Feb 072014

I do a lot of corresponding with folks by phone, email and Facebook that are shopping for “the puppy” that they would like to bring home with them and I am reminded that a puppy is a long term commitment, not one to be taken lightly.  With that in mind, I am drawing from one of my old posts about the parallel importance of shopping for a breeder along with shopping for a puppy.

In our digital age where we can talk online to folks all over the country and world and see what they want us to see, and no more, it is even more important to do due diligence in our searches and to ask the right questions and make the correct observations when buying a dog.  None of us want to feed the fodder to a person that is running a puppy mill operation.  As consumers, we are the best police for those folks.  If they have no customers, it is no longer profitable for them to run their business.

How do you know you are buying a puppy from a reputable breeder?  What questions should you ask? How do you determine if the person you are talking to is giving you straight answers?

  • After making initial contact, try to speak on the phone to the person to get a feel for their personality.  Do they have time to talk to you?  Are they evasive or forthcoming when you ask relevant questions? Go with the gut.
  • Look at the dog’s pedigree. Even if buying a companion puppy, it is a plus to see some titled dogs in the bloodlines which indicates adherence to breed standard.  Pictures of other dogs in the line are helpful to see what the genetics behind the puppies predicts.
  • Ask to see the sire and dam’s registration papers if you wish to register your puppy.  Know the different venues for registration for the particular breed you choose.
  • If the dogs have been health tested, ask for the paperwork. Not every health item is life threatening and some have little to no effect on companion puppies, but the breeder should be open and discuss what they mean to you, as a buyer.
  • Ask the name of the breeder’s veterinarian and call the office for a reference.  Ask how often they see the breeder in their vet office for routine care.  Do not be afraid to inquire about the care the breeder gives their adults dogs.  Do they have their teeth cleaned, do they get regular vaccinations, what is the dog’s condition when they come in for exam, etc?
  • Check out Yahoo Local or Angie’s List for comments from previous buyers of puppies.  You can also ask the breeder for references and make those phone calls.  If you ask the right questions, you can get a feel for what the previous puppies from the breeder are like.
  •  Ask about membership in breed organizations and check it out.
  •  Google the person’s name and state.  Watch for any criminal activity or complaints that might crop up online.
  •  And if you can, make a personal connection with the breeder by visiting their adult dogs and seeing their house.  When visiting someone’s home, it is quite easy to see the environment in which the dogs live.  I have a strong opinion that if a breeder does not want me to see their dogs or where their dogs live, there must be a reason.  That’s not always possible if you are making a purchase out of state, but just be careful and diligent.  With our technology, virtual real time tours are very easy and valuable.

Contrary to the belief of the general public and implications of the media, reputable hobby breeders do not net a large amount of money.   Health testing, feeding quality food, routine health care,  and showing and competition are expensive  and time consuming endeavors.  Reputable breeders typically charge higher prices than those pumping out puppies in the barn to cover those costs and to guarantee a healthy animal.  For most of us, we love our breed and breeding a few litters a year is just fun and we enjoy the extended relationships with the buyers of our puppies and watching the puppies mature to become loved companions.

Puppy mills should be stopped when the health and welfare of the animals are being sacrificed for profit. The Law of Supply and Demand will help to control and eliminate the bad apples if puppy buyers will do their homework. Ask the right questions and consider the answers you find when shopping for a new puppy.

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