Expect those references to be checked. If you have pets now, expect one to be your vet. (Be sure the call your vet and let them know it's OK to answer questions from your potential breeder.)
  • Feeling like it's easier to adopt a child than get a puppy out from under this breeder. These breeders are very careful about where their pups go. Their concern is for the future welfare of the pup.
  • Breeders who try and talk you out of buying a Weimaraner. The Weimaraner is not an easy breed to own. (See our FAQ pages for more details.) Responsible breeders will be sure to highlight the difficulties in having a Weimaraner. They are concerned about your well being too.
Breeder Background Check
Neutral Most breeders won't offer this information. But if you ask for it they should unhesitatingly provide it.
  • References, their vet and previous buyers
  • Experience statement
  • Clear statement of what they offer to buyers

Red Lights
  • Breeders who refuse to provide this information.
  • Breeders who can't provide this information.
  • Breeders who don't understand why you require this information.

Green Lights
  • Breeders who have a prepared sheet or list to give prospective buyers.
  • Breeders who have a written "mission statement" or set of "breeding goals". These are breeders who have thought long and hard about the direction they want their breeding program to take.
Questions about the litter.
Why was this litter bred?
Neutral Always, always, always, ask this question. It will give you more insight into who this breeder is and what you can expect from your pup than any other. OK answers are:
  • Because this bitch has qualities we wanted to see passed on. (with a list of those qualities)
  • Because the dog has qualities we wanted to see passed on. (with a list of those qualities)

Red Lights
Any of these answers:
  • To get our money back out of her.
  • So the kids could see the miracle of birth.
  • To make money.
  • So that she'd be "fulfilled" before we spayed her. (Sometimes at an unenlightened vet's recommendation!!)
  • Because we thought it would be fun.
  • We like her a lot and wanted to keep one of her pups.
All these answers show a lack of forethought and planning. The actual breeding was probably pretty haphazard, as was the care of the pups.

Green Lights
Answers like:
  • This breeding furthers my breeding goals. With a detailed explanation of how that is.
  • Because we were looking to produce pups with specific qualities. With a detailed explanation of those qualities.
You're looking for any sort of answer that shows forethought, planning, and specific goals for the breeding. This means research was done before the litter was bred.
How often do you breed?
  • Less than once per year
  • No more than twice per year

Red Lights
Look for answers that show too many pups for the breeder to raise properly. Or, that they are producing pups so quickly they may "burn out". Each litter requires tremendous amounts of time to raise, expose, and evaluate properly.
  • Multiple litters on the ground at one time
  • More than two or three times per year

Green Lights
  • Whenever I can keep a pup. This means the breeders are breeding for themselves. These litters are not haphazard but are well thought out and researched.
How often has this bitch been bred?
  • No more than once per year or every other season
  • No more than three or four total litters

Red Lights
  • Bitches bred every season. This is hard on the bitch. And it shows an interest in puppy production over the care and welfare of the bitch.
  • Very occasionally, you may run across a breeder who is breeding the bitch "back to back" that is, two seasons in a row. If this is the case be sure to find out why. Also, how long she was "rested" before these breedings. And how long she'll be "rested" before she's bred again. You want to see at least a year on either side where no litters are bred. And a sound reason for asking this of the bitch.
  • Bitches who have had more than three or four litters. Only the smallest percentage of truly great bitches should be bred this much. And it's unlikely that you'll run into pups from these bitches, as these pups tend to stay within the breeding community.

Green Lights
  • Bitches bred less than once per year
  • Bitches with only one or two litters.
Sire and Dam Genetic Screening / Health Checks
  • Expect both sire and dam have OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of America) or Penn-Hip certification of being free from hip dysplasia.
  • Expect one of the parents to have a CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) certification of "normal". This certification is just starting to become more common as it's getting easier to find ophthalmologists who can perform the exam. However, don't be surprised if neither parent has a CERF. As well, CERF certifications are only good for a year from the exam. It isn't common for the Weimaraner to be recertified on an annual basis. This is because Weimaraners are not susceptible to degenerative eye diseases. At least not that anyone's discovered so far.

Red Lights
  • No health certifications. Indicates a breeder who either doesn't know or doesn't care. They probably bred Maggie to Butch down the street for no other reason than he was convenient.
  • Only one parent with hip certification. It used to be that the breeder had an "out" on this because the OFA won't certify hips before 2 years of age. However, the Penn-Hip certification can be done even at very young ages. So, this is no longer a valid excuse.

  • Penn-Hip is still fairly new in the certification arena - and is still not widely accepted. So, a breeder using a dog under the age of two may have had a preliminary hip screening done. This is OK too, provided the x-rays were sent to the OFA for a preliminary reading.

Green Lights
  • Listed from most common to least common
    • both parents with CERF normal certification
    • von Willdebrand's disease negative certifications
    • OFA Thyroid normal certifications
    • OFA Elbow normal certifications
  • Breeders who can (and will) give you the health history on one or both sides with regard to
    • Bloat / Gastric Torsion
    • Immuno Defficiency
    • Distochyasis (Extra Eyelashes)
    • von Willdebrand's Disease
    • Hip Dysplasia
Picking Pups
  • Expect your breeder to give you some advice when it comes time to pick your pup. After all, no one knows the litter and the individual personalities as well as the breeder.

Red Lights
  • Breeders who can give you no insight into the personality of the individual pups. These breeders either don't know what they were looking at, don't care what they were looking at, or didn't pay attention. In general their attitude is that all puppies are alike, so what does it matter.
  • Breeders who don't offer any advice about your pick. Their attitude is one of "take the puppy and go."

Green Lights
  • Experienced breeders who pick for you. These breeders are confident in their ability to select a pup for you and your situation. And, they have the experience to back it up. (Be sure to ask about a breeder's experience in this area.)
  • Experienced breeders who select a pup for you and make a recommendation to that effect, but still leave the final selection in your hands. As above, be sure to ask about their experience in evaluating pups.
  • Breeders who can provide written notes on each pup. Who have carefully evaluated each pup and noted what they observed. These breeders have the most insight of all to offer. And, since they wrote it all down, they do not have to rely on memory to make recommendations.
  • Breeders who have had the litter evaluated by one or more outside persons. Many breeders will do this to verify their own evaluations or to get a more experienced breeder's opinion. Remember however, that these outside evaluators are seeing the pup for only an hour or two. The breeder will still be able to offer a better insight than any outsider.

Contracts are a complicated topic. So we've broken it down into subtopics.
Is there a contract?
  • Most one-time breeders will not offer a written contract. However, they should be willing to give you one if you ask for it.
  • Note that most of the written contracts offered by breeders are basically unenforceable in a court of law (most breeders can't afford lawyers to write up a contract for them). But the fact that a breeder is willing to put it in writing is an indication that they are willing to abide by what they write down.

Red Lights
  • No contract
  • A breeder who doesn't understand why you would want one
  • A breeder who refuses to put anything in writing for you

Green Lights
  • Good contracts will protect you, the breeder, and the puppy. They'll also have some sort of paragraph describing how disputes are to be settled. (Contracts without something like this are basically unenforceable.)
Health Guarantee
  • Two year health guarantee against hip dysplasia (it can't be truly diagnosed before then except in the worst cases).
  • Coverage of vet bills up to the purchase price of the pup if a genetically related health problem is found.
  • Do not expect the breeder to cover health problems that do not have a genetic component.

Red Lights
  • No health guarantee. This is definitely "buyer beware" territory.
  • A health guarantee of less than two years. A favorite ploy in the pet store, many genetic disorders can't be diagnosed until two years or later.
  • A breeder who requires the return of the pup if something is found. Come on, who's kidding who? You're going to love this dog and be very unwilling to send it back if something is found. You're going to want to keep the dog and make the best of it. And the breeder knows this. This kind of clause is basically an "out" for the breeder should something go wrong. They know it's unlikely it will ever actually happen.

Green Lights
  • Guarantees against:
    • von Willdebrand's Disease
    • Disachyasis (which can be diagnosed before the pup goes home)
    • Other diseases of proven genetic cause
    • Immuno Deficiency (no proven genetic cause)
  • Breeders who do not guarantee the health of the pup unless the special Weimaraner vaccination schedule is followed. Immuno Deficiency problems in the Weimaraner have been linked to the standard protocol of puppy shots. For this reason, a different protocol has been established for the Weimaraner. Many Weimaraners have followed the standard protocol and been just fine. However, why take the risk if you don't have to. Because Immuno problems can take many forms - many breeders will null out their health guarantee if the special protocol is not followed.

  • You may be wondering why this is a green light. It's a green light because your breeder is aware of this problem in the Weimaraner and the associated protocol to help prevent the problem.
  • Guarantee of Use. That is the breeder will guarantee that the pup is suitable for the use for which you purchased it. If you purchased a show quality pup - that means the dog will grow to have no disqualifying faults. If you purchased for hunting - that means the pup will have hips sound enough to run on. When there is a guarantee of use, don't expect any guarantee beyond physical characteristics. Temperament and Ability are too far out of the breeder's control once the pup leaves the breeder. The breeder may guarantee that the pup was temperamentally suited and showed natural ability for your use when the pup left the breeder's care. But, don't expect anything beyond that.
Lifetime Return Policy
  • Most breeders do not offer a lifetime return policy. However, should you need to place your dog in the future they should make an effort to assist you in finding a home for that dog.

Red Lights
  • Breeders who you don't know and can't contact should something go wrong.
  • Breeders who don't maintain contact with their buyers so that you can find them should you need assistance.

Green Lights
  • Something to the effect of: "If at any time, for any reason, you can no longer care for the dog. It will be returned to the breeder. If you have found another home for the dog the breeder must approve that home before the dog is placed there." These breeders are the best of all. They take their responsibility to their pups seriously. They are doing their best to ensure that no pup of theirs is ever placed in a shelter.
  • Do not expect the breeder the buy the dog back. They are simply guaranteeing a good home for the dog should something happen to you.
Future Breeding
  • Breeders who use the AKC Limited Registration for their non-breeding puppies. The Limited Registration means that progeny of the dog can not be registered. And that the dog may not enter Conformation Shows ("Dog Shows"). They may, however, compete in any other AKC event.
  • Breeders who give a Full registration on their breeding puppies.

Red Lights
  • Breeders who give a full registration on every puppy they produce. These breeders haven't taken the time to find out which pups should or should not enter the gene pool. They are not looking to better the breed in the future. And may even use a full registration as a sales ploy. ("Breed her once and you can get your money back out of her.")

Green Lights
  • Breeders who require their breeding stock to be sold on a "co-ownership" to people who are new to the fancy. This is only a green light when the purpose of this co-ownership is to provide mentorship and an introduction to the person who is seeking to enter the fancy.

  • A word on co-ownerships here. Many lifetime friendships have been lost over poorly planned co-ownerships. If you enter into one you must, must, must do the following:
    • Enter into co-ownerships only with people you like and are comfortable with.
    • All co-ownership agreements must be put into writing.
    • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each co-owner in this partnership.
    • Clearly outline who pays for what.
    • Create an atmosphere of open and honest communication.
    • Ensure the each party understands everyone else's goals and expectations.

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Last revised on March 21, 1998
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