We hear often from people who bought a Great Dane from an unethical or back-yard breeder and said ‘I just didn’t know any better’.

Great Dane Breeder Red Flags

Whether we like it or not, bad breeders are out there. They are everywhere. Some are even scams: they just want your money and have no puppies to sell at all.

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Bad Breeders
Scam Breeders: What to Look For
Breeders: Shady Business
Should I Choose a Breeder or Rescue?
Choosing a Dog From a Show Breeder
What Makes a Breeder Good?

If you are looking for your next (or first!) Great Dane puppy, we wrote this post for you. Just because a breeder has puppies doesn’t mean that they are operating ethically or selling healthy puppies that were raised with care.

Breeder Red Flags

1. The breeder has no name or a bad name in the local community. 

Search your local Great Dane board on Facebook or the internet. Look up your local Great Dane breed club. Visit the GDCA website and search their database. We also recommend searching in the Great Dane Bad Owners Breeders & Information page.

Keep in mind that just because people might know about your breeder or may even recommend them, does not mean that they don’t have other red flags!

Some newer breeders may not have an established presence, but if they are operating ethically, they are working under the mentorship of other breeders and will have a reputation that way.

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(A sick double-merle ‘merlequin’ puppy from a bad breeder)

2. No or limited OFA Health Testing.

Breeders that invest in OFA health tests are more likely to be interested in the breed standard and health as a whole. When both parents have been fully tested, they are less likely to pass on painful, preventable, and sometimes life-threatening conditions such as hip displasia, thyroid disease, and cardiomyopathy.

Ask the breeder for the CHIC # for both dogs contributing to the litter. If they cannot give you this number, don’t have it, or you cannot verify it in the database at www.ofa.org, it is a MASSIVE red flag.

Outside of the U.S. the process for this will be different, however, it is a red flag if the breeder doesn’t complete at minimum x-rays, echocardiograms, eye exams and blood work to check for hip dysplaysia, elbow dysplays, eye disorders, thyroid disease and cardiac problems on both dam and sire.

Expect NOTHING less.  A vet check is NOT health testing.


3. They seem desperate, too ‘perfect and impersonal’ or require a deposit provide more information.

These are all classic breeder red flags that may also indicate that the breeder is a scam and may not even have real puppies to sell you.

If they seem pushy and offer high-pressure sales, list off all of the triggers (‘Health tested’, ‘Raised in a Home’, ‘Comes with a Leash and Collar’, ‘Snuggly and cute’), and seem to have very little interest in making sure you are the right home for the dog, tread cautiously.

A breeder should NEVER require you to place a deposit before answering your questions, and good breeders are exceptionally picky about buyers. You should have to work a little to prove yourself. If it’s the other way around, be wary.


4. The breeder won’t show the parents, or the parents are aggressive, look sick, or don’t look like Great Danes.

Good breeders are proud of their Dam and Sire dogs. They keep them in a home environment and make sure that they are healthy, clean, and well-cared for. Run from any breeder that won’t show you the parents, or if you see that the parents are kept in a kennel/barn, are not well-kept or lack breed type. It is unacceptable to see dogs being bred that have roached or sway backs, narrow hips, minimal substance, flat feet and overall poor structure. The parents should be excellent example of breed type in both structure and temperament.

If you aren’t sure, reference the written breed standard.


5. The puppies are sick, weak, timid, roached or are knuckling and have flat feet.

Ask to see photos and videos of the puppies often as they are raised.

They should have plenty of substance (they should not appear wimpy or scrawny), great structure, nice head shapes and large, solid tight well-knuckled feet.

A good breeder will be exposing them to a variety of textures and obstacles (ramps, tunnels, boxes, grass, tile, gravel, etc.) that help build their confidence and strength. Additionally, the breeder should keep the puppies clean and trim their nails often.

Timid or ill-tempered puppies (those that resource guard or are pushy and rude) often become timid and ill-tempered adults. 

Quality breeders work very hard through thoughtful breeding practices and socialization to make sure puppies have excellent substance and temperaments.

Ideally you want to see that the puppies are curious, stand up tall and appear enthusiastic and healthy.


6. The breeder doesn’t have a contract or lifetime breeder support and return guarantees. 

Don’t get sucked into the line that the breeder is ‘desperate’ or ‘has cancer and cannot offer support’. Breeders who do this solely for the money will make up all kinds of lies to tug at your heartstrings.

Ethical breeders care very much about their puppies and never, ever want them surrendered or ending up in rescue. Run from any breeder that doesn’t state in the contract that they want the dog back for any reason.

The contract will also outline breeding rights, spay/neuter timelines, and care guidelines.

When to Spay a Female Great Dane

The breeder should require you to return the dog to them if you are unable to keep it for some reason. As a dog owner, this gives you an opportunity to return the dog to a safe place (the breeder who can then rehome him or her) if needed, instead of dumping the dog into the lap of our already strained Great Dane rescue system. If the breeder doesn’t offer lifetime support and at least a 2 year guarantee warranting the dog against certain health problems, run.


7. The breeder allows the puppies to go home prior to 8 weeks of age. 

Inexperienced or careless breeders may claim that the mom ‘lost interest’ and ‘isn’t caring for the puppies’ around the time that the puppies naturally wean from the mother.

The mother may snap at the puppies to remind them to stop nursing or to correct them for being rude, and breeders will use this as an excuse to send the puppies home weeks before they should be leaving their mom.

The communication the mom gives the pups, and the communication the pups give each other is an incredibly important part of their development.

Puppies that go home prior to 8-10 weeks are extremely immature and struggle with bite control and potty training. There is rarely a reason for a puppy to go home earlier than this; if the mom is truly exhibiting dangerous aggressive behavior towards the pups, she should not have been bred.

Be patient and hold your breeder to a higher standard!

Breeder red flags

8. The breeder bred two dogs with merle/spot patterns/genes. 

It is extremely unethical to breed two Great Danes that have spot/merle patterns.

Doing so runs an extremely high risk that a significant number of puppies in the litter will receive BOTH copies of the merle/spot gene.

Double Merle puppies can be deaf, blind, or may have allergies and other health conditions. In the right hands these dogs can live a wonderful life, but many of them are either euthanized or end up in rescue and have questionable temperaments and high veterinary bills.

Double Merle Great Danes

Double Merle puppies are preventable. Make sure your breeder only pairs genetically proven (through testing) solid colors (such as mantle, black or blue) when breeding to a harlequin, merle or piebald dog.

Breeder red flags

Did you buy from a ‘red flag’ breeder? We’d love to hear your experience! 

breeder red flags
breeder red flags
breeder red flags
breeder red flags
breeder red flags

Hello Danes

Dane lover and believer in ethical breeding, training and rescue practices. Positive + Balanced trainer, owner of rescue dogs and dogs from breeders. Love the dog in front of you.

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