RightPaw Code of Ethics

Last updated: January 31, 2023

Here at RightPaw, we are all about transparency.

Our goal is to help future puppy parents understand what responsible breeding looks like, and to give them the confidence that breeders on RightPaw commit to these breeding standards.

To do that, we have developed an independent, vet-approved ‘RightPaw Code of Ethics’ to determine what makes a responsible breeder.

RightPaw Responsible Breeder Badge

You may have wondered, "what does this ‘RightPaw Verified’ badge mean on the breeder's listing?".

We went through state laws and guidelines, pure-breed and mixed-breed club codes, veterinary best practice, breeder expertise; all to build the standards you see below.

On top of that, our team personally speaks with every breeder on RightPaw, to verify their details and review their breeding practices in line with the RightPaw Code of Ethics.

Now, we know that reaching a consensus on the perfect breeding program is a difficult task, and we don’t claim to do that here. But we have tried to create a way for responsible breeders to be transparent around their practices, and for owners to know what they should be looking for in a responsible breeder.

We believe that breeders who are living by the Code of Ethics are giving puppies the best chance of starting off on the RightPaw.

We’ve split our RightPaw Code of Ethics into six key sections, so potential puppy owners can see what breeders on RightPaw are committing to, and why each is important.

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Breeding and Welfare Practices

Breeders have the welfare of their dogs and pups as top priority, and commit to:

  1. Not breeding females before they are 12 months old for any breed, and 18 months old for giant breeds. If breeding a bitch on her first heat - where the first season occurs after the minimum ages - they must have a fit-to-breed certificate from their vet supporting this decision.

    Having puppies is very physically demanding. It’s important to ensure a female is physically mature before she has her first litter, to minimise her risk of complications. Generally, on their first ‘heat’ or ‘season’, the female is still small and might have some growing left to do. Waiting until her second ‘heat’ (roughly at 12 months old for most breeds) gives her the best chance to be fully developed and ready for a pregnancy. This can vary for giant breeds who have their first heat a little older, and may be fully grown already.

  2. Providing written permission from a vet to breed a female who is more than 6 years old, or who has had more than 4 litters and abiding by any additional limits in their state.

    Generally most breeders retire their females over 6 years old or if they have had 4 litters. This is to protect the welfare of older or frequently-bred females who could have a higher risk of complications. At RightPaw, the welfare of breeding dogs is always our top priority. If a RightPaw breeder feels their dog can handle another litter at this stage, they will have this verified and approved by a vet first.

  3. Each female having no more than 2 litters in an 18 month period, unless cleared by a vet with written permission. NSW, ACT & TAS breeders must abide by additional limits in their state.

    Responsible breeders will always ensure their females have adequate time to recover from their last pregnancy before breeding them again. RightPaw requires breeders to provide veterinary clearance for more than 2 litters in an 18 month period as this may not be suitable for every dog.

    • NSW breeders must not breed more than twice in a two year period, except with veterinary clearance.
    • TAS breeders must not breed a female more than twice in 18 months.
    • ACT breeders must not breed a female more than once in 18 months, or from a female who has previously had a caesarean.
  4. Providing written permission from a vet to breed a female who has previously had a caesarean section.

    It is important to get veterinary approval to re-breed any female that has undergone a caesarean, to ensure the strain of another pregnancy will not be too much for her, and that there are not any physical reasons why she is less suitable for breeding.

  5. Only breeding from dogs who have suitable temperaments for family pets (ie. no guard dogs).

    RightPaw is a site for family pets, so all our breeders are selecting for temperaments which make their puppies suitable for family life, rather than outdoor guarding or farm work.

  6. Never placing a puppy before they are 8 weeks old.

    Puppies need to be with their mother and littermates until 8 weeks old, to facilitate proper social development. None of our puppies should be rehomed earlier than this.

  7. Having a toilet-training practice in place prior to the puppy leaving.

    All of our breeders will have started the toilet training process for you! The level your puppy will be at by 8 weeks will vary across individuals and litters, but all our breeders will begin to get the pups used to toileting away from their food and bedding and encouraging this behaviour.

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Health Practices

Breeders will commit to:

  1. Using worming treatment for their puppies and adult dogs, and documenting this.

    Puppies are usually wormed every two weeks before they go to their new home. Alternatively, some breeders might test their litter and the mum to show they are negative for worms, and therefore no treatment is required.

  2. Preventing/treating fleas on puppies and adult dogs, if required, and documenting this.

    All breeders on RightPaw commit to preventing fleas in their dogs, either with preventative medications or by checking their dogs regularly and then treating fleas when needed. Generally flea prevention is used in the adult dogs and only in the puppies once they are large enough to use the products safely.

  3. Vaccinating all puppies at 6-8 weeks old, and providing a signed record from their vet.

    Puppies sold on RightPaw will have had their first vaccination before going to their new homes, and our breeders will give you the signed documentation from their vet.

  4. Vaccination or titre testing of all their adult dogs regularly, unless exempted by a vet.

    Breeders on RightPaw also vaccinate all their adult dogs, unless they have had a blood test demonstrating they already have life-long immunity and do not require boosters.

  5. Having an isolation facility available (room, crate/pen/run) to which a sick dog can be removed, away from other dogs.

    In order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in their kennels, all breeders on RightPaw will keep infectious dogs separate from other dogs and puppies on their property.

  6. Performing health testing on their adult dogs to inform their breeding program. Where a breeder does not perform health tests, they will obtain a ‘fit to breed’ statement from their vet for each parent dog.

    RightPaw believes health testing is very important for making responsible choices about which dogs to breed together. If a breeder wishes to breed a dog that has not had any health tests conducted, they will supply us with a letter from their vet declaring that they appear to be healthy to breed.

  7. All brachycephalic breeders will abide by our brachycephalic policy and must complete a minimum standard of health testing. We have minimum health test requirements for brachycephalic breeds at RightPaw.

    At RightPaw, we believe the health of dogs everywhere starts from the work of responsible breeders. This is particularly true for brachycephalic breeds, who are known to suffer greater health risks throughout their lifetime than the average dog. As a result, RightPaw Breeders of these breeds must complete a minimum standard of health testing, to ensure we are breeding the best dogs possible and setting puppies up for the best possible life.

  8. Presenting health test results to puppy parents on request.

    RightPaw breeders will allow their owners/puppy families to view health test results that are relevant to their puppy and puppy's parents. Where there are concerns around confidentiality or fraud prevention, these may be provided in person, or during a videochat. Copies may not always be available for owners to keep - this is at the breeder's discretion.

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Home Environment

Breeders will commit to:

  1. Housing puppies in the same location as their mother & littermates until at least 6-7 weeks old, if relevant for their state.

    Whilst no puppy sold on RightPaw will go to its new home before 8 weeks old, in some states they are allowed to be moved to a different room/kennel/living space from their mother a week or so earlier than this. This can be useful for weaning puppies and helping them develop some independence away from their mum. Breeders will still provide daily access to the pup’s mother and plenty of company and socialisation during these weeks, even if they sleep separately.

  2. Housing their dogs in a house, run, or room – not in a portable crate.

    No dog will ever be ‘caged’ or kept exclusively in a crate or small pen. Our Code of Ethics includes guidelines about the minimum size of kennels or runs, to ensure high welfare standards are always maintained for our breeding dogs. For a ‘crate trained’ dog, who is happy to spend long periods of time in a crate, this is not a welfare concern and perfectly fine, but the crate will never be the dog’s permanent housing.

  3. Ensuring the dogs’ living space: - Is fully weather and temperature protected and offers shade if exposed to direct sunlight - Has a clean and dry sleeping area - Is cleaned out daily - Is an overall clean living environment

    Whether the dogs and puppies live in a family home or in a purpose-built building or kennel, all breeders commit to provide safe, clean, indoor and weather/temperature protected facilities for their dogs. RightPaw will check all facilities physically or virtually to ensure the dogs’ living environment meets our high standards. We believe this is vital to provide new puppy owners with peace of mind about the environment their puppy is coming from.

  4. Giving whelping females a space to get away from other dogs where they can give birth, and ensuring these whelping areas are cleaned out daily.

    Females about to ‘whelp’ or give birth, need to feel safe, secure and un-bothered by other animals who may be around. Breeders on RightPaw will provide their mums with a separate room, pen or whelping box so they can feel safe.

  5. Ensuring adult dogs receive daily exercise.

    This might be on-lead walks or free access to an exercise area. In some states there are minimum lengths of time dogs must be exercised for each day. RightPaw reflects these in our Code of Ethics according to each breeder’s location.

  6. Maintaining enclosure sizes that are in line with the legal minimums in their state.

    A dog’s permanent housing might be a house, room, pen or kennel. It must meet the minimum size requirements for their state and RightPaw requires evidence of this from each breeder.

  7. Puppies being whelped and raised in a home environment, OR meeting RightPaw’s , if their puppies are raised in a purpose-built space that is not their family home.

    Effective puppy socialisation starts from the moment they are born and is very important for raising well balanced, confident puppies who will do well in a family home. Puppies who are raised in a family home are naturally exposed to people, noises, scents and environments that they will experience later in life with their new families. If breeders are raising their litters in a separate building/garage/kennel, they need to ensure they are still providing their puppies with adequate socialisation experiences to allow them to cope well with the transition into family life.

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Breeders will commit to:

  1. Ensuring there is clean water available to all dogs at all times.

    Breeders on RightPaw are committed to keeping water bowls clean and topped up at all times.

  2. Ensuring females in their 6th-8th week of gestation & early lactation are fed ad lib or multiple meals per day.

    Towards the end of their pregnancy and when breastfeeding puppies, females are expending a lot of energy! They will require high energy food multiple times a day or even access to food all the time during these weeks.

  3. Ensuring puppies are being offered solid food from 3 weeks of age (irrespective of whether this is being eaten).

    Puppies need to be introduced to solid food when they are very young to help wean them gradually from milk to solids. Offering soft but non-milk foods helps puppies learn to give it a try and ensures they will wean well. It is a legal requirement in many states to offer this from 3 weeks old, even if the pups are choosing to ignore it at this age!

  4. Ensuring weaned puppies up to 12 weeks old are fed ≥3 times daily or have ad lib access to food.

    Young puppies are like babies - they need very frequent feeding! Puppies under 12 weeks old need to be fed at least 3 small meals per day, or have constant access to food.

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Physical Condition

Breeders will commit to:

  1. Ensuring all dogs are reasonably well groomed (ie. no severe matting or coat contamination).

    Dogs should be kept in good condition and with hygienic coats, to help ensure a good quality of life.

  2. Monitoring the weight and/or body condition score of their pregnant and lactating females.

    It is very important that pregnant or breastfeeding females have their weight monitored to ensure they are getting adequate energy from their food and don’t lose too much weight.

  3. Monitoring the weight and/or body condition score of the puppies

    It is very important to monitor the weight of puppies to make sure they are feeding well and don’t have signs of a health issue.

  4. Ensuring no puppies or dogs are severely underweight (taking into account breed characteristics).

    If they have any particularly thin or underweight dogs on their property, breeders on RightPaw can explain this and have provided us with a vet letter indicating the cause of the low body mass and whether any treatment is being required.

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Documentation and Records

Breeders will commit to:

  1. Accepting their dogs back at any stage in their lifetime, should they require rehoming, OR assisting RightPaw with facilitating rehoming for that animal.

    RightPaw is committed to helping our owners rehome their dogs at any stage in that dog’s life if necessary, so they never end up being surrendered to a shelter or put down for a non-medical reason. Our breeders will happily take back their dogs at any stage of their life if needed. Where this is physically impossible, the breeder will work with RightPaw to ensure we can rehome that dog successfully.

  2. Keeping detailed records of every puppy, and ensuring puppies are sent to new homes with evidence of microchip, vaccination, and parasite prevention. Any health issues must be documented in writing and provided to the new owners.

    Your breeder will provide you with full records for your puppy, including their microchip number, vaccinations, parasite treatments given to date and any health concerns.

  3. Keeping detailed health records for their adult breeding dogs (including microchip details, signed vaccination records and relevant health records).

    Breeders can show detailed records for all their adult dogs as well so we can verify their identity and health details.

  4. Keeping detailed records for every litter they have bred, and being able to produce these records for the previous 3-5 years depending on their state.

    Breeders can show documented details of all their litters, including the numbers and gender of puppies, who the parents were and health records for the litter.

  5. Having a clear refund and accountability policy, where applicable in their state.

    In some states, you are protected by consumer rights relating to the sale of dogs. Breeders on RightPaw will abide by these, and let you know your rights.

  6. When buying a new puppy for their breeding program, breeders will clearly disclose these intentions to the puppy’s original breeder.

    Transparency is a key feature of responsible breeding. Breeding is a big physical undertaking for any dog and has health and welfare implications for that animal. A puppy’s breeder should be fully informed when they are agreeing to sell a dog into a future breeding program.