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Friday, April 2, 2010

Oh that scent wafting through the air!

So spring is here and with it brings something special. You can find them in shelters, your friends have them, rescues have them, pet stores are stocked full of them and breeders have them. What am I talking about? Puppies of course! With a scent that is only pleasant to a male dog wafting through the air, I thought it was a good time to make mention of things that you should ask a breeder if you are looking for a particular breed.

As always, do as I say, not as I do, because surely if a two legged, one eyed, no eared pup that resembled a Newfoundland wandered up my driveway, I’d take him and pay for him knowing nothing at all about him. This is wrong, just plain wrong!

Never buy a pup sight unseen! I don’t care if Mother Theresa were the seller, don’t do it! Check out the whole litter and the parents first hand so you can get a feel of what type of temperament the parents have and you can see this in the pups as well. Do a puppy temperament test. It’s not 100 % fool proof, but it can give you a good idea on what the pup may grow up to be like.

If you’re planning on buying a specific breed know the breed’s prone illnesses. I’m not saying you have to memorize every last symptom, just the basic diseases and ask the breeder about them. If the breeder makes no mention of them, or seems like they have never heard of them before then they may not have been breeding very long or they just don’t care what type of dog they are producing. If they are willing to talk to you about them, then they have probably dealt with, or know of the issue from a past breeding.

Keep in mind that you are going to pay almost as much for a puppy from a pet store (that comes from a puppy mill) as you will for a puppy that comes from a breeder, the difference is that the pet store pup is more than likely going to have multiple health issues which will end up costing you more in the long run.

Breeders are expensive as well, especially if there is show stock involved, but if you look hard enough you can probably find a good pet quality pup, meaning it is not going to be used for stud or a breeder dog, just your special family dog.

Many good breeders will usually have the parents health certified which can include certifications for eyes, hips, and heart. This simply means they have gone through the trouble of getting tests done by independent companies/vets who specialize in this to show that the parents are free of the defects so that the chances of the pups being free from such health problems is also good.

When looking at a litter you will also check out the environment that the dogs are kept in as that can give you an indication of how well the parents are cared for and what importance they play in the family. Having the pups growing up in the midst of a family environment is in my opinion crucial to how they may interact with your own family. If something does not look or feel right walk away.

Be prepared! A good breeder is going to interview you to death! They may want to check out your home and family life before they even consider you for one of their pups! They may even ask what vet you plan on using (if local), they may want to see proof of or recommend some type of training class before you take the pup, and they will tell you (and it should be in the contract) that the pup is to be returned to them before you take other avenues if the pup does not fit your needs. In other words, be ready to be grilled, have your plans for the pup laid out and ready to be divulged!

If you get an active breed the breeder may send you home with a ‘helpful hints’ paper on how to train and keep the pup out of trouble. This is good reading material and it can be very time saving in the long run. The world wide web is full of sites on training dogs and there are even live customer and expert answer sites where for a fee you can get help with a particular problem. Use all of this information to your advantage. No breeder really wants their pup returned; they want to ensure the pup’s life will be a happy and healthy one in its new environment which is the best case scenario.

Ideally a pup should remain with the litter mates for 13 weeks to learn very important social skills although very few breeders do this, with 8 to 9 weeks being the least amount of time spent with litter mates before they are sold. If someone is selling you a pup at 5 or 6 weeks because they are weaned, don’t take it. Not only are they coming to you with no socialization skills but you will be responsible for the rest of the shots and worming they may need as well they are more open to deadly viruses because once they stop drinking the mother’s milk the antibodies are lowered and their resistance to disease is lowered until they have had all their shot series.

Shelters and Rescues, are they a good source? Well, while I always want every dog have a chance you can expect to pay at least half the price for a dog from a breed rescue no matter if it’s a pup or an older dog. These facilities have to pay for health, food, and other care so they are going to want to recoup some of that output. So if you are shelling out what you consider good money from your pocket, you have to take into account why that dog is there in the first place. Their health may not be the best, their temperament may not be great, or it could be something as simple as the dog just grew to be too much for a busy family. There are many reasons dogs are brought to these places and truth be told, the shelter only knows the information given to them from the person who is surrendering the animal. So it is a risk and you have to decide if you have the time and money to put into it down the road.

Designer dogs: There are a lot of designer dogs out there which is a whole other blog! But you are basically paying a high price for a mixed breed which has not yet been recognized by a large breed club or what we Americans call an authentic organization such as the American Kennel Club.

However, this subject can also be another blog article because pet stores who get their pups from puppy mills sell pups that are AKC registered, so this means that almost anyone can register a litter! I guess you should decide how important that piece of paper outlining registration is to you. Personally, I would rather see papers that show that the parents are free from prone health defects over a club registration any day. This at least shows you that the breeder has an interest in what they are breeding. But if you intend to buy a pup for breeding purposes yourself, then you need that registration.

Another thing to look into is inbreeding verses line breeding. Sorry folks, this is something I strongly disagree with even though I know that some of the best of the best do this and I am sure I am going to get a lot of flack for this one. When you breed family members together, even if they are five or six generations removed, if you are not a dog geneticist you should not do it. Just because you were lucky enough to get one or two champion dogs out of a litter here and there, doesn’t mean it will happen again in the next few litters. To me it’s like a family of humans that have six ugly kids, but then the seventh child comes along and is absolutely gorgeous! Now really, what were the chances that would finally happen? So I disagree with line breeding, but that’s just my opinion.

I can’t see any reason not to take two beautiful specimens that are not related in any way and make a gorgeous healthy dog. Again just my opinion!

Always ask questions! There are no dumb questions to ask and most breeders will appreciate your asking. It shows that you have the best interest of the pup in mind. I once had a lady call me every other day asking questions, her husband was annoyed with her for doing that, he thought I was going to think her a pain in the neck. Instead, I was happy she wanted to do everything right for the pup.

In the end, this is your hard earned money, so know what you pay for!

What questions to ask yourself about the pup you are looking at in no particular order.

1. Does it shed?

2. Does it drool?

3. What job was it bred to do? (this tells energy level.)

4. Is it a water dog that likes a water hole so much that a wet dirty pond dog is what I will be coming home to?

5. What are the prone illnesses that I may have to have corrected or checked for yearly? Can I afford it?

6. How much does it eat?

7. Do I have the time it takes to train the dog?

8. Where will I house the dog inside or outside?

9. Is my property, (inside and out), safe for a pup?

10. Who will care for the dog if I need to leave town?

11. Where is a good vet located?

12. How big will it grow to be?

Ask the breeder about:

1.) Health questions, concerns, guarantees, certifications

2) Temperament of parents and pups. Don’t take the pup that is hiding in a corner no matter how bad you feel for it.

3) Shot records/worming

4) Contract negotiations and registration papers. Registration should be ready to go when you pick up the pup to take home.

5) How much human contact do the pups get now?

6) What’s the worst thing the breeder has ever heard about this particular breed be it health related or property destruction? Always expect the best but be prepared for handling the worst!

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