great dane and mastiff puppy

This page gives tips to help you choose responsible great dane breeders, or dog breeders in general, and healthy, well-socialized puppies. It also clarifies what AKC papers and pedigrees are and what they do and don't do for you, and a link to a listing of great dane breeders and Mastiff Breeders in North America.

: Where to Get a Puppy : Choosing a Breeder : Choosing a Puppy : AKC Papers :
: Great Dane Breeders : Mastiff Breeders : Rescue Organizations near Phoenix :

Where's the Best Place to Get a Puppy?

There are so many options when looking to adopt a puppy it's hard to know where to start. So, I will start by encouraging you NOT to start at a pet store. The majority of the puppies you see in pet stores are raised in places called puppy mills. These dog farms typically keep dozens or hundreds of dogs in tiny, filthy pest and feces infested crates their entire lives, producing litter after litter. They rarely receive veterinary care, exercise, or love. Many of the puppies produced by these places have genetic defects and health problems related to the conditions they are raised in. By purchasing a dog from a pet store, you are creating a demand for these puppy millers to supply and are supporting their cruelty and mistreatment of dogs.

A great place to start your search for your new family member is at your local animal control pound, humane society, ASPCA, or breed rescue organization. is a nationwide rescue organization that posts dogs in need of homes on the web and will send them to loving owners across the US and Canada. Many of these places will have healthy purebred or mixed breed puppies that will make excellent pets and they are in need of a good home. Help save a life and check at a shelter before purchasing a puppy anywhere else.

If you are looking for a specific breed or show possibility puppy, the best places to look are at dog shows or breed club meetings or events. You can also check the club website for the breed your are interested in for referrals to breeders and their websites. To find dog shows in your area, check out or visit  or  for event listings.

Most reputable breeders will not advertise litters in the newspaper or on websites like craigslist. Some good breeders do have websites, but beware...some may not be all that great! Puppy mills often advertise "home raised" puppies on websites, so you should always visit the breeder in person before buying a puppy. So how do you know if a breeder is trustworthy and responsible? Here are a few tips I've learned over the years on choosing the best breeders and the healthiest puppies:

Choosing a Breeder

  1. Does the breeder show their dogs in conformation, agility, rally, or obedience? Are one or both of the parents of the puppies an AKC/UKC champion or titled? Most responsible breeders participate in some sort of dog sport or therapy.
  2. Have the parents of the puppies been screened and cleared of genetic issues such as dysplasia, heart conditions, thyroid problems, and other breed-specific hereditary conditions? If not, it's probably best to pass.
  3. Does the breeder seem more concerned about the cash than the type of parents you will make for this little bundle? A good breeder will be concerned about where their babies are going. They should ask you questions and "interview" you to make sure you can properly care for the puppy. If they doesn't care about the quality of the puppy's future life, they probably didn't care about the quality of his life so far. He may not be the healthiest or most well socialized pup. Move on to the next place.
  4. Is the house clean? You should be allowed to see where the puppies are kept, and their play area and bedding should be clean. Puppies that have not been vaccinated (puppies under 6 weeks) should not be kept outdoors, and no puppies or dogs should be kept outdoors in hot or cold climates.
  5. Is there a written guarantee and contract? A responsible breeder will provide a written health guarantee and contract He/She should also take your phone number in case they needs to contact you for any reason and to follow up. Most will require that the puppy be returned only to them if you cannot keep him/her for any reason.
  6. Will they provide you with references? You should be allowed to talk to people who have purchased dogs from them in the past to see if they are happy.
  7. Are you able to see both parents of the puppy? Some breeders will use a stud dog or frozen sperm, and in these cases they should have a picture of the father on hand. Otherwise, you should be allowed to see the mother and visit the father if he belongs to someone other than the puppy's owner. Both parents should look healthy and alert and should not mind getting some gentle attention from you. If the parents aren't in good shape, are living in undesirable conditions or seem to be aggressive towards you, move on to another breeder. Beware of things like "Oh, the father doesn't like strangers" or "Their mother lives with my sister...she doesn't like visitors." RUN! If you cannot see both parents in person or at least a photo, you are not getting what you think you are.  
  8. If the puppies are sold as AKC registered, does the breeder have the paperwork for you at the time you adopt the puppy? Are you able to see a copy of the parents' pedigrees and their papers? It's a good idea to make sure the parents fit the description of the dog the AKC papers are for. Some breeders have been known to register pups under AKC papers that do not belong to the parents of the pups.  
  9. If purchasing an AKC registered pup, does the breeder belong to the club for her breed? (For example, the Great Dane Club of America.) These breed clubs require members to follow strict ethical standards for the breeding and sale of their puppies and can be fined by the club if they do not follow these guidelines. Breeders that belong to a breed club are more likely to be honest and responsible, and will be more likely to honor their contracts in the event a problem occurs. There are many puppy mills out there with great websites - most of them won't belong to a breed club, so this is a good way to weed out potential problem breeders, especially if you are purchasing out of state and won't be able to inspect the living quarters in person.
  10. Be cautious of breeders that accept credit cards. This may be a sign of a business/puppy mill posing as a breeder.
  11. If you're purchasing from out of state, ask for tons of photos, or get a plane ticket and inspect your pup's living conditions before you buy - make sure the puppies and the parents are healthy and well socialized.

About the Puppies

  1. Puppies should never be sold before they are 7 weeks old, and smaller breeds are usually a minimum of 8-9 weeks old before they're ready to leave their littermates. Your puppy should have received at least one vaccination before being sold. If not, there's no guarantee your puppy will not have or soon contract a life-threatening disease.
  2. The puppies should not hide from you. If they are well socialized they will run up to you for attention. Beware of puppies that cower in the corner or shake with fear when you go to pet them. They have likely been either ignored or abused. Use your best judgment - if you think the puppies have been physically abused, don't hesitate to call your local humane society to report it.  
  3. The puppies should be alert, playful, and clean. The insides of their ears should be clean. They should not have any fleas or ticks on them. Their eyes should be clean and "gunk" free. Check inside their mouth to make sure they have adequate teeth to eat the food your breeder suggests. (Dry, moistened, mixed with formula, etc.)
  4. Spend some time playing with all of the puppies to get an idea of what their personalities are like. Though puppies of the same breed will all have similar characteristics, their personalities can be very different from each other. Do you want a dominant or submissive dog? Do you want a socialite that will love going places and being around large groups of people, or more of a reserved home-body? Are you looking for a curious, outgoing dog, or one that will be more relaxed and mellow? These are all things you can get a feel for after watching the litter play and interacting with the puppies. Dominant dogs tend to be a bit more protective, strong leaders, more outgoing. This also means they are a bit more stubborn and will challenge your authority from time to time - testing your limits. Submissive dogs will accept your position as "alpha" leader easily, and will be more likely to follow your direction and strive to please.  If you already have a dog, consider your dog's personality before choosing a puppy. If your dog has more of a dominant personality, you may want to choose a more submissive puppy and vice-versa.
  5. After purchasing your puppy, take him to your vet for a check up. If there are any problems, report them to your breeder. If the puppy has worms or any other contagious problem, your breeder will need to treat any puppies she still has and should call the owners of any puppies already purchased to let them know as well.

What Do AKC Papers and Pedigrees Do For You?

AKC papers do not ensure the health or quality of your puppy! Registration papers simply state who the parents of your dog are. But Buyer Beware - It's a fairly common practice for non-reputable breeders to falsify the papers, in which case they are absolutely useless. A pedigree is simply a 3-5 generation chart of the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. of the puppy. Assuming all the papers are legit, full AKC registration papers allow you to enter your dog in AKC sponsored shows, including conformation, obedience and other competitions.

Showing your dog in these competitions will allow your dog the opportunity to earn titles. Titles only refer to the quality of the look or performance of a dog, not the health. Just because a puppy comes from two champion parents it doesn't necessarily mean that puppy possesses the qualities of a champion. Certifications such as OFA, Penn Hip, CERF, etc. are different types of health evaluations and certifications performed by a vet that testify as to the health of the dog. Suggested certifications vary depending on the breed - I recommend checking with the breed club for your breed to see which health problems they recommend testing for.

Are Purebred Dogs Better than Mixed Breeds?

Well, to answer this question, you have to ask yourself why you want a dog. If your goal is to breed or enter confirmation competitions, then a purebred dog is the only choice for you. But for the majority out there who are simply looking for a loving companion, consider adopting the unidentifiable wagging bundle of fur at your local shelter. Be kind enough to save the life of a dog in need. When you rescue a dog from a shelter and provide them with a happy home, they understand that and they'll be eternally grateful and loyal forever.

Excessive inbreeding or "line breeding" of many purebred dogs (especially puppy mill dogs) can also lead to genetic health defects and in some cases, mental instability. Since mixed breed dogs are typically the result of two unrelated dogs breeding, you're more likely to adopt a genetically healthier pet. I don't want to put down purebreds...I own one myself. However, being a purebred doesn't make him a better pet - it just makes him more recognizable. If purchased from a responsible breeder, purebreds make great pets, too. Just be sure to do your research, make sure the breeder has had the parents screened for common disorders, and check out the pedigrees before you buy. Most purebreds will have one or two common ancestors, but if you see a bunch, give it a second thought unless this is a highly reputable breeder that you trust.

mastiffs and great danes
Visit for Great Dane Breeders, Mastiff Breeders and Other Giant Breed Puppies

Great Dane and English Mastiff Breeders

This link will take you to the Great Dane Club of America Breeder's Listing. Only members of the Great Dane Club are listed in the directory. Most perform adequate medical screenings prior to breeding, but please do your research before selecting a breeder! If you are looking for an English Mastiff breeder, you can check out the Mastiff Club of America website for a breeder referral. We make no guarantees as to the responsibility of the breeders listed or the health of their puppies, and do not endorse any specific breeders. You can also check out the Great Dane Breeders and Mastiff Breeders listings on

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