Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders: Avoid them.

Puppies could be from puppy mills and backyard breeders

You decided to get a puppy

So you have decided that you want to bring a dog into your life! Maybe you currently have a dog and are planning to add a puppy into your home. That can be a wonderful thing! But it’s a complicated world these days! Continue reading this blog to help you recognize and avoid puppy mills, backyard breeders and illegal individual criminals selling puppies.

The demand for companion dogs in North America has exploded in the last 10 years. And even more so during these isolating times of Coronavirus. This heightened desire for companion dogs has consequently driven up the volume of puppy mills, backyard breeders and criminal dog trade activity.

There are puppy mills around the world feeding this demand for companion dogs. And these criminal dog trading organizations are mass transporting large inventories of puppies across the ocean to our shores.

A story on CTV News Click on this recent story demonstrating how puppy mills have become an international problem.

Why should you care?

I know as my readers that you are true dog lovers who care about all aspects of animal husbandry, or you wouldn’t be here. That being said, it never hurts to learn more in order to be the best dog parent possible!

Overall, you will learn the main reason to stay clear of these places of origin for your new dog is that you will stop animals from suffering!! As if that is not motivating enough(!!), all this ultimately becomes your problem. Buying from these wretched places, you will receive a dog who is missing the true mental and physical health to live a long, happy life with you! So be sure to read all three blogs to be fully informed.

What will you learn in this series?

In Part I of this series , I will explain what puppy mills and backyard breeders are. And I will show you how to recognize the signs of when a puppy seller is actually a puppy mill, a backyard breeder, or an individual criminal. Then I will help you to recognize a high-quality purebred breeder from which to buy a puppy.

In Part II of this series, I will discuss the issues involving looking for a good- quality rescue shelter or foster care organization in case you wish to rescue a dog rather than buy a puppy from a breeder. I will also illuminate problems involved with inferior dog rescue shelters.

In Part III of this series, you will learn about choosing the right breed for your lifestyle. And I’ll discuss the cost and other aspects involved with the commitment in bringing a dog into your life.


Want to buy a puppy? Beware of puppy mills and backyard breeders!

Because there are puppy mills and back yard breeders that masquerade as dog “breeders”, you need to do some homework prior to choosing the puppy to bring home. But don’t worry! I am about to give you some helpful guidelines on how to find a puppy from a reputable breeder.

Avoiding imposter “breeders” when buying a puppy

So what are puppy mills and why do you need to avoid them?

Wikipedia provides an accurate summation of why puppy mills are so reviled by anyone who is informed: “The Veterinary Medical Association of the Humane Society of the United States defines the main characteristics of a puppy mill as “emphasis on quantity over quality, indiscriminate breeding, continuous confinement, lack of human contact and environmental enrichment, poor husbandry, and minimal to no veterinary care.”[3]

dogs IN PUPPY MILLS are abused

Puppy mills generally only breed miniature, toy, and teacup breeds because they can warehouse a larger inventory of small dogs than larger ones. This allows such operations to maximize their profits.

The adult dogs that are kept for breeding usually “live” in small stacked cages all of their lives without proper medical care, exercise, or socialization with other dogs and humans. In the worst puppy mills, the adult males and females never leave their cages. So they defecate where they sleep and eat, and likely are never bathed.

Dogs kept in puppy mills do not receive proper medical care or nutrition

To appear legitimate as a “breeder”, the dealer will occasionally bring adult dogs to a respectable veterinarian for prevention or medical treatment. This is because the puppy mill does not want to be reported to the authorities if such a veterinarian suspects the “breeder” is operating a puppy mill.

On the other hand, sometimes the puppy mills cook up a business arrangement with an unscrupulous veterinarian who may actually vaccinate the puppies. But this tactic is only employed to sanction their puppy business. And in return, they pay that unethical veterinarian compensation.

But puppy mills are only in existence to make a profit. So most would not spend the money to pay veterinarians for any comprehensive medical care; they would only partner with vets that will vaccinate the puppies.

And because puppy mills only exist to make a profit from mass breeding, they also likely feed the parents and the puppies the cheapest food possible. This can harm the puppies before they are even born if the female receives poor nutrition while she is pregnant.

How do puppy mills select the dogs for breeding?

Puppy mills do not put any expertise in choosing the adult dogs they acquire to breed. They simply obtain any adult males and females from wherever they can get them as cheaply as possible without any consideration of the quality of their genetic background. This means that the puppies are selected only by minimal criteria such as the appearance of the dogs to ensure that the parents resemble the breeds that people want to buy. And then they sell puppies to the public calling them “purebred” Shitzus, Yorkshire Terriers, etc. Puppy mills also misrepresent mixed breeds such as Standard or Mini Golden-Doodles. By the way, mixed breeds are not a breed! I will discuss this further in my last post in this series — in reality, such puppies are a genetic smorgasbord.

So if you accidentally buy a puppy from a puppy mill, not only will their true lineage be a mystery, but you will also be contributing to the abuse that dogs and their puppies experience at the hands of these imposter breeders.

Puppies from puppy mills likely have poor health and temperament:

Because puppy mills produce offspring that are from unknown genetics, unsound physical health is the typical result. As well, such puppies can also be genetically disposed to very poor temperament and behavioural tendencies. This is compounded by the poor nutrition the mother receives during pregnancy and the puppies receive once they are on solid foods. Because these puppies are not well cared for and not socialized at all in their formative weeks following birth, you know that permanent emotional and behavioural problems are in store for these innocent puppies!

life with an unhealthy puppy

So if you do inadvertently end up buying a puppy from a puppy mill, you may be acquiring a pet with ongoing health issues. And that means that your dog could be physically and psychologically unwell from puppyhood onward. That’s no way for a an animal to live! Plus you will be faced with high veterinarian bills. Moreover, it will likely be very challenging to counteract the genetic behavioural issues with training.

coping with puppies that are genetically predisposed to behavioural issues

And although these puppies look cute and loveable when you first acquire them, you need to understand that they will grow into adult dogs with a potential lifetime of behavioural issues. These can include biting, general aggression, soiling in inappropriate places, etc. You can see how unsuitable they could be as companion dogs.

In such circumstances, most people try everything they can to treat and manage the health issues. They also vainly apply training methods to manage the behavioural issues. Sometimes their efforts are almost herculean because they really want to keep this dog as a pet. But often they end up surrendering it to a rescue shelter because of the high vet bills and/or escalating hostile behaviour that makes the dog unsafe to have in their home.

So you see where this going!

Prevent animal abuse by avoiding puppy mills!

So I imagine that you now can see the domino effect unleashed if you accidentally buy a puppy from a puppy mill. You would be contributing to that terrible cycle of abuse I described where mistreated dogs produce poor quality, mistreated puppies for sale. In this cycle, the puppies grow into unmanageable adult dogs (either due to poor health with the requisite high vet bills, or behavioural issues that will not respond to training). And sadly, these dogs lose their adoptive family and are dropped off at rescue shelters to endure more stress in their lives.

Avoid backyard breeders too!

So now I will help you understand what backyard breeders are. Afterwards, I will share important tips on how to recognize both puppy mills and backyard breeders so you don’t buy a puppy from these types of enterprises.

What’s a backyard breeder?

According to Wikipedia, a backyard breeder “is an amateur animal breeder whose breeding is considered substandard, with little or misguided effort towards ethical, selective breeding. Unlike puppy mills and other animal mill operations, backyard breeders breed on a small scale, usually at home with their own pets (hence the “backyard” description), and may be motivated by things such as monetary profit, curiosity, to gain new pets, or to show children ‘the miracle of birth'”.

Backyard breeders lack expert knowledge on puppy development

Many backyard breeders can be caring people who love dogs very much. But they have no education or training in breeding dogs ethically and properly. As well, they usually have insufficient knowledge about prenatal nutritional and veterinarian care for both the pregnant mother dog and her gestating puppies. Backyard breeders also lack expertise in caring for the nursing mother, and their infant puppies once they have come into the world.

It takes great skill and experience to select high-quality lines to breed. Backyard breeders just don’t have the mastery or even the professional contacts to make the right choices. Furthermore, their monetary position could prevent them from affording dogs in that category or they might not even recognize the value of superior breeding stock.

In comparison, one of the most important reasons to choose a reputable breeder is their expert knowledge on accessing which lines of a breed will likely produce the qualities desired in a pet (or show animal, depending on the breeder). High-quality lines are those in which there is evidence of healthy puppy and adult lives in both the female and male parents, and ideally in previous generations via health tests and history of desirable temperament.

Backyard breeders do not have formal training on puppy developmental stages

Backyard breeders are unlikely to have received formal education about socializing and nurturing the puppies during each of their developmental stages. This, of course, puts the puppies, and later the dogs at risk in their interactions with other dogs. Humans around them can be surprised and harmed by a poorly socialized animal.

Be aware of the puppy “fear-window” stage between 8-10 weeks after birth

For example, there is a fear-window estimated to occur from about 8 to 10 weeks of age that high-quality breeders understand and accordingly address. Because this is an estimate, this fear stage could start earlier or end later.

Fears established during the fear-window can be permanent!

During this fear-window, if a puppy experiences fears associated with any person, thing, or situation, the puppy may remain fearful of them for the rest of its life. And the puppy’s fear may be very difficult to sooth, and could have devastating consequences, such as the dog biting someone who is just trying to help.

So if the backyard breeder is not aware of this fear stage in puppy development, or does not handle it correctly, he or she could inadvertently cause the puppies to have permanent fears that may have been avoidable.

Improper early socialization can lead to permanent behavioural problems

Plus, because backyard breeders are not professional breeders, they may not properly socialize the puppies for typical human behaviour such petting, holding, hugging, kissing, or even bathing the puppies before the puppy goes to their new home. (Crate training is important too but I will discuss when a breeder should begin this process in a later section of this blog.) All of this makes the transition for the puppy to move into his new forever home so much less stressful for both the puppy and the new dog parents! And it encourages a successful placement into the new home.

Plus it’s important to note that veterinarians generally advise that puppies not be socialized with dogs that live outside their home until they have received there full initial set of vaccines. So a backyard breeder may not know to avoid exposing the puppies to foreign dogs until it is safe to do so.

Backyard breeders may release the puppies too soon!!

By the way, this fear-window is a good reason to wait until after 10 weeks, preferably 12 weeks, to transfer a puppy from the breeder’s property to your home. You can mitigate the risk of the puppy experiencing a heightened fear by avoiding bringing them to their new home during the fear-window. The transportation process alone during this time could traumatize the puppy for life. Since this window is an estimate and can begin earlier and end later, it’s safest to wait to transfer the puppy from the breeder’s location to your home at 12 weeks of age.

Unfortunately a backyard breeder is more likely to let you take a puppy home at 6 to 8 weeks of age (which is the expected start of the fear-window). Beyond the risks already discussed about transporting the puppy to his new home during the fear-window, it has always been considered too early to separate the puppy from his mother and siblings prior to 8 weeks of age.

In contrast, reputable breeders keep up with the latest scientific studies on puppy development. As recently as 15 years ago, it was common for high-quality breeders to release their puppies at 8 weeks of age. But in more recent years, such breeders have recognized new research that has documented this fear-window, and will insist on waiting until the puppies are 12 weeks of age before the new pet parents bring them home.

Backyard breeders can mean well, but you will still end up with life-long problems!

Just above, I highlighted issues with backyard breeders, but the outcomes are the same as I shared about puppy mills. Due to their profit motives and/or lack of knowledge, either avenue leads to puppies who have been shortchanged. These can make a dog’s life miserable not only when they are occur, but have lifelong consequences. To reiterate, health and behaviour is severely affected by breeding choice, prenatal care, postnatal care, nutrition, socialization, lack of training and poor living conditions. These affects last from puppyhood to the end of their life, likely a shortened one.

And, all of this heartbreak is not only unpleasant for you if you acquire such a puppy, but it’s a prescription for the puppy to be unhealthy and stressed, amping up the chance they will be surrendered to over-crowded dog rescue shelters. Moreover, the problems will continue for the next owner, if the shelter is able to find one….

How does the outcome differ when you buy a dog from a legitimate breeder instead?

In contrast, reputable breeders keep up with the latest scientific research on puppy development and have protocols to take the animal back if you cannot care for them. Some will even offer a full refund within a given period of time, like up to 2 years. But they may still insist on first rights to take the puppy back at any point in the puppy’s life after that refund period, if for any reason you can no longer care for the animal. They assert this right because they genuinely care about the puppies that they breed and don’t want them to end up in shelters.

And legitimate professional breeders put this requirement in their contracts. But backyard breeders will not likely provide a professional contract.

Puppies from puppy mills and backyard breeders are NOT purebred puppies

Puppies from puppy mills and backyard breeders are anything but purebred, and most often they are something completely different from the breed the dealer says they are selling. Over the many years of working with clients, I have met numerous puppy mill dogs sold to their dog parents as Shitzus, but the dogs look more like Yorkshire Terriers or Coton De Tulears! Sometimes, a supposed Boston Terrier looks like a Jack Russel!

So you might ask what’s the problem with puppies that are sold with inaccurate breed names? Well, the problem for you will be that you will be expecting to raise a puppy with a general temperament associated to the breed you decided on. But raising a puppy with an unknown genetic makeup can leave you unprepared to cope with the primary breed behavioural tendencies.

Studies show that you can’t rely on visual breed identification! Most non-purebred breeds rarely conform to the primary breed DNA. Meaning, they may look like one breed, but have the characteristics of another.

For example, let’s say you buy a puppy that is supposed to be a chocolate colour Labrador but it turns out to have the primary genetic composition of a German Shepherd instead of a Labrador! You will end up with a guard dog instead of a retriever type breed. Plus, you will not know that you have purchased a German Shepherd until time has passed and you see a certain pattern of behaviour. This is something you definitely weren’t expecting when you purchased what you thought was a Chocolate Lab!

Puppies from Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders are not the same as an old fashioned mutts either

Old fashioned mutTs may have been healthier

You might have heard that mutts are healthier than purebred dogs because many purebreds have been overbred. So let’s discuss this aspect. So yes, decades ago, traditional mutts found in shelters may have been healthier than substandard purebred dogs at that time. But, as you are now aware, today’s shelters are full breeds which likely began their lives in puppy mills or backyard breeders. And as discussed above, such dogs are predisposed to poor health and temperament. This is the same with mixed breeds that end up in shelters.

Don’t contribute financial rewards to puppy mills and backyard breeders

As a dog lover with this new knowledge, I am sure you don’t want to perpetrate a poor gene pool by buying puppies in these unsavoury places. You now understand there is real suffering for the animals and as well for their pet parents, not just initially, but over the dogs’ lifetimes. Such suffering will continue unless the demand goes down. Even by unknowingly buying such a puppy, you are keeping these people going, providing financial reward to these entities and allowing them to continue with business as usual. So below are tips on how to recognize puppy mills and backyard breeders. Pay close attention, so you DO NOT buy a puppy from such sources.

Signs of puppy mills:

What are the signs that the breeder you found is a puppy mill?

Local “breeders” obscure their real identity; they are just a front for puppy mills. Although these people might pose as true “breeders”, they are merely brokers for puppy mills located elsewhere. It is possible to recognize the bad guys (and girls) by taking heed of all the forgoing information I have shared in this post about what confers legitimacy in a breeder and what does not. And below find additional cautions and ways to keep away from these posers! For starters, avoid buying from social media sites or buy-and-sell internet ads!

Never buy a puppy or rescue dog from buy-and-sell sites!

The first place puppy mills advertise are on market platforms such as Kijiji, Craigslist and social media. NEVER buy a puppy or any rescue dog from a buy-and-sell site like Kijiji, eBay, or Craigslist. These types of sites are so problematic for promoting puppy mills and backyard breeders. And they are also fronts for unethical or criminal animal rescue enterprises. That is why eBay thankfully banned the selling of puppies on their platform several years ago!

Never buy a puppy from a social media page!

Avoid breeders’ social media pages that are on Facebook, Instagram or any other internet platform because most of these pages are operated by puppy mills.

Stolen puppies are sold on social media and buy-and-sell sites

And stolen dogs are also sold via social media, Kiiji and Craigslist, and any other buy-and-sell sites. So never buy a puppy or adult dog from these sources!

News Report of a stolen puppy sold on Kijiji

Here’s one of many examples of people accidentally buying a puppy that was stolen from the original owner. See this CTV news story about a Toronto woman.

This is an example of a backyard breeder who carelessly listed her puppies for sale on an internet for-sale platform. And she did not even learn from the experience! All she did was turn around and find another social media platform to sell her puppies! You can see her clear lack of professional ethics in doing due diligence to vet customers who want to buy her puppies. In contrast, high-quality breeders of purebreds sell only to qualified buyers.

This story also provides an example of how both the backyard breeder and the buyer enabled the thief. The backyard breeder was willing to sell the puppy to anyone who answered her ad on Kijiji. And she ended up not being paid — the thief drove off with her puppy after handing over an empty envelope. And when the thief later sold the stolen puppy, this person demanded $2000 in advance. The buyer then arrived at the designated location where she found no “seller”, just the sad little puppy left alone in a crate.

This buyer was fortunate! She actually received a pet for her money, future health issues aside. Please beware of the many scams on social media and buy-and-sell platforms where fraudulent sellers convince the buyer to pay in advance and never actually deliver any puppy at all.

And, trust your gut. In this story, the buyer suspected something was wrong but was reluctant to speak up; “ ‘I didn’t want to ask a lot of questions because it was for a good price,’ Barrantes said.”

If you suspect that there’s something wrong, there LIKELY IS something wrong! Do not send payment in advance, and do not buy a puppy from a situation that feels wrong.

don’t meet the “seller” offsite

In the above CTV news story, the buyer fell into a very common manoeuvre, of not being allowed to go to see the puppy or the mom. The thief used COVID-19 as the excuse to say no when the buyer requested to pick up the puppy at the “breeder’s” location. And this was a major red flag of a thief in action. They will insist on bringing the puppy to you. Even during the pandemic, there are ways to safely visit and pick up your pet. I will cover this further down.

Moreover, when you let them bring a puppy to you, it can look very different from the puppy you saw online. The animal they bring can be younger or older than expected, and can even be an entirely different breed than what you thought you were buying!

Never buy a puppy from a pet store!

Although many cities (such as Toronto where I live) have banned pet stores from selling puppies and kittens, your region may allow it. And the reason cities like Toronto have prohibited the selling of puppies and kittens in any retail store is because these stores obtain their inventory of puppies and kittens from puppy and kitten mills. So please, never buy your pet from a pet store!

How to find a high-quality breeder of purebred dogs:

Purebred puppy Samoyed

A purebred Samoyed 10 week old puppy

Research websites to find legitimate dog breeders

One of the best ways to find a high-quality breeder is to research online. Most legitimate breeders will have a website that should reflect the good practices that I indicate below.

What about Word of Mouth?

But there are also many legitimate breeders that don’t have a website and rely solely on word of mouth. A word-of-mouth source can be good if you have complete confidence in them, such as your trusted veterinarian or grooming professional.

What about kennel clubs?

You can look for breeders listed under a reputable regional kennel club. But often kennel clubs are not credible (!!), and do not impose any criteria for the breeder to qualify to register their dogs with that kennel club. For these latter type kennels, anyone can register any dog! So this means puppy mills and backyard breeders can register their puppies with these non-credible kennel clubs.

Investigate if the kennel club is credible

So it’s best to research the given kennel club to find out what criteria breeders must meet for dog registration. If the kennel club says there are none, or you discern they have superficial rules, then do not look into their breeders. Such kennel clubs most likely have puppy mills and backyard breeders listed in their directories.

If you live in the United States, please note that The American Kennel Club is not known as a reputable club. This is because it appears that anyone can register their dogs with this club, not just legitimate professional breeders. So I would not recommend contacting them. It is my understanding that the United States lacks any reputable kennel club.

Canada and UK have credible kennel clubs

  1. In Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club has some standards for breeders to meet in order to register their dogs. But you still must check that the breeder you are considering follows all of the good practices listed below to confirm that they qualify as a purebred breeder and are not a puppy mill or backyard breeder.
  2. My research indicates that The Kennel Club UK is reputable and has very strict rules for breeders to register their dogs. I highly recommend that you look for a breeder registered with this club if you live in the UK. Notwithstanding, you still need to check that the breeder displays all of the signs of a high-quality breeder listed below. (Please note that this kennel club only has a Facebook Page and does not have an actual website. So do not go to any URL websites that look similar to this kennel’s identity — these websites are likely suspicious directories.)

How to weed out the poor-quality breeder?

Once you have decided on several potential breeders for your new puppy, put them to the test! The following questions will go a long way to reveal the type of organization or person you are dealing with:

5 Questions to ask the breeder

Questions to ask the seller, and circumstances to be aware of:

  1. When you call a source who is selling puppies, ask if they have any puppies for sale. If they say they have lots….hang up! If they say they don’t have any puppies today but they can get you a puppy within any number of days, DO NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM THIS SOURCE. These answers represent the primary sign that they are a puppy mill because they have a steady supply of puppies. No reputable breeder can be considered high quality or legitimate if they have “lots” of puppies or can get you a puppy soon. Reputable breeders have a small number of litters per year. And high-quality purebred breeders often have a waiting list of people who they call when a litter is available.
  2. Let’s say the seller passes question 1 of the test. They have stated they only have a couple of puppies currently available. Question 2 is to ask why these puppies have not been purchased yet? Since reputable breeders produce few litters per year, and usually have waiting lists, you want to understand why these puppies remain. Listen and judge whether their answer indicates a puppy mill or backyard breeder situation.
  3. And then ask when can you come to visit and see the puppies and their mother? If they say no, we bring the puppy to you…hang up. If they say yes you may visit, but the mother is not there (for any reason)…hang up. These are definitely signs that they are a puppy mill or some other criminal dog trade enterprise. They don’t want you to see where the puppies live and they won’t let you see the mother dog. Even during COVID-19 times, there are ways to see the puppies and the mother, such as outdoors with all parties wearing face masks. If the weather is bad, then the breeder should have a designated indoor space that allows for social distancing and face masks.
  4. If they say they have a small number of puppies available and the mother is on site for you meet her, ask how many breeding females do they have? One is ideal. But it is possible for a reputable breeder to have up to 4 breeding females (hard to say with just this answer) – so keep asking questions.
  5. Ask them how often do they breed each female. If they say regularly…hang up! (I will discuss more about high-quality breeder breeding schedules later on.)

Walk away!

All of the above situations are signals that the source is likely a puppy mill or backyard breeder. So please WALK AWAY from these sources and avoid perpetuating the abuse that these dogs and puppies must endure. If people like you can recognize the signs of puppy mills and backyard breeders, you will individually remove their profit, thereby collectively end this horrific and illegal industry.

10 Signs of a high-quality breeder

Always make sure the breeder you found operates with the following high-quality practices:

  • The breeder should have ideally only one litter on site but if there are two, that might be acceptable if the breeder meets most or all of the best practices listed below.
  • The breeder should have ideally only 1 to 2 female breeding dogs that permanently live with the breeder as companion pets. The more females on site for the purpose of breeding them, the more likely the breeder is a backyard breeder.
  • The puppies’ mother should always be available for you to meet her. If not, this likely means that the mother is located at a puppy mill, or is ill or aggressive. The breeder has a reason for you not to see the mother, and that means trouble. So if you can’t visit the mother of the puppies, then do not buy a puppy from this breeder. As well, you must play the detective when you observe the mother dog. Carefully assess her appearance and behaviour because this dog may or may not be the actual mother of the puppies you are viewing. There is always the possibility that if this is a puppy mill, the seller might stage any dog as the mother of the puppies. Don’t be worried, however if, the father of the puppies is off site, because the breeder often pays private owners for their dog’s stud services to impregnate the female dog in heat at the breeder’s location.
  • Each breeding female should ideally only be pregnant once every two years or maximum once a year to treat her humanely. This is to ensure the health and well being of the breeding female, since pregnancy and whelping is stressful on the dogs’ body. If each female is bred once a year, that would be the second-best acceptable situation.
  • The breeding females should be retired from breeding by the age of 8 for a small breed if bred every 2 years. Or if she breeds once a year, the small female should be retired from breeding by the age of 6. So make sure you find out the mother’s age!
  • If the breeding female is of a large breed, then she should be retired from breeding by the age of 6, whether she is bred once or twice a year. Although a larger dog might be able tolerate the pregnancy and whelping better than a small breed, her life span is shorter than a small breed. As such, her body ages faster than a small dog and it’s not ethical to require her to continue breeding past middle age.
  • Ideally, when the female is retired, she should be kept by the breeder as a companion until the end of her life. Or the breeder should personally take great care to place her in a loving home.
  • The breeder should derive income from some additional source, such as a profession or another business, not just from breeding the puppies. This will mean that the breeder does not depend on selling a large number of puppies per year for their sole income. So be sure to ask if he or she makes their primary income from breeding puppies. If they say “yes” this, here is a red flag. You also can’t depend on an honest answer. So, again, detective work is necessary. For instance, the more breeding females they own, or the more times a year they breed each female, the more likely they are using their breeding dogs as their primary income. Keep in mind that a clever puppy mill operator will show you that they have only one or two breeding females on site, but they could have access to a vast quantity of adult female breeding dogs elsewhere. So you need to analyze every answer you obtain to assess if this breeder is truly a good-quality breeder.
  • The puppies should be kept inside the breeder’s home to socialize them with humans. But it’s fine, especially during COVID-19, that the breeder brings the mom and her puppies out to see you in a designated area. The coronavirus is dangerous for breeders too!
  • You will want to check that when the puppies reach 6 or 7 weeks old, the breeder will begin to intermittently separate them from the mother and gradually crate-train them from that point. (But this should not be started during the fear-window that occurs approximately 8-10 weeks of age as was discussed earlier.) And that overall the breeder socializes the puppies for human handling as noted above. This will help you bring home a crate-trained, well-socialized puppy to live with you. Plus it gradually prepares the puppy to leave the litter. And remember, because of the fear- window, it is best to move the puppy to its new home only around 12 weeks of age.
  • As discussed, all reputable breeders will allow you to come to their location to meet the puppies and the mother and to inspect their set up. Even during these COVID-19 times, there are creative ways (as noted above) to allow a visit. Don’t skip this critical step!! Again, if they say they will bring the puppy to you…hang up! And do not buy a puppy from this source.

Understand why mixed breed puppies are not pure breeds and why this matters!

According to Wikipedia, “A mixed breed is a domesticated animal descended from multiple breeds of the same species, often breeding without any human interventionrecordkeeping, or selective breeding.”

To clarify, a mixed breed dog is the offspring of two parents that are NOT of the same pure breed, in contrast to purebred dogs which are from the same pure breed. There are advantages to going either way. Only you can decide which type of pet will be the right addition to your family. To help you decide, PetMD compares the various advantages of owning a mixed breed versus advantages of owning a purebred.

What’s the problem with dogs that are not purebreds?

Just like with puppy mills and backyard breeders, mixed breeds from any source will produce unpredictable genetics.

Mixed breeds can have unexpected temperaments

For example, let’s say you buy a Golden-Doodle (Golden Retriever mixed with Poodle) because you wanted a dog with the temperament of Golden Retriever but have the non-shedding aspect of the Poodle. But there is no guarantee the puppies from Golden Doodle parents will have any particular temperament because the parents have mixture of genes from previous generations.

Mixed breeds cannot guarantee the dog won’t shed

With a Golden-Doodle, there is no guarantee what percentage of the dog’s breed is Golden Retriever and what percentage of the dog consists of the Poodle.

No matter what the “breeder” tells you about the percentage of Golden Doodle vs Poodle for one or more generations, it doesn’t matter. Because each of the earlier generational parents were bred with uncontrolled genetic selection.

Best-case scenario

With the best case scenario, it might be 50%-50% of Golden retriever vs Poodle. And that means there will be some shedding. And because when the puppies are not purebred poodle, the puppies will shed to some degree anyway no matter what!

Only purebred non-shedding breeds will not shed: Here are a few examples. Poodle, Shitzu, Coton De Tulear, Havanese and Tibetan Terrier.

Purebreds that are “overbred”can have health problems too


Yes there’s a serious problem of health issues associated with some true pure- bred dogs because popular breeds have definitely been overbred.

Overbreeding involves breeding closely-related dogs, or those with too many genetic similarities over a number of generations. And that can often perpetuate breed-specific health problems, like hip dysplasia in German Shepherds or breathing problems in Pugs and French Bulldogs. Over the past several decades, people have been drawn to specific breeds that are most popular at the moment. And over breeding has occurred simply to meet the public’s high demand of popular breeds. So some purebred dogs can definitely have health and other problems.


However, a true high-quality breeder of purebreds will scout the world for new health-tested genetic lines of their breed to avoid falling into this trap. So, you need to be patient and do your research to find such a breeder, thus ensuring that you are getting a well-bred purebred puppy, if a purebred is what you are after. You can recognize a high-quality breeder because they thoroughly understand and are able to document the ancestry of their puppies. They will have references also for you to check. Don’t avoid this step!

Have your puppy scanned for a pre-existing microchip

Make sure to have your puppy scanned at your veterinarian clinic for a pre-existing microchip. This is imperative before you have a new microchip injected into your puppy.

What to do if there is a microchip found

If there is an existing microchip, then it’s possible that the puppy was stolen. And then the original owner’s microchip can identify that owner.

Of course it will be upsetting for you to find out if you have purchased a stolen puppy! But it’s possible that the original owner has been frantically looking for their lost or stolen dog and would love to find him!

You will need to investigate how this happened. And then you might need to return the puppy to the original owner if they were innocent in the matter. Because wouldn’t you want someone to return your dog to you in such circumstances?

If there is no microchip found, then you have no way of knowing if this animal had a previous owner. Because the original owner might not have troubled to microchip the dog.

By taking this step when your pet first comes home, you can rest assured that you checked and you are the puppy’s forever parent! And don’t forget to microchip your new puppy with your contact information so he can be reunited with you should he ever be lost.

High-quality breeders often microchip the dog for you

Sometimes good-quality breeders microchip the puppy with your identity in advance, and will let you know. So by scanning the puppy at your vet, you can confirm it was done. But do check that all your contact information was registered correctly to your puppy’s microchip number.

Read More before getting a dog:

How to find good quality dog rescue agencies, 5 Things to know before getting a dog, Understanding dog behaviour

Things to help you with your new puppy:

Once you have purchased your purebred puppy from a high-quality breeder, learn about dog nutrition, maintaining your microchip contact information, seasonal flea and tick prevention, and other helpful tips to raise your puppy!

Yours in better dog care, Judy

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9 thoughts on “Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders: Avoid them.”

  1. The number of dogs being listed as ‘purebreds’ for sale on sites like Kijiji is disturbing. The demand that came with the jump in adoptions during lockdown only boosted this number further. I wish that there was stricter legislation in place that was actively enforced to cut down on situations like this. I know there are rules, but far too many people are flying under the radar and that needs to stop.

    1. Thank you for your contribution to this topic! Unfortunately, there are no rules or regulations at all in respect to breeding dogs other than “animal abuse” if that can be proven. But here in Toronto, several years ago, the city finally created a bylaw that bans the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores. This regulation only happened after 10-20 years of one given pet store chain (that closed down after this law was out into place) was repeatedly fined for selling such pets from mills. It’s unbelievable that the OSPCA didn’t appear to investigate to track down the mills when the dotted lines could be connected from that pet store, to the trucking company that delivered the pets or the contacts that the pet stores had with the mills or distributors from whom they purchased those pets!

    1. So you ask a couple of very good questions Sherri! Firstly, there is no such thing as a credible MUTT breeder. Those are the mix breeds that I mentioned in my blog. And most small “mutts” you will find have been bred by puppy mills. But it’s so much better to adopt a small breed from a shelter than “buy” one from a puppy mill broker because you are helping that dog get a good home without financially rewarding the puppy mill itself!

      If your city has a designated city operated shelter to adopt dogs, I would start there. For example. In Toronto, Toronto Animal services is a credible source to adopt a pet because they are in theory watched by the city’s regulators. Next, I would ask people you know who have recently adopted a dog and had a good experience in that the shelter matched the right dog to the person. The better shelters are the ones that have people fostering the dogs before adopting them out. The foster care firstly prevents the dog from being potentially emotionally damaged by being kept in an institutional environment and to be well cared for in a person’s home temporarily. Again, it’s best to find such a adoption agency through a personal referral. I will get into much more detail about this in my next blog of this series. But this is a good place to start. I hope this helps!

      1. Sorry, no. I’ve covered all these bases. I know what rescues do and what fostering is. I’m asking for a specific referral. I hear a lot about ‘credible’ breeders but again, need a specific name. Rescues don’t have small dogs – take a look. If you can personally refer me to one that does have small dogs now, I’d appreciate it.

  2. Based on our experience with Ray, I would highly recommend looking at shelter dogs for three excellent reasons:
    1. You are giving an unfortunate dog a second chance at a good life.
    2. Adopting from a shelter will free up space for another rescue who can be trained to become adoption potential.
    3. You will likely save yourself a lot of money.

    A possible 4th reason, based again on our experience with our local shelter, is that we had access to their trainers, and the benefits of their experience whenever we asked. Ray was not an easy dog to work with initially and so we used their expertise quite often, and it was all at no charge. In fact one of the trainers became Ray’s best friend. He loves her to death! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment, Colin! Yes, there is so much good in adopting a rescue a dog from a shelter! And by doing so people won’t inadvertently support puppy mills and backyard breeders! 😊 My next blog in this series will discuss helpful tips on how to find a credible shelter foster care organization.

What are your thoughts?

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