Finding a Reputable, Knowledgeable Breeder
Knowing what makes for a great breeder and actually finding one can be two different stories. A few reputable breeders do advertise litters in the newspaper from time to time, but most don't. Newspaper advertising tends to draw a wide range of potential puppy buyers, and many breeders frankly don't want to have to sift through all the inappropriate owners — and those who claim to be something they're not — in order to find the great pet owners.
If a quality breeder is going to advertise, he will often place an announcement in the CCAs magazine in order to attract serious Chihuahua fanciers. The advertisement usually includes the full names (including all titles) of the sire and dam as well as their accomplishments (such as certain Best of Breed or Best in Group wins), and a two- to three-generation pedigree. Contact information will be given to reserve a puppy in the litter, which will require a prepayment (usually a percentage of the price of the puppy).
A less expensive way to advertise current show ring successes and upcoming litters is through the Internet. Many top-notch breeders have entered the electronic age and use their Web sites to keep Chihuahua fanciers updated on their kennels' accomplishments. Unfortunately, an equal number of Web sites are fronts for puppy mills, farms, or puppy brokers. It can be very difficult for someone who is new to the breed to tell the difference.
If a Web site is run by someone who is not a quality breeder, you may find telltale terms such as “tiny” or “teacup.” Credit cards will be accepted, and pups will be shipped anywhere — often without any contact between buyer and seller. The use of pet names (such as Sam or Pancho) and the absence of registered names and pedigrees is another clue.
The only way you can truly see through the smoke that some “breeders” put up for the public is to call and talk to these people. Ask them direct questions, and see what answers you get. Visit the breeder in his home. Some red flags are if the breeder wants to meet you somewhere other than his home, or if he allows you to come into his home but you aren't allowed to see any dogs. Ask for referrals, and take the time to call these people.
Also, before working with a breeder — contact the American Kennel Club and ask if the breeder with whom you are working has received any fines or penalties. Though the AKC cannot police every register of puppies, they do respond to complaints and will ban offending breeders from registering any dogs for periods up to ten years. It never hurts to check. In this case, no news is good news, but it's not a guarantee of excellence by any means.
Remember to never leave your Chihuahua unattended outside; she could get into mischief!
Your Best Resources
Other than the CCA's club publication, your best bet in beginning a search for a quality breeder is by calling the CCA's breeder referral service. This will connect you with several breeders in the area. There's no guarantee that any of these breeders will have any puppies available or in the near future; however, these breeders will be able to refer you to other breeders whom they trust and respect. Eventually, you will be put in contact with someone you will enjoy working with and who has the quality puppies in which you are interested.
And there are always dog shows. Besides being fun to attend and a real learning experience for those uninitiated to the realm of conformation, a dog show can be a terrific place to meet area breeders in person, as well as talk to Chihuahua fanciers and owners. You will be able to learn a lot about the breed and perhaps find a breeder whose dogs you like as well as you like the breeder.
Be patient when searching for a good breeder, and resist the temptation to pick up a puppy at the flea market or to ask “How much is that puppy in the window?” Taking the time to find a quality breeder who breeds quality dogs will more than compensate for any lost time in your search.
One of the best places to talk to Chihuahua fanciers at a dog show is actually far away from the ring itself. People who spend a lot of their weekend time traveling to dog shows to handle or to watch their dogs being handled can be found in the “RV Camp” — an affectionate name given to the acres of parking lot or grassy fields in which dog-show exhibitors can park their vehicles. You'll find most people in this area are relaxed and more than willing to talk about their dogs.
Other Reliable Sources
Additional sources for Chihuahua contacts would include a local Chihuahua Clubs referral person or a local all-breed kennel club. National, regional, and local Chihuahua rescues can also be a good source for referrals to quality breeders. These people know better than anyone else who stands behind the dogs they breed and those who don't. And don't overlook your own veterinarian. No one is in a better position to know about breeders who raise Chihuahuas and who really put the health of their dogs and their progeny in the forefront of their breeding programs.
When is the best time to talk to people at a dog show?
The times not to talk to an owner at a dog show are: 1) right before the owner is preparing to enter the ring; 2) during a class in which the owner or breeder has a dog being handled; and 3) any time at which the individual is intensely focused on the goings-on in the ring. Wait until a more relaxed time to approach an owner.