Puppy Search

Breeder Characteristics

Responsible Breeder

Unethical Breeder

Puppy Questionnaire


Health Links


Breed Standard


ESS Clubs


ESS Rescue

Recognizing an Unethical Breeder

When you talk to breeders about their puppies, there are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a disreputable, unethical, or irresponsible breeder:

The "breeder" lacks knowledge about the breed
The "breeder" shows ignorance or denial of genetic defects in the breed
The "breeder" has no involvement in dog sports
The "breeder" doesn't let you observe the puppies or adults, or let you see the kennels
The "breeder" doesn't ask any questions about you, your family, lifestyle or accommodations for a dog
The "breeder" has no documentation of health testing and cannot provide a pedigree
The puppies are not social or look sickly

How to read those ads!

Here are a few more things that you ought to look out for.

"Champion lines" ~ look instead for Champion sired or Champion parents. All Champion Lines means is that there is a dog somewhere in your puppy's family that was a champion - it says nothing about the quality of the parents at all. Anyone can buy a puppy from a champion, but it does not mean that they have any other interest in the breed but to bank on the name and make money. The puppy may have been sold as a pet and an unethical person did not have the dog spayed/neutered and is still breeding puppies.  Having a Champion in a pedigree is for example like having a billionaire relative.  It doesn't mean that you are rich unless each generation from that relative has passed down the money.
"AKC Registration" or "AKC Papers" ~ So what? AKC registration does not guarantee quality. AKC papers are much like the title of a car - papers are issued to the junked Chevy on blocks in your yard just as easily as they are on a brand new, shiny Jaguar. AKC does not control breeding, approve litters, or guarantee temperaments. Unfortunately, in the hands of some unethical breeders, it doesn't even guarantee that the dog is purebred.

AKC Registration ~ is automatic if you buy from a reputable breeder - they will provide all necessary paperwork when you buy a puppy. It is not a selling point, and shouldn't be treated as one.

Be wary of other "registrations", as well. There are several groups that are registering dogs, even mixed breeds, for a fee. This registration means nothing, and is of no value to you. Not that AKC papers really mean much, either. Click here to read more about the imitation registries out there. 

"Extra-Big", "Extra-Small" ~ breeders trying for extremes are rarely raising healthy dogs, and any ad that has to stress the size and weight of the dog to sell the puppies is suspect, in my opinion. Usually, these dogs are outside of the breed's norm and are subject to their own medical problems due to excessive size or lack of it.

"Rare" ~ Why? Are there too many defects for the animal to be bred? What kind of problems does this "rare" color or size or pattern entail? There are many people buying "rare" white Boxers and Shepherds, not realizing that they are not show-prospects, and that they are buying a dog with medical problems from lack of pigmentation, and possible behavioral problems as well. 

In Springers, unethical breeders are known to market "rare colors" such as lemon, sable and tri-colors.  Tri colors are not rare and if they were, unethical breeders wouldn't have them to market to unsuspecting buyers.

There are even some people selling unusual cross breeds as "rare" dogs, and people buy them thinking they are getting some unique treasure. I don't want to be too harsh about this, -- every breed we see today is the result of some specialized breeding to create a certain look or behavior. Spaniels flush, Retrievers retrieve...because we have selectively bred them to do so. A breeder who is trying to 'recreate' a lost breed may fall on either side of the ethical divide. Shop with care.

"See Both Parents" ~ As noted in questions to ask a breeder , this is not usually a good thing. Rarely will a good breeder have the luck to own both dogs for the perfect litter. If you can see both parents, it may mean that the person had two dogs in the back yard and didn't supervise them carefully enough, resulting in puppies or that they bred to a dog of convenience they already owned.

There are some good and very reasonable reasons to have both parents on site. However, you need to ask the right questions and understand why this is true. If the breeder doesn't have an answer, or the answer is something like "well, they were just such cute dogs..." or "we bought another dog so we could have puppies" you need to evaluate whether this breeder is doing the right thing. They might be, they might not. It's up to you to ask.

"Must go now!" Why? Are they too big to be cute anymore? Need more money? Is there a problem? Usually because there are more on the way.  Be very wary of this one.

Re-printed with permission from:



Graphics & Content Property of the English Springer Spaniel TaskForce 

All Rights Reserved

Revised: December 10, 2013

Web Design By Lisa Knight