By Laura Dorfman CPDT-KA
If you have decided on a pure breed dog and want a puppy, you have a few options. It is not widely known, but shelters and rescues are full of pure breeds and many pure breed pups are born into shelters and rescues, all waiting for homes. Breeding of dogs has turned into big business, with the fast growing and dangerous existence of puppy mills. Many dogs are being sold as quality bred, very expensive puppies, who in reality are poorly bred and come with many genetic behavioral problems and health issues. DO NOT buy a puppy from a store. Almost all reputable breeders do not sell their dogs to stores.
If you prefer to get a dog from a breeder, and know what breed you want, there are still many good, reputable breeders. In fact some breeders are exceptional. They are easy to find if you know what you’re looking for.
Questions To Ask About the Dog Breeder
- Why do you breed? Why this particular breed?
- Do you breed more than one kind?
- How often do you breed?
- Do you belong to any breed groups?
- Do you show your dogs?
- Do you have references from past customers, trainers, groomers and vets?
Questions To Ask About the Mother
- In this litter how many puppies? Were any stillborn or sick?
- How many litters has the mother had?
- Is the puppy’’s mother on the property? (If not, cause for concern)
- Do they have a written pedigree. How many generations?
- How old was mother when the puppies were born?
- What is the mother’s diet? Is she on any vitamins?
- Do you own the father also? How was he chosen?
- Are parents OFA and CERF certified?
Questions To Ask About the Puppies
- Where are the puppies being kept?
- Have the puppies been checked by a vet If so, have they been vaccinated? What kind? How many?
- At what age do you wean the puppies?
- What are the puppies eating now?
- What toys are the puppies playing with?
- At what age did you start socialization and training?
- Have the puppies been socialized to a variety of safe interactions with people?
- Have the puppies been temperament tested?
- What age do you let your puppies leave the mother?
- Is there a training plan for the puppies?
- Are the puppies on any vitamins? What kind? How often?
- Who will pick the dog?
- Do you have contracts stipulating re-homing?
- Will you take the dog back if it doesn’t work out?
- If the breeder is out of town, how will you get the dog?
About the Dog Breeder
One of the most important things to know about finding a good quality breeder is to be able to differentiate between good breeders and puppy mills. Puppy mills often have beautiful websites that are done professionally, and are clear and concise. Try not to be fooled by a beautiful website with puppies romping though the meadow. Use references from your friends, trainers that you know, groomers, and veterinarians. It’s important when you get a breeder, that someone you know has seen them in person and or has a puppy from them, and can vouch for them.
A good breeder is just as fussy or more about who you are as you are fussy about who they are. The more questions that they ask, the more concerned about their dogs they are. A good breeder will let you ask as many questions as you want about your new puppy. In fact, they encourage questions. They love what they do and they love their dogs. If you get the feeling that they don’t care, it may be just a business and you may want to look elsewhere.
It’s important to ask the breeder if they breed more than one or two different breeds and the answer to that question should always be one or two small breeds, or one large breed. Of course there are exceptions, but be careful about many different breeds in one place. Pass on the breeder that has an array of different breeds to chose from or an array of “special” breeds or “special” sizes. Most quality breeders are also interested in the breeds as a hobby or will show dogs professionally. They will often belong to breed clubs and do much more with their dogs, than just breeding. They are not in it only for the business.
If a breeder doesn’t want you to come to their facility, that is a huge red flag. It’s important to see from what kind of facility, the puppy is from. It is most important to see where the puppies are raised, if it’s clean and where the mother and other dogs are kept. If a breeder offers to meet you halfway for your convenience, it is not generally a good idea to get a dog from there. This dog is going to be with you for a very long time. It’s worth the extra drive to go to the breeders and see what it looks like.
If you use a website make sure you go to that facility to pick up your dog. Be aware of the “cute” factor. Most good breeders and trainers suggest it is not a good idea to have two puppies from the same litter. If there are dogs at the site that are recommended to you after you get your dog, do not take either of them. Good breeders will not talk you into taking an extra dog. Most likely they will not have an extra dog to sell.
A good breeder will make you sign a contract stating your intentions to raise the dog and will even stipulate what happens if you can’t keep the dog. A good breeder will always take one of her dogs back. They will want to know your spay, neuter plan. You should be able to receive all of the pups vaccination and worming details as well as any medical information regarding the new puppy. You will get an intensive package of “pedigree papers”, hopefully going back generations of champion lines for your puppy.
About the Mother
Information about the mother is also important and should be available on-site to help answer your questions. A good breeder will wait until the bitch is at least two years old and will only breed the mother every two years. That’s an optimal situation. Typically, puppies are weaned from their mother between eight to ten weeks. Socialization and handling of the puppies is important to start anytime after three weeks. Of course, this is the average and hopefully becoming the rule. It’s important to find out how many puppies were in the litter, and if any puppies were stillborn.
If the mother is on the property, it would be great to be able to meet her. Find out what the mother’s diet is, the vitamins, etc. It’s important to just gather information and then you can be the judge as to whether there is a general feeling of good health and care going to the mother and puppies. It’s good that the mother be on a good healthy diet, supplements for the pregnancy to keep her strong, and a good healthy supplement and diet for lactating mothers. Besides the papers, any information about the father is good to have. If you get a chance to meet the father on the site that would always be a plus.
About the Puppies
With a good breeder the puppies will be kept in a warm, safe, small area with the mother. They will be weaned somewhere about four to five weeks onto solid food and able to leave their mother from forty-nine days (which used to be the standard) to eight or nine weeks. They will start eating very healthy, good protein-based puppy food. The breeder will tell you what that is so you can continue with the same diet and then if you’re going to wean to a different food you can do it responsibly once the pup is home.
Hopefully, you can find out what kind of toys the puppies are playing with and when socialization started. Try to bring something home with you from the puppy’s bed or home, so the transition will be a little easier. The exceptional breeder these days will start socialization very early and may even start clicker training your puppy at about three weeks. These days you could even have a clicker trained puppy when you pick it up at seven weeks. An exceptional breeder will have the pups temperament tested and depending on their personality will be able to place the puppies appropriately. Whether the breeder is exceptional or a good solid breeder, you can know that your puppy has the best chance possible in this world for a balanced life.
Our last red flag is how the breeder wants to transport your puppy. While some good breeders still insist that air travel in cargo is the way to get you your dog, I wouldn’t. There are many reasons why it’s not a good idea to put your six-week-old puppy in a cargo section of a large jet-liner. I have friends who have traveled by plane, gone to see the breeder and picked up the dog and got back on the plane and brought the puppy back on the seat. If you can afford an expensive pure-breed dog, save some of the budget for picking up the dog. It’s worth it. There are many problems with transporting a dog on commercial airlines and most puppies don’t do well on these trips. It’s loud, it’s too cold or too hot, they get lost, they get out in the middle of runways, and some dogs don’t make the trip at all. They die in flight. Don’t use a breeder who transports their dogs without an escort.
The last thing to know is any good or responsible breeder will take the dog back for any reason if there is a problem. If you buy a dog at a puppy store, that option is not available to you. Once your dog is purchased, you have no options for return if it has health or behavior issues. That is one reason why shelters are full of pure breeds these days.
There are many wonderful, caring breeders out there with wonderful puppies waiting to go to your good home. It’s worth the effort to seek them out. You have the information you need to make good educated decisions. If there’s anything you don’t understand or aren’t sure of, ask. It’s the smart thing to do. Now that you know where to get him, have a great life with your new puppy.