Choosing a Reputable Breeder

Choosing a reputable breeder is very important.

Since it would be almost impossible for you to know what the puppy you are buying will grow up to be physically and emotionally, you must rely on your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your puppy. There are three options open to you in choosing this person.

Pet Shop or Dealer

The worst possible choice. The puppies are poorly bred and raised. They are thought of as merchandise to be sold for a high profit. The high profit results because little has been put into the breeding or the care of the puppies. Many are sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which is not the way to choose a dog as an addition to the family.

Backyard Breeder

Also a poor choice. This is the person who owns a pet Westie and thinks it would be "fun" to have puppies, that it would be a great experience for the children, or that the bitch should be bred once before she is spayed. Even worse, perhaps, it's being done just to make money. Usually this breeder knows little about the Breed Standard or history of the breed, and still less about proper care. The casual breeder does not have annual eye examinations done by a Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and does not send hip X-rays to the GDC or OFA for evaluation and registration. The backyard breeder is not aware of breed problems, and doesn't care. Often the quality of the dogs being bred is poor. This person's only goal is to produce puppies and when the "fun" is over, sell them quickly.

Serious Hobby Breeder

The very best choice. The serious and dedicated hobby breeder regards his/her dogs as even more than a hobby, although the true fancier does not expect to make a profit. When someone is involved in dogs for the enjoyment of each individual animal, for participating in any of the many aspects of "dog sport," and for the challenge of producing the finest animals possible, the result is superior. These breeders acknowledge responsibility for each and every puppy produced, and stand behind every dog they have bred.

Unequivocally, your choice should be from the ranks of the SERIOUS HOBBY BREEDER. It is an interesting fact that poor quality puppies from pet shops and backyard breeders are often sold for the same price and sometimes even more than those purchased from the serious hobby breeder.

The question is: How does one recognize the serious hobby breeder? Following is a list of requirements the breeder should meet before you consider purchasing a puppy. Don't be afraid to ask the breeder many questions. It is your right, and you can rest assured that the dedicated breeder will respond positively and with pride.


  1. Belong to the West Highland White Terrier Club of America, a regional Westie club, or an all-breed club. Ideally, he/she should belong to all three; however, sometimes this is impossible. The reason for this requirement is that this sort of participation indicates depth of involvement. This breeder is exposed to other points of view, learns more about the breed and modern breeding practices, and is kept up-to-date on AKC rules and regulations.
  2. Be involved in showing his/her dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, earthdog tests, or in a combination of all three. The reason for this requirement is that it means that the breeder is not breeding in a vacuum. The breeder who does not participate has no idea how good his/her dogs really are, and is deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others. Showing provides the competition which encourages breeders to produce better dogs. The breeder who competes wants to prove how good his/her dogs are and is putting his/her breeding program on the line. This breeder is not relying on just a pedigree to indicate quality. Even if you do not want a competition animal, you deserve a pet that was the end result of a carefully planned litter; a puppy which received the same care as a potential champion. The breeder who competes in organized activities is known by others and has a reputation to uphold. This breeder will be as careful and honest in selling you your pet puppy as in selling show stock.
  3. Ask you what kind of dogs you have had in the past, and what happened to them; whether or not you have a fenced yard; and whether or not the dog will be allowed to be a house dog and member of the family. Sincere breeders will be a bit hesitant to sell you a puppy until they know more about you, what you are looking for in a dog, and what "life style" you have in mind for your dog. Having the best interest of the puppy at heart, to say nothing of yours and theirs, reputable breeders will take great pains to place puppies properly the first time around. A returned puppy is a traumatic experience for all concerned so the breeder who is always willing to accept a puppy back will try to make certain that a West Highland White Terrier is the breed for you.
  4. Give you a period of time in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to determine its state of health, so that both of you are assured as to the condition of the puppy at the time of sale. If a problem should arise, it can then be quickly resolved.
  5. Be able to give you references: the names of people who have purchased puppies in the past, the names of other breeders, and the veterinarian who provides care for the breeder's dogs.
  6. Be willing to answer your questions about any possible hereditary problems. They should be able to explain the various screenings for the diseases which are most common in Westies and why they do or do not participate in regular testing and genetic disease registries such as GDC, OFA, CERF, and WatcH.
  7. Be able to show you a clean environment; healthy, well-socialized puppies; and a dam with a good temperament. You should avoid:
    •   shy, whimpering, fearful puppies;
    • puppies with dull coats, crusty or running eyes, signs of diarrhea, rashes or sores on their abdomens;
    • signs of neglect, such as lack of water, pans of uneaten food, and dirty conditions;
    • a breeder who will sell a puppy under eight weeks of age, as early separation from the dam and litter mates can be very detrimental both psychologically and physically;
    • a breeder who lets you handle a very young puppy, as there is a real risk of transmitting disease before puppies are vaccinated.
  8. Provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations and worming done, feeding instructions, a 3- to 5-generation pedigree, and a "blue slip" to apply for registration of the puppy in your own name with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Sometimes the "blue slips" are not available at the time you take your puppy home. If this is the case, have the breeder state on a dated, signed receipt of payment that the application will be sent to you as soon as possible. The registered names and AKC numbers of both parents, date of birth of the litter, and the puppy's color and sex should be indicated. You can then contact AKC with complete information should there later be a problem with the registration papers.
  9. Give you written instructions on feeding, training, and care. There are many books that are useful; some are listed elsewhere on this website.
  10. Provide some sort of written contract and/or conditions of sale. Any warranty of quality or health of the dogs, and any warranty against development of hereditary problems or show-ring disqualifications in an animal intended for showing or breeding, should be in writing. The warranty should be absolutely explicit, and a signed copy should be provided to each party. Both pedigree and registration papers are provided by reputable breeders at no extra charge. The practice of charging extra for "papers" is forbidden by the AKC, and should be reported. This should not be confused with withholding papers until the dog has been spayed or neutered, which is how puppies not purchased for showing/breeding are sold by most reputable breeders.
  11. Make it clear that his/her responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home, and in fact as long as the dog is alive. Many dedicated breeders will ask that the dog be returned to them or placed with new owners who meet their approval, if ever for any reason you are unable to keep the dog. They'll cheerfully be available for advice whenever needed, and can ease your way over many rough spots. If your breeder meets all of these requirements you are in good hands. If you find yourself with a negative response to any of these requirements, think twice and discuss the situation with someone else. Don't be impulsive and do ask questions.

(The West Highland White Terrier Club of America does not recommend, guarantee, endorse, nor rate breeders, their kennels, or their stock.)

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