Pick a breeder who will give you a health warranty in writing, as ‘backyard ‘ breeders will rarely, if ever, give any form of guarantee, whether verbally or in writing. A health guarantee does not prevent your puppy from possibly ending up with a health problem, but a health guarantee shows that the breeder is prepared to stand behind the health of his/her puppies and dogs, and will – should the need arise – help the buyer of his/her puppies in any way he/she can.
Finding a good breeder is a time consuming process. It requires patience. Good breeders usually have a waiting list. They cannot produce a puppy for you within two or three days. Sometimes it may take months or even a year to find the right puppy. Remember, this puppy will become a member of your family possibly as long as 15 years. There are plenty of unethical breeders – or sub-standard breeders, pet shops or brokers and importers - out there that will be only too happy to take advantage of people who are looking for a puppy "right now”.
When you have found, what you determined to be a ‘good breeder’ go and visit the breeder, if at all possible. Look at the dogs, the puppies, the way in which they are housed, how they are kept. If you are not allowed to see all the dogs, find out why. It is quite responsible of a breeder not to allow anyone to see one week old puppies, but be wary if you cannot see 6 week old puppies, their mother, or specific dogs, which the breeder keeps. The father of the puppies may not live with the breeder, but with a different owner, so it is possible that you cannot always see the stud dog.
Take your time, look at the puppies you came to see, possibly to choose from, see their interaction with each other, with the humans around them, with you as a stranger, and try to evaluate which puppy’s personality you like the most. If that puppy is for sale, place a deposit on the puppy if it is not old enough to leave home.
Here is some information for you, in case you are looking on the Internet and in the papers for your new pet:
Looking for a reputable breeder is a MUST, because there are many people, representing themselves as 'breeders'. However, when you check and ask pertinent questions or for copies of contracts, warranties, and information about health issues, their answers can tell you who is to be considered ethical and reputable and who is not.
A number of people sell puppies, but have no knowledge about the dogs and the breed, buy the puppies only for re-sale, or are so-called backyard 'breeders', with nowadays most of them advertising on the Internet as 'breeders' on different sites - some of them even going so far as to say their dogs and puppies are "FIC registered" - not to be confused with the reputable European registry, the FCI. The FIC is not a register, which most reputable breeders deem desirable, as FIC appears to register mutts as well as experimental 'breeds'.
New registries have been in existence for some years, apart from the oldest registry, the American Kennel Club, AKC. Be cautious of people using the FIC, Continental Kennel Club (CKC), APR, American Dog Registry, Worldwide Kennel Club, Krystle Kennel Club, and Dog Registry of America. Often these people have their AKC privileges revoked or may be breeding a dog that was sold on limited AKC papers, which means without breeding rights.
Most reputable breeders of our breeds are members of the American Shih Tzu Club, the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club USA, Inc. and at least one or more national breed clubs.
Pedigrees can tell you a lot about a dog and his/her breeder or where it came from. When reviewing pedigrees on ancestors of the puppy you consider buying, beware of any names, which do not include a kennel name (prefix before the actual name of the dog - in my case 'AnGa's Star' for my Shih Tzu's or 'Eulenburg' for my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Names like "Prince Topper" or "Hailey's Charm" should be a red flag that these dogs are usually from less than desirable sources.
Please make sure NOT to purchase your new pet from a broker, importer, dealer or backyard breeder - not to mention pet shops - as you will have no real guarantee of health, in particular on genetic health issues or no knowledge of the parents having been health tested (for example, that the parents of your new CKCS puppy are 'Mitral Valve Disease' tested and found to be free). Ultimately, purchasing from anyone else than a reputable breeder, you will eventually either pay the price in high veterinary fees by realizing that your puppy looks and acts very differently than a puppy from a reputable breeder.
Please remember, ask all the questions you can think of, but be prepared to answer a lot of questions from the breeder. He/she is trying to evaluate if YOU are the right person for one of his/her ‘kids’. Remember that the breeder has the obligation to place the life, which was created through his/her breeding, in the best possible home. Bear this in mind, if you get asked questions, which you may think are too personal.