How To Choose A Good Breeder and Get The Right Retriever

Jun 10, 2020

Do you know the first steps to have an incredible hunting dog?

One of the first steps is finding the right breeder for you.

If you get this right, you won't have to worry about many of the red flags when picking out a puppy. 

How can you choose a good breeder?

There are a few essential things to consider when choosing a breeder for your hunting dog.

  • Establish a Budget
  • Look up Reputation/Reviews
  • Gauge Responsiveness
  • Ask about Facilities 
  • Get Proof of Health Testing
  • Research Bloodlines

The budget is a great starting point.

Starting with a budget in mind will help you determine which breeders you should consider. If you are just now starting your search, you might be wondering about the different price ranges and what they will get you.

Prices vary drastically but generally start in the mid-hundreds and can range upwards of $3,000 or more. As with most things, you will get what you pay for. That doesn't mean you can't get a great dog for less, but when you pay the premium prices, you are going to get a lot for your investment.

Health testing, proven lineages, and pristine facilities usually accompany the premium prices. That's not always the case, but it is certainly worth keeping in mind.

With all of that said, your budget is the key starting point in choosing a good breeder. When you are trying to decide what budget range that you are going to shop in, consider this...

Purchasing a puppy is an investment. The return on this investment is intangible. The experience that you will have, the memories that you will make, and the great times you will share with others as you all enjoy your hunting partner are priceless. You will potentially have years to enjoy this investment, so with that in mind, don't skimp, even if it means that you have to save up the money for a couple of years to get the pup that you want.

A breeder's reputation will precede them.

As you begin your search, you can start to weed out the breeders that aren't a good fit for you and make a list of the ones you would like to interview. When you are making your list of breeders that you would like to consider, it is best to narrow it down to 3-5 qualified candidates. 

This is a decision that you will put a lot of thought into and one that can be difficult. To help make this process easy for you, we have created a Breeder Checklist & Interview Guide that you can download and use to help you find out if the breeder you are considering is the right fit for you. 

How to Choose a Good Breeder

You can print out this guide and use it to #1 help you create a list of qualified breeders and #2 filter through that list to find the best breeder for you.

With that said, finding a reputable breeder is important. Try searching for reviews to see what people have to say about that breeder. Reviews aren't the final say, but it will definitely give you a feel for what you can generally expect from that breeder. 

Download the Breeder Checklist & Interview Guide so that you can narrow down your search with ease.

Responsiveness is important and can tell you a lot about the breeder.

How a breeder responds to you can tell you a lot about how your experience will be with that breeder. A good breeder will have a system in the form of an application process or at least a list of questions they ask to help determine how they can match you with a suitable puppy or litter pairing. They will also be happy to answer your questions and respond within a reasonable amount of time. 

Talking to potential breeders will also tell you a lot about who they are and how they run their operations. Integrity, as well as honesty, are two traits that a good breeder will exhibit. When you find a breeder that exhibits these traits, they should definitely be on your list that you are considering. 

These are the type of people that will take care of you and make sure that you get a dog that suits your needs best. This list will help you with finding a responsible breeder.

When it comes to responsiveness, here are some things to be looking for.

  • Answers your questions with care
  • Interested in what your goals are
  • Takes the time to educate you on the breed as well as the lineage of their lines
  • Passes the Breeder Checklist & Interview Guide

When it comes to responsiveness, here are some red flags to watch out for.

  • Talks too much about their own accomplishments instead of being more interested in YOUR needs and what you desire in a retriever
  • More concerned about selling you a puppy vs. being interested in making sure you are a responsible owner and have the means to take care of the puppy
  • Goes days on end without responding
  • Doesn't pass the Breeder Checklist & Interview Guide

Clean and organized facilities are imperative.

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the bathrooms are dirty? If so, you have probably been curious about what the kitchen looks like.

Similarly, the cleanliness of the breeder's facilities is imperative. The breeder may not allow you to see every part of their kennel for great reasons. That allows a breeder to keep germs away from the puppies. The places that they allow you to see are a good indicator of whether or not they take care of their puppies as they should.

Perfection is not required, but a high standard of excellence is something that you should be searching for. A breeder that exhibits excellence and keeps their facilities clean and in order will certainly be taking care of the areas you may not be able to see. 

What if the areas that the breeder allows you to see are dirty and not kept? Can you imagine what could be going on behind the scenes? It could be costly to your puppy's health! 

Health Testing is a key to a sound investment.

When it comes to health testing, this will boil down to budget. As already mentioned, you are going to get what you pay for. It is HIGHLY encouraged to count your puppy as an investment. We do not recommend you simply go for the cheapest option. 

Choosing a breeder that values the bloodline as well as health testing will ensure that you have the best possible chance of success and fully realizing your future dog's potential. 

Even with health testing, it's not going to guarantee your dog's full health, but it will certainly help you be aware of what you could face in the future. Choosing a breeder that values health testing tells you that they care about their breeding stock and that they are striving to be responsible. 

While you may just be getting into this sport, when you dive in, it will likely become a life long passion. We owe it to future generations to be responsible and value the heritage and health of our retrievers. You as a consumer have a vital role to play in this legacy.

When choosing a breeder, you can protect this sport and ensure it for years to come for future generations by purchasing responsibly. Finding a breeder that is dedicated to responsible breeding is vital for your current investment and for the future generations as well.

Here's a list of specific health tests that a good breeder will have done...

  • Annual Eye Certification
  • Hips OFA or Equivalent
  • Elbows OFA or Equivalent
  • EIC
  • CNM
  • PRA
  • SD2

Bloodlines can tell you a lot about what you will get.

If you take the time to research different bloodlines, it can help you find which lines match what you are looking for in a retriever. Once you have your list of breeders narrowed down, ask them about their future litters. Once they tell you, you can start researching.

Ask the breeder to send you videos of both parents working and even further back in the litter's lineage if possible. They aren't always available, but when you can find a video of your potential puppy's line, it's a great way to get a feel for what your pup is going to be like. The tendencies that you see will likely be some of the same tendencies that your pup may exhibit. 

For example: If you like the way a potential sire works, your puppy may work in a similar manner. If the sire has energetic traits like running at a fast pace and is always on edge, then a future puppy out of that litter will likely exhibit the same traits. With that in mind, if you're looking for a laid back dog, that's probably not the litter for you. 

With all of that said, it is okay if you do not know what to look for yet. Look for what you like rather than some other list of criteria. Even if you don't know what you like yet, then over the course of your research, you will start to notice traits that you want to see in your pup and you will also notice some traits that you might not want your future pup to exhibit.

Start your search today.

Whether you are ready to buy a pup now, or whether you are thinking about waiting a few years, there is no better time to start your search than now. Starting today will give you the opportunity to really do a thorough search and find exactly what you are looking for.

Download our Breeder Checklist & Interview Guide here and start your search today.


Joshua Parvin 

P.S. Check out our next post in the series all about choosing your puppy here.


You can view every post in this series as well as additional puppy tips here