Monday, October 12, 2015

Picking a Winner (part 2)

Last week, I went through the reasons why you should care about the breeder you choose if you are going that route with your next puppy. This week, I have put together the things you should look out for so you know exactly who to avoid and what questions to ask. 
Whatever your reasons for wanting a purebred puppy, you should start with your veterinarian, trainer, groomer or even a breed-specific rescue. Typically they can point you in the right direction, or at least tell you who to avoid. A rescue may give you a little grief about not choosing them, but if you have good reasons, they will probably listen and offer advice.
We start with red flags; if you experience any of these with the breeder you choose, put on the breaks and ask more questions. If a breeder doesn't like you asking questions, you probably want to go elsewhere. 

One of these came from a reputable breeder

Red Flags:
-Meeting anywhere other than at the breeder's home
-Not being questioned about your lifestyle and family, including hobbies, work (hours per day and per week outside of the home), whether or not you have a fenced in yard, children in the home, etc.
-Not meeting with the breeder prior to getting the puppy
-An advertisement in a newspaper for litter 
-Little or no knowledge of the puppies lineage and personality
-No vaccination or de-worming records
-Dogs (including puppies) are kept exclusively outdoors or exclusively indoors*
-Puppies are wary of people
-Shipping puppy unattended
-Offer multiple breeds for sale
-Offer puppies for sale under 7 weeks of age
-Puppies available year round- litters are born many times each year
-Unhealthy looking mother, puppies or father- a nursing mom should be allowed sufficient food to maintain body weight and feed her puppies. If she is malnourished, her puppies probably are too. If she is sick, her puppies probably are, too. If the sire is on site and looks ill, ask questions. He may just be under the weather- which is fine, but you need to think about genetic problems that you may be taking home. When in doubt, ask questions (see a trend?)
-Offers 'designer' breeds 

*some toy breeds are kept indoors when young so they aren't carried away by prey birds

A good, reputable breeder will show you that they care about their puppies and the breed, so these things usually mean you are on the right track.

A good breeder will:
-Provide lineage of your puppy (and probably have it memorized)
-Want to meet you in person, before you get your puppy
-Have a puppy or a few puppies for you to choose from based on your lifestyle and the puppies' personalities- odds are you will not have your pick of the litter
-Have a waiting list
-Want referrals from you (veterinarian, trainer, groomer
-Have referrals from their veterinarian and a close relationship with their veterinarian
-Have clean and adequate space inside and outside for the puppies and at least the mother
-Only have a couple litters per year at the most
-Have a contract for you to sign, including requirement to spay/neuter and to return the puppy to them if you cannot care for them in the future for any reason, among other requirements
-Have at least as many questions for you as you do for them
-The earliest puppies will be available is 7-8 weeks, and if you need to postpone pickup because of work, vacation or a family emergency; they will hold the puppy for you
-Decline to sell you a puppy because of your long work hours, many kids or small apartment- depending on breed
-May offer "working quality" vs "pet quality" pups*

*Working quality dogs include any sporting or working breed that has been bred to do their job. A working quality hound is not what you want in your condo. A pet quality dog is just as healthy and well-bred, but does not posses (either by intentional breeding or genetic chance) the traits preferred for the breed specific work.

Keep in mind the breed you are selecting and your lifestyle; these things have to mesh well and your breeder will want to be sure that they do. Some breeders only breed working dogs, and may not often have "family pets" for sale. As frustrating as this is, it's a sign of a good breeder. If you have 5 kids under age 10, you really don't need a working quality Cattle Dog or Border Collie, trust me- it will be more work than you have time for to keep that dog happy and well exercised. If you really like a breeder who focuses on the working dogs, talk to them and explain that you would love a puppy who is pet quality. Not every pup in every litter will be working quality, so you can probably get what you want eventually. Some breeders focus more on family pet quality pups, and if they have any pups in a litter who are more working quality, they may have a special contract or a home already lined up that is appropriate for them.

A final note, remember that you are applying to buy this puppy, you are interviewing to have this pup. A good breeder may come across as snobby or rude, but they may have good reason for being selectively friendly. They aren't trying to make a sale, they are finding a home for one of their babies, so be kind and patient- it will pay off. Most good breeders do it as a hobby and to better the breed. not to make money.

For an example of a good, local breeder her on the shore, check out Marshy Hope Labradors. I'd love to come back as a puppy born here in my next life. In the meantime I'll have to make do with visiting when she has her next litter.

Did you choose a specific breed, and why?

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