Finding a good dog breeder can be tough and it can be even harder with a breed like the American Pit Bull Terrier. Unfortunately, poor and unscrupulous breeding practices abound with these dogs. However, there are steps you can take to find a responsible pit bull breeder.
Finding Responsible Pit Bull Breeders
Use Reputable Breed Registries
There are many dog breed registries that can be found online. Not all of these have a good reputation. Plus the fact that a dog is registered with one, even if they're reputable, does not necessarily mean this is a quality dog. Still knowing the breeder is at least making the effort to register their dogs is a possible indication that they are not a backyard breeder. A benefit of the registries is that many list breeders, so this is a good place to start when doing your initial research:
- The American Kennel Club is probably the most prestigious of the registries. They do not accept the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed but you can find American Staffordshire Terrier breeders on the AKC Marketplace. Any puppy listed will be from an AKC-registered litter.
- Another large and active registry with a breeder directory is the United Kennel Club, which was started in the United Kingdom in 1898. Incidentally, the founder of the UKC was an American Pit Bull Terrier breeder and the first dog registered with the UCK was a pit bull. The UKC recognizes the American Pit Bull Terrier but not the American Staffordshire Terrier.
- The American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) was formed to promote the American Pit Bull Terrier breed and educate about responsible ownership. They also promote titling dogs with sports such as weight pull. ADBA has an area on their site for breeders to advertise and also has a breeder directory available from their magazine, the ADBA Gazette, for a fee.
Look for Awards and Titles
When looking at breeder listings, visit their websites or Facebook pages if available. Search for information on their dogs and their accomplishments. Most breeders are eager to advertise titles and awards their dogs have won, such as winning at breed confirmation events and obedience and dog sports competitions. A puppy for sale from a dam and sire that have been titled is more likely to be from a quality breeder as they've demonstrated an interest in working with and improving their dog's temperament through training and other activities. You should also look for an official designation from a registry that the dog is from a champion bloodline, usually designated with a CH or GRCH.
Visit Dog Shows
Another good way to find breeders is to visit dog shows in your area. This can include breed conformation shows as well as dog sports like agility, weight pull, scent work and more. You can contact the clubs organizing the shows ahead of time to ask if there will be any pit bulls competing. While the breed isn't as common at some types of events, you still can find them with a bit of leg work.
Ask for Professional Recommendations
Professionals in the pet care world are an excellent source of recommendations for breeders. Veterinarians, groomers, pet sitters, trainers, daycares, and boarding facilities can tell you about breeders they have had good experiences with. Likewise, they can let you know if they've seen any red flags and breeders to avoid. Since these professionals interact regularly with dogs in the community, they can be good judges of which dogs they enjoyed meeting and which may not be good fits for you.
Check Out Shelters and Rescues
Don't discount asking shelters and rescues as well, as there are some, especially breed rescues, that work with responsible breeders. They also may know of breeders to avoid because they see dogs that have been surrendered for behavior issues and were not taken back by the breeder. Not all animal rescue organizations will be willing to suggest breeders but they can be a great source of information if they're open to helping you find a dog that you intend to care for over the long term.
Vetting Responsible Pit Bull Breeders
Once you've narrowed down your list of breeders, it's important to interview them carefully and thoroughly to ensure you're getting a quality dog. There are several areas you want to cover when asking questions.
Ask the breeder if they can provide references. These should not only be from previous adopters, but a veterinary reference as well. A good pit bull breeder should be happy to provide these. You also should ask for a veterinary overview of the medical history of the dam and sire to be sure that tests were performed to rule out genetic medical conditions and that they are healthy. The veterinarian or breeder should also provide proof each pit bull puppy has had their appropriate vaccines for their age.
Ask if you can visit their location and see where the dam and sire are housed, as well as where the puppies are kept. Factors to look out for include:
- Ideally, the best situation is one where the dogs live in the house and are raised with the family. This means the puppies are more likely to be socialized around people, as well as possibly other pets.
- You also should ask, if still available, to see where the puppies are or were whelped to look for a clean environment. Dogs that are kept outside 24/7 in kennels aren't necessarily ones to avoid but they're less likely to have mental and physical enrichment which can lead to behavior problems.
- If there's a lot of dogs in kennels, this may also indicate it's a puppy mill.
- If a breeder will not allow you to see the facilities where the puppies were born and kept, this is a red flag to walk away.
Dam and Sire
You also want to ask to meet the dam and sire of the puppies. Some breeders will own both dogs whereas others may have bred their dam to a stud they do not own. It may not be possible to see the sire if he lives at a far distance. Items you should inquire about are:
- Any known behavioral issues of both parents
- Any known medical issues of both parents
When meeting the dam, look to see if she seems friendly and interested in people, and has an overall good temperament and is healthy.
It's best to meet the puppies a few times to see how they are developing and to ensure they are being cared for in a clean, appropriate environment.
- You want to meet all the puppies in the litter and look for signs of shyness, fear or aggression. A healthy litter will be full of friendly dogs who are eager to meet you.
- See if you can check their physical health as well, such as healthy skin without signs of mange, parasites or sores, and see if you can observe them eliminating to look for stool that's not diarrhea.
- Also look for any other health issues such as sneezing, coughing, limping, goopy or runny eyes or anything that seems off.
Health and General Care
How the puppies as well as the dam and sire are cared for as part of their daily routine is important. Equally important are the breeding conditions for the parents. You should ask:
- How often is the dam bred? It's recommended that a bitch be bred every other heat cycle to keep her system from getting stressed and affecting the health of the puppies.
- How often is the sire bred? Male dogs can breed much more often than females, but a male that is bred every day can affect the quality and quantity of their sperm.
- How old is the mother? It's recommended that female dogs should stop breeding around age five to seven years. Older dogs can develop health problems that can have a negative effect on the puppies health or lead to a miscarriage.
- How old is the father? The quality of the male's sperm will drop and breeding may have more problems due to health issues. The recommended age male dogs be retired is around seven to eight years of age.
- What are the dogs fed? Both adults and puppies should be on a high-quality food to ensure good health. The better the food the more likely the breeders are deeply concerned with the health and welfare of their pit bull puppies.
Socialization and Training
It's critical for a behaviorally healthy dog to ask about socialization. This even more so true for the pit bull breeds as these dogs get such a bad rap for behavior problems.
- How are the puppies socialized? Are the breeders providing socialization opportunities for the puppy with other people? Puppies that are not well socialized can develop behavior issues and a lack of socialization plan indicates breeders who do not have the puppies' best interests in mind.
- Are they doing any training such as crate training, house training and basic obedience? While the pups may be too young to learn a lot of behaviors, having them at least learn sit can be beneficial.
What's Their Motivation to Breed?
A really important question to ask of pit bull breeders is why they're doing it.
- Morgan Weber of Lucky Pup Adventures, a pet care expert and pit bull owner and foster mom strongly recommends that you ask the breeder, "What are you hoping to get out of this litter as far as temperament?"
- She also cautions potential pit bull owners to query the breeder about what they don't want. You should ask, "What are the things you are breeding away from, such as medical issues or tendency toward specific behavior problems?" A good breeder should be looking at the dogs' pedigrees to create a litter with positive qualities and free of potential problems.
- A breeder who is motivated to better the breed will also indicate they are there if you need help. Having a breeder willing to answer questions once the dog is home is a breeder who cares about what happens to their dogs.
Finally there are several questions related to important paperwork to ask:
- Can they provide a pedigree of the pit bull puppies for sale? Not all breeders will submit for the paperwork for a pedigree but ask if they are willing to assist you.
- If they can't provide any information about pedigree, this is a definite concern.
- Do they require you to sign a contract? A contract specifies what happens to the puppy if you cannot keep it. A contract should also include a health guarantee.
- Weber advises to ask, "What happens if something doesn't work out? Are you contractually required to return the puppy to you?" A good breeder will take back their puppies and find a new home for them.
- If all the breeder gives you is a bill of sale, this indicates they are not a responsible breeder.
Pit Bull Breeder Questions for You
If the breeder does not interview you about your pet history, veterinarian and your intentions about the puppies, this is an indication they are only breeding to make a sale. This is definitely true for pit bulls, as these dogs are often used for nefarious reasons like dog fighting or to be guard dogs. A good breeder will want to know that you are looking for pit bull puppies for sale specifically to have a companion that will be a cherished part of the family. Walk away from a pit bull breeder who has nothing to ask and only takes your money without a contract or interview.
Finding a Great Pit Bull Breeder
Although this breed is sadly the victim of over-breeding with little interest in health or temperament, there are still many fine examples of pit bull dogs to choose from. Weber says it's important to "find a breeder that you want to form a lifelong relationship with, and that provides you support after you bring the puppy home." If you do your homework and take your time, and do not skimp on going through your questions checklist, you're on your way to finding the pit bull puppy of your dreams.