A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas
The Holidays are normally not the best time to get a new puppy, there is so much going on, so many expectations and the rhythm of life is generally just out of balance. A puppy is also not really a great “surprise” gift since puppies are a big commitment of both time and resources.
But if you have planned to add a dog to your family do your homework. Both you and the dog will be happier. If you have a certain breed in mind, make sure you research to make sure that breed is a good fit. If you don’t have a certain criteria other than a new buddy, think about a shelter/rescue dog. But if you have certain traits in mind make sure you are doing your homework.
Internet sites are a wonderful way of doing your homework and locating a breeder whom you can work with to find that perfect puppy. Be warned like everything else you see on the Internet things are not always what they seem. When you find a breeder on the Internet you should check their site for some of the following information:
If a breeder states they have a large number of dogs and puppies are always available it is a good bet you are looking at profit breeder. Breeders are not like Wal-Mart and shouldn’t always have puppies “in stock”. Ask how many litters they have had this year and do they have multiple breeds. Breeders who have more than a couple of breeds and many litters are normally breeding for profit. Raising puppies’ right is expensive and time consuming so look for quality and not quantity. A responsibly bred dog will cost you money but it may not be as much as you think or as much as a profit breeder would change, you get what you pay for right? Remember the cheapest part of owning a dog is the purchase price.
Does the breeder do health test on their dogs. If so what tests? Look for things like OFA for hips and elbows, cardiac test, CERF for eyes or DNA genetic test for specific problems. Most responsible breeders will list these tests and the dogs’ scores or clearances. There will often times be numbers after the name of the test, using these numbers you can verify that the tests were actually performed on the dogs in question. So if it isn’t listed on their site make sure to ask about what test the do on their dogs and testing for worms isn’t enough! You want a puppy with the best possible chance of being healthy and happy and testing the parents for problems is the best way to work towards that happy healthy pup.
Does the breeder breed to their parent club’s breed standard? The standard, you ask, what is the standard? The standard is what makes a GSP a GSP and not a Pointer or a Cardigan a Cardigan and not a Pembroke. Each breed has a standard that is written by the people who developed the breed. Every AKC breed standard can be found on the AKC Web site. Make an effort to check it out and see what is written and what isn’t. Don’t be fooled by claims of a “rare color” check to see if it is an allowed color if it isn’t in the standard then you might not be getting what you thing you are getting. This goes for size and markings. The standards were written for a reason. Another way to tell if a breeder is breeding to the Standard is if they show their dogs to their Championships. Champion dogs are dogs that have been rewarded for fitting the standard. Breeders have many reasons for breeding one dog to another, if the dog isn’t a Champion or have some other working titles ask the breeder why they chose to do this breeding. They should have an answer. Sometimes they breed a dog that has superior working skills such as obedience or agility herding or hunting ability but remember they should still look like the breed you are asking about.
Hopefully the breeder belongs to their national breed club (National Parent clubs were formed to protect and serve the breed) and as such abides by their national club’s code of ethics. If they don’t belong to the club ask why. Some parent clubs have requirements that have to be met prior to membership.
Does the breeder offer the buyer a contract and some kind of guarantee? Most responsible breeders not only guarantee the health and temperament of their puppies but also guarantee to take the puppy back no matter the age or reason. Contracts are written to protect the buyer and the seller but mostly to protect the dog. Some contracts are simple and some are complex make sure you can live with the terms because you and the breeder are tied together for the life of the dog. Most responsible breeders stay in contact with their puppy buyers and many become good friends. A good breeder is a great resource for your puppy’s whole life.
On many responsible breeder’s web pages you will see a statement that “pet puppies are sold on limited registration and with a spay/neuter agreement”. What this means is that only the breeder can make the decision to breed a dog and if the dog is bred by another party the puppies cannot be registered. The spay/neuter agreement just means that part of the deal is that the puppy be spay/neutered. Again, as guardians of the breed they are in a better position to know if the dog will contribute to the betterment of the breed. This helps to stop “oops” litters from folks who may not have experience managing intact dogs. We don’t need more puppies we need better puppies.
So if a puppy is in your future, ask question and demand answers and don’t just whip out the checkbook! A dog is for life not just for Christmas.