#1 Know the places to avoid.
Puppy mills and puppy scammers are in a lot of places. They may have their own websites; while there are lots of red flags to look for, one is a very streamlined super-professional site. This is because most real, ethical at-home breeders are not professional web designers. If the site looks too slick and too ‘perfect’, be wary of this.
It’s also risky to try and find a puppy through Craig’s List. You may see a listing that seem to be written by a single person who claims they have a new, darling puppy but due to some unforeseen happenstance (moving to a new home, sudden illness of the owner, etc.) they sadly must locate a new home for their perfect little puppy. This can be a puppy mill in disguise.
In regard to breeder listing sites, like PuppyFind, be cautious. You’ll find a mix of ethical breeders, hobby breeders, people with unexpected litters, and a percentage that may be unethical. When writing this article and taking a look at the first page of results for Yorkshire Terrier puppies (all areas), of the top 5 results, 3 were clearly not even purebred Yorkies.
If you find someone on there, you may wish to take note of their information and see if you can match it to one of the lists as described next under tip #2.
In regard to hobby breeders or those that have unexpected litters, a word of caution: It is vital that both dam and sire go through pre-breeding health screens and this is often not the case with random litters.
Stay clear of pet shops that sell puppies. Ethical breeders do not give their puppies to stores. Pet shops are supplied by puppy mills. Sadly, the puppies there are prone to a wide range of health issues
, and by buying a pup there you will be supporting and enabling puppy mills.
#2 Look to lists of legitimate Yorkie breeders.
However, before you jump into that, please note that the lists are simply that; they offer the names and contact information of real breeders, but then it will be up to you to look further to see if the breeder is ethical and responsible (tips are ahead).
In the US, the two most comprehensive sources are:
The AKC Marketplace
is our top recommendation. Note that it is recommended to filter your search to only include ‘Breeders of Merit’; this means that those particular breeders have been involved with the AKC for at least 5 years, have had at least 4 dogs that won titles in AKC competitions, and that pre-breeding health screens are performed on their dams and sires. This nearly eliminates the chances of that person being a puppy mill.
Beyond that, there’s lots of other things to look for (coming up ahead).
The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America Breeder Referrals
is a secondary option. With this list, you will see Yorkie breeders that are listed for as reference only, meaning that the Club does not guarantee the health or any part of the service that one would receive. Also note that this they do not necessarily keep this up-to-date (breeders may be retired, etc.).
If you are outside of the United States, look to your country’s comparable resources.
#2 Decide how far to extend your search.
In some areas of the country, like New England, there are very few breeders (of any dog breed). And in other areas, such as the southern states, you’ll find that there are a lot more.
For this reason, traveling
may need to be part of the equation. This said, before you even start thinking about that final bit of travel on the day that your pup comes home to you, of top importance is whether or not you can travel to see the pup beforehand. There is more on this ahead; however, the main aspect is that it is best if you can see the breeder’s home and puppies and dogs before you make a final decision.
Keep this in mind as you think about how far away the breeder is located.
In regard to an offer of a puppy shipping out to you, not all breeders are licensed to ship puppies. And, even so, a shipped puppy would be sent as cargo; this means in a crate and placed along with other luggage out on the tarmac and then kept in the cargo hold of an airplane. This is extremely mentally and physically stressful and dangerous. Reputable breeders will not offer this.
Therefore, options include you flying out to obtain the puppy and then flying back with the puppy on board with you in the passenger area or driving out and back.
Certainly not all, but some breeders offer to deliver a puppy to its new owners ground transportation themselves for an additional fee.
It’s suggested to choose 3 to 4 Yorkie breeders that are within the area that you are willing to travel.
# 3 The early weeding process.
Take a look at the site.
If you are using the AKC’s Marketplace, note that once you click into a breeder’s profile you will see a prompt to ‘Contact the Breeder’, but keep scrolling down to look for the website address, generally listed under ‘Operations’.
As mentioned earlier, though a reputable breeder may very well have a side-hobby of web design, be suspicious of a site that looks like a shiny, ‘perfect’ advertisement.
Many wonderful breeders have less-than-ideal sites with quirky colors and even some typos.
Take a look at the photos. While photos are certainly not proof of anything nowadays, take note if both dams and sires are shown, along with previous and current litters. Though it is not the only good sign, if you see that there are no current litters, this is usually something that a puppy mill will not have.
Take a look at the contact information.
Though it doesn’t hold across the board, do be wary of someone that does not list more than one method of contact. Even if a breeder is reputable, if they only list an email, you may find it frustrating that you can’t call or text. It’s ideal to have an email, along with a phone number, and both a home and cell number is great.
#4 Reaching out.
Now that you have your short list of breeders that are likely to be legitimate, and are within the area that you can travel to, it will be time to make contact.
Make it easy for the breeder by offering your full name, where you live, and contact information. Write or relay a brief summary of your living situation (first time or seasoned owner, with or without young children, etc.). Do not offer an impossible-to-meet demand such as ‘a female that will be 5.5 lbs. fully grown for $300’.
Whether you phone or email, the main thing that you’ll want to look for is the reply time. Sure, everyone gets busy and random things may happen that prevent a prompt reply. However, even if you’ve located the most reputable Yorkshire Terrier breeder there is, you’re in for a frustrating ride if that person can’t reply to you in a timely manner.
If you have to travel long-distance to obtain a pup, it may not be viable to visit the breeder beforehand. However, it is highly recommended and you should try to do this if at all possible.
Ideally, you want to see the breeder’s home, see both dam and sire (which will give you a good idea of the pup’s projected adult size), see the living conditions, and so forth.
If you cannot do this, do know that there is risk going forward.
# 6 Additional steps.
Ask for references; a reputable breeder will be more than happy to put you in touch with previous puppy buyers. But, don’t stop there; reach out to those people and inquire about their experience in obtaining their pup, how their Yorkie is currently doing, and if they would recommend that breeder.
AKC breeders in a location of high demand may have waiting lists, and they may ask that a deposit be placed to hold a pup on a planned litter. It will be up to you if you wish to do so, or continue your search for puppies that are currently available.
AKC Breeders of Merit should have clear buyer contracts and health contracts, but, do not glance over them; take the time to carefully read through them. In most cases, a deposit is forfeited if you change your mind and only genetic health conditions or issues that appear within a short amount of time are covered.
Ask about the actual buying and transferring process. If you were not able to visit the breeder beforehand, do not agree to have the breeder meet you at the airport or another location that is not the breeder’s home.
Tips if Obtaining a Yorkie Puppy Though Other Online Means
Though the AKC Marketplace’s offerings of Breeders of Merit is perhaps the safest route in your search for your new puppy, perhaps you have already started in another direction… a listing online of another sort.
Needless to say, there is some risk involved and the following may help weed people out to some degree, but is certainly not a guarantee at all.
1. Check out the website.
As mentioned earlier, look for one that makes sense when you consider that the designer is the breeder herself or perhaps a family member.
In addition, choose some of the text and copy and paste that text into a new web browser window. Are there results showing those exact same words on more than one site? Someone is stealing those words; either the breeder you found or the one that also has that text.
2. Look for both an email and a phone number.
If the area code does not look familiar to you, do a web search to see what comes up under the location.
3. Be very cautious of too-good-to-be-true prices.
The cost of a purebred Yorkie puppy varies quite a bit depending on the area. Pups can be very expensive in New England but much less so in the south. If you see a listing for a purebred pup that is only $350 and free shipping to your doorstep, run away.
4. Ask for references.
A reputable breeder will be more than happy to put you in touch with previous puppy buyers. But, don’t stop there; reach out to those people and ask about their puppy-buying experience.
5. Once you see a puppy that interest you, ask for a particular photo; for example, the puppy next to a calculator or tv remote. You can say that you wish for this to see the pup’s size comparison; but the real goal is to see if the puppy exists. Someone who is pretending to be a legitimate breeder will have stock photos and will be unable to produce an original picture like that.
A Final Word
Buying a puppy is an exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience. Certainly, knowing that you’ve found an authentic, experienced, loving, and reputable breeder takes a big weight off your shoulders as you move forward. While the advice here can help quite a bit during the selection process, never ignore your gut feelings. If your intuition is telling you that something feels off, pay attention to that.