This is the second installment of a multi-blog post about puppies. If you would like to be notified about future posts, please subscribe in the form below this post.
Many people spend money on puppies only to be disappointed when they find out they have health problems early in life that are linked to genetics, bad breeding and the raising of the puppy before they arrive at your home. Many “boutique” breeds are really started from people thinking they could make a better breed, but in fact have created more breeds that puppy mills can easily produce. In a New York Times Article Mr. Conron, the original breeder of the famed Labradoodle, a mix of a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle, admits he created a monster and he goes on the say “I’ve done so much harm to pure breeding and made many charlatans quite rich, I wonder in my retirement, whether we bred a designer dog—or a disaster!” Even Cockapoos, a mix between an American Cocker Spaniel and a Miniature or Toy Poodle, which have been around longer than the Labradoodle, says that they cannot produce a breed standard because most people are getting first generation crosses and to get quality stock people need to be producing fouth and fifth generation cockapoos and higher as well as have them DNA tested and checked for genetic health issues which is very expensive.
Please do not read into this that I think people should only own purebred dogs because I personally own two mixed breed dogs and one purebred dog which all were rescues. There are enough mixed breed dogs from people not spaying and neutering their pets to go around. I love mixed breed dogs and many of them live long healthy lives, but they can also lead short unhealthy lives as well. Many people with mixed breed dogs have behavior issues not knowing what the “mix” is and many dogs just perform traits that one or more of their breeds were meant to perform.
So how can we avoid some of these problems in the future and how do you find a breeder that is reputable and will give you the best chance of having not only a healthy puppy, but a lond and healthy life together.
- Ask to meet the parents. Many breeders may only have the female or the male of the breeding pair, but look at the temperament of the parent present. How big are the parents? Can you talk to or see pictures or videos of the other parent? This will be the your best indicator as to what size and temperament your puppy may have.
- Have health tests been performed on the parents? Many breeders will know health problems that have been associated with the breed of dog they are breeding. Dogs that have a history of hip dysplasia should have a registration number you can look up on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website. If you don’t get a registration number you need their full registered name to look up the information. Some breeders are trying to eliminate problems from their breed like cataracts. I will have one blog posts about this one subject later.
- How long have you been breeding? What is your experience with the breed? The longer a breeder has been breeding the more knowledgeable they will be about the breed. They will be honest about the breed’s strengths, weaknesses as well as genetic problems that are commonly associated with the breed. Also ask if they participate in any breed clubs, organizations or canine sports.
- How do you socialize your puppies? Puppies learn a lot from not only their mom but what they are exposed to within their environment. Ask if they have been around people other than the breeder, other dogs, are they comfortable in a house. Ask if they do anything else to help socialize the puppies.
- Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccinations? Puppies should visit a veterinarian before being sent home to their new families. The veterinarian will check for any obvious health issues (heart mumurs, cleft palates, hernias, etc) and usually give them their FIRST vaccine and deworm them. These are usually given to you in a little health booklet to take with you on your next visit to the veterinarian when they have arrived home.
- Do you provide a health guarantee and a contract? Many breeders are very attached to every puppy they have brought into this world and would want to know any health issues as soon as they become apparent. May breeders also write in their contract that if for any reason you cannot keep the puppy that you return it to the breeder and not a shelter or animal control. Ask them what will happen if a serious health condition does arise? Another blog post will talk more about the contract with the breeder later.
- When will you be able to bring the puppy home? Many breeders will not let you take a puppy home before it is at least 8 weeks of age and sometimes even 12 weeks of age. These last few weeks are critical to the puppies development and the best environment for them is with their mother and litter mates.
- How can we contact you after picking up the puppy? Hopefully by this point you feel comfortable with the breeder you have chosen and have somewhat of a relationship with them. Breeders however should be a wealth of knowledge for you when you have future questions about behavior or health. Make sure it is okay to contact them after your new puppy is home.
- What requirements do you have of people looking to get one of your puppies? Breeders want to make sure their puppies go to homes that understand the commitment they are making to the puppy for the next 10-20 years. They also want to make sure that the puppy will be taken care of in a responsible manner. Many breeders will have just as many questions for you as you do for them.
- Do I get to choose the puppy that gets to come home with me? During the breeders questions they may ask the type of energy level or space available for the puppy. These questions may determine the type of personality the breeder may pair you and your puppy with. While you may have your heart set on a male with the one brown eye and one blue eye, be open about hearing the breeder’s suggestion for you instead. They spend a lot of time with the puppy and know a lot about it’s personality before it even leaves their loving hands.
So as previously mentioned, please do your research before bringing a puppy into your family. By asking these questions you are most likely going to be much happier and have a better expectation of the puppy you are bringing home as a new member of your family.