Selecting a Responsible Labrador Breeder

Selecting a breeder is the first step in finding a Labrador puppy. Responsible breeders knowledgeable about the breed and they strive to produce healthy sound puppies. These breeders will be a valuable resource for you during your dog's lifetime.

Different types of breeders

  • Hobby breeders focus on the betterment of their favorite breed. Their litters are carefully planned and they provide their dogs and puppies with proper care. Most of these breeders have several health clearances done on their dogs. The puppies are sold directly to approved homes. 
  • The primary focus of commercial breeders is financial profits. Their dogs and puppies are often raised in crowded, unhealthy conditions. The quality of the puppies is variable. The puppies are usually sold to puppy brokers and pet stores. 
  • Backyard breeders often have good intentions, but most of them lack the knowledge and experience to properly plan a litter. These breeders rarely do any health clearances on their dogs. The quality of the puppies is variable. These breeders usually sell their puppies directly to the new owners.
  • For additional information, please read the Selective Breeding Programs and Types of Breeders in the About Breeders section.

Health concerns in Labradors

  • Some health conditions are inherited and others are not. 
  • DNA testing for many inherited disorders is now available. Numerous genetic disorders associated with recessive genes can be prevented if the sire and dam are tested. If previous generations have been cleared, additional testing is not required. 
  • The probability that a puppy will develop some health problems can be reduced, but not eliminated. The evaluation of the hips, elbows, and cardiac function of the sire and dam can reduce the risk of these problems in their offspring. 
  • The recommended health clearances for Labradors include x-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia,  an eye exam done by a veterinary ophthalmogist, DNA testing for EIC (exercise induced collapse) and PRA (progressive retinal atrophy). DNA testing for CNM (centronuclear myopathy) and cardiac examination are recommended clearances.  

Visit with breeders and their dogs

  • Their dogs should seem happy, healthy and well cared for. Responsible breeders provide adequate space for their dogs including safe indoor and outdoor areas. Some or all of their dogs will be in the house for at least part of the day. 
  • Responsible breeder may have some older retired dogs and a few young "hopefuls" living with them. You will be able to meet grandparents, aunts, siblings, and cousins of the puppies you are considering. 
  • Responsible breeders often do not own both the sire and dam. 
  • To prevent the spread of infectious disorders, some breeders may not allow visitors when they have a pregnant dog. 
Contact Labrador Retriever Clubs, local kennel clubs, the AKC breeder referral page, or veterinarians in your area for referrals. 

Interviewing the Breeder

Ask the breeder questions about their involvement with the breed. Responsible breeders are knowledgeable about Labrador Retrievers.  These breeders usually participate in dog shows, obedience training, field trials, and/or breed rescue.   

Ask about the goals of their breeding programs, and how they select the dogs used in their breeding program. Look for a breeder that focuses on quality rather than quantity and monetary profits. When a financial profit is the primary goal, the choices and decisions made by these puppy producers are often not in the best interest of their dogs, their puppies, and/or the Labrador breed.  The selection of the breeding pair should be based on specific characteristics including health clearances, conformation, and temperament.

Ask how often their females are bred and how many litters the breeder has in a year. Look for a breeder that is concerned about the health and well-being of their females and puppies. Generally, responsible hobby breeders will have 1 to 3 litters a year. Usually, their females have up to 4 litters in their lifetime. Most of their litters are planned with the hope of keeping a puppy.

Ask to see the pedigrees and health clearances of the sire and dam. Hip, elbow, eye, EIC, and D locus (dilute) DNA testing are recommended for Labradors. OFA hip and elbow clearances can be verified on line. Many reputable breeders do additional clearances on their dogs. The breeders should be able to provide documentation for each clearance.

Ask if the puppy will be sold with papers from the American Kennel Club. The AKC registers purebred dogs. This organization also encourages sound breeding practices by promoting the breed standard, supporting a variety of dog events, providing information to potential breeders and prospective dog owners, requiring DNA testing of frequently used stud dogs, and investigating reports of substandard kennel conditions. Many breeders place their puppies with papers with a spay/neuter agreement and an application for AKC limited registration. The offspring of these dogs can not be registered. The dogs can not compete in AKC conformation classes, but they can participate in numerous AKC events. 

Ask the breeder where their puppies are raised. Puppies require appropriate veterinary care, a clean safe environment, good quality food, room to run and play, a variety of toys, and lots of human interaction. The puppies raised in the house by responsible breeders are usually well cared for and properly socialized.

Ask the breeder about their policies regarding inherited health problems. Many responsible breeders will provide the owners with a new puppy if the puppy develops serious inherited problems such as hip or elbow dysplasia. 

Ask the breeder about their return policy if you can't keep your dog. You may be required to return the dog to the breeder if you are unable to keep the your dog, or they may help you find a new home for your dog.

Interesting and Informative Link

Finding a Responsible Breeder