Labrador Retriever Breeders: How To Find A Good One

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labrador retriever breeders

Labrador Retriever breeders are not hard to find. After all, Labs are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.

But finding a good, reputable Labrador Retriever breeder is really important.

Good breeders will health test their breeding stock, care for their own animals, be picky about who their puppies go to, and answer all of your questions with great knowledge, among other qualities.

It’s important to avoid puppy farms and pet stores. Even though their prices may be cheaper than good Labrador Retriever breeders. Let’s find out more.

What makes a good Labrador breeder?

Most people are aware that they should not buy Labrador puppies from pet stores or puppy farms.

But that still leaves a lot of breeders to choose from.

Choosing a Labrador Retriever breeder – who can you trust?

Puppy farmers are harder to spot than you might think.

They succeed by looking and acting like the friendly, welcoming people you would want to meet.

What gives them away are the reasons that they breed from their dogs, and the way in which they treat their animals.

Don’t be nervous about asking lots of questions.

It can feel awkward, but a good breeder will welcome them.

If they seem frustrated or uncomfortable then it’s a warning sign that they may have something to hide.

A good Labrador breeder checklist

A good breeder has several defining features.

labrador retriever breeders

All good Labrador Retriever breeders will:

  • Take great care of their animals
  • Health test their breeding stock
  • Be picky about who they home their puppies to
  • Be incredibly knowledgeable about Labradors
  • Answer all your questions completely and candidly
  • Introduce you to all the puppies in their litter, and their mom, in the place where they’re being raised
  • Provide a lifetime of support and follow up care

Next let’s see what each of those mean in more detail.

Good Labrador breeders take great care of their animals

You won’t know for sure what conditions a breeder’s Labradors are kept in until you visit them.

labrador retriever breeders

But there are some revealing questions you can ask during your first telephone call or email exchange.

1. Find out how many dogs the breeder has

Good Labrador Retriever breeders will not have so many dogs that they cannot give them individual attention.

They will have a warm relationship with each of their animals.

This can be by showing them, working them, or embracing them into family life as valued companions.

2. Ask how often they breed from each dog

And the maximum number of litters each female dog has had.

No good breeder will have more than one litter from a Labrador female in any twelve month period, or more than three litters from a female in her lifetime.

And before any pregnancy they will ask their vet to give her a thorough examination and confirm she is in perfect condition for carrying a litter.

how to find a good breeder when you are looking for a puppy

3. Where do their dogs live?

Puppies raised inside their breeder’s home will settle more confidently into your home.

They’ll already be familiar with the rhythm of people coming and going, and used to the sounds of televisions, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other appliances.

Any dogs used for breeding that are housed in kennels should also spend time daily inside the home.

And any puppies raised in whelping kennels should be brought into the house, and visited outside, several times a day.

Hallmarks of good Labrador Retriever breeders – health testing

A good breeder health tests their breeding animals.

The minimum health tests for Labradors required by the USA Labrador Retriever Club and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Canine Health Information Center (OFA-CHIC) are

Optional but recommended health tests include

  • a heart exam
  • and DNA tests for Centronuclear Myopathy and prcd-PRA.

Get Proof of Testing

You can check over the phone that these have been carried out. But you must also ask to see certificates when you visit.

If possible try and get copies of the health tests sent to you by email before you arrive.

This avoids an awkward situation if they are not forthcoming at your visit.

For more information about health testing check out our page on inherited diseases in Labradors.

Hallmarks of good Labrador Retriever breeders – smart breeding choices

Besides choosing healthy Labradors, good breeders will also take account of other factors which make a mating wise, or unwise.

labrador retriever breeders

For example, good breeders will make sure their sire and dam are as unrelated as possible.

This maintains genetic variation, which keeps dogs healthy.

Good breeders can tell you the inbreeding co-efficient of their litter – an inbreeding co-efficient of less than 5% is best.

Great breeders also consider the temperaments of sire and dam, and how this makes their puppies suitable for the lives they’re likely to lead (as pets, or working dogs, etc).

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They will also take care not to breed from nervous or anxious females who are likely to finding mating, pregnancy and whelping stressful.

Choosing a Lab breeder: Does pedigree equal quality?

People often write to me and ask how they can be sure that theirs is an ‘original Labrador’ or a purebred dog with a quality pedigree.

The answer is to research carefully before you buy your puppy and make sure that you check all the puppy’s paperwork and certificates.

Most Labrador Retriever breeders specialize as either English Labrador breeders
or American Labrador breeders.

Decide which type of Labrador you want before you start searching for breeders near you.

We have a detailed comparison here to help you make that decision.

After care and information

Good Labrador Retriever breeders offer a lifetime of support to their puppy buyers.

They will answer your questions confidently and provide you with written information sheets on caring for your puppy.

Good breeders will make sure you have a convenient way to keep in touch with them.

They’ll encourage you to feel comfortable asking any questions you have, for as long as you need.

Most reputable breeders will also take a puppy back at any time in the future if you find yourself unable to care for it. Many actually require this in their puppy contracts.

And best of all, lots of great Lab breeders offer holiday boarding!

So how can I buy a Labrador puppy from one of these good breeders?

There are a number of ways to find a good Labrador breeder.

These include puppy advertisements and breeder advertisements in newspapers and online.

Labrador breed clubs will be able to put you in touch with local Labrador breeders and this is a good way to start your search.

The Labrador Retriever Club keeps a directory of local and regional clubs, and a directory of breeders.

Most of these clubs now have websites of their own, as do many breeders.

Find the Breeder First

It is better to find a breeder in advance than search for a pup and check out the breeder at the same time.

Many good Labrador Retriever breeders have all their puppies spoken for before they are born. So you will need to get your booking in early.

Most people have to wait for the right puppy, and good breeders will want to see that you are prioritising getting the right dog over the timing.

What about buying a puppy from an advertisement?

It’s tempting when the time is finally right to get a puppy to just type ‘Labrador Retriever puppies near me’ into a search engine.

This will certainly deliver a lot of puppy ads.

labrador retriever breeders

Some people regard puppy advertisements with great suspicion, but even reputable breeders occasionally need to advertise puppies.

Especially if a litter is very large, or if one of their purchasers has to pull out at the last minute.

However, you should treat any advertisement with some suspicion until you have satisfied yourself as to the breeders credentials.

Some breeders have their own website. This says more about their ability to set up a website than it does about their breeding practices, but it may give you an idea of what kind of a breeder they are.

Choosing your puppy

Once you have found a good Labrador breeder you may be able to choose a puppy.

Don’t be put off if there is no choice.

It is very hard to tell how pups are going to turn out at eight weeks old, and the fact that all the other pups are spoken for is a good indicator that your chosen breeder is in demand.

The breeder may also feel that they know their own puppies best, and may want to match them to the right homes themselves.

For more information about finding and choosing a Labrador puppy you can follow this link: Getting a Labrador puppy

Know how to spot a bad breeder

Finding a good breeder is as much about knowing how to recognize a bad one, as it is about knowing how to recognize a good one.

Make sure you know what to look out for, and how to spot a bad breeder before you visit your new puppy

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Be willing to walk away if things don’t seem right.

Irresponsibly reared puppies are more likely to be abandoned at shelters later in life – perhaps not yours, but you can’t protect every puppy which comes from the same bad breeder.

And finally…

Let us know when you find your perfectly-reared puppy, either in the comments box or over on the forum!

Tell us about your experiences finding good Labrador Retriever breeders!

References & Resources

Croney, Turning up the Volume on Man’s Best Friend: Ethical Issues Associated with Commercial Dog Breeding, Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research, 2019.

Henley, Breeders’ role and responsibilities in the long-term behavioural health of canines, Veterinary Nurse, 2019.

Dawson et al, Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water: Could Widespread Neutering of Companion Dogs Cause Problems at a Population Level? Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2019.

Beuchat, COI FAQs: Understanding the Coefficient of Inbreeding, Instititute of Canine Biology, 2015.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, do you know of any good yellow Labrador breeders in Scotland? Preferably in the Glasgow/Ayrshire/Renfrewshire area. We are looking for a male yellow lab puppy. Thanks

  2. Great article; however I do have one point of disagreement.

    There is a growing body of research regarding how often to breed a female and how many times. With each season, the female’s body reacts as if it is actually pregnant for months after. This ages the uterus in the same way as if there had been an actual pregnancy.

    A good breeder will never breed a female back to back if her coat has not returned, if her muscle tone has not returned and if she is unable to pass a physical exam OR if the Dam was not a good mother exemplified by leaving the litter too soon or being reluctant to care for it. A good breeder seeks out the advice of a vet prior to each mating – a Vet experienced in either breeding itself or in medically treating breeding stock.

  3. We’ve found a breeder who seems great on most of these things: We’ve visited the puppies and seen them with mum, who is both a family pet and an active part of the day to day running of their farm (she’s working stock). She’s very knowledgeable, answering our questions about the pups openly. She was happy for us to spend as much time as we wanted with them. They live indoors with their mum and the family. She’s happy to keep one a few weeks longer as we have a holiday booked. The only concern is she openly explained that mum has never been hip scored – dad has been and his results are good. Should that be enough to make us walk away even though everything else looks great and mum herself seems fit, healthy and happy? Thanks.

    • Hi Nicky, This is a personal decision and only you can make it. If I were you, due to the high occurrence of hip dysplasia in Labradors I wouldn’t buy a puppy unless both parents were tested and had low scores. Ideally I would want them both elbow tested too. However, this is your choice and you need to weigh up the pros and cons too. Best of luck with your decision. Lucy

  4. Help Me .. My lab puppy (black) is Skinny!!!
    Im feeding him drools dry food , egg and pckt milk and whatever i can..
    Everyone is telling he is hungry and skinny..!
    Plz help!

  5. Unfortunately I fell victim and purchased a puppy from a bad breeder. I had two labs from two different breeders, a black and a white lab. My black lab Harlow I still have but ended up having to let my white one go at the age of 3. I did my research on both my pups and both breeders seemed legit. My harlows breeder was awesome we still have contact and if I have any issues she’s always there to help. My white labs breeder totally different. Never there to help, paid for a ckc registered puppy but she could never get me my papers, so I called the ckc and she had been kicked out of the program, not a good sign. Anyway my white lab had a aggressive streak in her and the older she got the worst she seemed to be getting. I sent her to school for training and did everything I could until the day she took a snap at my grandson. I knew then at that moment she couldn’t be trusted. I fell in love with this dog and it killed me to let her go, but I had to put my grandchildren first.
    My advice do lots of research, ask for references and call them. If I had to have done that I would have known about all the other people that this woman had scammed, and that she wasn’t a good breeder at all even tho she played the part very well. It’s not easy to have a pet fall in love and then have to let them go, I am lucky in one way, I know where my pooch is and I know she’s in a home with no young kids and very much loved and taken care of, but my heart still aches for her.
    With all that being said, research research and research. Ask for those references. Best of luck!!

  6. Do you know of any good labrador (in particular black labs) breeders in California? I am looking to adopt but have checked out quite a few breeders that dont appear trustworthy, i am tired of being let down time after time.

    I should mention that i CAN’T pay over five hundred dollars to get the actual puppy.

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