There’s a HUGE difference between a puppy mill or “backyard breeder” and a REPUTABLE BREEDER. And there’s a HUGE difference between dogs that come from those different sources.
First, be aware that the AKC (American Kennel Club) registration is not in any way an indication of quality! The worst puppy-mill dogs in the country may be AKC registered, as well as the highest quality, well-bred litter. AKC registration is simply a registry service, and used alone does not indicate good health, good breeding, or high quality. In some cases where record-keeping is questionable, it does not even insure that the dog is from the breeding indicated on the papers. AKC registration is where you BEGIN your search, not end it!
Some hallmarks of a reputable breeder:
A reputable breeder is usually an approved member of their respective breed club, and very often a member of a local / regional breed club or all-breed club as well. Vali Icelandics is a proud member of the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America, the Keeshond Club of America, and the Huntsville Kennel Club.
A reputable breeder submits hip x-rays on ALL their dogs over 2 years of age to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). A reputable breeder ONLY breeds dogs that have been certified clear of hip dysplasia by OFA. Vali Icelandics has OFA clearance on EVERY SINGLE sire and dam from EVERY SINGLE litter we breed.
A reputable breeder does additional health clearances for issues that affect their individual breed. Vali Icelandics participates in CERF testing on eyes, heart testing, stifles check, and thyroid testing, among other important health evaluations.
A reputable breeder usually participates in AKC-sanctioned events, and pursues excellence by exhibiting their dogs to experienced judges who evaluate them in comparison with the AKC standard for the breed. Vali Icelandics is very active in AKC Conformation, competes at the highest national level, and successfully wins both AKC Champion and AKC Grand Champion titles, among others.
Reputable breeders DO NOT place their puppies in a pet shop or puppy mill situation. Reputable breeders DO NOT sell puppies at shopping venues, flea markets, or other retail sources. Reputable breeders normally DO NOT have many different breeds for sale at their home or place of business. Reputable breeders DO NOT release puppies until 8 weeks of age. Reputable breeders DO NOT sell puppies to “just anyone with the money” … they ask quite a few questions before agreeing to consider you as a home. Vali Icelandics places puppies in APPROVED HOMES ONLY and requires an agreed-upon, signed contract, to ensure that ALL our puppies end up as healthy, happy companions in loving homes.
A well-bred puppy from a quality litter is not that easy to find. Many reputable breeders have a waiting list for their puppies, and require a deposit. Regardless of individual policies, REPUTABLE BREEDERS put in time, effort, thought, analysis, resources, and great care in striving to produce happy, healthy puppies that are sound in mind and body.
Where to look for a reputable breeder:
Search online for the national parent club of the breed of dog you are looking for, and depending on the breed, regional clubs as well. Every national or regional breed club has a list of members, and some have an additional list of breeders, or puppies currently available. Call people on that list, and ask for referrals. Ask questions about their policies, and be aware of the hallmarks that identify someone as a reputable source. For Icelandic Sheepdogs, our national club is the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America (ISAA).
Don’t be fooled by a slick website with eye-catching photos. Anyone with a computer and a little expertise can create a good-looking website, and photos can be copied and imported to make a disreputable site look impressive. Conversely, don’t eliminate someone simply because they do not have a professional website or a website at all. Make your decisions based on credentials, experience, and policies.
The American Kennel Club has a “Puppy Finder” option, where you may find many very good breeders. Be warned, however, that every kennel listed on the AKC site might not be a reputable source, since advertisers purchase space on their website without meeting any criteria.
I hope the information above helps you in your search for a new puppy. In any case, take your time and be careful, as there are MANY disreputable sources out there. By following these guidelines, you will greatly increase the odds of finding a healthy, happy companion for many years. A lifetime of good health, abundant energy, happy temperament and loving devotion is worth the effort!