A yellow Lab puppy sitting down in very tall grass.

Considering adding a Labrador puppy to your life soon?

It’s exciting and fun to begin the search for the right dog, but finding reputable Labrador breeders can be extremely challenging.

So hold your excitement and enthusiasm for just a minute, and read through this guide to help you make this critical decision well.

Chocolate Lab puppy sitting in the grass.

If you’re not looking at rescues with available puppies, which we have also done and definitely encourage you to do, then you’re likely looking at finding an excellent, honest, and reputable Labrador breeder. 

You really, really need a great one. And Lab breeders seem to be everywhere!

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So how do you find the really good ones? How do you do your best to find a breeder with a healthy dog less likely to have major problems down the road?

We’re going to help you by giving you some steps to take below to save you both time and tremendous frustration.

Labrador Breeders: How to Find the Best Ones

The Importance of Finding a Reputable Labrador Breeder

As popular as Labrador Retrievers are in the United States and elsewhere, there are many breeders you might come across in your search for a puppy.

If you do some careful research, ask the right questions, and find a great breeder, things will go much more smoothly for you and your Labrador pup.

It’s not a guarantee that nothing will go wrong… unfortunately no one can promise you that.

But it’s a good head start on preventing some issues from the beginning.

If you’re just learning about the Labrador breed, and need some background on what to expect if you get one of these amazing dogs, take a peek at our quick overview about the Labrador breed.

If you act on impulse and don’t do your research on a breeder, you might get lucky.

Or, you might end up with major regrets.

You’re going to spend a long time re-thinking that decision if you don’t choose your breeder wisely. And by that point you are going to be head-over-heels in love with the dog you’ve chosen… so what do you think you’ll do then?

In our experience, the best breeders truly love both their own Labradors and the breed itself.

They have the highest standards, integrity for their actions, and are constantly working to improve the breed.

The best Labrador breeders will want to see both you and the dog succeed in making a match for life.

Chocolate Labrador puppy looking up.

They want you to have reasonable expectations, and give the puppy the best chance of success without disruption or being returned.

The best Labrador breeders will stand behind their dogs. Not that their dogs never have any problems, but that the breeder is open and honest with you about any issues. They truly have the best intentions for their Labradors.

How do you know if you’re dealing with a great breeder?

And how do you find them?

  • Great Labrador breeders aren’t breeding for money.
  • They aren’t breeding for frequency on some kind of rigorous schedule.
  • They are breeding the best matches: the healthiest dogs with the best traits they can identify and improve upon.

Some Labrador breeders are fanatics about the traits, characteristics, and temperaments of their dogs. They take their role in the Labrador Retriever world seriously and stake their reputations on the dogs they put forth.

Begin Your Breeder Search with Referrals and Online Resources

So how do you know where to find a great breeder?

And what do you look for once you start making contact with them?

The first and best place to start is locating breeder references from other Labrador owners you might know.

Start with your friends and contacts on social media to get recommendations on breeder referrals.

Many people return again to the same Labrador breeder years later to get another dog when the time is right.

On social media, you’ll also find groups dedicated to Labrador interests.

Most people love to talk about their dogs, especially their Labradors! They can be an excellent source of information beyond the questions you’d even think to ask.

If you start there by asking for a referral, be aware that you’ll still want to go through the vetting process with whomever you’re referred to.

Many successful, recommended, and well-known breeders will have a website dedicated to their breeding practices, policies, and dogs.

This can give you a general idea of their philosophies and types of dogs they have, and what traits they specifically breed for.

It can be a good place to start when you are trying to get general information and to narrow down who you might want to contact first.

Black Lab in a black and white photo lying on the floor.

In addition to networking with people you know, and using social media groups, there are also online directories of Labrador breeders that are affiliated with non-profits such as the Labrador Retriever Club.

The Labrador Retriever Club is the parent club for Labrador Retrievers affiliated with the American Kennel Club in the United States.

You can use their online directory as one possible starting place to begin your search.

You might find that some of the same breeder names are coming up from multiple sources, and that’s an excellent sign.

No matter where you start, be thorough and take your time.

After you’ve begun your initial research, it’s time to know what to ask to help narrow down who the best fit might be for you.

This will help you decide which Labrador breeder you might want to move forward with.

Contact Potential Labrador Breeders and Ask These Specific, Detailed Questions

When you first contact a potential Lab breeder, you’re going to want to ask them some specific questions.

There can be a lot of excitement and anticipation as you move forward in this process, but asking some critical questions at this point in the process is important.

You’ll want to focus on not only specific information about their dogs, but about the process in general, and about history and references from past litters.

Many of the most reputable breeders will only breed their dogs infrequently, not on a rigid schedule.

Don’t be concerned or take it as a negative if they tell you they have a waiting list for future litters.

You want someone who demonstrates and conveys to you that they are careful and deliberate in this process.

In your discussions with a potential breeder, there are a few specific things to find out that can help you immensely in determining if this breeder is a good fit for what you’re looking for.

Five important questions to ask a potential Labrador breeder:

  1. How many times have these particular Labradors been bred together before?
  2. What were the outcomes of the previous litters?
  3. What health issues do they test for medically?
  4. What are the temperaments of these particular dogs you are considering for a litter?
  5. How many times has this breeder had a puppy returned?

The breeder will generally have a policy regarding what happens if the puppy (for whatever reason) doesn’t work out in your home, or if something catastrophic happens and you’re unable to care for the dog down the road.

The best Labrador breeders will want you to contact them and get their help resolving it, or ask that you return the dog to them rather than abandoning it.

Ask for documentation about medical issues they have been testing for. This shouldn’t catch any reputable breeder off guard.

Generally, a great Labrador breeder will already be forthcoming with that information, because good health is a fundamental part of your decision to get a Labrador puppy.

Does the breeder answer your questions in a helpful and cooperative way? Do they seem annoyed at your questions, or accustomed to being asked them before?

A great breeder is not in this for money… they are in this for the love of the Labrador breed.

You want a breeder who’s open to answering your questions without becoming defensive or offended by them.

Be prepared that a great Labrador Retriever breeder may be asking YOU many questions and determining if you also meet their criteria, as well. Don’t be offended, this is a sign that they’re committed to good outcomes for their dogs.

As you move forward in this process, don’t succumb to pressure.

Don’t panic and don’t rush this decision. Getting comfortable with a breeder should be a natural step since you both have the same ultimate goal: matching a great dog with a wonderful home for a long and happy life.

Black and white photo of a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy looking off to the side.

The best outcome is for you to be able to find a breeder you feel comfortable with and who is willing to answer your questions.

You also want someone who’s not afraid to make sure you have the best interests of their future dogs in mind during the process.

A reputable breeder can and should be very picky about whether you meet their standards for getting one of their puppies.

Don’t be put off by this. It’s a sign that they care not only about the safety of their dogs but upholding the highest integrity of the Labrador breed.

Consider Traveling for a Breeder

Depending on where you’re located, you might have to travel somewhat to find a good breeder. Keep that in mind when you’re doing your research.

Yes, we know this can be an additional cost and headache, and can sometimes make the process a little bit harder to plan. And traveling with a puppy or any Labrador can be challenging and require extra work.

Take your time in this process and don’t rush.

Yes, we know you want the perfect dog right now!

But it’s going to be worth it when you find a breeder you trust, form an excellent relationship, and have confidence that you’ve made the best decision you can.

There are also some Labrador breeders who consider allowing the shipping of their puppies.

We’re going to suggest you think very carefully about that decision, and definitely inquire from the breeder about their policies, especially for the safety of the animal.

Some people (and Labrador breeders) are comfortable with this, and some people are not.

Having traveled thousands of miles in the past to pick up our Labradors from a breeder directly, we know it can be an extra challenge to drive a long distance to pick up your dog.

But we would strongly suggest you choose to travel to get your puppy instead of shipping the pup if it’s possible for you.

Many breeders will refuse to ship puppies out of concern for their safety, as some types of airplane travel with dogs can be controversial.

While researching potential breeders can be done online, we don’t recommend you try to complete the entire process online.

Buying a dog online without choosing your dog in person can carry significant risks that you should be aware of as well. (Read more: Risks of Buying a Dog Online)

Ask a Potential Breeder if They Have References from Prior Litters

When you contact a breeder directly, one of the most important steps is to ask them for references from owners of puppies that came from their prior litters.

This can be a critical source of valuable information.

Sometimes owners of prior litter puppies will tell you helpful information you wouldn’t get any other way, such as:

  • What dealing with breeder was really like
  • Whether the temperament of the particular dog they got matched the expectations they were given
  • What health issues they’ve had with their particular dog coming from that breeder
  • Whether they would get another dog in the future from the same Labrador breeder

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who got a puppy from a previous litter.

It can be the best way to set realistic expectations about what the experience might be like for you, and what kind of dog you’re likely to get.

Labrador breeders can often be an excellent source of information, but sometimes even more details can come from the people who are living day-to-day with these wonderful dogs.

It’s a huge decision, with consequences for many years down the road. Take your time to make the best choice. Don’t be rushed into a decision.

Soon your research and patience will pay off, and you’ll be watching your house get destroyed by an adorable Labrador puppy in no time.

Summary – How to Find the Best Lab Breeders

If you’re considering a Labrador puppy from a breeder, it’s important to really do your research.

Getting a great dog from a reputable breeder can give you and your Lab the best start possible. It can also save you years of frustration, some potentially avoidable medical bills, and heartache over making what might not have been the wisest choice.

Take your time. Ask for help.

Choosing the right Labrador Retriever puppy is a decision not to be made impulsively. We know your diligence will pay off and you’ll be thrilled with a great outcome in celebration of your new Labrador.

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