So, you’ve decided to purchase a dog from a breeder. You’ve carefully chosen the breed that suits your lifestyle, budget and environment; but with so many different people offering purebred dogs, it can be difficult to choose.
Below are helpful tips for picking a happy, healthy puppy to add to your household.
It should go without saying that pet stores should be crossed off your list. These adorable puppies come without any sort of guarantee (breed, health, temperament…) and purchasing these dogs supports their place of origin, puppy mills, where dogs are bred unscrupulously, without respect or care for their well-being.
Anyone who breeds two dogs together can call themselves a breeder. There is no licence, permit or certification to rank or distinguish the reputable breeders from the so-called “backyard breeders”. Most backyard breeders aren’t qualified to be breeding dogs, purebred or not. They don’t have their breeding stock go through all the necessary (and costly) health exams to guarantee as much as possible that the resulting puppies will be in good health. Prenatal care for the female is also crucial.
Behaviour is just as important as physical health, and that not only means that the parents should be examined for behavioural issues, but also the puppies must be properly handled until they are sold to their new homes, the latter being a rather tiring full-time job! Handling doesn’t just mean desentizing the puppy to being touched, but proper feeding “etiquette”, socialization around humans, dogs and other common domestic animals, city noises, being crated, transported in the car, taken to the vet, the beginning of potty-training and basic training… just to name a few! My point being that being a breeder goes well beyond just leaving two dogs in a room and waiting for the magic to happen!
Breeders should be passionate about the breed of dog they produce, so a typical telltale sign of an unscrupulous breeder is the presence of more than one or two breeds in their program, especially if the types of dogs aren’t related (ex: Golden, Labrador and Flat-Coated Retrievers vs. Rottweilers, Jack Russell Terriers and Pointers). This isn’t to say that single-breed breeders are always better, but a responsible breeder has spent years acquiring stock to better the breed they are so passionate about, displaying (and titling) their dogs in the discipline they are intended for: conformation dog shows, Obedience trials, Agility, etc… That kind of dedication is time-consuming for one breed alone, imagine more!
No Two Breeders are Alike
There are several different qualities to choose from when selecting a dog, both aesthetically and behaviourally. Take a look at the breeding stock to get an idea as to what kind of dogs are being bred by that breeder. Are the dogs bred for home life, the show ring, or the field? Various bloodlines can bear striking differences between each other. Not all Border Collies make good sheepdogs, not all German Shepherds make good Schutzhund dogs and not all Retrievers make good hunting companions.
Generally speaking, the more popular the breed is, the more distinct the lines will be, and that all depends on what breeds are common where you live. If you’re thinking of getting a competition animal, look for breeders that have titled their dogs in the sport you’re interested in.
Consider an Older Dog
It makes no financial sense for breeders to keep animals that aren’t being used in their breeding stock. Sometimes that dog is just too old to be part of the breeding stock: while males can breed from puberty until they can no longer mount a female, females will be bred between 20 months and five years of age. A reputable breeder will not breed a bitch after her fifth birthday. The breeder may opt to sell dogs no longer being used in their breeding program. In the Niagara region and want an opinion on a potential dog for you and your family? Consider getting an opinion from one of our trainers at www.corbiesdogtraining.com.
Sometimes, a puppy is born with a small “defect”, and will be adopted out for a small fee or free. Reputable breeders will not adopt out puppies that are destined to suffer because of congenital defects, but certain traits (incorrect coat colour, eye colour, bite…) don’t compromise the dog’s quality of life, but a reputable breeder will not sell such a dog at full price.
When you’ve selected your breeder, go visit them, so you can meet them in person, as well as their dogs (the parents of your future puppy). Pictures on a website can be deceptive, whether intentionally or not, and the parents’ temperament is the best predictor of how their puppies will be as adults.
As hard as this may be (especially if the puppies have already been born), if you aren’t convinced, walk away! I know firsthand how irresistible a puppy can be, especially if you’ve been waiting a long time to find your canine match, but if the parents aren’t what you’re looking for in a dog, or even worse, the breeder is hesitant to have you spend time with them, don’t take the risk of the heartache you may face later.
It’s a really exciting thing to bring home a puppy, so make sure you’re confident with your choice of four-legged companion, it’s a commitment of ten or more years, that’s a long time to be paying for a rushed decision!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, enlist the help of a professional, such as a veterinarian or a dog trainer/behaviourist, to accompany you to see the breeder, or even just to give you a second opinion, if said breeder is located far away. They have an unbiased point of view, and will know what you’re looking for in a dog.