How can one be sure they are dealing with a reputable breeder? Where should the search begin?
A 10+ year commitment is not to be taken lightly! Finding a well bred puppy from a reputable breeder is a daunting task and deserves to be undertaken with significant deliberation. Having a short timetable or concerning yourself with cost are certain to set you off on the wrong course.
If you are hunting for a Vizsla puppy, start by contacting the Vizsla Club of America or your local Vizsla Club (In Florida, this is the Tampa Bay Vizsla Club or Emerald Coast Vizsla Club). They can help point you in the right direction. Be prepared to wait several months to a year- start your search early. It doesn't help to establish a relationship with a breeder more than a year before you hope to add a Vizsla to your family.
Reputable breeders are not breeding for profit. The sire and dam have thousands of dollars invested in them to ensure that they are healthy and worthy of reproducing (for Vizslas, this most likely includes having a show championship (CH), junior hunter title (JH), hip and elbow x-rays, heart check, eye check, thyroid check...you can and should check these health tests for yourself on the orthopedic foundation for animals website). A reputable breeder will be able to explain to you exactly why he/she is breeding each litter. In my opinion, I would take a closer look if the breeder is producing multiple litters per year, breeding a bitch every heat cycle (back to back is not necessarily bad), and breeding bitches four or more times. None of the above mentioned necessarily make a breeder less than reputable, but I would proceed with caution and continue asking questions.
Simply put, "AKC papers" and "championship bloodlines" are phrases that less than reputable breeders use to advertise litters. These are unmistakable, blaring red flags. First of all, ALL reputable breeders sell puppies with papers-so they don't feel the need to address this as a selling point. Second, reputable breeders are breeding actual champions (not just the 5th generation offspring of a show champion)...you will find that typically, almost all the dogs in the pedigree are champions, and we certainly do not highlight the champions and other titled dogs in the pedigree for you, because that would be every single dog. The whole purpose of completing a championship is to evaluate breeding stock and help select the best examples of our breed to move forward with by breeding. I would argue that every Vizsla- INCLUDING those that come from puppy mills have "championship bloodlines." Simply put, this terms means nothing except that the breeder is most likely unreputable and they are trying to play on the public's lack of understanding by using this as a selling point.
While I am at it, a couple more blaring red flags that should signal you to turn back immediately: breeding dogs under two years of age, breeding dogs without health checks (as described above), breeding dogs with genetic defects.
Moving on- you must understand that you need to look in the right places to find reputable breeders. Puppies will not be advertised on craigslist, or in the newspaper, and usually not on the AKC marketplace (again, these are likely the breeders who will advertise that the puppies are "papered." AKC DOES NOT screen breeders on the AKC Marketplace. To a reputable breeder, it is not about “selling” the puppies, but rather placing them in carefully screened homes where the puppy will thrive. The puppy owners must appeal to the breeder, because again, it isn’t just about selling the puppies. The reputable breeder is very concerned with the welfare of the dog throughout it’s entire life and will insist on keeping in touch with the owner and receiving photo updates to evaluate the puppy’s growth. Should any issues arise, the breeder would like to be the first person to know and offer help. If, for whatever reason, the dog needs to be rehomed during any phase of life, the breeder is always there to take the dog back (typically required as per the contract).
A good breeder is striving to improve the breed and capitalize on the traits that make the Vizsla unique. This process involves selective breeding. With each generation, the breeder is striving to improve upon certain traits and characteristics. Don’t hesitate to ask your breeder what they are goals are with a particular litter and why they chose a specific sire. Often times, it is a red flag if the breeder owns and houses both the sire and dam. Every time a bitch is bred, the sire is carefully chosen for very specific reasons. Convenience should not be a primary consideration.
One of the main qualms that I have heard from prospective puppy buyers is their issue with puppy selection. You will most likely not be able to select your puppy, but please have faith that every puppy in the litter is going to grow into a wonderful companion, provided it is properly nurtured. The breeder will do everything in their power to socialize the puppy and set him/her up for success from the moment the puppy is born. Both the sire and the dam will have outstanding temperaments and all of the puppies should as well. The puppies will have temperament evaluations, and the breeder will use this information to help place the puppies. Also, like I said earlier, the breeder is always trying to improve upon something, so at least one of the puppies will be selected to show. Showing is the evaluation of breeding stock. The judge will select the dog in the ring that he/she feels most closely fits the AKC breed standard. After the dog accumulates so many wins, he/she becomes a Champion. This dog will represent the breeder’s line and be used to help create the next generation, moving closer and closer to the breeder’s idea of the ideal Vizsla.