Visiting your breeder

You want a purebred dog. You also want one from a breeder you know is contributing to the future of the breed and doing all the right things – proving their dogs in health and temperament, preserving their breed for the future using genetic diversity, and one that provides a nice living environment for your puppy but also for the adult dogs! You want to make sure you do your homework (we’ve all heard nightmare stories about puppies in filth!) and want to visit your breeder. What are some considerations you should have when approaching a breeder about visiting with them? What should you expect?

In previous litters, the homes I have selected for my puppies become like family at times. They have been a joy to meet when they come to visit the puppies. Some have so enjoyed watching their puppies grow up remotely that they have brought our family a thank you gift! One year, while raising puppies in the dead of winter and struggling with split hands from all the cleaning and taking outside to exercise/work on potty training, several brought me lotions and oils to combat the problem. Without families to take our puppies, we would not be able to produce our next generation to continue our breeds. Puppy homes are amazing and help us as breeders contribute to our breed’s preservation and future.

Different types of visitation: Not all breeders approach this the same way.

Most breeders fall in to one of these three categories.

No visitation: Breeders come from all walks of life, just like the general population. Some may be single or simply feel uncomfortable inviting anyone they do not know personally to their homes. (And it’s no wonder, breeders are horrified by occasional news stories in which a breeder is killed in their home while allowing visitors; it is not without risk that they invite people to their homes.) It is not uncommon that some very good breeders will strictly not allow visitors. Especially during the year of the Covid19 pandemic, more breeders may fall under this category for the safety of themselves or those they love.

We know this may not be what you as a potential puppy home may prefer; breeders like this can be difficult for buyers to gauge how the adult dogs are cared for, how the puppies are raised and the condition of the home. So, what can you do? The best ways to try to assess the situation are to ask for references from people who have gotten previous puppies and to ask for references from people who have visited the home of the breeder. You can also ask for videos and photos that show the state of the home or location the puppies are being raised. Cute photos with generic background do not show this. Additionally, breeders who do not allow visitation at their homes will often allow you to meet their adult dogs away from their home. You can assess the dog’s temperament as well as the condition of their body while doing this. (A note about photos….some breeders even do not feel comfortable showing photos of the interior of their home.)

Some limited visitation: Many breeders may also fall under this category. Breeders under this category will allow visitors only at certain times, often solely for potential puppy homes that are already pre-screened. Some of these breeders may allow pre-screened buyers to visit at any time. Perhaps more often, these breeders will allow their homes to visit only at a certain point while raising the litter. Allowing visitors is good for many reasons like puppy socialization and also allows opportunity to discuss temperaments and placement of the puppies. The breeder also may want and encourage pickup at the home, but might offer other ways for you to get your puppy.

Visitation under all conditions: Breeders who allow visitors at any time are probably the least common type. Breeding, for most breeders, is only a hobby. If you encounter a breeder willing to allow you to visit at any time, please be respectful and considerate of their time!

Asking to visit

It is absolutely your right as a buyer of a puppy to want to visit them. But, there are ways to go about asking to do so. Do not cold email or call a breeder, who has no idea who you are, and ask to visit their home. (If you do, be prepared that you may not get a return email or call at all.) Their home obviously is where they live; almost no breeder will let just any person come visit. They will likely require some sort of questionnaire in order to get to know you and what you are looking for in your canine companion before they will even consider it. Some may even do a background check on you. This is for their safety and prudent, not meant to be offensive to you.

When you ask to visit a home, remember that each breeder is a person, with a life, and cannot drop everything to make you an appointment; very few breeders are commercial breeders with facilities and many will have jobs outside the home. Ask when they might be willing to let you visit, keeping in mind the three different types of situations described above.

What to expect when visiting (if you can visit)

Know the breed of dog: Is the breed you are intending to visit known to be a good watch or guard dog? If so, don’t expect a happy dog bounding to greet you. Breeds that have been selectively bred to be this way will be protective of their home or bark their ever loving heads off to alert their owners when someone visits. Breeders of these breeds will likely warn you (I know I warn my puppy buyers!) but if they don’t, keep this in mind!

Sanitation: Keeping puppies healthy is one of the primary considerations a breeder must bear in mind. They work very hard to socialize, train and prepare these puppies for their new families, often with very detailed socialization/training programs in mind (like Avidog).

You, as a visitor, present potential biological concern for those puppies. Anywhere you have stepped, anything you have touched, might bring illness to the puppies. The most concerning is parvovirus, which can kill entire litters of puppies and bring severe trauma to the breeder, both emotionally and financially (imagine an entire litter of puppies on IV in an emergency vet’s hospital!). This can kill that breeder’s future generation!

As a result of the above concern, many breeders will ask you to take precautions to protect their puppies. This usually includes a couple things. First, the breeder will either ask you to sanitize your shoes (bleach water) before entering the home or they will ask you to remove your shoes altogether (I fall in to this latter group of breeders – I now even keep cheap slippers on hand for anyone that wants them!). Next, hand washing or sanitation before you ever touch one of their dogs or puppies is a must. Do not be offended by a breeder asking this of you. It’s just prudent to do so and says nothing about what they might think about you.

Covid19 – pandemic concerns: Like the general public, breeders will really vary on how to approach in person meeting in the light of the pandemic. Unless otherwise told differently, it’s probably best to assume you will be expected to wear a mask if a breeder is willing to allow you to visit their home during the pandemic. In warm enough climates, you may be asked to only meet the puppies and dogs on their lawn. You may be asked to social distance in the home as well. Whatever the breeder asks, please be respectful of how everyone must balance these concerns to their best ability.

Timing: Remember you are not the only person wanting to visit the puppies – be respectful of the breeder and other buyer’s times. Some breeders may schedule all their potential puppy homes to visit over the course of one weekend (this is me!). They schedule out a block of time to do the same thing with everyone, because otherwise juggling cleaning, raising, and life in general with puppies would be too difficult. So, remember that other people may be visiting as well, so please ask in advance so you know how much time is allotted for your visit!

Some additional notes! Often times puppy homes expect to see both the sire and the dam on site. Please know that any seasoned breeder will likely not have the male on the premises much of the time. This is because to make a good breeding that is meant to further the breed, breeders often must travel to another breeder (or have semen shipped!) in order to get the right match for their particular dam. Very rarely will the perfect male be already a part of the breeding program, with the exception of occasional use of one’s males or a large breeding program. It is completely impossible to purchase two dogs for breeding as puppies and know that together they will be the right match as adults.

Another consideration – Many breeders do not appreciate when buyers shop from one breeder to the next on the same day. What if the litter you visited before that breeder had parvovirus? If you intend to visit multiple breeders in one day, be sure to let all breeders know. When you do this, be prepared for many to request that you reschedule to another day.


It is reasonable and responsible to want to make sure your intended breeder is caring for their dogs and puppies as well as doing all they can to produce puppies that contribute to the preservation of their breed. Responsible buyers drive breeders to improve! Thank YOU for your commitment to the breed of your choice and for reading.

Want to read other helpful thoughts for you as a home? Visit our post about picking a puppy based on color or other considerations.