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All of the Pandemic Puppies flooding into rescue right now have me thinking, once again, about backyard breeders.

So for fun, I hopped into CANVA and made a backyard breeder bingo card that you can share to your IG story or on your blog! Just right click and steal it from us, we will DEFINITELY allow you to take and share this one! (Though, we do ask that you keep the board as-is and don’t crop or photoshop it). You can tag us on IG @hellodanes

I will clarify each square below! Note, this card is in reference to backyard breeders who INTENTIONALLY breed dogs for profit. Not truly accidental or rescue litters. Please also see our note below the post about how ALL dogs do deserve a home, and how you can make sure that happens without supporting unethical breeding practices!

Why is backyard breeding such a problem? Because unethical breeding practices are almost solely responsible for heartbreak, sick dogs, aggression, health problems and the sheer volume of dogs that are overwhelming our Great Dane rescues right now.


BUY NOW BUTTON/ONLINE STORE – This is always shady business for two reasons. Number one, a lot of ‘scam’ breeders with no puppies at all use this as a money grab and two, no ethical breeder is going to let you just checkout/purchase a puppy without getting to know you first. Never, EVER purchase a puppy by using a ‘buy now’ or online checkout option, even if you think the breeder is ‘reputable’.

NO LIFETIME BREEDER SUPPORT – Ethical breeders care VERY much about the lives they produce. They never want to see a single one of their dogs in rescue or sick because of a congenital or genetic problem. Ethical breeders will support you if something pops up from training issues to health problems, and will be there for you even if you are simply unable to care for the dog you purchased. Backyard breeders? They just want your money and to be done with it. Ask every Dane sitting in rescue right now if their breeder cared where they ended up in life…

UKC OR CKC/CONTINENTAL KENNEL CLUB REGISTRATIONS – These registries (not to be confused with the CANADIAN Kennel Club/CKC, which is reputable) are littered with litters from backyard breeders. Any breeder that cannot obtain a real AKC or Canadian registration will go to the UKC or the Continental Club. Reasons that your breeder may not have AKC or Canadian registrations? They may not have had breeding rights for the parents they were breeding, the pedigree is mixed or the lineage is unknown. Either way you shake it, it’s unlikely those dogs should have been bred.

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DOESN’T ADHERE TO GDCA ETHICS BASICS – We are consistently astounded how many ‘friendly’ and ‘caring’ breeders miss the boat on the ethics of breeding put forth by the Great Dane Club of America (and Canada). If you are going to breed Great Danes, shouldn’t the parent club be your resource and guide? Read their ethics and recommendations here, and make sure your breeder is following these basic guidelines when developing a breeding program:

‘DESIGNER’ COLORS IS THE MAIN SELLING POINT – Off-standard colors really shouldn’t be a problem, however many backyard breeders are so focused on creating popular and unique colors that they disregard temperament and sound structure. Color should NEVER be the main selling point of a breeding program. Health, temperament and structure first, always. After that? If the color fits, wear it.

SPOT-TO-SPOT BREEDING/DOUBLE MERLE – Breeding two dogs together that each carry the merle gene (you know, the gene responsible for those pretty merle coats and MANY ‘designer’ colors), each puppy has a 1-in-4 chance of receiving both copies of that gene. Sounds ok, right? It’s not. These dogs are called ‘double merle’ and many of them have significant health problems, blindness and/or deafness. Read more about double-merle dogs here:


BREEDING RIGHTS FOR ANY BUYER/FULL AKC – Ethical breeders will be very cautious about selling a puppy to somebody that wants to use it for breeding. While it seems like you should be able to do whatever you want with a purchased dog, we have to remember that dogs aren’t couches. They are living beings, and breeding them is a massive responsibility. Ethical breeders protect their lineage and understand the difference between a ‘pet’ Dane and one that has the correct structure and genetics to be bred. Want to breed? Find an ethical breeder and ask them to mentor you. Prove that you care about developing a sound breeding program; this will greatly increase your chances of getting access to purchase a quality foundation dog for your program.

PARENTS HAVE BAD STRUCTURE, FEAR OR AGGRESSION – A lot of breeders who sourced their foundation dogs from breeders that didn’t care if they bred the dog or not (see above) are also the same types that are breeding dogs with structural and temperament faults. Flat feet, roached backs, bad angulation, extremely red droopy eyes, fear and aggression…these are NOT things that should be passed onto a litter of puppies. Breeding a dog like this ignorant and gross. Meet the parents! They should be excellent examples of the breed standard with beautiful movement and structure and wonderful personalities. Ethical breeders are very proud of the parents they are breeding. Want to learn more about structure? Read the written standard here:

NO CONTRACT REQUIRED – If a breeder doesn’t require a contract, it’s a sign that they do NOT care who you are as the buyer, do NOT care to support the dog for life, don’t offer any kind of legitimate health guarantee, don’t care if you breed or not, don’t care if you surrender to a rescue. THEY DON’T CARE. Contracts outlining responsibilities, health and return requirements are a must. Verbal contracts likely don’t hold up in court, either so be suspicious when a breeder doesn’t want to put anything in writing.

MINIMAL EARLY SOCIALIZATION PROGRAM – Keeping dogs in a barn or on a tile floor with a short play session on grass and some exposure to kids or farm animals is NOT thorough socialization! Ethical breeders focus a lot of effort into creating confident puppies by exposing them to a huge variety of sounds, textures and experiences. They have puppies exploring obstacles (tires, water, ramps, gym mats, etc.), facing their frustrations and learning about household sounds (vacuums, for example), nail maintenance (clippers and dremel), crating, potty training, kids, handling, exams, collar/leash and more. Puppy Culture, ENS and Avidog are examples of appropriate early socialization programs.


SHIPS ASAP/WILL SHIP ANYWHERE – Dogs. Are. Not. Couches. If a breeder is willing to ship live animals that deserve love, affection, training and a good home to anybody sight unseen, TREAD CAUTIOUSLY. Some ethical breeders and rescues will ship dogs, but they require extensive checks into references and a video call or local visit to see your home and where the dog will be living. They will often use a network or a transportation nanny to move through the system with the dog and ensure it arrives comfortably and in perfect health!

PUPPIES ARE TIMID OR SCARED – If you go to meet the puppies, or see photos and videos and notice they are timid or scared, there is a HUGE problem. The breeder may be breeding timid/fearful parents, not socializing the puppies, abusing the puppies or the puppies have health issues. Any way you shake this, it’s bad news. Puppies should be energetic, bouncy, curious and playful. Not afraid. Contrary to popular belief, being ‘timid’ is NOT a ‘Great Dane Thing’.

PUPPIES HAVE A SPECIFIC % OF ‘EURO’ – This one is a can of worms folks. Our ‘Euro’ vs. ‘American’ Dane post is coming soon, but until then? Tread cautiously with any breeder who uses ‘Euro’ as a primary selling point, and especially if they give you a specific ‘%’ such as ‘38.5%’. European and American Great Danes have nearly identical written standards and look the same. There is a big difference between a European Great Dane and a ‘Euro’ Dane. A puppy marketed as a  ‘Euro’ Dane is a hypertype Dane and many suffer from health problems (obesity, structural issues, heart problems, bone growth disorders, etc. Entropion, allergies and bad feet are common).

IT’S YOUR DOG, DO WHAT YOU WANT  – This is a breeder that is breeding for profit and has no desire to support you as the buyer or ensure that the puppy is never surrendered to rescue, bred unethically or abandoned. They want to wash their hands of you and the dog and they package that dirty practice up in a neat phrase that sounds like they are giving you more ‘freedom’ as a dog owner. Yikes.


PUPPIES SENT HOME BEFORE 8 WEEKS – This is money grab central, folks. Breeders get tired of the puppies and from 6-8 weeks they eat a TON of $$ food, they are noisy, they are annoying, the mama dog is over it. A breeder that sends a puppy home prior to 8 weeks is setting that dog up to fail, however. They need corrections from their mama and littermates to learn bite control and appropriate play, as well as dog interactions, confidence and more. Read more about why taking dogs home before 8 weeks is both unethical and a huge problem here. There are very, very few reasons for a breeder to do this, and 99% of them are not a good reason.

UNDERAGE PARENTS (UNDER 2) – While some sources allow for dogs to be bred prior to 18-24 months, in Great Danes we consider this practice to be extremely unethical. Growth plates are not even fully closed yet on a Dane that isn’t 2: giant breed dogs don’t mature until at least then. Additionally, you cannot fully register some health testing results with until a dog is 2 years old. All dogs should be fully tested (and passed) before being bred, so jumping the line with an underage stud (and especially with an underage dam) is bad practice.

‘CHAMPION’ BLOODLINES BUT NO AKC, FCI, of CKC/CANADIAN KENNEL CLUB CH., GCH. or BIS TITLES – ANYBODY can put together a dog show and award ribbons and ‘champion’ titles. The only legitimate champion lineage comes from the major, reputable registries that work with the breeds established parent club: AKC, Canadian Kennel Club and FCI. The pedigree should be well-documented. Say what you want about ‘show dogs’, but dogs that have been awarded real CH. titles are excellent examples of the breed. Dogs that have been awarded fake or low quality CH. titles? Seems pretty shady to us…

NO APPLICATION REQUIRED – Without an application, how is a breeder to know if you are a legitimate, caring, committed home or not? Remember, abusive people can be friendly when you meet them in person. Good breeders want information about your home, your experience with Giant breed dogs, children in the house, your desire to work with your dog or breed it, and whether or not you actually plan to seek vet care, professional training and otherwise. They are more interested in choosing the right home for each puppy than in going down the list and selling puppies as fast as possible.

VERY FEW PHOTOS OF ADULT DOGS – A good breeder is going to be proud of the parents. Be wary of any breeder where the focus is primarily on puppies (profit generator) instead of on the adults, the lineage, structure and health. There should be several clear photos of the adult dogs being bred, ideally where you can see their structure and possibly even seeing them interacting with people, dogs and even kids. If a breeder is hiding photos of the adults or isn’t sharing them as much as (if not more so) than the puppies, be curious about WHY. The adults may be being abused, are sick or are poor examples of the breed.


PARTIAL OR NO OFA HEALTH TESTING – OFA Health testing is so much more than a vet check, and it’s extremely important. Each dog being bred should have hip/elbow x-rays to test for abnormalities (including dysplasia), an echocardiogram to test for genetic and congenital heart problems, a thyroid test and an eye exam with a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Make NO mistake, a breeder that skips these tests or only does one of them so they can ‘claim’ to be ‘OFA health tested’ is likely being SHADY. Proper health testing costs money and may require that the breeder wait before breeding or remove a dog from their program. They tend to skim over testing or avoid it altogether because of this. The results should be published to for you to verify.

PUPPIES HAVE FLAT FEET/WORMS/KNUCKLING – Yeah, this is backyard breeder territory. Experienced, thoughtful Dane breeders know how to deal with (and avoid) flat feet and knuckling. Flat feet may also be genetic (yikes!). There is no excuse in the world for a puppy to have disease, sores or WORMS. Gross. However, these things are fairly common with some of the worst breeders…even the ones that appear ‘popular’ or ‘friendly’.

NO TITLES ON ANY DOGS – did you know there are 100’s of titles a dog can obtain that have nothing to do with dog shows? A breeder that is active with their dogs, or that has owners who are active with them, will have titles in the lineage that include everything from obedience (CGC) to dock diving, scent work and more. While many breeders don’t obtain titles (and it’s not automatically a ‘bad’ thing), it’s one standard we do like to see considered more often. Look for titles in the lineage and from other puppy buyers, proving that the Danes being made are enthusiastic, well-tempered and trainable. A litter of puppies built with the correct temperament to obtain Canine Good Citizen titles is a litter of puppies that will make EXCELLENT family pets!

BREEDING FOR COLOR BEFORE HEALTH – This is a huge can of worms. Great Danes come in piles of beautiful, interesting and unique colors. Only 7 are colors that are considered ‘standard’ and can be shown. There are questionable ethics and a lot of argument regarding both sides of this fence; some believe off-standard colors are bad while others believe they are necessary, with opinions everywhere in between. Our position is that off-standard colors are ok IF the breeder is focused first on health, structure, temperament, lineage, and the breed as a whole. If the breeding program is focused first on color, odds are you’re going to have a lot of dogs with interesting coat colors that have poor structure, instability and worse…shortened life spans. These are all genetics that they may pass on to future generations, too. It’s not fair to paint a dog ‘lilac fawnequin’ if obtaining that also means that it will be born with a heart defect, allergies and cow hocks. Color is fun, but don’t believe for a second that color is the only reason to choose which parents to breed.

SELLING IN A FACEBOOK GROUP – Yup, we’re going to go there with this one. Some breeders make themselves appear ‘popular’ and even ‘reputable’ because they are so NOISY trying to sell puppies on social media. They post available puppies and litters in Facebook groups, often multiple times with very slow sales, indicating largely that they bred their dogs before knowing if there was even any interest in them. With RARE exception, ethical breeders often have waitlists and will not need to resort to desperately trying to ‘home’ an 8+ week old puppy on social media. This is actually a RED flag and not a sign that a breeder is popular simply because you keep seeing their name pop up in your local community.



Nobody is saying that a dog from a backyard breeder is any less deserving of love or a home.

But before you focus only on the cute puppies, take a look at the 100’s of dogs sitting in rescue right now. Many of them are unadoptable, require insane amounts of funding for their veterinary needs, have significant issues with their training and socialization and may have permanent medical problems (including missing limbs, megaesophagus, being blind or deaf or needing heart medications for life).

ALL of these dogs deserve homes. The problem is, every time we support a backyard breeder, we directly fund the production of the same animals that end up with expensive health problems, abused, neglected, abandoned and unwanted.  There are so many backyard breeders, and so many more about to breed again, because people keep buying dogs from them.

Want to help? Want to save a dog? Volunteer, foster and adopt OR choose only ethical breeders so we can shut these bad breeders down once and for all.

When they can’t sell the puppies, they will typically give them away or surrender them to rescue…at which point, the applications FLOOD in and the puppies all find homes. But the 4 year old dog in rescue that has resource guarding issues and permanent joint damage because of his congenital flat feet? That dog may never find a home…and it’s the backyard breeders we have to blame for that.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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