When the Westminster Kennel Club held its first Dog Show in 1877, few could have predicted that it would become the second-longest continuously held sporting event in America (second only to the Kentucky Derby). The enduring fascination with purebred dogs is easy to understand-each breed has its own personality and traits, and the process of choosing one can feel like finding your perfect match.
However, the demand for certain types of purebred dogs has led to a panoply of issues: irresponsible dog breeders who don't make the animals' health their first priority-and don't insist on the right fit for an animal and a family. Breeders sometimes get a bad rap (or worse, are lumped in with puppy mills) but the best breeders are ethical, thoughtful about their role, and passionate about the betterment of their breed, not to mention picky about which new families their dogs call home.
These breeders are the cream of the crop, putting enormous time, effort, and care into breeding, training and raising their furry friends. Here, we present some of the best dog breeders from around the country.
A Promise Kennels
Specializing in Golden Retrievers for nearly 30 years, this AKC Breeder of Merit facility takes ethics and responsibility seriously. They believe in improving form and function by purposeful breeding, properly socializing their dogs, and closely screening potential families to find the right home. No pesticides are used on the grass around the kennel or in the owner's home, and all dogs have their hips, elbows, eyes, and heart clearances. Several of their dogs are AKC champions, including an AKC Grand Champion, and they also raise Springer Spaniels.
Cost: $1,450 to $2,000
Fresno, California, 559-355-9915, apromisekennels.com
This 143-acre facility breeds and trains impeccably-lineaged British and Irish Labradors-dubbed "Gentleman's Gundogs"-in a beautiful setting that includes 66 kennels, plus numerous fields and creeks for dogs to explore and roam free. Owner Michael Stewart prides himself on offering up a "365 dog" featuring the in-demand (and rare) combination of obedience in the field with playfulness at home. Roughly 15 "finished" dogs-who have lived and trained at Wildrose, as well as hunted more than 1,000 birds-are offered each year, with a year-long wait list.
Cost: $12,000 to $15,000
Oxford, Mississippi 38655, 662-234-5788, uklabs.com
Sweet, cuddly, and easygoing, well-bred Cocker Spaniels have long been known as ideal dogs for families with young children. This facility-an American Kennel Club Breeder of Merit and breeder of the Number 1 Cocker Spaniel bitch in America-prides themselves on responsibility and asks owners to return dogs if they're not able or willing to care for them because of life changes, so that none of their offspring need to be sheltered or rescued. They only breed one or two litters each year, and many of their litter are Certified Therapy dogs visiting nursing homes and children's hospitals. The owner, Jackie Makoujy, is also the secretary of the Cocker Spaniel Club of New Jersey, a former president and secretary of the Connecticut-Westchester Cocker Spaniel Club, and a former treasurer of the Ramapo Kennel Club.
Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 201-410-4034, maxcockers.com
At Blackberry Farm, the 4,200-acre Relais & Châteaux gastronomic resort in the Smoky Mountains, Lagotto Romagnolo puppies are bred from two distinct Italian bloodlines and are available for sale three times a year. Originally used for waterfowl and now popularly used as truffle hunters and as guard dogs, this affectionate, obedient Italian breed has a keen sense of smell, as well as a thick, hairy coat, which allows it to spend hours in the water, whatever the weather conditions. There's a waiting list of at least two years, and puppies are personally trained by Jim Sanford-who traveled the world training elephants before settling down at Blackberry Farm-and delivered by him to the new owner's home.
Walland, Tennssee 37886, 865-984-8166, blackberryfarm.com
Exact Classic Bulldogs
A stubborn but docile breed, bulldogs love people and attention and are extremely intelligent. Exact Classic, a Bulldog Club of America Hall of Fame Breeder with more than 40 champions under their belts, uses European bloodlines and seeks to produce healthy bulldogs that conform to the AKC standards. To ensure their dogs go to a loving home, they only sell to families they've met in person or interviewed over the phone and will not sell to fraternity houses, puppy mills, wholesale agencies, or pet stores.
Auburn, Indiana, exactenglishbulldogs.com
Mistry Great Pyrenees
This AKC Breeder of Merit specializes exclusively in Great Pyrenees, massive guard dogs that have historically protected livestock such as sheep and goats and which were favored by French royalty as an official royal dog of Louis XIV's court. Known for being especially child-friendly and remarkably gentle despite their enormous size, these gorgeous dogs are also notable for a thick coats of long white hair that makes them look a little like polar bears. Owners Kim and Jim Lasley have been breeding Pyrs since 1977 and also own a kennel called Kritter Kamp, while Kim Lasley is chair of the Great Pyrenees Alliance of the West, a rescue organization.
Misty Great Pyrenees, Ramona, California, 760-788-6799
Awarded as the American Kennel Club's 2010 Non-Sporting Group Breeder of the Year, this kennel specializing in Keeshonden puppies has five different areas-with eight runs total-including an exercise yard, and a puppy play area, and all dogs have a view of the Valley of the Moon scenic highway. Medium-sized dogs with thick coats and playful temperaments, Kees love children and make excellent family pets. (A Kees was one of the famous 9/11 therapy rescue dogs.)
Santa Rosa, California, 95409, 707-538-7648, windriftkees.com
A top breeder of British Labrador retrievers, Robert Milner has more than 30 years experience specializing in cooperative, gentle, duck hunting gundogs. His dogs are selectively bred for a calm, pleasant disposition, intelligence, and gamefinding initiative, and do equally well as house dogs. All puppies are trained until they are four months old, focusing on recall, delivery to hand, sit/stay, whistle stop, and memory retrieve.
Cost: $1,800 (including training)
Somerville, Tennessee, 901-846-6119, duckhillkennels.com
Bearabella Golden Retrievers
Located outside Atlanta, this AKC Breeder of Merit specializes in breeding the healthiest, best tempered Golden Retrievers possible, and only produces a few litters each year. Several of their dogs have become Grand Champions in both the US and Canada, and they participate in the American Kennel Club "Bred With Heart" program, focusing on health, education, accountability, responsibility and tradition, and striving to maintain relationships with their former dogs.
Sharpsburg, GA, 770-722-7786, bearabellagoldens.com
Desert Skies Kennel
Home to champion Wire-Fox Terriers-the breed which has won the Westminster Dog Show a whopping 45 times, more than twice as many as any other-this kennel has been breeding American Kennel Club champions since 2003. Wire-Fox Terriers are known for their energy, friendliness, and intelligence, but also require regular grooming and copious amounts of attention, making them excellent companions. The breeders are extremely hands-on, raising the puppies in-home, shunning kennels, and sleeping in the room with the new mothers and puppies for the first ten weeks before moving outdoors. All terriers are graded at 7-8 weeks using AKC standards, which sets individual pricing on each dog.
Cost: $2,200 to $3,000 for males, $3,200 to $4,000 for females
Scottsdale, Arizona, 85254, 602-284-6576, desertskieskennel.com
Wind Dial Farm
Not for nothing is Queen Elizabeth obsessed with Welsh Corgis: they're playful, outgoing, loyal, and make wonderful companions and family dogs. Wind Dial Farm owners Derrick and Candace Longan are professional hobby breeders, continually researching to better the breed and participating in the AKC's Bred with Heart program. Appointments for viewing are required and all puppies are guaranteed for two years against genetic abnormalities.
Cost: $1,800 for puppies
Labette City, Kansas, 417-293-7897, winddialfarm.com
Focusing on show-quality French and English French bulldogs, including exotic colors such as lilac, blue and chocolate, the facility pays particular attention to the health and lineage of its dogs, performing a wide variety of testing including hip and elbow, congenital cardiac, thyroid, spinal, and tracheal hypoplasia. Particular care is given if dogs require shipping, hiring carriers to transport as carry-on and hand-deliver to owners to minimize pet stress and ensure the dogs don't overheat. Their most expensive bulldog? Micro Machines, a blue French bulldog with orange eyes, who's worth a cool $100,000.
Temucula, California, 858-776-1156, bradsbullies.com
Specializing in Scottish Terriers, Anstamm were co-breeders of the 2010 Westminster Best in Show winner and has bred 20 other National Specialty winners since 1987. The facility, which started under the legendary Buffy Stamm, is well known for their stud dogs, which are tested for the vWD genetic mutation and cleared under AKC Frequently Used Sires DNA profiling. A commitment to breeding ethics has resulted in some of the most well-known, winningest champions in history.
Kalamazoo, Michigan, firstname.lastname@example.org, anstamm.com
War Cry German Shepherds
With more than 20 years of experience, owner Tina Lamey provides a health guarantee for all her German Shepherds and will take back puppies under any conditions if the buyer cannot keep a dog. Before breeding, both parents must meet extensive health criteria, including health and temperament, with titles, certifications and documentation provided for all, as well as prove themselves in competition. Their dogs have also been used in several movies and TV shows.
Cost: from $1,500 for pets; from $2,500 for show puppies
Phelan, California, 760-868-4961, warcrygermanshepherds.com
Wissfire Toy Poodles
Extremely perceptive and empathetic dogs, poodles make wonderful companions for owners who can provide lots of attention. Breeder Joan Scott is on the board of the Poodle Club of America and also judges three different groups for the American Kennel Club. She bought her first poodle in 1963 and has shown over 100 dogs (more than 50 each year!); she also runs a kennel, finishing one champion a year as well as Chihuahuas.
Cost: $1,600 - $2,000, show stock from $3,000 - $3,500
Wilmington, Delaware, 302-540-5432, marketplace.akc.org/joan-scott-32224
Sette's Chihuahuas of Long Island
One of the most popular dog breeds, chihuahuas are also commonly found in shelters. Owners choose them because they're trendy but find they can't-or don't want to-take care of them. (Ironically, they're extremely loyal dogs, not very needy, and don't require a lot of grooming, making them perfect companion pets.) Owner Grace Sette prides herself on well-socialized Chihuahuas with excellent dispositions; she boasts several past champions and is a board member of the Chihuahua Club of Greater New York, as well as an AKC Breeder of Merit.
Cost: starting at $1,200, show puppies from $1,500
New Hyde Park, New York, 516-873-1881, longislandchihuahuas.com
Belquest Kennel and Cattery
This breeder of more than 70 champion Labrador Retrievers guarantees a four-generation pedigree for all puppies. Owned by Vicky and Mike Creamer, the facility breeds selectively for temperament, working ability, and looks, runs a full-service boarding, grooming and training program, and provides eye, heart, and OptiGen and DNA testing, as well as microchip and tattoo services.
Cost: male pets from $3,000, female pets from $3,500; full registration males from $4,000 and full registration females from $5,000
Seaspray Australian Labradoodles
This popular breed mixes Labradors with poodles to produce a smart, cheerful and extremely affectionate and people-oriented pup. Seaspray specializes in early training and socialization, with all puppies are raised in home and never more than two litters at the same time. All adoptive families are required to pick up their dogs in person, and there's a waiting list of about 6 to 14 months, with all breeding dogs' health tested to above the Gold Paw standard set by the Australian Labradoodle Association of America.
Lady Lake, Florida, 352-504-6618, seasprayaustralianlabradoodles.com
One of the best-regarded golden retriever breeders, Amica is located outside Austin and specializes in show dogs. Selective about which homes dogs are placed in, Amica requires all prospective buyers fill out a questionnaire before being approved. Owner Mia Nieman is a board member of the Austin Golden Retriever club, and all dogs receive hip and elbow clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, annual eye clearance by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist, and heart clearance by a board-certified cardiologist.
Cost: Price varies; available upon request.
Austin, Texas, 512-554-9978, amicagoldens.com
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The Samoyed is a pure white sled dog that originated from Siberia. It got its name from the Samoyedic people who once used them to pull their sleds and guard their reindeer. Prices for Samoyed pups vary, but on average, you can expect to pay up to $3,000.
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Much like humans, not all dogs show affection the same way, with the study discovering that Scottish Terriers, Malamute pups and Cairn Terriers also don't enjoy cuddles. "One thing to take into consideration is that some dogs simply aren't as affectionate towards their owners than others," says the study.What is most affectionate and loyal dog? ›
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Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the United States. Amish and Mennonite communities (particularly in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania) also have large concentrations of puppy mills.What state has the most dog lovers? ›
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- 2.1 1. Arkansas.
- 2.2 2. Maine.
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- 2.6 6. Vermont.
- 2.7 7. Virginia.
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