Why is there so much controversy about what breeder you go through? If I just want a pet does it matter?

Good questions, let me explain the three "types" of breeders you will encounter as you research breeders, and you can make the best decision
for you and your family. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or want clarification.

Puppy Mill vs. Backyard Breeder vs. Responsible Breeder

What IS a puppy mill?
The term puppy mill is a label that every breeder denies applies to them. Every pet shop denies that their puppies come from puppy mills. So what exactly is a puppy mill?

Other names for puppy mills might be puppy farm (sounds fun) or commercial breeder (sounds professional).  Typically there is not much in the way of profit when it comes to breeding dogs (see below). The profit comes when commercial operations provide only the minimum requirements to keep a dog alive and able to breed.  When the dog is done breeding they are euthanized.  A puppy mill will not feed and store an animal if it isn’t turning a profit.  There is no concern for breed standards, genetics or health of the sire, dam or pups.
The puppy mill breeder can store multiple rows of crates stacked, to produce countless litters.  These breeding dogs and puppies do not come out of their crates or pens. They do not know what a belly rub is or know what grass feels like.  There is no human companionship. Think of a factory churning out a product and you will understand the philosophy of a puppy mill. Pups are sold to a party or broker by six weeks, sometimes earlier. Live pet auctions get their pups from puppy mills.

A pup from a puppy mill generally will not be AKC registered, will have no contract and no follow up support. Once that check is cashed all relations with the breeder or broker is ended. A pup from this breeder would command top dollar, or be discounted if they could not be placed. If they could not be placed past puppy stage, they would go to the pound or be euthanized.

The "designer dogs" come out of this category, like Berner-doodles (Bernese-Poodle pups are not purebred pups even if the sire was a purebred Bernese and the dam was a purebred Poodle)

 OK, let’s look at the Backyard Breeder.

This term is used to describe those that breed dogs but know little in terms of breed standards, genetics or puppy care. The motive may be profit, and occasionally a backyard breeder will make a profit from turning out puppies without spending the money to make sure their breeding stock is sound.

Typically the backyard breeder will produce one litter, find out how expensive, exhausting and heartbreaking it is to breed dogs, and have their female spayed. Spaying generally costs $300 provided there are no complications. Often times the male or female will wind up in the dog pound because it is too expensive to spay/neuter or keep multiple dogs, especially if they are not profitable.

Dogs have little trouble figuring out how to breed. The reality is that not all breedings will take, especially if the sire and dam are not in excellent physical and mental health. There are multiple problems with whelping as well and often times c-sections are required which range from $1200-1600. It is not uncommon to lose puppies with c-sections. Unfortunately dogs cannot "take care of themselves" especially in the Bernese breed, and this is a very naïve attitude which causes suffering and death to far too many dams and puppies.

With the backyard breeder, pups are often sold before eight weeks of age as the pups become expensive to feed and their pen needs to be cleaned constantly. This is a 24/7 job folks.  Mom will have little to do with the pups after those teeth come in so at around 4 weeks the breeder faces the reality that pups need to be fed every three hours around the clock, again 24/7.

Pups sold from a backyard breeder rarely have a contract, sometimes might be AKC registered,  and will not come with support should problems or questions arise. Often times they will require a large deposit to hold a pup even when they are not born. This gives them working cash. They typically sell females for more than the males and YOU pick which one is a show/breed prospect. Once that check is cashed the new puppy owner is on their own. A pup from this breeder would command top dollar , or be discounted if they could not be placed. If they could not be placed they would go to the pound.

The "designer dogs" also come out of this category and sometimes will provide pups to pet stores.

and finally the Responsible Breeder
The responsible breeder is knowledgeable of the breed, it’s standards, genetics and health issues within the breed. Their breeding stock have certification showing that they are free from genetic diseases that plague the breed.                                 .
Ideally the breeding stock are pointed or champions on record, which tells the purchaser that the sire and dam are good representations of the breed. This breeder is constantly seeking to further educate themselves on breed issues, attends educational seminars, shows in conformation or performance events, and constantly networks to other breed people to widen their breeding options to bring in new genetic lines.

The responsible breeder is typically a member of the breed club and abides by the rules set for by said club in regards to breeder ethics.
The pups health begins long before the pups whelp, with a sire and dam in peak physical condition, both physically and mentally. Dams transfer temperament, whether it be stable or unstable, directly to their pups. A responsible breeder tracks their progeny to assess their breeding program.

Pups leave between 8-10 weeks of age but never before. Critical developmental and imprinting stages occur during those weeks, which stay with the pup for it's lifetime. If they are taken too young from the nest, serious behavioral problems begin to surface around 6 months and into adulthood.

Pups come with a written contract, a written sales agreement, 4 generation pedigree, copies of all health certifications and titles, and support  for the life of the pup. The breeder will also instruct the purchaser on proper care, exercise for the breed and will be there years down the road when you need information. Breeders may ask for a deposit, but generally not until the pups are close to whelping. A signed contract would accompany the deposit to cover both parties. The pup would have a complete health form stating date of vet visits, any puppy shots, etc.

The litter would be AKC registered and AKC paperwork would be given to the purchaser for registration. Some breeders will go so far as to microchip and register each pup for the purchaser at no additional cost. This helps the breeder in assessing this litter years from now. A pup from this breeder would command top dollar and most pups would be spoken for before they were born. If one could not be placed it would live with the breeder until a suitable home could be found. They would NEVER go to a pound.


Regardless of which breeder you chose, make sure that your breeder is someone you trust, someone you can communicate with comfortably and PLEASE visit the property and see the dogs which were bred. There should be no "mysterious dog" that you are not allowed to see.

Check the condition of the bitch, and sire if he is available. If the stud was from another kennel ask to see his health certificates and photos of him standing, and a close up of his face.  Also ask to see where the pups will live, where the adults live, etc. 

A good breeder will welcome all questions, no matter how trivial they may seem.  A good breeder will ask you many questions too. This is not being nosey.
This helps them decide which pup would best fit into each family and work best with your temperament. 

IF you find that perfect breeder, and you LOVE their dogs, get on their wait list!

Pass the puppy, socializers


How much DOES that puppy cost?

   Another good question, let's break it down. Here is a ROUGH idea of what a purchaser can expect during the first year of puppy ownership,
and what a responsible breeder spends to get that adorable litter of Bernese Puppies. 

Prices vary per region, but this will give you a good idea.


            • purchase cost depending on dogs bred               $1200-2000
            • first year routine vet care puppy                             $200
            • routine adult vet care per year                                $75-100
            • miscellaneous vet care yearly, non-emergency    $150
            • Yearly food  bill                                                         $300-600
            • 20 hours of basic puppy and obedience classes $200
            • home and yard improvements, fencing or a run    $500-1000
            • OFA x-rays on hip and elbow, age 2 yr.                 $350
            • Toys, collars, shampoo, grooming, etc                  $200
            • Spay/neuter                                                               $225-400

                    Expenses for the breeder
                    • Purchase price of show quality dogs (2)        $3000-10,000
                    • OFA hip and elbow per dog                            $350 ($700)
                    • OFA Cardiac per dog                                      $40  ($80)
                    • CERF (eye test) annually per dog                   $35  ($70)
                    • VonWillebrand’s (blood disorder)  per           $99  ($198)
                    • DNA profiling  per dog                                     $40  ($80)
                    • Degenerative Myelopathy  per dog                $140  ($280)
                    • Championship per dog                                    $3000 and up  ($6000 +)
                    • Cost per litter                                                     $2000-5000*
                            *progesterone testing x 4 @$125 each, x-ray, c-sections $1500, neonatal care, food, formula,
                             medication, puppy vet visits, vaccinations, microchipping, AKC registration of litter . . . . . . . .

                    OK, there are also ridiculous amounts spent on toys and cute collars!


Why so much genetic testing?

A responsible breeder not only strives to maintain standards for the breed, but also tries to improve on the genetic health with each breeding. By going through the expense of genetic testing, the breeder has more "pieces to the puzzle" for making the best possible decision as to which dogs they will breed. Puppy mill and backyard breeders do not do this as there would be no profit.

A responsible breeder strives to produce the best possible pups they can produce, but there is still no guarantee on perfect  health. Please visit the Bernergarde database website at www.bernergarde.org. On the left menu click on "Database" and then click on "enter as a guest" in the next window. Look up any breeder, sire or dam to get a complete list of health certifications on all of their dogs and pups.