Choosing a Breeder

We’ve all heard the horror stories about puppy mills and pet shops.  But how can you tell whether or not you’ve found a reputable breeder?  It’s easy to claim that you do health testing, that your dogs come from “champion lines”, and that you’re associated with the AKC, but what does that actually mean?  Here are some basic things to look for when you’re looking for a breeder:

  • Is the breeder involved with showing their dogs?  This is important because it shows the breeder is committed to breeding dogs that are as close to the breed standard as possible.  The goal should be to better the breed  with every subsequent generation.  There’s a misconception that a dog show is just the canine equivalent of a beauty pageant.  Not true!  Dogs are shown in AKC conformation classes.  Did you catch that?  It’s conformation, not confirmation!  That’s because a winner is chosen based on which dog most closely conforms to the breed standard.  In our case, that means the winning dog is the best example of a Havanese in the ring that day based on the written breed description.  Why does this matter to you?  Because you’ve done your research and found the breed that’s best for your lifestyle.  Now you need to find a breeder who’s dedicated to producing dogs that are true representatives of that breed.
  • Is the breeder a member of any local dog clubs?  Although a lot of breeders proudly claim to be members of the AKC, and yes, a pure bred dog should be AKC registered, anyone can be a member.  The only requirement is to own an AKC registered dog.  Involvement in a specialty or all breed club, on the other hand, is by selection.  Just like with being involved with showing, it demonstrates the breeder’s commitment to furthering his knowledge and being part of a network of likeminded people.
  • Does the breeder do the correct health testing for all of his dogs?  You’ll find a lot of breeders, most in fact, that claim to have health tested their dogs.  Do your research and find out exactly what they’re referring to when they say that.  Ask to see their dogs’ OFA records and CHIC certificates.  What is CHIC?

“The Canine Health Information Center, also known as CHIC, is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The CHIC, working with participating parent clubs, provides a resource for breeders and owners of purebred dogs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds.”   (

Every parent club (i.e. the Havanese Club of America) determines the appropriate testing for their breed based on that breed’s known medical issues.  That then becomes the standard health testing recommended for that breed and should be the minimum amount of health testing a breeder does.  Once a dog has taken all his required health testing, he is issued a CHIC number by the OFA.  It’s important to note that a CHIC number does not mean the dog successfully passed all tests, just that they were performed, so it’s also important to look at the individual test results.   Information about what health testing an individual dog has gotten can be found on the OFA website ( by searching for the dog’s registered name.  Havanese should be tested for CERF (eyes) BAER (hearing), Patellas (knees) and Hips.  Most reputable breeders also test for Elbows and Cardiac.

  • Are the dogs and puppies in the breeder’s home, or are they kept outside?  How many dogs does the breeder have?  Does the breeder welcome visits?  Any breed that is considered a companion breed should be kept in the house, not a kennel.  It’s very important for the puppies’ development that they’re exposed to everyday situations as they’re growing.  I.e. the normal noises found in a house like the vacuum cleaner, phone ringing, people talking, etc.  Also, as basic rule, your breeder should not have more dogs than they can give adequate love and attention to on a daily basis.
  • Is the breeder willing to make a long term commitment to you as a buyer?  Your relationship with the breeder should not end when you walk out of the door with your puppy.  Your breeder should be your best resource for information and support as your puppy grows and they should encourage that interaction.  Your contract with the breeder should have a stipulation that you can return the dog to them at any time for any reason.  They should be as picky about you as a buyer as you are about them as a breeder as the goal should be to place the puppy in an appropriate home, not just make a sale.

Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • Breeder has several different types of dogs, especially so called “designer” dogs, or an excessive number of dogs.
  • Dogs kept outside or in a separate building.
  • Won’t allow you to meet parent dogs.
  • Sells dogs over the internet.
  • Won’t give you the registered names of the parent dogs.
  • Dogs that seem timid and afraid, or are overly aggressive.
  • Lack of overall cleanliness, both of the dogs and their surroundings.
  • Breeders that claim their vet does their health testing but don’t have any CHIC or OFA certificate
  • Parent dogs are under a year old.
  • Doesn’t provide contract, or the contract doesn’t address spay/neuter or breeding rights.