Buy a puppy from someone who brings her up in such a way that you wish every puppy could be raised that way.
- “The breeder does something with her dogs…Their dogs are seen and assessed by other experts, and there are thresholds – a working title or certificate, a conformation championship…that dogs achieve before being bred.” For example, the flat-coated retriever breeder where I got Bingley and Tex, does a variety of activities with her dogs. She shows some, hunts with others, and does agility with some more. And, her dogs all have titles of some kind.
- “The breeder has as many, or more, questions for you than you do for her.” When I first called about getting a puppy from Victory retrievers, we spent over an hour on the phone talking about dogs, why I wanted a flat-coat, what I intended to do with my dog, etc. Any breeder worth their weight in puppy chow has for a goal “that every puppy goes to a lifetime excellent home, not getting every puppy paid for and out the door the moment he is weaned.”
- “Ethical breeders work to support their dogs; their dogs do not support them.” In other words, this is not a money making affair. Ethical breeders spend a lot of money to raise good dogs and are most interested in producing the best examples of their chosen breed, not the greatest number of puppies. Therefore, expect to hear a lot about their adult dogs and their accomplishments as this will tell you the most about the quality of their puppies.
- And as Pat Miller says, “No responsible breeder on the earth sells puppies to pet stores. Not one.” Do not buy from a pet store as you will be getting a dog from an irresponsible breeder or a puppy mill, guaranteed.
And here is my list of things that I insist on in a breeder. If they won’t do these things, I walk away:
1. Have a contract with the breeder that clearly states the terms of your contract with them. The contract should respect and protect the welfare of you, the puppy, and the breeder. Is there a health guarantee? Does it include behavior issues as well as physical problems? For example, what happens if the puppy starts guarding food or toys within the first month you have it? Will the breeder take him back?
2. The breeder should insist that if you don’t want the dog for any reason, it is returned to the breeder. For example, my grand-dog Tex developed seizures and his owner decided that she could not keep him. The breeder took him back and kept him for 9 months to be sure his condition was stabilized. Before she gave him to me, we once again spent over an hour on the phone discussing him and deciding if Tex was a good choice for us. We ended up agreeing that Tex would be the perfect dog for my daughter and her new husband and arrangements were made to pick him up.
3. Ideally, do not pick up the dog before 8 weeks of age. The best age to get the puppy is between 8-10 weeks of age. If the breeder is trying to get the dogs out the door at 6 weeks of age or younger, ask why. Puppies learn a lot about life from their litter mates, so don’t be too eager to get them before they have had the chance to learn about how to get along with other dogs!
4. Find out the vaccination record, the pedigree of the parents, if there has been any problems with legs, hips, eyes, thyroid, in her dogs and get details about any problems. Ask about specific problems relating to that breed. Flat-coats, for example, have a history of cancer and as a result their average life span is only 7.5 years. The breeder should want you to be aware of the breed’s shortcomings as well as their strengths and they should also let you know what is being done to improve the quality of the breed. Does she require you to have the appropriate health tests done? Both Bingley and Buckley (our Bernese Mt. Dog) were required to have thyroid tests, eye exams, and orthopedic x-rays done at the appropriate ages. The results were sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals** national data base.
5. Make sure your pup has his appropriate first shots before you pick him up.
6. This should not be a bargain. Good, reliable breeders do not make money on their litters. But, their pups are not cheap either because it costs a lot to produce a quality puppy. Expect to pay between $1000-$2000 or more for a dog. If the puppy costs only $400-500, it probably has some issues.
7. Ask questions about how the puppies are raised. Are they inside the house? (and I mean in the house, not the basement) When are they weaned? How many people have they met before they are adopted? A puppy’s socialization window closes at 16 weeks of age, so it is important that he meets people, experiences different substrates, and generally has a positive introduction to the world before you take him home.
8. What are the parents like? Do they get along with other dogs? Do they like people? Children? Cats? How old is the mother and how many litters has she had? You should meet the mother and, if possible, the father. If the breeder refuses to let you meet her adult dogs, you should not adopt from her.
9. Get references! Ask if you can talk to some of her past clients. If she can’t/won’t provide references there is something amiss. Moreover, she should insist on references from you as well. Don’t be offended, be glad she cares so deeply about placing her dogs in a good home.
If this feels a bit overwhelming, know that getting the right dog from the right source requires some effort on your part. As Ms Houlahan puts it:
This is the acquisition that most demands a restrained, educated, skeptical approach that serves your own self-interest as well as supporting practices that are good for dogs. For no other purchase does intelligent self-interest mesh so closely with good social ethics.
Blog Posts by Category
- Training or “Why, Why, WHY?”
- Behavior or “What the heck?”
- Informational or Doggie Demographics
- Care and management or living together in harmony
- Philosophy of training or “Why be positive?”
- Toy Box or stuff that doesn’t fit neatly elsewhere