Do we really understand what factors make a breeder a ‘puppy mill breeder’?

Are all the places you might think of as ‘puppy mills’ inherently evil places?

We want to help all of you fellow dog lovers understand what sets apart a good breeder from a bad breeder and how we can all avoid getting our puppy from uncaring breeders.

‘Puppy Mill’, two words that fill all dog lovers with horror! Puppy Mill Breeders only interested in money, all with unhealthy, uncared for dogs. But is it all as simple as that? We all love our dogs, but in our love have we gone too far in labeling so many places as puppy mills without understanding enough about the individual breeder?

How Many is too Many?


Some would argue that a clear sign of a puppy mill is a breeder with too many litters, born too often, so they can sell as many as possible.

But exactly how much is too much?

Is one breeder with 20 mating pairs, producing 20 litters a year, too many? You would certainly think so, after all how could one breeder properly care for so many puppies. But where do you start saying how much is too much?

Who decides this?


You can argue that 20 litters from 20 females is not as bad as just 1 female having 2 litters in both her gestation periods in a year. This could be considered more unethical than having too many litters, as you are giving the dam no rest.

But be careful!

A high turnover of litters does not guarantee a corrupt breeder, producing unhealthy and neglected puppies. The breeder could be serious dog lover, that enjoys having lots of dogs, and devotes a lot of time to caring for, and raising litters.

Breed count!

Another factor that could possible be a sign of a puppy mill is a breeder with too many different breeds.

A breeder should be an expert in the dogs he or she is raising, after all they have to understand the best qualities, character traits or appearance of the breed. Should a respectable breeder only have 1 breed under their care, or is 2 or 3 fine, or 5, or 10? Once again the answer is not black and white.

You can’t just say because a breeder has 3 breeds, they are an irresponsible breeder, after all if you bred different but similar breeds such as French and English bulldogs, you have a similar knowledge. However what you can say is that if a breeder has more than 3 breeds then it is getting excessive, and more than 5 is certainly suspicious. Be wary of these breeders, but do not rule them out. It is important to understand the motivation of the original breeder.

Living Conditions

This is something which I think we all believe is important!

Exactly what environment are the puppies being raised in? An experienced, caring breeder would ensure that their litters have their own separate, comfortable place, but also make sure that it is close to them. This is so the puppies can interact with people, and the breeder can keep a close eye on them.

In many regards the way a litter is cared for should be similar to how you care for your dog in the home. These puppies should be treated as companions by the breeder, and be loved, cared for and enjoyed. If they are kept apart, only see people when they are fed or cleaned, or even kept in dirty or cramped conditions, then of course these are clear indications of a bad puppy mill breeder.

Breeder plan?


A professional breeder will have what is called a ‘breeding plan’.

They will have an aim behind their breeding, and are looking to get something special out of it. T

They could be looking for certain quality, such as conformation, or a character trait, and ensuring healthy bloodlines, and they will choose a mating pair with care to ensure they are getting what they are looking for.

An irresponsible breeder will probably not have breeding plan like this, and will not be breeding dogs because they have an aim or special purpose for the dogs. Sadly you could also see examples of inbreeding.

Motivation and breeding ethics

A truly professional breeder will care more than anything else about the health and quality of the bloodlines that are being bred.

Dogs that turn out to be unhealthy, perhaps because of a genetic disorder, would be removed from the bloodline, even if this means a big loss of money.  A less ethical breeder would consider this a secondary concern to ensuring more puppies are born.

But even the most careful, experienced and caring breeder can sadly have dogs that on occasion get sick or suffer a genetic illness.

We should all be careful not to ruin the reputation of a good breeder because one of their puppies becomes ill. While many puppy mill dogs may well become sick because of less reputable breeding, sickness does not automatically equal a puppy mill.

When it comes down to it, a large number of puppies or a large variation of breeds does not automatically mean a breeder is a nasty puppy mill breeder. What really determines this is ETHICS! What is the motivation of the breeder, why do they do what they do, what is their aim? 

If profit comes before health, quality and the well being of the dogs and the bloodlines, then this is an irresponsible breeder that you truly could call a puppy mill.

Questions you all should ask when considering a breeder:






... The simplest advice for all dog lovers is to be careful where you choose your puppy from, and always do a proper background check so you can be certain you are getting a healthy and happy puppy. But you should also be wary who you call a puppy mill until you know them individually and see their true conditions and motivation.