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— March 6, 2012 —
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Shop or Adopt (Part Three)

This week, we’d like to discuss the idea of buying a puppy from a breeder. While we do support rescue and the idea of adopting a homeless pet, there will be those who need a special type of dog for a specific purpose. Those whose interest include dog shows, hunting, protection/police work or even search and rescue work may find it necessary to purchase from a breeder. Someone who breeds dogs for a specific type of work will be much more likely to provide you with a suitable working companion.This article will help you determine if a particular breeder is producing the dog that you are looking to buy. The overarching principle of this entire article is this. A good breeder will be someone who is working to improve the breed they love. They will have specific goals for their breeding program and will be able to articulate what those goals are. They will not be someone who happened to buy a male and female of a particular breed and started making puppies for a little side cash.

“First, if you have a specific “job” in mind for your dog, you will want to discuss this with the breeders that you contact. For example, if you intend to buy a dog for duck hunting, and you have decided upon a Labrador Retriever, you would want to ask the breeder how many of his dogs are actually being trained and worked for that activity. Also, you would want to know if the breeder has had any dogs that have won awards in field trials. A breeder who is working to improve the breed will be active in things that are designed to improve the quality of the bloodlines.

Another topic for discussion would be health issues within the breeders blood lines. Most breeds of dogs have some type of health issues associated with the breed. For example, German Shepherds have notorious hip issues, English Bulldogs have issues with breathing and allergies. The list goes on. A good breeder will be informed of these issues and will be able to tell you exactly what steps they have taken to eliminate genetic health issues from their bloodlines. Whether it be getting hips x-rayed on every dog they breed or having blood work done to test for genetic markers, a good breeder will have taken specific steps to reduce the risk of health issues. A couple of years ago, we had a client who purchased an English Bulldog puppy from a breeder for about two thousand dollars. By the time the dog was a year old, they had spent ten times that amount on vet bills. While they were able to do the necessary things to save their puppy, there are many people who would have had to deal with the heartache of euthanizing a young dog due to genetic health issues.

Once you have interviewed a few breeders, you will have narrowed your choices down and it’s time to visit the facilities. What you’re looking for here is the overall conditions that the puppies are raised in. A professional kennel or a home situation will be clean, with healthy looking mom and pups.The puppies should be handled regularly. If the pups are exposed to children and allowed to explore the yard or house with supervision, those are good things. A breeder who refuses to show you all of the pups’ housing facilities is throwing up a red flag. Once you are there, meet the dame (mother) to the pups. She may be protective of her pups, but she should give you some idea of what the pups’ temperament will be. If you are not allowed to meet her, or if she is fearful or overly aggressive, that would be a red flag. As I have written in the past, fear issues are a serious genetic flaw and even with good upbringing, genetic fear issues will always be present in a dog.

I don’t have any specific feeling towards a professional kennel setting v/s a home based “hobbyist” breeder. Both can produce excellent dogs, with proper care taken to selection of bloodlines and health. If the breeder can discuss the previous concerns, I would not be terribly biased towards either situation.

If some breeders wants to “meet you somewhere with the puppies.” This is a MAJOR RED FLAG! Do not, under any circumstances, buy a dog from this person. If a breeder refuses to show you their facility, they probably have something to hide.

A good breeder may take a deposit from you and tell you when to expect a breeding. Basically, a well known breeder will not need to sell you a dog, they will have a reputation for producing excellent dogs and you will have to wait your turn. They will often, but not always, take deposits until they know they can place every dog in a litter before they even breed the dogs. Also, a breeder generally wants to know that their puppies will be cared for properly. You can expect some kind of interview before you are allowed to buy a puppy. Lastly, a responsible breeder will generally offer some contractual guarantee that your puppy will be free of genetic health issues common in the breed. They may offer a rebate, free replacement or a combination of the two if your pup develops a health issue within a certain time frame.

I’ve talked about pet stores in the past. Basically, there is no good way to buy a dog from a pet store. You cannot meet the parents, see the upbringing of the pups (during the critical imprint stage at that) or evaluate the experience level of the actual breeder. Also, even though every pet store claims not to deal with puppy mills, the very act of selling puppies to pet stores are one of the things that defines a puppy mill. Pet stores tend to sell to pretty much anyone who has the money and there is little care given to selecting a quality home. Also, some people get the feeling that they are “saving” the puppy at the pet store. The fact is that if we all stopped buying from pet stores, we’d be saving a lot more dogs from a miserable fate. If you really want to save a dog, there are hundreds of dogs at your local pound that do need to be saved.

For all the bad things that are said about dog breeders, we understand that there will always be a need for dogs specifically bred to do certain jobs. If you need a job done and are looking for a dog, we hope this will help you pick the right dog the first time.