Friday, October 03, 2008
So you want to get a puppy
(puppies pictured above produced by D & L Doodles)
This post is in response to the 10-15 emails I get every week from people who are interested in getting a puppy for their family. These aren't people looking to buy one of my puppies per se, but after reading my website decide I'm a safe person to ask some specific questions. Guess what? They're right!
First, never ever ever ever ever buy a puppy from a pet store! EVER! Was that pretty clear? 99% of pet store puppies come from puppy mills. If the store owner says, "Our puppies come from local breeders." Ummm yeah so? Does that say ANYTHING about the conditions of the breeding operation or the number of puppies they produce? Not only that but NOT ONE GOOD BREEDER, who knows ANYTHING about canine puppy development would sell their puppies through a pet store! Ok..I'll stop there. If you want to read more on that topic go here.
AKC registration means NOTHING about a dogs health or quality. Think of the AKC as a large file cabinet, keeping track of the heritage of each litter of puppies registered to them. That means if I have a puppy born with deformities or health problems, I can still register it with the ACK. It's still a purebred. There are many breed groups who hate the AKC because they don't REQUIRE health testing (see below) on the parents of litters registered. This eventually ruins breeds, and is how they end up with a high incidence of things such as hip dysplasia.
Health testing. This is NOT THE SAME as "All my dogs/puppies are vet checked." I would hope that every breeder has their dogs "vet checked". No, Health testing is much more involved, and much more expensive. What does "Health Testing" entail? It depends upon the breed. Each breed is known to carry specific genetic disorders that you do NOT want passed on. However, you don't know the dog has one of them until they've been tested for it. Hip Dysplasia is one problem that is prevalent in MANY breeds. Let me use the Standard Poodle as an example. First, there is blood work: Subacious Adenitis (SA) is a skin disorder common to poodles, and involves a skin biopsy. Von Wilebrands Disease (vWd) is a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia in people. It is a genetic disorder and found by a blood test. The hips, eyes, elbows and heart should also be xrayed and sent off to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to be read. The eyes should be examined by a CERF vet. This is a special canine opthalmologist. They will rule out things such as juvenile cataracts (prevalent in MANY breeds!) that cannot be seen using the tools a regular vet has.
To get all the testing completed on one adult dog is approximately $1,000 depending upon where the breeder lives and how easy it is for he/she to get to the appropriate clinics. Some tests need to be repeated. CERF should be done yearly, and Hips done somewhere around a year, and again after age 2. ALL of the tests should be done and paperwork back before a dog is ever bred!
Health Guarantees: Breeders who do the health testing appropriate for their breed will have no problem giving you a 2 or 3 year health guarantee against genetic problems. Breeders who aren't SURE their dogs don't carry any of the breed disorders...IE those who don't do the health testing, will be reluctant to give you ANY guarantee. Some states like MN require a minimum of a 1 year guarantee under the MN Lemon law for pets. Unfortunately 1 year doesn't get you much. Most genetic problems such as hip dysplasia don't show up until after 1 year of age.
And what does that health guarantee say? Does it say, "We'll replace the dog."? Do you really want another dog from the same breeder if there is a problem? Does it say you have to return YOUR dog, whom you've grown to love, in order to get a replacement? QUALITY breeder contracts will say something to the affect of, "We'll refund up to the original cost of the puppy, OR give a replacement puppy." In other words, you get the choice. Most won't say, "But we have to have the original puppy back first!" Who wants to give up their baby?
Most of the breeders I know also have a re-home policy. That means, if something happens in your life next year, and you find you can no longer keep your dog, the dog comes back to ME. I don't want ANY of the dogs I've produced to end up in a shelter ANYWHERE. I want them HERE. If there are problems, I want to know about them. If there's a behavioral issue, I will retrain the dog before re-homing him.
USDA registered breeder. If the breeder you're considering is a USDA registered breeder, don't assume that's a good thing. The only reason to have a USDA number for dog breeding is to produce high numbers of puppies. Here's a link to a list of USDA "Class A" breeders. I believe this is the current 2008 list. Here's the link to the Class B list. (meaning they can sell their own puppies through pet stores AND sell puppies from other breeders as well!) Use your computer's search function to find those listed in your state. I searched MN and found it VERY interesting that a breeder I'm quite familiar with now has their operation listed under the name of one of their adult sons. Hmmmmmm Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Spay/neuter agreements. Good breeders will, at a MINIMUM, require you to sign a spay/neuter CONTRACT which they ENFORCE! This is to prevent people who don't know what they're doing from becoming back yard breeders. Some breeders (myself included) spay/neuter their puppies before they leave for their new families. We found it quite difficult to follow up on spay/neuter contracts on puppies that are on the other side of the country. We did our research, and agree with the opinion of our reproductive specialist who was president of the MN verterinary medical association for many years, that the benefits of early spay/neuter far outweigh the potential risk to the dogs later on.
A common misconception is that the "small breeder" means "backyard breeder". Which is backward thinking. A "small breeder" is just that. Only producing a couple litters per year, but still doing all the appropriate health testing. A "Backyard breeder" is one who might produce a lot of puppies, but they don't do the appropriate health testing for the breed, incorrectly ASSUMING their dogs don't have/carry any of the disorders known to their breed. It has nothing to do with size, and everything to do with knowledge. Backyard breeders tend to breed puppies they don't have homes for. You can easily find them in the paper saying, "price reduced!" etc. Most quality breeders don't have any problem selling their puppies. Ours have always been sold before they're even BORN, which is how a lot of breeders I work with also sell their puppies.
I hope, if you're in the market for a family pet, that some of this information has been helpful, or at least enlightening!
Next, watch for my "So you want to be a breeder?" post!