Some questions to ask a breeder

Vet Certificate of Health

Breeders say their dogs are healthy, but is a breeder really an unbiased authority? A responsible breeder will have any dog they are selling checked a few days prior to sale by their veterinarian. So ask if the breeder will supply at the time of sale a health certificate from a veterinarian. If not, find another breeder.


You would not buy a car nor fly in an airplane for which no safety checks had been done, now would you? So why would you purchase a puppy for a large sum of money if no health testing for genetic diseases has been done on the parents?

So a question that you should ask is "Do the parents have CHIC numbers?"

Most parent breed clubs recommend several health tests for dogs used for breeding. Dogs that have had all these tests done - and the results made public - are assigned a Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) number. The easiest way to see if a dog has a CHIC number is to go to the web site of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), look up the dog, and see if the initials "CHIC" appears next to its name. (For this you will need the registered names or the registration numbers of the parents.) You should feel free to ask the breeder to explain the results of the health tests.

Here is a list of the Top Norwich CHIC kennels

DNA tests

Recent scientific advances have given breeders inexpensive DNA tests for various genetic health problems. See the web sites of MyDogDNA and Paw Print Genetics for a list of DNA tests recommended for each breed. You should ask if these DNA tests have been done on any dog you are considering purchasing. If you are going to spend a large amount of money to purchase a puppy, would you not expect your breeder to do some inexpensive DNA tests?

If the results of the DNA tests have not been put on the web site of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), then you should ask to see the lab reports. You should feel free to ask the breeder to explain the test results.

If the breeder says something like "I do not have that problem in my line" for a recommended DNA test ... then the breeder is really saying "I do not test." If a breeder does not test, then they do not know.

Here is a list of DNA health tests for Norwich terriers.

Look at the pedigree

Prior to purchase, a breeder should be willing to give you a four-generation pedigree of any dog you are considering. (If not, seek another breeder!) You want to look at the pedigree to see if the dog is highly inbred. You do this by looking for repeated names in the pedigree.

Breeders often breed two closely related "good" dogs (by whatever definition of "good" that they are using) in the hope that the puppies will also be "good". This frequently works ... but it also doubles up on recessive mutations that cause genetic illnesses. While breeders may call this by fancy names such as "linebreeding", it is still inbreeding. Geneticists know that inbreeding auses all sorts of problems for a population. There are historical examples in humans that demonstrate this ... Queen Victoria and her descendents (hemophelia), the Hapsburgs (inbreeding depression, "the Hapsburg lisp"), etc.

If you want to get technical, from the pedigree you can easily calculate the "ancestor loss coefficient" and see how it compares with the recommendation of the Finnish Kennel Club. (The European kennel clubs are in general ahead of the American Kennel Club with regards to the health and welfare of dogs.) Click here for an explanation.

For Norwich terriers, my online Norwich pedigree database will calculate the ancestor loss coefficient for any dogs in the database.

Other things to consider

How many different breeds is the breeder breeding? If more than two, some rescue organizations classify such a breeder as a "puppy mill". If more than two, there is a question of how the breeder can keep up with the health issues in the various breeds. (Different breeds have different health issues.)

Is the breeder a member of the breed parent club? A local dog club?

Is the puppy or dog AKC-registerable? If not, ask the breeder for a DNA breed test to make sure that the puppy or dog really is a purebred.

Last updated 20200825