Friday, January 2, 2009

3G. Choosing a Quality Breeder & Puppy Buyer Etiquette

Finding a Quality Breeder for Your Next Service Dog

When looking for a healthy puppy (or dog) with a good temperament, there are some qualities you can use to pre-screen potential breeders before you spend more time with them. Not all breeders will do all these things but how many they do will be an good indication of how invested they are in their dogs and the line they breed.

A Quality Breeder:

  • Does health screening on their puppies' parents. What specific tests these are depend on the breed. Common things they look for are eyes, hips, elbows, epilepsy, heart issues. Research what your breed's common genetic weakness are before approaching a breeder. They will give you copies of the applicable test results for you to verify yourself.
  • Will not breed a female until she is physically mature (2 years for most breeds). 
  • Will not breed a female any more often than every other heat cycle. 
  • Will retire females from breeding at a reasonable age for the breed. Usually after no more than 3 to 4 litters in her life.
  • Will wait until a male is physically mature (2 years) before breeding.
  • Have a vet available in case of complications during delivery of the litter.
  • Will provide you with a family tree of your chosen litter.
  • Will want you to come to their location to meet the mother (and father if available) and the see where the puppies are spending the first 8 or more weeks of life. This location is critical for maximum brain development so you want to make sure you can see it. (cleanliness, indoors, accessibility to family life, access to different surfaces and environments (indoors and out)). Puppies raised indoors (not out in kennels away from family) are the pups of choice.
  • Will sell you a puppy or dog directly from their home environment and not sell through brokers or pet stores. 
  • Will not allow you to take your puppy home until at least 8 weeks old. (This is law in Canada and US.) (Ideally 8.5 weeks is the best time unless breeder is willing to continue human and dog socialization, and environmental enrichment with the puppies.
  • Will encourage you to visit regularly from week 3 onwards to help socialize the litter to people. (If you can't, send a old T-shirt each week you have worn to the litter so they can imprint on your scent). Bonding is strongest from 3 weeks.
  • Will provide you with the Kennel Club registration for the puppy (with the puppy's registered name on it). This usually is not usually received by you until a few months after you take the puppy home.
  • Will not charge you extra because the puppy is registered. (In Canada, it is actually illegal for them to charge more for a puppy or dog just because they are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.)
  • Will provide you with a receipt for the puppy or dog.
  • Provides at least a two year guarantee on their puppies. That is, if a genetic health defect occurs in the first two years, they will either pay for part of all the vet bills (depending on what the issue is, how much you paid for the pup and if you played a contributing factor), replace the dog with another puppy of similar value (in the case that the dog needed to be humanely euthanized with the prior knowledge and written permission of the breeder), or give you a refund for the dog.
  • Will provide lifetime support for their dogs. This means they will be available by phone or email for help in raising the puppy through the various life stages, make training referrals, provide support for health issues etc. This also means that should you need to be unable to care for your dog and need to re-home him or her, they will either take the dog back and re-home it or help you to place the dog directly.
  • Provide environmental enrichment for the puppies (toys, objects, obstacles, moving from room to room, noises, going outdoors to potty etc) 
  • Ensure multiple daily (brief) positive handling and interactions with people of all ages.
  • Started the handling training (paw handling for nail clips, ear checks etc)
  • Have completed at least one vet visit where puppies receive first innoculations and a look over by the vet.
  • Get to know the puppies individually, which may include some sort of temperament testing (though there are serious questions as to the validity of the results on puppies due to the important role future environment and experiences takes).
  • Will regularly post photos of the litter on their website or blog.
  • Will ask you many questions about your living situation, family and long-term plans. They want to make sure that their breed and individual dog will be the best fit possible for your situation. They are not being nosy. They want to make sure you want the dog for the long-haul.
  • Are open to questions from you about the above and more as well.
  • Will willingly provide references from other people who have purchased puppies and now have adult dogs-ideally 3 years and older. (They will likely not give you these until after they have had a chance to get to know you and know that you will be a good match for them and their puppy/dog. This protects their references). Ask about health and temperament issues and other concerns you may have.
  • Will have you sign a contract that agrees to all these terms and more. And they will sign it too.
  • Likely ask for a deposit to ensure your commitment to a puppy from their litter.
  • Will charge only what other similar puppies quality puppies or dogs are going for. (Ask around. Look on the internet.) A ridiculously high price should be a red flag. If they drop their price as the puppies age in an effort to get rid of them, this is not a good sign. 
  • Most or all puppies in the litter should be pre-sold before reaching homing age. Reputable breeders have a good reputation, people on a waiting list for puppies and don't advertise in the online classified ads except in unusual circumstances.
  • Have a good reputation among other breeders of similar dogs.
  • Be a member of a breed club.
A fabulous breeder will:
  •  Do the Early Neurological Stimulation Program on the puppies between Day 3 and 16 
  • Start training puppies in house training, sit, leave it.
  • Offer a rebate after you have the dog spayed or neutered or attending puppy classes or a breed instinct test
  • Competes in a sport of their choice, has titles on their dog(s) or has a job for their dogs to do. Has bred dogs who are successful in their fields (service dog, agility, search and rescue etc).
  • Do their research on your specific needs for a service (or other) dog to ensure their breed and individual puppy will be the best match possible for you.
  • Ensure that you will use the training approach of their preference (i.e. positive reinforcement), follow the innoculation schedule they recommend, food type (kibble, raw or home-made), spay and neuter at appropriate age etc. 
  • Begin feeding dogs food of their recommendation.
  • Provide a puppy information package that will help you to adjust the pup to her new home.
  • Refer you to a trainer in your area who uses methods they are comfortable with. 
  • Be aware of their breed limitations and weaknesses (behavioral, genetic etc) and willing to admit them to potential buyers. All lines have them but not all breeders acknowledge them.

Puppy Buyer Etiquette

Finding a Quality Puppy has two sides to the coin. Just as you are looking for some specific things from the breeder, they are also looking for some specific things from you. Knowing how to communicate with them will help you in finding the best breeder for you. Here's a great blog post by a breeder about how you can keep your end of the deal.

Click HERE to read the article