How Do You Know the Dog Isn’t from a Puppy Mill?


I am looking for a mini-Labradoodle. How do you know the dog you purchase isn’t from a puppy mill? I know you are against puppy mills. My last dog unbeknownst to me came from a mill. We had him for 16 years and he was wonderful. M.H.F., Buffalo Grove, IL. 

This seemingly obvious question is actually an excellent one, and the answer a bit more complex than you may think.

First, I begin with where NEVER to buy a dog – that’s at a pet store. Responsible breeders never, ever sell to pet stores. No matter what a store may or may not maintain, their dogs are from large commercial facilities or puppy mills. Of course, I am against puppy mills as well as these shadowy commercial dog factories. Puppy mills are simply horrific and it’s shocking that in the United States we even tolerate their existence.

Of course, you can get a referral from a friend of a breeder of the kind of dog you want.

Beware and keep in mind that anyone can create a convincing and flashy website. Ideally, you want to visit the breeder or rescue in person.

If you’re not allowed to visit – that’s a huge red flag.

As for rescues maintaining to be a non-profit, that’s easy enough to confirm. Still, you’re not in the clear and some reprehensible individuals may even slip by and post in otherwise respectable places, such as

If you do visit a breeder and the personality of the dog you’re visiting doesn’t match expectations – don’t accept excuses like “the dog is having a bad day.” If in the pit of your stomach it doesn’t feel right, it’s simply not right. Trust your gut.

A responsible breeder or rescue will mandate you sign a contract. That contract will include a requirement to spay/neuter (if the dog isn’t already ‘fixed.’) and if for any reason you need to relinquish the dog – even years from now – the dog must be returned to them.

Responsible breeders should also supply health assurance of any congenital issues associated with the breed, as well as lineage. Don’t be afraid to ask for references; after all you are purchasing a new family member. Often people research where to buy a washing machine. If you’re buying a dog, do your due diligence.

“The doodles” and other designer mixes are particularly ripe for puppy millers and other nefarious operators, particularly mini dogs and also so-called “teacups.” Those “teacups” are particularly predisposed to health issues.

True enough, you may have previously lucked out. However, dogs from puppy mills and other reckless sources are more likely to suffer from not only medical issues but also behavior problems.

Of course, you may not find that exact mini doodle at an animal shelter but there are plenty of dogs seeking loving homes. Even when adopting, however, particularly when doing so exclusively online without visiting the dog, buyer beware is still the rule.