Sunday, May 25, 2014

So you're thinking about buying from a breeder ...

I thought I'd do a spin-off of my previous post "How could you BUY a dog?!" with things that you should look for, ask and avoid when researching breeders.  People will choose to buy or adopt. As my previous post stated, I chose to buy.  Every person has their reasons for doing so.  However, if you are choosing to buy you really need to do your homework.  And the homework may be extensive but it will be worth it for a possible 10-20 year commitment for a new family member!

FIND A SUITABLE BREED FOR YOU & YOUR LIFESTYLE
First and foremost you need to find a breed suitable for your family and your lifestyle, activity level and needs.  There are well over 200 breeds of dogs and sadly there will be more that are not suitable for you than those that are.  This is the most important step to take before deciding to buy or adopt a dog. This will be a deal breaker.  A working German Shepherd Dog will not be suitable for a couple that is inactive and wants to watch TV all day and a giant English Mastiff may not be suitable for a single woman that likes to run 5Ks on the weekends.

To find a breed suitable for you it is great to go to a dog show, see the different breeds and speak to breeders about their breed.  You can also speak to owners of the breed and do your own research on the care, temperament, grooming, activity and trainability of said breed. There obviously is a lot of info on the internet about any breed you wish to learn more about as well, but we know that often can be just as hurtful as it is helpful so be careful here.  The AKC (American Kennel Club) has a "Meet the Breeds" section on their website as well as loads of other info than can be helpful.

I highly recommend that you contact a trainer that is well-versed in working with the breed you are interested in.
 Trainers often have a completely different perspective on breeds for people not looking to join the show world or competition world and can speak to the suitability of the breed as a family pet.

Whatever you do, do not pick a breed based on what your roommate had in college or what you ran into at the dog park.  This should be a nice process of elimination so that you do in fact find the perfect breed for you and your family.

YOU FOUND A BREED, NOW DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
So you found the right breed for you and now you want to buy a puppy from a breeder. Great! Now let's do our homework! There are many things you need to know and understand about what goes into a Quality and Reputable Breeder.  Here is a list of questions you should ask a potential breeder prior to buying a puppy, and below this list is a list of things that will show you the likelihood of a non-reputable breeder as red flags to look for.


13 QUESTIONS TO ASK A BREEDER BEFORE BUYING A PUPPY.

1. How old is the dam (mother) and how many litters has she had? How often do you breed your dogs?
[Too many litters often means breeding for profit. It should be no more than 1 a year from one single dam. That same dam should really only be bred once every other year, and preferably they don't breed her for the first time until she's at least 2 years old.  Dams being bred shouldn't be older than 7-8 years. ]

2. What temperament do the dam and sire (father) have, what about other dogs in the lineage?
[Find dogs that have no aggression or other undesirable behaviors in their lineage in relation to aggression, guarding, shyness, aloofness (some breeds can be more aloof than others but shouldn't be aggressive or shy), bold, confident, over-confident (bully), etc. Remember, aggression can be genetic. Resource guarding can be highly genetic and a real problem.]

3. Do you do any temperament testing on the pups? If so what does that entail and what are the results?  Puppy temperament tests aren't totally accurate but they are a good baseline.  Ask what tests they do.  My favorite is Suzanne Clothier's CARAT (Clothier Animal Response Assessment Test). However a more common puppy temp test is the Volhard Puppy Temperament Test.]

4. Do you have a contract?
[Many breeders have a contract you must sign and agree to. It varies from breeder to breeder but it should at least contain the following items: It should state that at anytime in the dog's life said breeder will take back the dog for any reason. It should also state their health guarantee which will state all testing they do on their dogs and what to expect if anything comes up in your dog.  It should state something about vaccination, worming and when your pup should first see a veterinarian after you get the puppy.  It should state something regarding spay/neuter (usually a limited registration) as you shouldn't be breeding your puppy.]

5. What health tests do you run on your dogs and what are the results of each?
[Know what health issues run in your breed and find out if the breeder tests for these. Testing for hips/elbow dysplasia in dogs prone to it thru the OFA or PennHip should be a must. Other genetic testing should be done depending on what things are commonly prevalent in your breed of choice. Research your breed to know what to ask the breeder in regards to testing. Also ask for results of the testing they do, they should very readily agree and give you these test results.]

6. How old are puppies when you wean them from mother & introduce to food?
[Ideally this is at 4-5 weeks of age,  no sooner unless they had to bottle feed for one reason or another. If so, get specifics on why and how the puppy is developing.]

7. How young are puppies when you let them go to their new home?
[Ideally no puppy should be under 8 weeks of age going to a new home. Lots of learning takes place prior to this age with mama dog and littermates that is critical to development and socialization. Some breeders even keep puppies up to 12 weeks (some even older), which I find too old for socialization and developmental reasons. I find the ideal age to obtain a puppy is between 8-10 weeks as proper socialization needs to take place quickly.]

8. What do you do to help them start to potty train? Where do they regularly go potty? Indoors? Potty pads? Paper? Grass? Outdoors?
[Ideally I like to see breeders have puppies utilize outdoors and not encourage potty pads and/or newspaper for potty. It is a huge plus if they have introduced each puppy individually to a crate (not all the puppies in one crate) and some crate time alone for short periods. This can often be an indicator for how difficult/easy it will be to start housebreaking for your new pup!]

9. What environment are they raised in and what enrichment do you provide?
[Do they get daily outdoor time? Do they stay in a dog run? A barn? A kennel? Where do they sleep? Do they start any crate training? Adding sounds to their environment? Objects to climb on? Odd and different surfaces? Any training at all? What do they expose their pups to to get them ready for the real world? Other dogs? Other animals? Other people?]

10. What do you feed your dogs and puppies?
[This is a question I like because I want someone who doesn't feed cheap dog food for convenience but cares about their dog's nutrition. I personally prefer one open to raw-fed dogs or that does raw feed but this isn't a deal breaker and of course not everyone is on board with this. So really the best is just a high quality food.  Stay away from Purina, Pedigree and grocery store brands. Good nutrition is key.]

11. What vaccinations have they had once they are 8 weeks and have they been health checked prior to going to their new homes by a licensed veterinarian?
[Most puppies have been to the breeder's vet for a health check (esp if you are having the pup shipped they have to by law) and many do their own vaccinations. Be sure to get a copy of the vaccination vile and or sticker from the vile of each vaccine the breeder gave to the puppy or had their vet give to the puppy.]

12. What questions do you have as a breeder for me as a prospective puppy buyer?  [Breeders should be equally full of questions for you as a potential home for one of their pups. If they don't ask any questions you shouldn't buy from them.  They should have as many questions for you as you do for them.  They should also welcome any and all questions you have for them.]

13. Will the you take the puppy back at anytime for any reason? [All reputable breeders will take back one of their puppies during the lifetime of the pup for any reason and have this stated in their contract (as stated above in question #4).  They should do this as they don't want to see one of their pups in the wrong hands or in a shelter/rescue situation.  This is a vital question to ask a breeder not because you think you'll be giving your puppy back or expecting something but because this goes towards the reputability and character of the breeder.]

RED FLAGS: if any of the following apply do not buy from that person/place selling puppies.
  • If a breeder has lots of puppies always available, it's highly unlikely that they are reputable breeders.Quality breeders often take a year or even years to produce a quality litter.  They don't rush. They don't breed often. So you may need to wait. They also usually have a waiting list.
  • If a breeder cannot answer many, many questions about their breed.  This includes anything about the breed be it health, temperament, grooming, training, etc.
  • If a breeder is willing to sell you littermates.  This is never a good idea and no reputable breeder will sell littermates to one family at the same time. (Please read about Littermate Syndrome.)
  • If the breeder cannot help you decide if their breed is the correct breed for your family and your lifestyle. Not all breeds are a match to all people and breeders should be able to tell you if their breed is a good fit for you or not.  Never take offense to this, a good breeder knows when they shouldn't sell a puppy to a family that isn't suited for their breed.
  • If a place doesn't register their dogs with a reputable dog registry, most commonly the AKC (American Kennel Club) then they probably aren't quality.  AKC registered dogs does not automatically mean the dog is of sound breeding.  Note: AKC is something the dogs & litter should be registered with, they should be able to provide documentation to prove registration. However it needs to be noted that an AKC registered dog doesn't automatically qualify the breeder as reputable.  But a reputable breeder will register her dogs & litters with the AKC or other reputable breed registry.
  • Stay away from breeders that register their dogs with the CKC (Continental Kennel Club).  This is not a reputable dog registry and is actually quite flimsy, holding no merit at all in the dog world.
  • Quality breeders do not sell puppies to pet stores. Period. There are no "but ..."  If you buy a puppy from a pet store you are getting a puppy mill dog regardless of what the pet store tells you.
  • If you ask for the lineage of the parents and they cannot provide it or dance around the question, go the other way.  "His grandfather is a Grand Champion" isn't the answer to that question either.  Quality breeders will provide a family tree that can be traced back and you can see all lineage and accomplishments of those dogs.
  • If none of their dogs have any titles or participate in any shows and/or sports.  Quality breeders usually show their dogs and/ or participate in a sport or competition of some kind.  They are usually very open about this and will discuss it when asked.  If they aren't you need to go the other way.
  • If you can hit a Paypal button online to purchase a puppy ... well, really? This should be a no-brainer. Dogs aren't retail items and shouldn't be able to be purchased online via a button!
  • If a place sells puppies for vastly different prices for different coats or male vs female they probably aren't a quality breeder.  The only difference should be "pet quality" vs "show quality" and pet quality are usually a little less and come with a spay/neuter contract/agreement.
  • The place advertises "raised in our home with love" (or on our farm/property).  This is nice but that doesn't say one thing to the actual breeding or what they do for the dogs they are breeding.
  • If a person selling puppies doesn't allow you on their property or to certain areas to see where pups are raised and how they interact with mama dog, littermates, etc. I would be quite suspicious.  Sometimes some so-called breeders will ask you to meet somewhere or they will have you secluded in one area on their property but won't allow you to see much else.
  • If a person selling puppies sells you a pup under 8 weeks of age, especially under 7 weeks, go the other way.  Puppies should stay in their litter at least until 8-9 weeks of age but not past 12 week unless very extensive socialization is taking place from breeder, which is very unlikely.
  • If a breeder cannot provide health tests and results of the tests on their breeding dogs against the diseases or ailments most common to your breed.
  • If they don't ask you, as a buyer, tons of questions.  They should ask you as many questions as you do them.  If they don't then I'd look elsewhere.  On that note I'd also be proud to be grilled and not take any offense to any questions as a reputable breeder will be asking, possibly, some hard questions to be sure they are placing their pup in a home that is the right fit and a forever fit!
Buying a puppy may sound like a daunting task, and it can be, but for a good reason.  You are making a commitment to raise, care for and train a living creature for possibly close to 20 years so you want to do it right.  That's a huge responsibility.  Finding a reputable breeder can be so helpful in finding a dog that is not only suitable for your family but also sound in temperament and health.  

However, also know that even if you do all of your homework diligently and accurately there is no guarantee you'll get a dog without flaws.  The likelihood of something going wrong is less when you do your homework, but it's not 100%.  So, do your homework the best you can and take your time.  

WHAT ABOUT ADOPTION OR RESCUE?
If you find that buying a puppy isn't for you or your family then I do recommend you adopt.  And even if you'd like to buy but you feel that adopting is a better option, then please do so.  I am a very huge advocate of adoption.  Do not let this blog post or my previous, "How could you BUY a dog?!", lead you to believe this indicates that I am against adoption.  I am very much in favor of adoption.  (I have plans to write a blog post on what to look for when adopting a dog, keep an eye out!)

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