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Are Backyard Breeders Bad?

Getting a family dog is a big decision, but getting a puppy from a professional breeder can be expensive. So is going to a backyard breeder a good idea?

Backyard breeders breed dogs on their personal property for financial gain, often without any prior knowledge of dog breeding, animal health, and how to care for puppies properly, meaning their litters may develop health problems and not be registered with the correct official paperwork.

Let’s dive down into the subject of backyard breeders in more detail, and basically, advise you what to steer clear of…

Are Backyard Breeders Bad?

What is Considered a Backyard Breeder?

Backyard breeders are individuals who literally breed dogs on their personal property (or in their backyard) for the ultimate goal of selling puppies for profit.  Their intention is often motivated either by greed or necessity (like losing a job or not having enough income). 

They aren’t necessarily villainous, but they aren’t people whose family dog just happened to have an unexpected litter and can’t keep up with a bunch of new puppies.

No, they breed deliberately in the hopes of making money.  They often don’t worry about whether the dogs should be bred.  They may not register their dogs or have good supporting paperwork for their “pure bred” lines. 

They may not take into account genetic defects that can be passed down to puppies such as certain types of diseases or dysfunction.  Among larger dogs, hip dysplesia is a big problem amongst backyard bred pups, for example.

All in all, you will probably be dealing with someone who lacks knowledge when it comes to canine health, disorders, and supporting paperwork. 

This is especially true for designer pups like labradoodles that aren’t necessarily recognized by pure breed associations (although they can be recognized as mixed breeds) but are very popular amongst the general population that is willing to fork out large sums of money for them.

As an aside, the good thing about mixed breeds or designer pups is that, although they are not recognized for their breeding, they don’t necessarily come with a lot of the same health issues pure breeds can come with.  So, if you do decide to entertain buying a puppy from a backyard breeder, maybe go with this type of mutt.

Can You Breed Dogs in Your Backyard (Is it Legal?)

To paraphrase a movie quote, the question shouldn’t be “can you breed dogs in your backyard” it should be “should you breed dogs in your backyard?”

Legally, yes, if you own a dog that has puppies, then technically you could be considered a breeder if you sell those puppies or even give them away

Now legal issues may arise if you start violating health codes, abuse or are cruel to the dogs, your neighbors start complaining, or your dog breeding becomes a nuisance to your neighbors and neighborhood

You also have to consider what rules you may be violating if you’re part of a Home Owner’s Association.  You’re more than likely to face a lawsuit or fines than face jail time.

But all in all, if you care for the dogs and don’t breed year-round to the point it becomes a business, then yes, it’s legal.

Here’s a great video explaining backyard breeders in more detail:

Is it OK or Bad To Buy a Puppy From a Backyard Breeder?

Backyard breeding can be necessary at times. In rural areas where pure breeds can be hard to come by, it’s not uncommon for an established line to be bred once in a while to be sold.  Similar to horses, the goal is two-fold: make money and preserve the line if the line is healthy.  Or maybe you just love your dog and want puppies.

There are practical reasons and emotional reasons for backyard breeding. It doesn’t mean those reasons are bad.

As mentioned, in rural areas, you’ll see this type of approach with specific dog breeds like bloodhounds (or any type of hound, often) or retrievers or cattle dogs.  In urban areas, you may see it with dogs good for security, like German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

The point is, in most of these types of cases, breeding is also a benefit because the dogs will eventually be used in some form of service while providing others with an opportunity to acquire a breed of dog they may not usually have access to.  As long as the puppies are bred responsibly and not for selfish gain, then backyard breeding can be acceptable.

If, on the other hand, a person is purely breeding puppies for profit without regard for the health of the mother and puppies or how often they are breeding, well, best to stay away.

How Do I Know if My Puppy Breeder is Bad?

Look for a few warning signs. You’ll know them as soon as you see them.

  • The breeder charges less than normal for a particular breed of dog.  This is a big warning sign.  If the breeder isn’t valuing the dog appropriately, then they’re probably just looking to make quick money.
  • The breeder has no supporting paperwork for the breed line and very little in terms of mother or puppy health documents (deworming, vaccinations, etc).  If the breeder can supply paperwork or refer you to the veterinarian they use, walk away.
  • The breeder refuses to provide a list of references.  Another big warning sign.  A breeder should be more than willing to supply a list of satisfied customers who can testify to their professionalism and quality of their puppies.
  • The amount of dogs the breeder sells at any one time.  You can notice this upon visiting your potential pup.  Look around.  Are their outdoor kennels with other breeds of dogs for sale?  Is there another pregnant mother lying in the shade?  That kind of stuff.
  • Does the breeder have knowledge of the type of care this particular breed requires?  This should stop you dead in your tracks if they rub their hands together and start giving you answers that sound like they were read off an internet search.
  • Does the breeder ask you questions about your experience raising puppies or what kind of home you will provide?  Most good breeders care about their pups and the type of home they’re going to.  If they just ask about the color of money, again, walk away.
Backyard puppy breeders

What is The Difference Between a Backyard Breeder and a Puppy Farm?

The difference is usually scale.  A backyard breeder, although they may breed what is considered in access in terms of number of breeds and puppies, is much smaller than the amount of breeds and puppies a puppy farm or puppy mill puts out.  Puppy farms are puppy-producing machines.

As mentioned above, there are cases where backyard breeding isn’t a bad thing.  With puppy farms, it’s almost always, no pretty much always, about money.  The sole goal is making and selling puppies, often to pet stores. 

The health and genetic defects among these breeds are often poorly tracked with little to no regard to whether parents with said defects should even be allowed to reproduce.

How Do I Know if My Puppy is From a Backyard Breeder or Puppy Farm?

Here are a few warning signs is from a backyard breeder or puppy farm but far from exhaustive:

  • Your puppy was purchased from a pet store.  Most pet stores receive their puppies from puppy farms (unless they do breed rescues).
  • The pet store won’t share information on where and what “kennel” the puppy came from.
  • Supporting paperwork is limited or non-existent for both medical history and breed history.
  • The puppy has not had any shots.
  • The puppy has not been dewormed.
  • The puppy is in quarantine at the pet store or at the original seller’s with kennel cough.  This is a respiratory infection that is common amongst puppies around large numbers of other puppies that share the same or nearby spaces.
  • The puppy is younger than normal for purchase.  This means the puppy is younger than eight weeks.
  • The breeder or farm has multiple breeds for sale.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, I guess buying a puppy from a backyard breeder is a bad idea for two main reasons.

Firstly, the breeder themselves probably won’t know what they’re doing and is only in it for the money, which means that secondly, the puppy may not have been looked after properly, wormed, or come with any official supporting paperwork (amongst many other negatives).

So ultimately I think it’s best for you, your family, and your future pet – if you buy from a reputable professional dog breeder.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >