Part of being a responsible dog owner is acquiring a dog from a responsible breeder who has taken strides to be sure the dogs they are whelping are of sound body and mind. A breeder’s responsibilities include providing all of the appropriate health tests to the parents, not breeding too often, and finding responsible owners for their pups. Furthermore, reputable breeders should be interested in furthering their breed, not making money.
Just as important as finding a breeder that breeds responsibly is finding one that breeds for the traits you want. For example, if you settle on a Pointer and you want to take him hunting, you’ll probably be disappointed if you buy a dog from a breeder that is more interested in conformation (how well a dog conforms to the standards for appearance and structure set for the breed). The Pointer will most likely be interested in chasing birds, but not to the extent that a hunter would like. The principle concern of the PKC is responsible breeding, though, and that’s what the remainder of this section will address.
As mentioned in the previous section, health problems are a real concern and soundness of the puppies must be assured by performing the proper tests. Reputable breeders often offer guarantees of this soundness in their sales contracts. Dogs bought at most pet stores and through newspaper ads usually offer no such guarantees.
Another trait of responsible breeders is the willingness to talk with you about their dogs and, given the opportunity, show people around the facilities used to house the dogs. Facilities should be kept clean and healthy, and dogs should have plenty of human interaction.
Meeting a Breeder
This can be a relatively stressful time, so we’ll try to do some explaining about what to expect from the breeder. They’ll be checking you out as much as you should be checking them out. Remember that they are responsible for finding good homes for their pups. Don’t be surprised if a breeder tries to talk you out of getting one of their dogs. This is usually to make sure you’ve done your homework and are prepared for their breed. A lot of the breeders we know say that they quiz prospective puppy owners harder than most people looking to adopt a baby. They have a great responsibility to place these puppies in safe and loving homes and they take that very seriously.
In some cases, especially with first-time dog owners, a breeder may not agree to sell you a puppy. Don’t take it personally. They’ve put a lot of time, money, effort, an love into the litter and may be very unwilling to part with their puppies. If you call a breeder and ask about puppies, and they say something like, “Sure I’ve got some! Really cute and lots of different colors to choose from. Come on by and pick one out,” be wary. This is often the mark of disreputable breeders trying to make a quick buck by keeping their bitches pregnant and, as literally as possible, mass-producing puppies. Not only is that bad for you and the dog; it’s bad for the breed, the good name of dog lovers, and all dogs. Yes; all dogs. The more puppies that are mass-produced for wholesale, the greater the surplus of dogs without homes.
Some of the things you should be asking the breeder include (but are not limited to):
- Are the parents available to see/pet?
Of course, the parents are often a good indicator of the puppy’s disposition and health. This is a chance for you to make sure that the dogs’ temperaments are similar to what you were expecting. Often the parents are unavailable, so don’t turn off a breeder for this reason.
- What health testing do you do?
Remember, this is where you should have done some homework and found out what kinds of problems this breed has and what tests can be done. If they tell you there are no problems in their lines, they are not being truthful. All dogs have something in their background.
- How long do your dogs live?
Are the grandparents, great-grandparents available? Again, do some homework before you go. What’s the average lifespan for this breed?
- Will the breeder be willing to accept a return of the dog?
In case you have to give up the dog, even 5 years down the road, breeders should be able to take him back. This will probably also be in the sales contract, including a clause that says you aren’t allowed to give up the dog to anyone but the breeder.
Often, breeders won’t have puppies ready for sale, but will promise puppies from their next litter to interested people. Be prepared for this, and be prepared to wait for a few months.
Paying for Puppy
You will pay more for a puppy from a responsible breeder, that is a given. But you get what you pay for. If you buy a puppy for cheap out of the paper, then you will probably not get any guarantees and possibly lots of heartache. A responsible breeder is going to do the health testing on the parents, regular vet visits, stud dog fees, whelping costs (especially if a vet is involved). All of these things add up and contribute to the cost of the puppy.
Well-respected, experienced breeders sometimes make some profit from their litters. But most breeders are simply looking to recover the costs listed above.
At the end of this stage, you have either selected a breeder or become quite frustrated. If you haven’t found a breeder with whom you’re satisfied, you can still rescue a dog. Otherwise, you’ve selected a breeder and are waiting for your pup. There are still a number of things for you to know before you bring your new dog home.