How to Find a Responsible Breeder

You’ve Done Your “Homework”

Hopefully, by the time you have reached this point, you believe the Airedale is the right breed because you have researched the other breeds that are available, you have thoroughly researched the Airedale breed and you have truthfully evaluated the time you have to devout to an Airedale, the home that you can provide, and the financial ability you have to care for a Airedale. If you haven’t already, please read: Is an Airedale the Right Breed for You?

Choosing the Right Breeder

You should undertake a serious study of breeders. Do your homework and shop around. Call many many many people. Visit as many breeders as possible, see how they do business, how they keep their dogs and if what they ‘say’ is really what you ‘see’.

Initial contact of a breeder may be made through your national breed club:
Airedale Terrier Club of America
Airedale Terrier Club of Canada
Airedale Terrier Clubs in the United Kingdom
Do not assume that you are dealing with a responsible and ethical breeder! Referring organizations cannot insure a standard of quality or honest conduct, therefore it is only you as the prospective buyer who can determine whether a particular breeder is suitable for your needs. The more time and research you put into this, the better your results will be.

You can also observe Airedale Terriers at local dog shows, obedience, agility or other canine events and get in touch with the breeders of the dogs you see.

If you know anyone who has an Airedale, ask them for references and how they went about getting their pup. Make sure you talk about their experiences and what they would do differently if they had to do it over again.

Join an Airedale list on the internet and listen to breeders who participate. Over a period of time, you can get a true picture of the breeder’s ethics.

Ask other Airedale owners about the breeder, as well as anyone else associated with the breed. If they are unknown in Airedale circles, it may be for good reason. Good breeders have good reputations. Become an Airedale Rescue volunteer. You will learn which breeders’ dogs are ending up in rescue and how they respond to one of their dogs needing a new home. If a breeder has many dogs ending up in rescue, there’s a good reason (actually a bad one) behind it. They might be a puppy mill, producing an overabundance of dogs. Or the pups they produce might be ill-tempered. Or their selection process for new owners may simply be “who has the money.” Whatever the reason, dogs from their lines ending up in rescue is a bad sign.

Recognizing an Unethical Breeder

The “breeder” lacks knowledge about the breed
The “breeder” shows ignorance or denial of genetic defects in the breed
The “breeder” has no involvement in conformation or dog sports
The “breeder” doesn’t let you observe the puppies or adults, or let you see the kennels
The “breeder” has no documentation and cannot provide a pedigree
The puppies are not socialized
The “breeder” is not keeping one of the puppies from the litter. The only reason to breed is to produce a puppy that is better than her mother. Not every litter will produce that puppy, but the breeder should be able to (and, in fact, bore you to tears with) what she was trying to achieve with the breeding and why none of the puppies meet that goal.

What to Look for in a Responsible and Ethical Breeder

If a breeder meets all of the following requirements, by in large they are going to be an excellent source. If they meet some but not all of the points outlined, then care should be taken in dealing with them and you should be well aware of their limitations before buying a pup from them. If they don’t meet any of the requirements, avoid them like the plague! You’re only asking for trouble by dealing with them.

The relationship with a breeder does not end at the time of the purchase of your puppy … its really just beginning! There will be a time when you will have a problem, question or concern about your Airedale–a time when you will need your breeder’s advice or explanation.

Eventually your little pup will have a problem, perhaps he won’t stop scratching, his stool looks strange, or he starts limping. Perhaps he looks funny, has a weird movement or doesn’t like to eat. You might someday have some questions about his personality: “I think he growled at me” or “he keeps on pulling me on the leash, I can’t stand taking him for walks!”. A responsible breeder will help you with these problems. A responsible breeder considers pups they have sold to still be a part of the family.

You should not take dog ownership lightly. By the time you have decided to purchase an Airedale, you should be well aware of all its breed characteristics and know whether it is going to fit your lifestyle. You should have carefully evaluated your lifestyle and know that you have the time it takes to raise a puppy. However, unforeseen circumstances do arise and the responsible breeder will expect you to consult her regarding a new home for your dog and, if necessary, will take the dog back, at any age, under any condition, for the life of the dog. Ask about the history of returns. Nearly all reputable breeders, sooner or later, must deal with this inevitable heartache. Does the returned dog re-home successfully, remain a house pet, or is he euthanized? Does the breeder complain about expenses incurred? Look for warning signs that the breeder is breeding for profit, rather than caring for the lives brought into the world.

You should be expected to be grilled about your lifestyle, your living conditions, your finances. Do not be insulted at these nosy questions. A responsible breeder wants to place her puppies only in happy, stable homes where they will be beloved companions for life.
A responsible breeder keeps in periodic contact with the owners of puppies s/he’s sold to, not only to see the development of his breeding program, but also because he cares about their well-being in their new homes. The breeder takes responsibility for bringing this life into the world. Even if it turns out to be a mean or vicious dog because of the way it has been cared for, the breeder accepts responsibility and deals with it throughout the life of the dog.
The responsible breeder’s primary desire is to breed exceptional quality Airedales and to place them in loving homes. The responsible breeder’s overriding interest is the dogs’ welfare and happiness. The responsible breeder would rather sell to an exceptional pet home verses an average show home. Success to a responsible breeder is healthy and long-lived dogs living with wonderful families.
The responsible breeder will guarantee the health of the puppy in writing.

The responsible breeder will have had the pups checked by a vet. Any puppy you purchase should come with a signed veterinary health certificate.

A responsible breeder should tell you what kinds of problems might be present in Airedales (for example, hip dysplasia, PRA, etc.) and what kind of testing is available to find it. It goes without saying that the breeder should be doing those tests on all their breeding stock. Any dogs that are showing signs of any of these problems should not be bred — avoid anyone who is breeding dogs with genetic problems, or who is not testing their dogs and bitches. The breeder will also encourage you to have your puppy tested for various health problems and report them back to the breeder. The responsible breeder wants a deep knowledge of what is in his/her lines. A breeder that can’t tell you what kinds of things affect their dogs isn’t going to be breeding to avoid them.

A responsible breeder will have a written contract specifying the rights of the seller and the buyer, health information (vaccine used, etc.), altering and buy-back/return policy, and requirements (such as a fenced yard).  Ask to see the contract/guarantee before leaving a deposit or purchasing a puppy. Read the contract thoroughly. Sad to say, the disreputable breeder can (and will) try to insert clauses to which you never agreed. The contract should specify details of the sale, including a health guarantee and the breeder’s lifetime commitment. The kind of health guarantee will change from breeder to breeder, but it should be in the written contract in some form. The breeder should be able and willing to take the puppy or dog back at any point in its life if you are unable to keep it. Do not accept verbal assurances in place of a written contract on these points. Puppies should be a minimum of 8 weeks old, with appropriate vaccinations and worming, and fulfillment of the contract should be conditional upon the examination of the puppy by your veterinarian within a specified time period. If the puppy is pet rather than show quality, spaying or neutering should be a part of the contract. AKC registration should be clearly specified. Read the contract thoroughly.

A strict contract is good if it focuses on the animal. It’s a weak contract if its primary purpose is to enhance or protect the breeder. Contracts are not about people, but about the dog. While you read a contract, bring it back to the dog; although strict and possibly objectionable, does it benefit the dog? Requirements you might see in a contract:
mandatory obedience training
mandatory puppy kindergarten
mandatory spay/neuter by a certain age
mandatory breeder notification of any disease or illness
mandatory pictures once every six months for 2 years
mandatory health check in the first 48 hours of receipt of the dog
mandatory notification of any planned surgery
dog will never be left unsupervised when not in a fenced or contained area … namely, the dog can’t roam free.
the dog’s primary housing will be in the home, not in a run, kennel or barn.
the dog will be tattooed or microchipped -if not already done so by the breeder
mandatory first right of refusal if you decide to sell the dog.

The responsible breeder will provide a packet of information regarding training, diet, and general care, with several resources for you to check out. Ask to see this before signing the contract.
The breeder will have checked the hips and eyes on the parents before they are bred.

Don’t accept excuses for failure to x-ray and certify the parents are free of hip dysplasia.

Ask to see copies of OFA or PennHIP certification and AVCO (CERF – Canine Eye Registration Foundation) eye examination.
Take note of the numbers assigned and check the OFA database at and/or CERF at and verify them. Be aware that there can be as much as 4-6 mos. behind on getting dogs into the database, so if you do not find a dog there, it MAY be due to data input delays.

If the breeder uses a kennel facility, are they clean and well-cared for?

Are the adult dogs in good condition, clean and happy? Brood bitches past the age of safe whelping and older stud dogs should be either in pet homes where they are valued, or present as house pets. It is especially informative to take a look at these older dogs. Subtle clues such as condition of teeth, nails, and skin tell volumes about the commitment the breeder has made to the well-being of his or her dogs and your prospective puppy.

A responsible breeder will not sell puppies younger than 8 weeks, and many hold them until they are 10 weeks of age. Backyard breeders often sell puppies at 5-7 weeks (too young!).

How many different breeds is the breeder breeding? Good breeders limit themselves to one or two (usually related) breeds because of the time, expense, and energy involved in producing excellent specimens of a particular breed.

Pet quality puppies should be sold with Limited AKC Registration (meaning any offspring are not AKC registerable) and a spay/neuter agreement, or the breeder is not being responsible!

If you’re planning on a puppy for show and possible breeding, look for a breeder that is very picky about selling such puppies. If this is your first such puppy, expect an offer of co-ownership if they think you’re serious. At the minimum, the breeder should be discussing how they’ll remain involved with the puppy. This is a valuable resource, by the way, the breeder will be able to explain what the puppy’s pedigree means, what other dogs it should be bred to, how to show it, and so on. Moreover, if you are planning something like this, definitely take your time and get to know several breeders doing the same things you are interested in. This will give you contacts, information, and a break when a good litter comes along and the breeders know you or you are vouched for by another breeder. It can be hard to “break into” showing and breeding, but a little patience on your part will give better results.

All show puppies need to go on a contract that will not allow breeding unless the dog lives up to the quality intended and passes all health checks and certification necessary for that breed. If a prospective breeder does not want to do this, then I am sorry but they will have to mess with someone else’s dogs not mine!!

If the sire and dam are both on the same premises, ask who else the bitch has been bred to and generally try to find out if the breeder always uses her own stud dogs (a BIG red flag), or uses a variety of dogs depending on the bitch (the flashing red lights can turn off now). A good breeder is constantly working to improve the breed, which may necessitate breeding his/her female to a male located elsewhere.

On the other hand, many long term breeders have developed distinct lines and will have bred two dogs of their breeding (whether they own both or not) for the puppies. So consider the big picture as well.

Ask if the bitch was bred her previous season as well as this one. This is called back to back breeding and is extremely rare among responsible breeders and all too common among unethical breeders.

Ask to see a history of the breeder’s lines. See how many times the dogs and bitches were used in breeding. A bitch should not be bred at less than 2 years nor older than 8, nor should she produce more than 3 litters in her lifetime.

A reputable breeder will provide the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club registration papers when a puppy is purchased. It is not unusual for the breeder’s contract to provide that the breeder will hold the registration until you have provided proof of spay/neuter.

A good breeder knows the lineage of his/her dogs going back many generations, and will provide a multi-generation pedigree (“family tree”), plus routinely has dogs tested for problems and passes this information along to buyers. Beware of breeders who do no genetic testing, or who do not supply a pedigree.

The more champions (“Ch” in front of the names) in a pedigree, the more likely the puppy will match the breed standard; that is, be more like what that particular breed is SUPPOSED to be like.

However, be aware that there are “name” breeders who should be considered just as irresponsible as the “backyard” breeder whose only goal is money. A breeder who breeds ONLY for conformation, may have sacrificed temperament and health in their search for the perfect show dog. Responsible breeders seek a balanced dog with good conformation, temperament, brains and health.

Each parent dog should be well-tempered. Aggression, like other behaviors, is controlled by genes and the environment (the old “nature” vs. “nurture”). Temperament of a dog is founded upon the genetic makeup of a pup, as traits of personality are inherited from the parent lines. This is why it is so important to consider the parents’ temperament when choosing a puppy. Some dogs are just genetically predisposed to aggression or other temperament problems. If the parents were aggressive, the odds are much higher that the pups will be aggressive (though not guaranteed). Often this can be overcome through lots of hard work and socialization but the point is – why start from a disadvantage? Some dogs have wonderful genetic temperament lines and no matter how much you screw up their development, they come out of it with wonderful personalities. You’d be amazed at what some of our rescue dogs come from in their background (no socialization with humans or dogs, being beaten, being psychologically tortured, etc.) and yet, through it all, end up as wonderfully tempered dogs in spite of their upbringing, not because of it. Other dogs may have the best upbringing in the world and yet end up aggressive, again in spite of their owner’s best intentions. There are even some dogs (though in my opinion it is very rare) that are so genetically predisposed to aggression and violence, that it’s not worth the effort to rehabilitate them. So not only should you be asking to see the parents’ OFA and CERF certificates but you should also ask to play with the dogs. Even-tempered dogs generally produce even-tempered pups. Don’t accept a pup from parents that are aggressive – even slightly aggressive.

The breeder should be able to explain the Breed Standard, and how his or her lines meet or deviate from them. The responsible breeder should be willing to educate the potential buyer about show vs. pet quality, and alert the buyer to faults in his or her line.

Ask if dogs from this breeder are active in dog sports even if you never intend to participate. Dogs that earn obedience, tracking, agility, schutzhund or hunting titles, or work as therapy dogs, assistance dogs, or search and rescue dogs are more likely to be trainable. Ask for references.

If the litter is already present, note where it is kept, and what is being done to socialize it. Puppies should be house dogs until they are sent to their new homes. A puppy kept in a kennel or barn will not have had the appropriate social stimulation and interaction with people to be an optimal pet. At the appropriate developmental stages they should have been introduced to children and other people, other animals such as cats, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, and riding in the car.
Socialization is so important to getting a well-adjusted, well-mannered dog. Puppies should have been exposed to people, other dogs, new situations, normal household sounds and activities in order to learn. A puppy raised without this important social interaction can be shy, fearful, aggressive, or have other problems as they get older. Dogs need to know how to play, how to handle new situations, how to relate to people.

The puppies should look vigorous and be strongly sucking, beware of listless (though sleeping is OK) puppies and indifferent suckling. Try to see the puppies when they’re likely to be active.

A good breeder cares about placing puppies in appropriate homes and will interview potential buyers, ask for references and refuse to sell a dog if necessary. Be prepared to be inspected as closely as you just inspected the breeder. The more questions asked, and the more references required, often indicate the degree of dedication of the breeder to his or her dogs, and how much follow-up assistance you can expect. If the questions bother you, you probably shouldn’t have a dog.

The responsible breeder evaluates the litters and makes every effort to match puppy to buyer in temperament, attitude and energy level as well as physical qualities. You should listen to the breeder’s recommendations. Many people want the puppy that happens to be the one that runs up to them. Well, he’ll run to anyone! But, you may not want to deal with a six-month-old bossy puppy. Good evaluations and placements on the part of the responsible breeder will ensure a happy home.

A responsible breeder will be there to answer questions and to help with any problems, for the life of the dog! The breeder should be able to provide references of satisfied buyers, going back as far as possible. If the breeder cannot provide references from long-ago litters, this is a warning sign. A breeder should be concerned about the dogs he or she breeds for their entire life, whether show dog or couch potato. A breeder should be proactive in keeping track of his or her puppies to make sure they have not ended up in a shelter. Be sure to follow up and question the references about any difficulties or second thoughts they may have had. Ask about the quality of follow-up care.

Remember, ANYONE can be a breeder; what you want is a *responsible, ethical* breeder.

Please consider a rescue! Most rescues have some training, are socialized, and make wonderful pets.