menu close open event RSVP required ticketed event
Toggle Search

Selecting A Breeder

Be Smart when Obtaining a Dog

Don't patronize puppy mill breeders!

To find the right companion animal, do some research on breeds to find the best match for you and your lifestayle. Also, decide if you want to obtain your dog from a shelter, a breed placement group or a breeder. 

Responsible breeders try to improve the breed. Other breeders, often called backyard breeders or puppy millers, may act irresponsibly to maximize financial profits at the detriment of the dog, the breed and your pocketbook.

Learn more about adopting a dog from the Wisconsin Humane Society.  

There are many shelters in southeastern Wisconsin that have wonderful dogs available for adoption. These dogs will make grateful new family members and who are smart and eager to fit into your lifestyle. Please think twice before selecting an animal just for his or her appearance when you could be passing up the rewarding love and loyalty of a dog waiting for a second chance.

If you choose to obtain your dog through a breeder, familiarize yourself with his or her qualifications to make ensure that he or she is reputable.

Puppy mills perpetuate cruelty

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce puppies without concern for their physical, social or emotional needs. The puppies are sold to the public via the internet or newspaper ads, or to brokers and pet shops across the country. Unsuspecting consumers often obtain puppy mill puppies facing an array of immediate veterinary problems, or harboring genetic diseases that do not appear until years later. Such medical problems can be a financial hardship on the dog's family.

Animals originally from puppy mills and other unscrupulous breeders are regularly surrendered to the Wisconsin Humane Society because they are sick or have serious behavior problems. These animals were treated poorly from birth.

Many dogs from puppy mills are inbred or overbred, and receive minimal veterinary care, poor quality food and water, and very little socialization. Sadly, some dogs are forced to live in puppy mills for their entire lives. Repeatedly bred, female dogs are sometimes killed or sold once their reproductive years are over.

Most pet stores obtain their dogs from puppy mills and are making significant profit from the suffering of animals. There is one way to the end that cycle - don't support businesses that sell animals and don't obtain one from these sources.

Questions to Ask a Dog Breeder:

  • How long has the breeder been in business at the same location? Make sure they are not a fly-by-night operation.
  • Does the breeder have references you can contact?
  • How many types of dogs do they breed? Most reputable breeders only work with one or two breeds.
  • What are common health issues or concerns associated with the breed?
  • Does the breeder offer a written guarantee to provide a full refund of the price if the dog is later determined to have a serious preexisting medical condition or temperament problems?

If the breeder is not knowledgeable about the dogs and specific breeds he or she is selling, something is wrong. Reputable breeders know a lot about the animals they work with, and they provide references from satisfied clients.

Here are some tips to help you find a healthy companion animal:

  • Age: We recommend that puppies stay with their mothers and littermates until they are at least 8 weeks old. An early separation can cause lifelong behavior problems. Verify the puppy's age.
  • Proper socialization: Puppies should be friendly, not excessively shy or aggressive. If they've been well-cared for and around kind and loving people, they will most likely be very friendly and playful.
  • Vaccination records: By 8 weeks of age a puppy should have gotten one distemper combination vaccine, including a parvo preventative. He or she should also receive booster shots at 3 to 4 week intervals. Ask if the puppy has been de-wormed.
  • Has a veterinarian checked the puppy? Get a written and signed statement from the breeder's veterinarian indicating that the animal has received an exam. Ask for the name of the vet and call for verification. Reputable breeders do genetic testing of parent dogs to avoid passing on problems. Make an appointment with your own veterinarian for the day you pick up the puppy, or soon thereafter.
  • Nutrition: Ask to see what the breeder is feeding the dogs. Most good breeders will give you a few days' supply of dog food for you to take home and help your puppy's digestive system adapt.
  • ALWAYS ask to see the dam (mother). If the dog you are obtaining is eight weeks old or younger, you should still see enlarged mammary glands as evidence that the mother was lactating. Be careful. Many backyard breeders will show you a pretty female dog and say it's the dam, even though the dog has never had a litter.

Responsible, reputable breeders are knowledgeable and willing to help educate you about training your puppy. Responsible breeders will also interview prospective clients and ask to meet the whole family. They want to make sure the temperament of the puppy matches the personality and lifestyle of the family. They want to make sure this is a lifelong match. Responsible breeders also encourage or require clients to spay or neuter their puppy. The dogs on their property are friendly, socialized and trained.


You can also adopt a purebred dog from a local or national breed placement group. Reputable breed placement groups require you to complete an adoption application and check references. They may even ask to conduct a home visit to ensure they are placing the animal in a suitable environment. A good breed placement group will also spay or neuter the animals and keep them current on vaccinations and other medical care. Contact us for a list of reputable breed placement groups that we work with on a regular basis.

If you choose to adopt a companion animal from the Wisconsin Humane Society, either a mixed-breed or a purebred, there are many benefits included. All animals are spayed or neutered, given an identification microchip and provided with other veterinary services. As part of our adoption program we provide assistance for undiagnosed, pre-existing medical problems within three weeks of adoption. One month of additional free animal health insurance and a certificate for a free vet exam are also provided. Knowledgeable adoption counselors will assist you in selecting a dog who will be compatible with your lifestyle.

Animal behavior seminars, informational brochures, behavior telephone counseling and tip lines are available at the Wisconsin Humane Society. We have a retail store and help people select appropriate animal care products. Finally, knowing that you are giving a very deserving and wonderful animal a second chance increases the joy of adding a new member to your family.

Click here to see some of the wonderful animals available for adoption at the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Avoid Obtaining Puppies from Pet Stores 

Not all pet stores sell puppies and kittens, but you should be careful about the ones that do. Consider the source of the animals sold at these facilities. Reputable breeders do not sell their animals to pet stores.

In order to make a hefty profit, many pet stores obtain puppies for the lowest possible cost. This often means that pet stores get their inventory of animals from puppy mills. Puppies from puppy mills are sold cheaply to animal brokers and pet stores and then the store sells them to customers at much higher prices. Pet stores prices can actually be substantially higher than a reputable breeder's, and pet stores will not be able to provide you with information regarding animal's temperament, health or background. For this reason, it is best to obtain puppies from reputable breeders, or adopt them from a good breed placement group or animal shelter.

Other animal shelters in the area also have great animals for adoption. We encourage you to check them out as well. Visit to search area shelters.

Learn more about selecting a reputable cat breeder.