Buying A Pure-Bred Puppy
© 1998 Susan Sparks
All of the opinions and statements on this page are based on my experiences over the past 12 years that I have been involved with pure-bred dogs. This page is designed to give the novice pet buyer a general background of information to assist them in the purchase of a QUALITY pure-bred puppy. It is based on the belief that the best defense that we, as responsible breeders and caretakers of our breeds, have against puppy mills and backyard breeders lies in the education of the pet buying public. The links contained on this page are to sites that I have chosen based on content. The links do not in any way reflect the linked sites' approval or support of the information on this page. All of the information contained on this page is copywritten. Potential puppy buyers are welcome to print out this page to use as a reference, but it is not to be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.
Things to consider before buying a puppy
Choosing a Breed
Before you bring the puppy home
Where to buy your puppy
How to find a responsible breeder
Evaluating a breeder
Choosing a puppy
Terms used by breeders
*** Bringing home a new puppy should be something that is planned in advance. ***
*** You should never come home with a pet that you were not planning on getting before you went out. ***
Things to consider before buying a puppy
- Puppies need a lot of attention and must be constantly supervised.
- A puppy/dog is a responsibility 365 days a year. This includes vacations, holidays, etc.
- A dog is a long-term commitment (10 to 15 years on the average).
- A puppy should be a permanent part of your family.
- A puppy is not a toy, it is a living being. It is not something to be put in the backyard to be played with only when you feel like it.
- Puppies and children are not always a good combinations. Bringing a dog into a family that has children should be done only after a lot of thought and planning. Small children should never be left unsupervised with a dog or puppy. Children are rough on animals and even the best children can be abusive by hitting the dog or teasing it. Do not buy a pet for a child until the child is old enough to understand how to care for the animal and be gentle with it. It is not fair to put an animal in a situation and then punish it for defending itself when it is being hurt.
- A puppy is an expense. Like anything else, don't buy one if you can't afford to properly care for it (i.e. spay/neuter, vet care, quality food, training).
- If you do not feel you have the time for a puppy, consider adopting a rescue dog.
Do not buy a puppy for the following reasons:
You saw the puppy in a pet store and felt sorry for it.
You want your child to have a dog - puppies and children are so cute together.
You saw one (on T.V., at the park, at your neighbors house) and you fell in love with it.
Someone had a litter of puppies and you just had to take one home with you.
Choosing a breed
Coat: If you can't stand dog hair in the house, or you don't have the time to brush the dog regularly, get a smooth coated breed.
Size: If you live in a small apartment or have limited space, look for a breed, such as one of the Toy breeds, that does not require a lot of exercise. Keep away from larger breeds and breeds that require a lot of exercise, such as the Sporting, Herding, and Working breeds.
Temperament/activity level: Various breeds were developed for different purposes, and their temperaments reflect this. You should get a dog whose temperament fits into your lifestyle.
- If you have a fairly sedentary lifestyle, you need to stay with the breeds that do not require a lot of exercise, such as the Toy breeds.
- If you are active and are planning on getting a dog that can go jogging with you, try some of the Sporting or Herding breeds that have a higher energy level.
- If you have children, consider getting a larger dog which will not be as easily hurt by the children sitting on them or tugging on their fur. Be careful to avoid dogs that tend to be high strung, that could become over excited by the high energy level of the children and hurt them.
Do not bring home a puppy unless:
- You have a fenced yard or a secure area. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to have a dog run off after another animal or bolt out into the street. "Invisible" or underground fencing is not considered to be a viable alternative. It can actually endanger your dog, because it does not keep out other animals and traps your dog, should another dog enter your yard.
- The dog will be allowed to live in the house.
- You have "dog-proofed" your home. This means getting down at the dogs level and making sure that breakable items, poisonous plants and substances, and hazards for a curious and chewing puppy (i.e. electrical cords, trash cans) are out of reach.
- You have purchased a dog crate.
- A crate makes house training easier.
- A crate gives a puppy a "safe place" to relax.
A crate is not a child's play house. Children should be taught that it is the dog's "room" and when the dog is in the crate, he is not to be bothered.
Where to purchase a puppy
Pet store - DO NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!
Pet stores buy their stock from puppy mills, which are farms that mass produce puppies as a commodity. These farms use poor quality breeding stock and the animals are kept in cages all their lives. As a result, these puppies are plagued with health problems, and many of them never adapt to life among people.
Many people buy these puppies because they feel sorry for them. They take them home to "save" them, when in essence all they are doing is condemning other dogs and puppies to the same fate by increasing the demand for them.
Breeder - Puppies should only be purchased from responsible breeders.
Where do you find a Responsible Breeder?
Classified ads - You should use caution when purchasing a puppy through the classified ads. Responsible breeders only breed to improve the breed and usually place their puppies through referrals. Occasionally, responsible breeders will advertise in the classifieds when demand in their area is low or some like to use the opportunity to educate potential puppy buyers.
Local Dog Club - Contact someone in a local dog club. This may not be easy to find, but many of the clubs run ads in the classifieds offering breeder referral services. Also check with vets in the area to see if they can refer you to a member of a local dog club. It doesn't have to be a person with the breed that you want, a club member should be able to refer you to a person for your particular breed.
Your Veterinarian - Ask your vet if he/she knows of any breeders of the breed that you are looking for. Your vet knows the type of care that owners give their dogs and the tests that they run (if any) on their breeding stock. It is usually not a good idea to ask the receptionists, who usually will just pull a name from a list of breeders. If your vet does not know of a breeder, ask him for the name of someone in a local dog club.
Local Dog Trainer - Attend some obedience classes in your area (many counties offer these through their recreation centers if there are no local dog clubs). Observe the dogs in the classes. If you like somebody's dog, talk to them and find out who they got it from and ask questions about their breeder. Dog owners love to talk about their dogs!
Talk to the instructor. Tell them what you are looking for and ask them for leads.
Dog Shows/Obedience Trials - This is a good way to observe many dogs in the same breed and to note the differences within the breed. Buy a catalog. Most of them list the namesof the owners and breeders, along with their addresses. Make notes about which dogs you like and why. Breeders often are very busy at the shows. If you can talk to them, great, but if not, introduce yourself and get a phone number so you can set up a time to talk to them later. Be considerate and do not attempt to approach them when they are at ringside getting ready to show.
Evaluating a breeder
Visual evaluation - you can learn a lot about a breeder by visiting their kennel.
Kennel conditions - The kennel may consists of outside runs and exercise yards or it may simple be their home, but it should be clean. Puppies should be clean and their area should be free of excrement.
Puppies - Are the puppies kept in the house near people and everyday activities or a kennel? Human contact is very important in the first few weeks of life in order for the dog to bond to humans. You want puppies that have been raised in constant contact with people and household events and sounds.
Other dogs - Observe the other dogs on the premises.
- Are their coats clean and brushed, do they have fresh water and a clean kennel.
- Do they move around easily, and appear healthy?
- Are the friendly and outgoing toward people?
- Pay particular attention to older dogs.
The breeder - Choosing a breeder is an individual decision. You should choose someone that you feel comfortable with, someone you can talk to easily, and someone who you feel cares about the dogs well-being and your happiness with your dog.
- Is the breeder actively involved in dog clubs and/or shows? A responsible breeder is always learning and being involved in dog clubs and shows keeps them informed about what is happening in their breed, health concerns, etc.
- Does the breeder have a number of litters at the same time? Are the litters separated and the individuals identified?
- How many of the past puppy buyers is the breeder still in contact with after 1 year? 2 years? 5 years?
- Is the breeder curious about you? A responsible breeder is concerned about the welfare of their puppies and will insist on certain criteria before placing a puppy.
A responsible breeder should discuss and may require the following:
- Fenced yard
- Dog living in house.
- Genetic problems in the breed
- Proper veterinary care (including genetic testing for breeding stock)
- Proper nutrition
- Socialization, training, obedience classes
- Spaying, neutering (if applicable)
Additionally, the breeder may insist on visiting the puppy in your home.
The breeder should provide the following:
- Written information
- Registration papers (some breeders withhold registration certificates on pet puppies pending proof of spay/neuter)
- Test results on both parents (hips, eyes, vWD, etc.)
- Some kind of pamphlet or booklet on puppy care, feeding instructions, and a list of breed books and magazines.
- Advice - The breeder should be available for advice on grooming, training and general information on dog care.
Choosing a Puppy
Observe the litter and look for the puppy who:
- Is active and playful (keep in mind, puppies sleep a lot and it takes them a while to wake up).
- Eagerly greets people and does not appear shy.
- Has no sign of discharge from the eyes, nose, or ears. Gums should be pink and firm.
- Does not have a distended belly (not to be confused with a normally fat puppy)
- Moves around easily, with no signs of lameness. Look for a puppy that naturally stands square with all four feet facing forward and sits squarely. This should be done over a period of time, as puppies lack coordination and muscle tone and will not sit or stand the same way consistently.
- Look for a puppy that naturally follows you.
- Watch the puppies' reactions to sounds. You want a dog that recovers easily and does not become hysterical over sudden sounds.
- Notice puppies that have the confidence to explore new areas without fear.
Puppies should have had at least one set of shots and have been examined by a veterinarian.
Terms used by breeders:
Champion lines - This means that there is a least one champion somewhere in the pedigree. Virtually all pure-bred dogs (and a lot of mixed breeds) have champions in their pedigree, although you may have to go back 20 generations to find one!
Champion sired - Means that the father is a breed conformation champion. The title of Champion does not guarantee health and is not an alternative to genetic testing. Canine hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart problems, bleeding disorders, etc. can only be reliable diagnosed through testing. Remember also that the sire is only half the pedigree. Same applies to Champion dam.
Obedience titled parents - Means that the parents have completed the requirements for an obedience title. Although it indicates that the parents are probably well socialized, it is no indication of quality and genetic soundness. Advanced titles such as Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Utility Dog (UD), and Obedience Trial Champion (O.T.Ch.) can be good indicators of stable temperaments and stamina. It also indicates a breeder who spends a lot of time one on one with their dogs.
Experienced breeder - All this means is that the breeder has done a lot of breeding. It means absolutely nothing.
Reputable/well known breeder Has no value unless you know what their reputation is or who their friends are.
Well-marked If this is the best thing that they can say about the puppies, do you really want one?
Health guaranteed - Does this cover all genetic problems? Is it for the life of the dog? What is your recourse?
Most of all, use common sense and trust your instincts.
Take the time to find the right dog for you, after all you will be together a long time.
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