There are many different types of breeders in the United States and around the world. Some are required to be licensed, while others are not. Depending upon the location, number of dogs owned, how many litters are born, and/or how the breeder supplies their puppies to the public, along with other factors may require a license to be obtained. A license or lack thereof is not the sole indicator of quality of care or health of a puppy. Licensing may be required by local towns, counties, states, provinces, or by the federal government known as the USDA. There are four common terms used to refer to different breeders.

The term “hobby breeder” typically refers to breeders that show their dogs in a wide variety of activities that result in titles being earned within the various breed registries.   A hobby breeder may have just a few dogs or many. A hobby breeder may keep their dogs in their home or in a backyard kennel. A hobby breeder may be licensed or not need a license, depending upon regulations in their local, state, and federal jurisdiction.

A “backyard breeder” typically refers to a breeder that has no specific breeding goals or experience and simply breeds indiscriminantely, without thought or care of breeding goals. A backyard breeder may have just a few dogs or many. A backyard breeder may keep their dogs in their home or in a kennel. A backyard breeder may be licensed or not need a license, depending upon the jurisdiction they live in.

A “commercial breeder” typically refers to a USDA licensed breeder. USDA licensed breeders may or may not show/exhibit their dogs, may or may not sell directly to the public or through a pet store, and may have only a small number of dogs in their home, or a large number of dogs housed in a kennel on their property.

A “puppy mill” typically refers to any breeder that provides substandard care for their dogs, and/or is operating illegally due to refusing to obtain a required license or being denied a license. There are also a lot of other terms loosely used to refer to different breeders such as “responsible breeder” or “ethical breeder” which may or may not refer to certain standards of care such as health testing on parents, how often a dog is bred, etc. ANY breeder listed above can be accused of being a puppy mill by the animal rights groups that want to end all breeding, the ignorant public that don’t understand the specific requirements and regulations, and even breeders that use the ugly term to disparage and disagree with the way another breeder maintains their dogs. ANY breeder listed above can be licensed, including by the USDA. Since there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding the USDA licensed breeder, we shall go into more depth. What exactly is a USDA licensed breeder?

The United States Department of Agriculture and or State Licensed Breeders are the most regulated source of puppies currently available in the United States. USDA is short for the United States Department of Agriculture. They are a branch of the federal government. They are in charge of many serious things that we take for granted. They are responsible for developing and executing federal government policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food. Basically, they are in charge of regulating farms that grow crops and farms that raise animals, such as Dairy farms. They are responsible for livestock raised for meat and the entire process it goes through to our kitchen tables. USDA oversees and regulates many things in our daily lives, including dogs owned by USDA licensed and inspected breeders that live in a home or in a kennel.

As of 2015 there were 1581 licensed USDA breeders, including both class A (Breeder) and B (Breeder/Distributer) licenses. USDA breeders are required to have regular, unannounced inspections, and can receive violations for things as simple as cobwebs, grass that has grown too high, and even small amounts of rust on fencing. USDA breeders are required to have exercise and enrichment programs which breeders call a “turn out yard”. A turn out yard is a fenced in area for the dogs to run and play, just like your backyard. The Breeder must maintain detailed records for each of their dogs and regular vet care, exams and vaccinations, all of which is all strictly enforced by the inspectors. The health care is so detailed that even teeth cleaning is required. Most people don’t clean their dog’s teeth, but a USDA breeder does!

These kennels are state of the art in both design and technology and the breeder’s years of dedication and knowledge of dogs and breeding ensure that the puppies are in good hands. When you walk through these kennels you really get to see the attention to detail the breeders put into the facility to make daily tasks easy and efficient. You may see automatic feeders mounted to the indoor runs, giving the dogs access to food 24/7. Water can be provided in such a way that the dogs and the breeder never have to worry as water is delivered thru a spigot, similar to a water fountain, providing fresh water 24/7. Potty breaks for the dogs are not a problem since they simply walk through a doggy door to their safe, secure, outdoor area. The outdoor area provides extra space for when the dog feels like running around, laying out in the sun, playing, as well having a 24/7 bathroom.

The USDA regulates the high and low temperatures of all indoor spaces where the dogs are. The temperature cannot drop below 45 degrees or exceed 85 degrees. The heating and cooling systems installed and all the technology to operate them are a sight to behold and something that many people have never seen or heard of. Many USDA licensed breeders are utilizing something called radiant heat which is an expensive heating system installed in the floor. Radiant heat is considered a superior heating system that is typically only found in very expensive homes. It provides an even heat throughout the kennel and although it is initially expensive to install, is very cost effective and efficient. The space needed to run the equipment for the heating and air cooling systems looks like a science experiment with all the units and wiring and pipes.

USDA breeders are always learning better ways to care for their dogs through educational seminars and from each other and doing things the right way takes dedication. Even simple things like skylights, drains, playard equipment, and even artificial turf are utilized, all at great cost to the breeder. They do this to provide a better environment for the dogs that they love. Grooming rooms are fully equipped with the latest technology and bathing stations to make the dogs clean and happy.


In March of 2016 these Stats were done on the entire USDA “Dog Breeder” database. This list includes all licenses, class A and Class B. However some business that have a USDA License may not actually breed dogs. These dog related business’ are still included.

Total USDA Licenses- 2141
Active Licensed For Dog Breeders (1,880) and Active Licenses Dog Dealers (261)

The Best:

1250- No Directs/Indirects in 3 years- 58%
146- 1 Indirect (vet care not related) in 3 years- 6%


The Great:

201- 1 or more vet care indirects (not on most recent inspection) in 3 years- 9%
177- 2 – 9 indirects (non-vet care related) in 3 years- 8%


The Good:

162- Breeders/Brokers with at least 1 Direct Violation in 3 years- 7%
111- Additional Breeders/Brokers with Vet Care Indirect on most recent inspection- 5%
29- Additional Breeders/Brokers with more than 9 Indirect violations in 3 years- 1%


These next stats are from 2015 for USDA Licenses that Breed Dogs.

Total Dogs in USDA Licensed Kennels- 88965

Total Licensees- 1581

Average Dogs Per Site- 56.27

Puppies Per Dog- 3.3 (3.0 to 3.3)

Total Puppies Per Year- 293584

Puppies Kept for Stock- 11120 – 12.5% of Adults

Puppies Available For Sale- 282464