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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


Finding a Quality Breeder
for Your Next Service Dog
(Part 1)

Golden retriever mother feeding her puppies that will be service dog candidates

When looking for a healthy puppy (or dog) with a good temperament, there are some qualities you can use to pre-screen potential breeders before you spend more time with them. Not all breeders will do all these things but how many they do will be an good indication of how invested they are in their dogs and the line(s) they breed. Do your research before you contact them to rule out the ones you are not interested in. Check their websites to see how much of the information below is available, check the info off and add details. Look for a FAQ page on their website. Have several “big picture” questions for them for first contact and go down through details from there when you either email or call them. 

Communication with the Breeder is Critical 

If you are clear on what you need, let them know right from the start. Let them know what you need the pup for (assistance dog, the specific tasks), that you need a structurally sound healthy pup with a sound temperament and good early start to socialization with people, other animals, and environmental enrichment. Also mention if or not you care what sex or colour the dog is. (Being flexible on all these points will help the breeder choose the right pup for you). Most breeders will not sell you a show prospect as they are potential future breeders for their lines. You will not be breeding the pup as it will be a working dog and taking 5 or more months off from the job (females) won’t work for you. Producing pups takes a lot out of a female. Her system is already taxed enough being a service dog.

Tip:  As tempting as it may be, avoid hiring a consultant or other third party to contact and evaluate potential breeders at the beginning. Good breeders want personal contact with YOU. They want to know the people their pup will be growing up and spending his whole life with. The first impression is important. The effort you put into learning what a good breeder looks like is what they want to see. If you are not willing to make the time to learn what a good breeder is or talk with them, they will not be interested in selling you a pup. All of what you will learn will be useful information that will help you to raise your pup (and the next ones) to become an assistance dog. If you want to bring a consultant in after you have talked with the breeder to look at the parents and pups with you, ask the breeder if they are open to this. They should be. Good breeders want to educate people as much as possible about good breeding practices, their breed and dogs in general.

A Quality Breeder

Once you have narrowed down your choice of breed to one to three breeds, now is the time to generate a list of potential breeders. You can narrow the list down to a short list that you can pursue using the following 3 steps. Those that don’t meet the list of quality breeders are taken off the list. Then those that are left are examined more closely again. No breeder will do all of the things on the list. It will be a best choice of the breeders available at the time. There may be some flexibility in what some breeders will be willing to do. Some are eager to learn what they can do to help give their pups a head start, while others are already happy with the foundation they provide. Each are individuals just like the puppy you will be bringing home. 

Don’t forget you can also wait for a litter. Better to get a solid service dog candidate than take the pup in front of you that may not meet up to your expectations.


Wondering how to train your own service dog?

Check out our Service Dog Training Institute classes (for both human and dog).
If you want to learn how to train a service dog like a professional, these classes will give you the skills to do so and to train other pet dogs! You learn as your dog learns.

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