Getting A New Pet?
Are you thinking about expanding your pet family? We’d like to help you on the journey by giving you the best information that we can. First and foremost, we at Lucy’s Friends believe in rescue and adoption. Furthermore, we believe that pets—whether they are dogs, cats, or even rabbits—need to be spayed and neutered. Spaying and neutering is the first step in preventing unwanted and abused animals from ending up in shelters. That one act is essential to saving lives. Even if you never plan to expose your pet to another of its kind, altering is still a lifesaver—an animal that has been spayed or neutered has a lower risk of developing reproductive cancers. They will also be easier to live with, as they wont be engaging in unwanted behaviors like spraying.
Having said that, we know there are times when only a breeder can match you with your forever friend. Lucy’s friend Linda Yanusz wrote the article below. We hope it will assist you in finding the most responsible breeder for your new friend, because there is a vast difference between a responsible, knowledgeable, and loving breeder and those who breed for profit, sell at pet stores, utilize “puppy mills”, or even breed unscrupulously.
Good luck—your forever friend is waiting for you!
So You Want to Use a Breeder for Your Next Dog?
(by Linda Yanusz - Owner of three male Greater Swiss Mountain
Dogs, ages 7, 5, and 20 months )
Many people decide that the dog they recently rescued or the one they got from the pet store, for various reasons, just did not work out. So now you are ready to find a breeder that will sell you your “dream” dog. In many cases, this is exactly what happens, but in others, it can be a disaster. This article will cover many issues in picking a breeder and also how you find a breed that’s perfect for you.
I am not a “breeder,” although I have bred both of my older dogs, who each sired a litter of nine puppies. I am not an expert on this subject by any means, and what is to follow is largely my personal opinion, but I’ve had dogs all my life, and the current ones (whom I’ve bred) are best ones I’ve ever had and to find them, I did my homework. Luck or breeding? I believe it’s careful breeding.
There are many “back-yard breeders” and they are to be avoided like the plague. They breed for the money and do not care about the health or temperament of the puppies they produce. So how do you find a reputable breeder? Here are some things a good breeder will ask for, some qualities a good breeder will have, and issues that should be discussed.
First of all, you should do your homework ahead of time. Check the AKC website to find out about various breeds, the breed standard, and their traits. Do they drool? Are they good with kids? Do they shed? How much do they eat? What are their health issues? Find the breed club for the breed you are interested in and find out about the breed, good things and bad. Make sure the dog is a good fit for your situation and/or family. Don’t get a working breed dog or a hunting dog if you want a couch potato! Each dog has a “job” and that job should mesh with your situation, even as a pet. For example, a border collie is a herding dog that is very smart and has lots of energy. If you want a calm dog that will not require any training or exercise, don’t get a border collie!
Another issue to address right up front is cost. A purebred puppy costs anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500. But you are paying for health, temperament, pet or show quality, and the breeder’s knowledge and experience, as I’ll address later.
Once you’ve done your homework and decided that this breed is for you, then check the breed club website for their list of breeders. Call or email them and try to set up an appointment to see their breeding stock (sire and/or dam) and ask them questions (next paragraph in this article). Or, best of all, go to dog shows (check the AKC website for upcoming shows in your area) or your breed’s specialty show and watch the dogs in action and talk to breeders that may be there. Just start talking to the people standing around the outside of the ring and ask who the breeders are. Once their breed has started showing, however, wait until they are done so you don’t bother them.
Even if you don’t plan on showing your dog, seeing one in “person” is the best way to determine if that’s the breed for you. Most importantly, make sure you feel comfortable with the breeder. If you don’t like the breeder or something just doesn’t feel right, don’t use that breeder. Trust your instincts. And don’t just pick a breeder because she (for the purpose and ease of this article, I’m calling the breeder a “she;” obviously, it could also be a man) lives in your town, county, or state. You may have to travel a bit to find the right one for you. Ask how long she’s been involved in the breed, what breed clubs she belongs to, and what titles she’s gotten on her dogs. Beware of breeders who’s only involvement with the breed is breeding!
Every responsible breeder breeds, or should breed, for one reason and one reason only – to better the breed (get it closer to the breed standard, which, again, you can find on the AKC website), not to make money or add to the breed count in the AKC records. If you ask the following appropriate questions, you’ll be able to tell if the breeder has done her homework and is responsible:
If a large breed, working, sporting, hound, or herding dog, have you had both parents’ hips, elbows, and shoulders checked by OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and/or PennHip? Hips should be fair to excellent – anything else should not be bred. If she says checking hips is not a requirement for your breed, confirm that with your vet or a breed website.
Were both parents checked for eye problems? This is called a CERF exam and there are certain eye conditions that should not be bred.
Some breeders will go the extra mile and have patella, thyroid and cardiac tests done, which is outstanding, although most of the time, these are not required tests.
Did the breeder check the dam and sire’s pedigree to make sure they are not inbreeding or making bad health issues worse by mixing bad genes or unwanted recessive genes? She should have checked back to grandparents and should have an in-depth knowledge of their lineage. All lines have health problems, but you try to avoid breeding two dogs with lineage of bad hips, eye issues, epilepsy, mast cell tumors, etc.
Is she breeding two dogs with good temperament? Aggressive dogs or those with aggression should not be bred under any circumstances.
The breeder should know the health issues of the breed (large breeds tend to be susceptible to bloat), together with their training concerns, and willing to discuss them with you. All breeds have health issues and if she says there are none in this puppy’s pedigree, you should walk out and find another breeder.
The breeder should know of any typical behavior issues in this breed and make suggestions on how you can correct it.
Ask how old the dam is – breeders should NOT breed bitches less than two years of age or over 7 years of age (this top age limit could vary by breed, however).
Ask if she sells to a pet store or raffle or auction. If she does, find another breeder.
The breeder should have you complete an application. She should be very interested in whether or not you have adequate space for a dog, a fenced yard, whether it’s an inside or outside dog, if you work or are at home during the day (or can come home for lunch), if you have had a dog before, if so and it if has died, how did it die. She may also ask for financial information to make sure you can afford pet food, vet bills, and show expenses (if you get a show-quality animal). She may also ask for references, both from your vet and from personal friends. Some large, strong, stubborn breeds should only be sold to people who have already had experience with large, strong, stubborn dogs.
The breeder should know how to evaluate the puppies, or know someone who does for the breed, for structure and temperament so she can pick the one that’s best for your situation – an independent or dependent puppy, a dominant or submissive puppy, a puppy that doesn’t like excitement (not good for children), a show or pet quality puppy, etc. Perfect markings do NOT make a show-quality puppy – structure, temperament, coloring and markings do, and they can be evaluated at 7-8 weeks of age.
The breeder should have a puppy contract for you to review before you finalize the sale. This should state YOUR responsibilities as the owner and hers as the breeder. Some examples of issues that may come up:
If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia or any major health issue before they reach a certain age, she may offer to pay you for the dog or give you another from her next litter at no cost.
If you decide the dog is not for you, you must return it to the breeder and not take it to the pound or drop it at a rescue group.
If you get a show-quality dog, YOU must show the dog, you cannot send the dog with a professional handler without the permission of the breeder.
She may require you to feed the dog a certain diet, a raw diet, for example. Some people are not comfortable with this and only want to feed canned or kibble.
These are just examples. Make sure you READ any contracts she gives you and ask about things you don’t understand. Don’t assume just because the breeder is a “nice” person, they won’t make you live up to your end of the bargain. Breeders have enforced their contracts – that’s why they have them.
Before you pick up your puppy, the breeder should have it microchipped, possibly have the dewclaws removed (if the breed prefers it), and make sure it’s current on its puppy vaccinations. She should also have the vet records, AKC paperwork, a puppy contract (with her as breeder) and breed club information ready to give you, along with a packet of information on the dog’s dam and sire (mother and father) and any health issues that you should know about. Breed clubs are wonderful because after you join, most have email lists where you can ask questions and keep in touch about health issues, general puppy questions, and upcoming events, such as dog shows, weight pulls, hikes, herding events, breed picnics, etc.
Once the breeder places a puppy, she should maintain contact with her puppy owners, either by email, phone, in person, or all three, for the rest of the dog’s life. She should want to know if there are any health, aggression, or shyness issues that come up with your puppy, or, just in general, how the puppy is doing. Responsible breeders look at their puppies as their children and want to know how they turned out. They love getting pictures throughout the years as well.
I hope this has helped answer the question, “Why should I get my puppy from a breeder?” Again, I have owned many dogs during my life (I’m in my 50’s), but the best ones are my current ones, all the same breed, that I got from a breeder. Just do your homework, since getting a dog is a lifetime commitment and investment, an investment that returns to you many years of unconditional love.