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THE ABCs of BUYING OR RESCUING YOUR NEXT DOG

June 04, 2013

Last week, our very own Danielle Hodges appeared on CityLine talking about how to choose a dog or puppy from a rescue organisation or reputable breeder (watch the clip HERE).  We thought it’d be a great idea to have a tie-in blog post on this really vast topic.  Since this is a topic that I’m really passionate about, I jumped at the chance to write it.  I’m going to warn you (or maybe your tiny little scroll bar already has) that this is one long blog post.  I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with my inner geek but I do want to try and address a lot of the grey areas that I can (and believe me, there are a lot of them).  I encourage you to bookmark this, read it when you can, and come back to it when you’re ready to apply the information presented here.  If at the end of this post there are still some grey areas, I’d be happy to address them.

I want to take you through the process of acquiring a puppy or dog.  There are two main ways to acquire an animal: through a reputable breeder or a reputable rescue organisation.  I don’t use the word “reputable” loosely.  There are very bad breeders out there (most of them are very nice people who don’t know that what they’re doing is dangerous) and there are very bad rescues out there (red flags include improper care for their animals and/or breeding the dogs that have been surrendered and selling off the puppies for profit).  Whichever road you want to go down when you decide you’re ready for your next dog, I want you guys to be armed with information so that you can think with your heads, and not with your hearts.  Trust me, there will be plenty of time for heart once your new addition comes home!

I do want to say that no matter where you got your current or past puppies from, there are no judgements here.  The point of this blog post isn’t to guilt-trip anyone.  I want to educate people on puppy purchases so that they can recognise and avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills in the future.  If there is no demand, there will be no supply – and our dogs will be healthier and all the better for it.  We love all of your dogs regardless of age, breed, gender, or origin – they’re our little fur-nieces and fur-nephews too, so please read this with an open mind and don’t regret the dog you have for a second. 🙂

And now…onto the nitty gritty!

In general, people tend to put more thought into purchasing a car than they do into purchasing or rescuing a dog.  It’s not that people don’t care, but they really just don’t know.  We go through an entire thought process for purchasing cars and ask ourselves important questions:

  1. Can I afford a new car right now?
  2. Do I really need one?
  3. Can I afford regular upkeep and major repairs?
  4. What kind of car appeals to my aesthetic?
  5. Will that car suit my family’s needs for the long-term?
  6. What do mechanics say about the car I want?
  7. What do friends, family, and other drivers say?
  8. How about car magazines and related website reviews from automotive professionals?
  9. How does the car feel when I test drive it?
  10. Is it structurally sound and is that mileage accurate?
  11. Has it ever been involved in an accident?
  12. What kind of support is the dealership going to give me after I sign the contract?

These are all big components that factor into your decision to buy a car or not.  We instinctively know that buying a car is a lengthy process and we give it due diligence.

When we look at buying trends for puppies, there’s more of a “want it now” mentality because let’s face it, they are so gosh darn cute and they need homes.  Who doesn’t want to open up their home to a dog in need?  Not to mention, it is so easy to wake up in the morning, do a bit of research online, and have an adorable puppy at home in time for dinner.  Besides, it’s a puppy…how bad could it be, right?  Wrong.  Who knew that cute little balls of fuzz could be so complicated?  A lot of us have learned the hard way.  Can I get a holla?

SO YOU WANT TO GET A DOG

The first step in the puppy acquisition process is asking yourself if a dog is right for you.  Let’s ask ourselves some of the same questions we would ask when buying a car.

  1. Can I afford a puppy right now?
  2. Do I really want or need one?
  3. How much do I know about dogs?
  4. Can I afford regular vet care and major surgeries?
  5. Do I have the time for a dog?
  6. Can I afford additional pet care expenses such as food, training classes, grooming, boarding, dog walking, and toys/accessories?
  7. Is a dog going to be a good fit for me and/or my family?
  8. Will a new dog be a good fit for our resident animals (if applicable)?
  9. Do I have a contingency plan for a dog in case of emergency?
  10. Are the adults in the household all in agreement about getting a dog?
  11. What are my goals for this dog (i.e. companionship, training, sports, therapy work, etc.)?
  12. Can I give a good quality of life to a dog based on their needs, and not my own?

If you’ve asked yourself all these questions and have answered YES across the board, then you’re ready to start the process.  But if you answered NO to any of these, it’s probably a good idea to wait and reassess your situation down the road.  Remember that dogs are a lifelong commitment and breeders or rescue organisations should have confidence that the dog they give to you will be in its “Furever Home.”

YAY! YOU’RE GETTING A DOG…BUT WHAT BREED?

There are literally dozens and dozens of breeds available to us in North America, and while they might all be lovely, there’s certainly no one size fits all.  Many people are “breed loyal” (like me) and swear that they will only ever have dogs of one specific breed.  For me, that’s Great Danes…but never say never (although it’s a pretty safe bet!).  Anyway, being super familiar with a breed takes a lot of guesswork out of choosing one because you know exactly what you’re getting into.  Others have no idea what they’re looking for and start off by choosing dogs they like the look of.  There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a good place to start, but it’s only the very beginning.  I certainly love the look of Great Danes, and their majestic size and stature is one of the things I love best about them, but they’re certainly not for everybody.  The American Kennel Club website (www.akc.org) has a complete directory of breeds organised by class (Working, Sporting, Herding, etc.), with in-depth descriptions about their behavioural characteristics, exercise needs, grooming needs, health issues, and more.  It’s a great place to start and from there you should be able to narrow down a few specific breeds to research further.

Once you’ve decided on a breed that suits your aesthetic.  Ask yourself more questions.

  1. Will that breed suit my family’s needs for the long-term?
  2. What do dog trainers say about the breed that I want?
  3. What do friends, family, and other owners of that breed say?
  4. How about breed-specific books and related websites with input from dog professionals?

Oddly enough, many people skip this step, which is kinda like buying a flashy Corvette when you needed a reliable SUV for your family of six.  The dog or puppy comes home and the family quickly realises that they’ve got their hands full and were totally unprepared.  I often hear things like “he’s too big/hairy/drooly/energetic/crazy/etc. so he has to go!”  Dogs are being rehomed for just being themselves, simply because the owners had no idea what they were getting themselves into.  So be honest and do your research carefully.

OKAY, I’M READY…HOW DO I GET A DOG ETHICALLY?

Once you’ve decided to get a dog, and have identified your breed, it’s time to decide if you want to purchase a purebred puppy from a breeder, or rescue a dog from a rescue organisation or animal shelter.  Let’s talk rescue first.

I WANT TO RESCUE A DOG

If you’re looking for a specific breed, you might try looking at breed-specific rescues.  For example, in Ontario, there are two rescue organisations that I would look at if I wanted to rescue my next Great Dane: Danes in Distress and Birch Haven Rescue & Rehabilitation.  These are not shelters, but are independent rescue organisations, usually run out of someone’s home, that foster dogs out with volunteers until they are adopted.  Many breed clubs advocate for rescue as well and most should have a list of approved rescue organisations on their websites.  You might get lucky finding your purebred dream dog in an animal shelter, but they can be hard to come by since the rescues pull purebreds from shelters and adopt them out through their own organisations.  This helps make room for other dogs who come into the shelters. In addition to this, reputable breeders of purebred dogs require that their dogs be returned to them if the owners can no longer care for them.  They absolutely do not want to see their dogs ending up in shelters, and this helps keep the volume in shelters/rescues low as well.  The upside to this is that you can contact reputable breeders about adopting older puppies/dogs that have been returned to them, for a much lower price than purchasing one of their puppies.  Purebreds do crop up in shelters every now and again, so it’s worth it to check.

If you are rescuing from a shelter or rescue organisation, try not to limit yourself to a specific breed.  Keep an open mind, the right dog for you might be the one you’d least suspect. 🙂

AREN’T RESCUE DOGS RISKY BUSINESS?

Not always!  It’s a common misconception that the dogs who live in animal shelters are all formerly-abused junkyard dogs who have never known love.  Do some dogs with questionable behaviour and temperaments crop up at shelters? Absolutely, behaviour is the #1 reason why dogs get dumped, from the simple things to the heavy things.  But the beauty of this is that you know in advance that a certain dog has issues and you can decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for you based on your situation.  If the dog you’re looking at doesn’t like kids or cats, then you know it’s not a good option for you if you have either of those.  Rescues and shelters are able to provide a well-documented history on all the dogs in their care, which can be very advantageous over a puppy who is a completely blank slate.  Foster parents can tell you what the dog is like in a home setting, which is important as some dogs may behave differently in shelters vs. home environments.  To further stack the odds in your favour, bring your trainer (hint hint) with you for an impartial second opinion on the dog(s) you are considering.

I don’t recommend rescuing dogs from people who post advertisements on classifieds websites such as Craigslist or Kijiji.  Although I’m sure some of the dogs are really sweet, it’s just not a safe bet.  You never know what kind of people you’re dealing with, and you will not know if they’re being completely honest with you about their dog.  If you see these postings, send the information to a rescue organisation so that they can pull the dog and do the proper behaviour assessments on it before deeming it suitable for adoption to you or anyone else.

HOW DO MIXED BREEDS COME INTO PLAY?

The difference between a mixed breed dog and a purebred dog is that purebreds were created for a specific purpose.  Yes, all purebreds are mixed breeds in general as historically, breeds were combined to capitalise on specific traits needed for certain jobs, such as herding, hunting, guarding, and more.  These traits include instincts, abilities, drive, size, and appearance.  These breeds then began to “breed true” over the generations and it is a lengthy process for them to be accepted by the American Kennel Club (or similar, depending on the country) as a recognised pure breed.

Mixed breeds, on the other hand, do not breed true (i.e. there is no predictable “type” – every breeding is a lottery.  Think about how sometimes two dogs of the same mixed breeding, even from the same litter, don’t look anything alike).  They are bred for no specific purpose other than appearance.  The only mixed breed that was intentionally created for a specific purpose was the Labradoodle in Australia, in 1988.  Its creator, Wally Conron, a specialist in breeding/training service dogs, was contacted by a blind woman in Hawaii who needed a hypoallergenic service dog.  After some consideration on Conron’s part, the Labradoodle was born.  In 2010, Conron publicly expressed his regrets in developing the breed, since backyard breeders have begun to capitalise on the “hypoallergenic” trait and began crossing virtually any breed with a poodle.  He feels responsible for the waves of designer dogs that have been appearing over the last 20 years.

Mixed breeds, designer dogs, mutts, whatever you want to call them…are all adorable and are completely deserving of loving homes.  However, the only way to acquire a mixed breed ethically is by adopting one.  Purchasing a mixed breed from a backyard breeder means you are giving money to someone who breeds purely to meet supply and demand.  Every cent the backyard breeder earns validates their reasoning for breeding in the first place – it’s extremely lucrative!  No money goes back into the breeding program (i.e. genetic health testing, and more) and it is all profit.  Some backyard breeders easily clear $100,000 a year in puppy sales.

Even the most well-intentioned backyard breeders (aka “hobby breeders”) produce some really sick (physically and mentally) dogs.  Some dogs will live practically forever with no health or behavioural problems at all, but this is the exception to the rule.  Kinda like smoking cigarettes for 70 years and dying peacefully in your sleep at 100.  At any rate, adopting your mixed breed pup means that no profit is going back into the breeder’s pocket, and you’ve done the good deed of giving an animal in need a home.  Mixed breeds make wonderful pets!

ARE MIXED BREEDS HEALTHIER THAN PUREBREDS?

No.  No they aren’t.  Good breeders of exceptional dogs would NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) allow one of their dogs to be part of a mixed breeding program or any purebred program apart from their own or that of someone in their professional network.  Close tabs are kept on these dogs.  Why produce a stellar Poodle, only to sell it to someone who will breed it to a Labrador? What’s happening here is people are acquiring dogs from backyard breeders of purebred dogs, and mating them with other dogs to produce mixed breeds…quite literally in their own backyard, hence the name “backyard breeder.”  No genetic health testing, no conformation championships, and nothing in the way of temperament work.  So the puppy you get, as cute as it is, really is one big question mark.  What type of dog will this puppy grow into?  There’s really no way of telling.

The fact is, you can’t breed two untested dogs and expect to come out with a sound one.  If one breed is prone to Hip Dysplasia and the other breed is prone to Cardiomyopathy, you’re not going to get a dog who is immune to these diseases.  You could end up saddled with a beloved pet who more than likely suffers from both, especially since many breeds have a lot of the same health issues.  So instead of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, you’re smoking a whole carton and just hoping that you never suffer the ill effects.  This happens with purebreds too, which is why you have to do your research and make sure that all the dogs in the breeding program are completely healthy.

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t want you to regret any purchases you’ve made in the past, and you shouldn’t!  But it’s important not to line the pockets of people who don’t have your best interests at heart.  Taking an active role in your pet’s physical and mental health will go a long way towards a long and healthy life, no matter where they came from.

BUT BACKYARD BREEDERS ARE REALLY NICE PEOPLE

I’m sure your breeder is a real sweetheart who loves dogs!  But unfortunately, it’s not enough.  Many backyard breeders simply love their dogs so much that they want to produce many others just like them.  Others want their children to experience the miracle of birth and the joy of raising a litter of adorable puppies.  It’s sweet in theory, but the reality is that it’s a crapshoot.  And then there are those who can’t be bothered to fix their dogs.  Without showing in conformation, completing genetic health testing, and doing something to assess their dogs’ temperaments, you just don’t know what the heck you’re going to get in a litter, especially if the breeder doesn’t know their dogs’ pedigrees inside and out.  Many backyard breeders don’t even realise that what they are doing is detrimental to their beloved breed.  Others do and breed anyway.  It’s hard for them to accept that maybe breeding Fluffy 1 and Fluffy 2 was a bad idea.

And let’s face it…money talks!  Every sale a backyard breeder makes justifies their business.  For every puppy, there will be a buyer.  But what if there are no more buyers?

Remember that the point of breeding is to improve the gene pool for each breed.  If you come across a breeder who just doesn’t tick all the boxes for you, it’s a good idea to walk away.  However, I’m a realist and I know that not everything (aside from my Holy Trinity) is cut and dried.  If you’re confused, call a trainer who can give an impartial second opinion and ask.  A lot of us are well-versed in these grey areas and want to see your puppy purchase be as seamless as possible.  It’s worth it to wait for the right breeder and the right puppy.

I WANT A PUPPY FROM A REPUTABLE BREEDER

I have heard your call and I am answering!  Reputable breeders generally breed for themselves – they are looking for the next prime specimen to improve their line, and improve the breed overall.  They are looking for conformationally sound dogs, who are healthy throughout their pedigree, and who are temperamentally sound.  These three things comprise my Holy Trinity of Breeding.  The puppies who are not chosen to be added to the breeding program are sold to carefully-screened families.

So what are the marks of a good breeder?  A good breeder should:

  1. Show their dogs to their championships in conformation prior to breeding
  2. Complete genetic health testing on all their breeding stock
  3. Title their dogs in some sort of temperament work, such as a CGN/therapy work
  4. Have some sort of health guarantee written in their contract
  5. Fully vet check the puppies (first vaccinations, no worms, mites, etc.)
  6. Require that you give the puppy back if you can no longer care for it
  7. Not intentionally produce “designer” breeds (i.e. labradoodles, shi-poos, etc.)
  8. Choose your puppy for you, they can best match the temperament to your lifestyle
  9. Not breed close relatives, but “line breeding” is acceptable (distant relatives)
  10. Be active members in good standing with their national/provincial/local breed clubs
  11. Produce a reasonable amount of litters per bitch, per year (preferably 1 but sometimes 2)
  12. Allow you to visit their property and dogs prior to getting on a waiting list
  13. Send puppies home between 8-9 weeks of age, not a minute before
  14. Provide you with registration paperwork through the Canadian Kennel Club
  15. Provide written details about vet care prior to the sale
  16. Require you to take your puppy to a vet within 24-72hrs of purchase
  17. Require you to spay or neuter your pet dog by a certain age (and require proof)
  18. Offer you lifelong support
  19. Share references for you to contact and verify
  20. Want to know as much about YOU as you want to know about them

There are lots of other marks of a good breeder, and not all of them are written in stone.  The first three points in that list, though, are my Holy Trinity of Breeding.

CHAMPION TITLES IN CONFORMATION

Simply put, conformation shows (Westminster, Crufts, etc.) ensure that a dog of a specific breed actually looks like the breed it’s supposed to be.  There are Great Danes out there that look like Greyhounds, some that look like Labs, and others that look like Mastiffs.  But a Great Dane should look like a Great Dane!  Ditto for any other breed.  A breeding line can be ruined in less than three generations, so breeders take this seriously.  It’s a common misconception that dog shows are like beauty contests but believe me, even though there are some crazy “pageant moms” in the dog show world, these shows are still important.  It’s not about which dog is the prettiest, but which dog best represents its breed standard.  Breeders who attend these shows can see the studs and bitches that are out there and look for potential mates.  All breed clubs have a breed standard that breeders are expected to adhere to very strictly.  This is to ensure that every single puppy they produce will uphold the tradition of the breed and keep the look going.  The judges in the ring often have up to 50 years’ experience with the breeds and watch their gaits (movements) as they go around the ring, and also put their hands on the dog to feel its structural soundness.  It’s all in the name of producing really strong dogs and building the gene pool for every breed with top quality specimens.

I can hear what you’re saying now…”but I don’t want or need a show dog!”  That’s okay, nobody is expecting you to show your puppy!  We’re not all pageant moms.  Breeders who show in conformation produce stellar litters consisting of “show prospect” and “pet” puppies.  The show prospect puppies are reserved for show homes (or are kept by the breeder), and the pet puppies are sold as pets.  But don’t worry, you’re definitely not getting a dud puppy if you just buy a pet.  When a breeder is good at what they do, it’s just little bits and pieces that set some puppies apart from others.  An untrained eye can’t tell the difference between two quality dogs.  The only real difference for you is the type of paperwork that you will receive the day you bring your puppy home.  Show prospect puppies will be sold with a full contract under the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), meaning they are NOT to be spayed or neutered until retirement (all dogs in the breed ring must be intact, as it is a show of breeding stock) and pet puppies will be sold on a pet contract under the CKC, meaning that you will spay or neuter your puppy by a specific date/age set by your breeder, usually before one year.

Pet puppies will often be cheaper than show prospect puppies, but generally speaking you should expect to pay between $800-$2000 for a pet puppy from a good breeder, depending on the breed.  You are paying for all the work that the breeder puts into developing a quality line, which could save you on vet and trainer bills in the future, not to mention potential heartbreak.  Backyard breeders are often cheaper, but in many cases they are comparable or even more expensive than a quality puppy from top lines.  It all comes down to what people are willing to pay, so you should know what you’re paying for before you write that cheque.

GENETIC HEALTH TESTING

This one confuses a lot of people, and backyard breeders tend to mislead potential buyers by saying that their dogs have been vet checked and are healthy.  That’s great, but all it means is that their dogs are currently free from illness as determined by Dr. Joe Veterinarian down the road.  Genetic health testing is completed by board-certified veterinary specialists to examine what’s really “under the hood” of that car…er puppy…you’re buying.  Many breeds suffer from heartbreaking diseases such as Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, thyroid disorders, eye disorders, and heart disorders such as Cardiomyopathy.  Since these diseases are genetic (and potentially fatal), it’s important to have breeding dogs tested.  There are no guarantees, but knowing that a dog has been cleared of genetic defects certainly stacks the odds in your favour as a puppy buyer, especially if the results test clear generation after generation in the pedigree.  Breeding dogs cannot be officially tested for genetic defects prior to their second birthday, which means that dogs shouldn’t be bred before then either.  The fallback of these tests is that the results are only as good as the day they were determined.  Just because a dog doesn’t have Hip Dysplasia or Cardiomyopathy at age two, doesn’t mean he won’t develop it later on in life.  So it’s important for breeders to have their stock tested more than once in their lifetime and show you records of results across generations.  As a buyer, you will get a very clear picture of your future puppy’s health.

The best part about true genetic testing is that it is all easily verifiable by the buyer online.  Look into websites such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (www.offa.org), PennHIP (http://research.penn.vet.edu), and Canine Eye Registration Foundation/CERF (http://web.vmdb.org/home).  If your breeder is worth their salt, all you need to do is punch in the kennel name and all the results across generations should crop up, both good and bad. These organisations are impartial and therefore they don’t hide any results.  Think of it like punching the VIN number for a used car into a search engine and finding out its history, which differs from what the salesman told you.  Would you buy it knowing that it had 300,000km and had been involved in two collisions?  Would you buy a puppy knowing that both parents tested with poor hips and heart problems?  These websites are amazing and so few people know about them.  If a breeder’s name does not come up in the search results, no tests have been completed and this is a serious red flag despite what the breeder says about “never” having a problem in the past.  A good breeder will have these tests done and will advertise the results with pride.  Knowledge is power!

TEMPERAMENT WORK

Are you still with me?  I hope so!  Temperament is the last component of my Holy Trinity of Breeding.  We all want beautiful and healthy dogs, but they also have to be mentally sound!  There are some crazies out there.  I’m going to keep Nature vs. Nurture out of this as much as I possibly can, but studies do show that there is a genetic component to temperament.  There are no official tests for temperament that breeders are expected to adhere to, but most professional breeders like to title their dogs with at least a Canine Good Neighbour/CGN.  A CGN certification marks a well-adjusted dog who is comfortable in all situations, and this is a building block towards further therapy work certifications.  They may also be active in the world of dog sports, meaning agility, obedience, hunting, nose work, flyball, and more.  If a breeder doesn’t do these things, it’s not the worst thing in the world.  But be honest with yourself when you meet the other dogs in your future puppy’s pedigree.  Are they happy, well-adjusted, social, friendly, non-aggressive?  If you don’t like the way another dog in your puppy’s pedigree behaves (i.e. shy, fearful, aggressive, etc.) then keep shopping around for breeders!  The apple don’t fall far from the tree, folks.  Be honest with yourself about what you’re seeing and don’t make excuses for the sake of bringing home a puppy sooner.  You’ll be glad you did!  Remember that it’s not your responsibility to clean up someone else’s mess, as hard as it is to walk away from the situation feeling like you should be doing more to help.  By walking away, you are helping in the best way you can imagine.  Every lost sale is a potential reason for a backyard breeder to stop breeding.

SO WHERE DO I FIND ONE OF THESE AMAZING BREEDERS?

If this is making a bit of sense, you might be wondering just where to find these breeders who seem to live only in the fairy tales.  Do they even exist?  Indeed they do!  But you’re not going to find them on websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, PuppyFinder, NextDayPets, or in pet stores.  So don’t even bother looking!!  You’ll find them in their breed club directory.  For example, if you’re looking for a Labrador Retriever puppy, Google the Labrador Retriever Club of Canada.  Breed club websites will be chock full of information about their mission statement, their breed standard, the history of the breed, and they will also have a directory of breeders organised by province or state who are members in good standing with the breed club.  To be “in good standing” means that they have paid their membership fees, so we can use what we know to really pick out the best of the lot, because hey, anyone can pay a membership fee.  But generally speaking, the breeders who choose to associate themselves with their breed club are active within it, and the breed clubs are quick to weed out any breeders who are working against the club’s mission statement too.

Look through the websites.  You should see:

  1. Pictures of dogs winning dog shows, with a “Ch.” in front of their registered names.  This means that the dog has been shown to its championship in conformation (i.e. Ch. Kennel Name’s FranklyMyDear).  My dog Scarlett’s registered name is FranklyMyDear and she hasn’t won any titles, so this is just an example.
  2. Links to genetic testing results
  3. Titles that come after the registered name as well.  These are all things that the dog has accomplished in its career outside of the breed ring.  These can include a CGN title, dog sports titles in obedience and agility, etc. and therapy work. (i.e. Ch. Kennel Name’s FranklyMyDear CGN TDI RN, etc.)

I also highly encourage you to check out www.infodog.com and www.canuckdogs.com for information on dog shows near you.  Getting out and meeting breeders and their dogs in the field will give you a solid sense of your potential breeder’s professionalism and dedication to the breed.  You can see what they’re all about, meet their dogs, and build a rapport with them before deciding to interview them in their home about purchasing a puppy.  At the very least, it’s a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

INTERVIEWING YOUR BREEDER

When you’ve finally chosen your breeder, go into the meeting at their home with an arsenal of questions about them, their dogs, and their breeding philosophy.  Have these questions written down and don’t be embarrassed to drill your potential breeder a bit.  They should be happy to answer all of your questions honestly.  In return, your breeder should have a lot of questions about your lifestyle and readiness for a puppy as well.  If they don’t seem overly interested in you but are more than willing to sell you a puppy, that’s a red flag.

  1. How long have you been involved in the breed or any other?
  2. Why did you choose to start breeding?
  3. Do you show your dogs and what titles have they received?
  4. What kind(s) of genetic illness(es) is present in this breed?
  5. Do you do any genetic health testing to prevent these in your line?
  6. Do you participate in any dog sports or therapy work?
  7. Are the parents/grandparents onsite and can I meet them?
  8. What are the good and bad points about the parents and grandparents?
  9. What titles do the parents and grandparents have?
  10. Where are the puppies raised and can I see the area?
  11. How have the puppies been socialised?
  12. How many litters do you produce in a year?
  13. How many litters do your bitches have per year?
  14. How many litters do your bitches have before retirement?
  15. How long is your typical waiting list?
  16. What health guarantees do you have for this puppy?
  17. What vet treatments/checks will you have done on the puppies?
  18. How often can I visit the puppy before taking it home?
  19. What age do you send puppies home?
  20. What support are you going to give me for the life of this puppy?
  21. What is the typical longevity for dogs in your line?
  22. Has any dog you’ve bred suffered from genetic defects or illness?
  23. Why did you choose to breed these two dogs?
  24. Can I contact any of your previous buyers for references?
  25. What is your training philosophy and how is this applied to your puppies?
  26. If for some reason I have to return this puppy, will you take it back?

Whew, you’re at the end!  If you’ve made it this far, I’m proud of you.  I know I’m feeling a bit cross-eyed going over all this information.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I don’t blame you.  Bookmark this blog post and come back to it when you’re ready for a new addition.

I do want to reiterate my point at the beginning that acquiring a dog or puppy really requires that you think with your head and not with your heart.  Hold your breeder or rescue organisation to the highest standard you can.  Don’t just take anybody’s word on your next companion – get impartial second opinions, request references, and do your own research.  I promise you, when you find the right dog, it’ll be worth it!  As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  I’m always happy to help!

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jon@followtheleaderinc.com

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