People ask me all the time "How do we know if a Breeder is a good breeder or a poor breeder".
This is not an easy question to answer because things are not black and white, but many shades of gray! So the best way I have found to answer is...
ASK a LOT of questions. Find a breeder that has the same priorities as you do in what you are looking for in a new puppy AND has interest in what your needs and wants are in a puppy.
Trust your gut!!! Does your gut tell you this is someone that you can develop a friendship with? Is this someone you can trust and would feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night to ask about a concern you have? Is this someone that will even be around after you acquire your new puppy?
Does this person express genuine concern about the puppy AND your families needs or are they employing a "used car salesman" tactic to pressure you into buying their pup?
Below are some simple questions to ask yourself to help you recognize the BIG RED FLAGS that many people miss.... and when in doubt, ASK other breeders!!!
A good breeder should be a member of their National and Regional clubs. CHECK!! You can do a good bit of research on a breeder and their dogs at www.bernergarde.org SEARCH!!! This is a BIG commitment that you shouldn't take lightly.
1. Does this breeder provide a safe and nurturing environment for their puppies AND adult dogs? Are these dogs living in cages, kennel, paddocks or pens? Are they house dogs or outside dogs? A good breeder is never going to keep their dogs as outside dogs and they should not be living in cages but in the home with their family.
2. Does this breeder place the puppy/dogs welfare above all else? Some times being a good breeder is about making a tough choices. Many times we keep a puppy with the hopes it will be our next show dog, but if that puppy doesn't turn out, then allowing it to have it's own family is the RIGHT thing to do, even if it breaks our heart to do it AND sometimes telling a family no on a pup is a hard choice, but if you know that this is not a good match then things will be bad for both the family and the pup and it is necessary to wait for the right home.
3. Does this breeder KNOW their breed? Can they tell you in depth knowledge about the concerns that their breed faces? This is not a breed for the faint of heart. This breed is KNOWN for their health concerns and a good breeder can not only tell you about them, but also how to deal with them if the time should come. IF they have been in the breed for any period of time, chances are THEY have had to deal with this on their own already.
4. Does this breeder want to maintain communication AFTER you acquire your pup? A good breeder is going to want to have as much information about their puppies after they go to their new homes as they can to insure they are making good breeding decisions later on about the mother, father and litter mates to your pup.
5. Does this breeder believe their pedigrees are free of cancer and other health concerns? IF so, they are LYING!!! IF there was such a line of berners, trust me, we would ALL be using it!! The truth is that all pedigrees contain good and bad traits... just like with people! This is why breeding goals and priorities should matter to you!
6. Does this breeder want to sell you a "show/breeding" dog? A good breeder will not want to sell a show/breeding dog to someone that is not seriously interested in pursuing the education needed to be considered "IN" this breed BUT will be willing to mentor a "newbie" into becoming a reputable, respectable breeder should you be truly intersted.
7. A good breeder will know the tiniest details about their puppies which will insure good placement. ALL puppies are not alike when placement time comes. When they are newborns until they are about 6-7 weeks, yes they are all alike. But at that point tiny little differences begin to surface and your breeder should be able to tell you about those differences.
8. A good breeder will WANT to be their for you and the puppy for the lifetime of the dog. We don't stop loving them when you pick them up! The puppies should be an extension of the breeder and a good breeder should want to hear/share in the good, the bad, the funny and the end. They should be there to guide you through puppy years, hearing about the stupid or silly things they have done. They should be there to answer questions you will more than likely have and they should be there to grieve with you when that puppy's life has reached it's end.
9. Does this breeder require a contract? A good breeder will and they will provide it to you BEFORE any money exchanges hands... including deposits! One of the biggest things to look for on your contract is.... what happens if you are no longer able to keep the puppy/dog? A good breeder will want that dog back no matter what the circumstances are.
10. Does this breeder take pride in their dogs? Do they want to show them off to you? A good breeder will want to show their dogs to you, will be smiling when doing so and will have a personal connection to every dog. They will welcome you to their home and beam with pride while showing them off and all the while be answering every question you ask!
11. Does this breeder sell dogs to brokers, pet stores or other agents? If so RUN!! A good breeder would never allow one of their pups to go to a home they didn't have a personal relationship with or allow them to live in a tiny little cage.
12. Does this breeder LIVE with their dogs? A good breeder will be able to answer any question you ask regarding their dogs be it age, personality, strengths, weaknesses or pedigrees. There will be dog hair in their house and toys all over the floor. You can tell when someone lives with their dogs..... there is a connection and a level of comfort.
13. Does this breeder have ONLY AKC pedigrees? A good breeder will never have dogs registered through any other registry other than AKC and will have their certifications done through OFA and PennHip. APRI or any other US registry is a puppy mill registry.
14. Does this person breed multiple breeds? or doodles? If so, chances are good that this is a puppy mill or at best, a back yard breeder. NO GOOD breeder would ever think a doodle is a good idea because all the information you are given about them living longer and having better health or not shedding is total BS.... again, a sales tactic for people that don't want to breed for quality.
15. Does this breeder show their dogs? If the answer is no, then this is not a reputable breeder. Someone that is breeding dogs should be showing them to compair their dogs to other breeders dogs. This is to insure they are making good breeding decisions and that their dogs can "stack up" to competition. Now, that is not to say that ALL dogs should be shown. I have many champions and love showing my dogs, but sometimes there are dogs that don't enjoy it, so I won't force them... but their off spring better be winning in the ring!
16. Biggest question you need to ask yourself is.... does this person love their dogs? Because it should be apparent and written all over their face. Again, this is not a breed for the faint of heart. Anyone that has been involved in this breed for any period of time has dealt with devastating loss and heartbreak as well as over whelming joy and happiness. A person committed to this breed will show you all the scars on their hearts from loving these amazing dogs.
Good luck on your journey to find the right Berner puppy for you and remember, if you have any doubts, listen to them and if you want more information, ASK other breeders. This breed is a small community and we usually know each other!