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Identify a Responsible Breeder

How can you identify a reputable breeder?

Adapted from the American Belgian Malinois Club for the American Belgian Tervuren Club by Becky Hansen 2023
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Once you have contacted a breeder, how do you know if that person is a reputable breeder who cares about the breed and about the people to whom he or she sells? Although the impulse to get a dog right away can be very strong, resist it. You are going to have this puppy for the next 12 years or so. It will be well worth taking your time to find the right breeder and waiting until puppies are available, if necessary.
Answer the following questions to decide if the breeder that you are thinking of buying a puppy from is reputable or not. You should answer “Yes” to most and hopefully all the questions, otherwise we would recommend that you keep looking. Try not to purchase a puppy just because it is all that is available right now.

1 Are the sire and dam both over two years old?
Yes _________No __________
Both sire and dam should be at least 2 years of age or older and have health clearances. Certification for hips and elbows cannot be done until a dog is at least two years of age. Having these certifications helps limit the chance that your puppy will develop one of these problems. Also some inheritable health problems, such as epilepsy, may not show up until three years of age or older.

2. Do both the sire and dam have health clearances and has the breeder given you copies?
Yes __________No ___________
A reputable breeder should be able to show you proof that both the sire and dam of the litter have had their hips and elbows X-rayed, and evaluated as normal by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or by one of the following organizations; PennHIP, Genetic Disease Control (GDC), or a foreign registry. They also should have had their eyes examined and certified free of hereditary disease by a veterinary ophthalmologist with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) within the last 12 months. And lastly, a breeder should also have an OFA Autoimmune Thyroiditis evaluation done and results registered with the OFA. The OFA, working with the ABTC, recommends these basic health screening tests for all breeding stock. Dogs meeting these 4 basic health screening requirements (hips, elbows, eyes, & thyroid) will be issued Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) numbers. The breeder should also be willing to answer your questions about any other possible hereditary problems, including but not limited to seizures and gastric carcinoma.
Here are the website addresses for the OFA and CERF. You can go online and check on an individual dog and his/her clearance status by typing in his/her registration number or name (registered AKC name which includes the kennel name) in the search area. Click on the name to see the dog’s full results.

3. Have you met the sire and dam, has the breeders sent you pictures and references?
Yes __________No ___________
If distance makes it impossible for you to meet the sire and dam then the breeder should be willing to give you references of people who have purchased puppies in the past, names of other breeders, and the veterinarian that cares for the their dogs. Don’t just take the breeder’s word for it that their dogs have great temperaments or look beautiful.

4. Does the breeder only sell puppies that are at least 8 weeks old? Do they provide a health record of the puppy and instructions on care?
Yes __________ No ___________
Most breeders will not take a puppy away from its mother before 8 weeks of age and will permanently identify every puppy, by either tattoo or microchip prior to being placed in its new home. They should also provide a record of vaccinations and de-worming and instructions on care and feeding.

5. Will the breeder provide you with a 3 generation pedigree, AKC registration papers and a copy of their contract/guarantee?
Yes __________No ___________
You should be provided with at least a 3-generation pedigree, AKC registration and a contract and/or guarantee. AKC registration may be done online by the breeder. More information on AKC registration can be found here:
A responsible breeder will guarantee their puppies for any genetic diseases that may occur or against show-ring disqualifications in an animal intended for showing or breeding. The contract should be explicit and a signed copy should be provided to each party. A responsible breeder will take back a puppy or dog (no matter the age) if you are unhappy with it. In fact, many breeders will insist that you return a dog to them if you cannot keep it for any reason. Their concern for the puppies they produce does not end when the puppy goes home with you, but lasts for the dog’s lifetime.

6. Did the breeder screen you as a puppy buyer?
Yes __________No ___________
A reputable breeder will ask you questions about what you hope to do with the puppy, where it will live, whether you have a fenced yard, and how you will take care of it. They may also ask you what kinds of dogs you have in the past, and what happened to them. This indicates that the breeder cares for the ongoing welfare of the dogs he or she produces.

7. Do the sire and dam have titles in conformation, obedience, agility, herding, tracking, Schutzhund or other activities?
While a title before or after a dog’s name does not prove anything, it does suggest that the dog has both the ability and temperament to excel in a given activity. Titles also suggest that the breeder is active and interested in the world of purebred dogs that they are breeding for a purpose, not simply to make money.

8. Does the breeder know the breed well?
Yes __________No ___________
A responsible breeder will know the Belgian Tervuren breed. They will know about the health and temperament problems that exist in the breed. They will be able to talk to you about the energy level of these dogs and help you determine if this is the right breed for you. An experienced breeder will also know how to recognize certain traits in individual puppies that will help him or her match the right puppy to the right home.

Now that you have asked all of your questions, be prepared to answer some from the breeder. Responsible breeders do not just sell puppies; they place them into proper homes. The breeder has put a lot into his litter in terms of time, money and love – love not only of his dogs but also for the breed itself. Do not be offended if you are asked questions about YOUR qualifications to be a Belgian Tervuren owner. A dedicated breeder will not pressure you to buy his puppies. He will encourage you to discuss the breed, both its positive and negative attributes, and to talk with other breeders.

Adapted for the American Belgian Tervuren Club by Becky Hansen 2023. Thank you to the American Belgian Malinois Club for the use of this article.