By Ann Compton, Sheltie Nation Contributing Writer

There’s no secret password to finding a good Sheltie breeder, although it may seem that way if you don’t know where to look. It can take some time to find a responsible Sheltie breeder, but it’s worth the effort. Most people know a puppy should never be purchased from a puppy mill-supplied pet store or an online ad, no matter how much more convenient it may seem. A bit of research and time to find a responsible breeder will pay off in years of Sheltie companionship with a healthy puppy.

Why is it difficult to find these responsible breeders? Many top breeders have only a few dogs they breed and only have one or two litters a year.

Shelties don’t usually have very large litters, and most breeders hold onto puppies they may want to show. This limits the number of puppies available to companion homes.

Sheltie puppies from good breeders are in demand. These breeders never advertise, and word of mouth brings more referrals than they can handle. Many have homes for entire litters before they are born.

So where to start, if you’ve decided you want to add a Sheltie puppy to your family? There are excellent resources available through the American Kennel Club and the American Shetland Sheepdog Association. Both organizations offer lists of breeders in your state to begin your search, along with a list of resources to guide you in choosing one.

Contact several breeders from the list to find those who have puppies available or expect litters soon. Breeders are usually available by phone or email. Don’t be put off though if it takes a few days or a week to receive a response. Many breeders work other jobs and travel to shows on weekends. Most will get back to you in a reasonable amount of time. If they don’t, try again.

Once you find a breeder, he or she will screen you thoroughly to be sure that you’ll provide a suitable home for the puppy. A good breeder will want to know that the puppies she sends into the world will be cared for as she would. If you aren’t at too great a distance, arrange to visit the breeder and meet the puppies. This is a good opportunity for you to be sure that the breeder is someone with whom you can have a relationship for the life of your puppy.

When you visit, or if you communicate by phone, be prepared with a list of questions for the breeder. Ask to see at least one of the parents of the litter. This will give you an idea of how your puppy will look as an adult. Be aware that many breeders will only have one parent on the premises, since many females are bred to selected stud dogs by artificial insemination.

Ask the breeder to give you a copy of the puppy’s pedigree. This will give you information on the lineage of your puppy and help you to research its genetic lines. Find out whether the parents of your prospective puppy have had health testing performed. This usually involves screening hips, eyes, and for the MDR gene mutation which can be common in Shelties. (See additional information on these at the references below.)

A responsible breeder will not allow puppies to leave the litter until at they are at least 8 weeks old. Beware of breeders who are willing to let puppies go earlier. Ask how the puppies have been socialized as well as about the temperament of the puppy’s parents. When you visit, observe the breeder’s interaction with the puppies, the cleanliness of their surroundings and the breeder’s interest in you as a potential owner. You should feel comfortable and able to contact a breeder with any questions once you have a puppy and as it grows. Most breeders will require you to sign a contract indicating that you will spay or neuter your Sheltie puppy at the appropriate age and contact the breeder first if you are ever unable to keep the dog over the course of its life.

A responsible breeder puts many hours, days and weeks into breeding, whelping and raising a litter, as well as significant expense in the process. Don’t insult a breeder by trying to negotiate a puppy’s price. Breeders do not recover the expense of having a litter of healthy Shelties through puppy sales. Good breeders do it for the love of the breed, in the hope of producing a Sheltie that conforms to the breed standard and improves on its lineage.

American Shetland Sheepdog Association: How to Buy a Puppy
American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Finding a Sheltie Breeder
American Kennel Club: Thinking of Buying a Puppy? Find a Responsible Breeder
American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Shetland Sheepdog Breed Standard

Tip: If you can’t find any Sheltie breeders in your area, why not check out our directory of Sheltie Rescue centers? There are thousands of loving Shetland Sheepdog purebreds and crosses that need re-homing and you can be their savior.

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