Picking a Puppy

When you have decided to add a puppy to your family, there are a few things you should ask yourself and your breeder. Follow the suggestions below and you should end up with a wonderful pet and a breeder whom you can rely on.

You will need to decide whether you would like a pet or a show/breeding/Schutzhund dog. This will determine how much you will probably be paying and how long of a wait you have. Show/Breeding/schutzhund dogs are usually not as common as pets, so you might have to get on that breeders waiting list for a pup. Also, these dogs are more expensive, mainly because the breeder wants to make sure you are serious about showing/breeding/working this dog. They are going to have to put in a LOT of time educating you about proper breeding practices and tips on showing and training. Also, if you can't afford the dog, how in the world are you going to pay for the puppies you produce or the show or trial you need to enter!

If you opt for a pet, the breeder should be willing to tell you why they consider that puppy "pet quality". Usually, a pet quality dog is no different than the show dog except for something minor (say the dog is to big or small to show, it doesn't move according to the standard of the breed, or something else that wont affect your babies ability to love you!). Also, many of us will place a "show quality" puppy in a pet home because we want the puppy to have the best life possible.

Visit the kennel if possible. If the breeder will not allow you to see their dogs and kennel, find another breeder!! The dogs should be happy, healthy, and non-aggressive to you or your family (which should come to the visit also. It's a family decision!) Ask to see both parents. Many times the breeder will use a stud dog that they do not own. If the father is not on the property, ask to see a photo and ask about his personality. Now, it is common for the mother of the pups to not look in very good condition after whelping a litter. Feeding a litter of pups places huge demands on the mother, so she may be a little thin, but NOT skinny. Her coat may be also be thin and shedding due to the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy. She should, however, still appear happy, lively, show no signs of illness, and interact well with you and the breeder.

If, due to distance, you cannot visit the kennel, ask to see photos or a video of the puppies, the mother, and the father. All Puppies should be nicely rounded in shape, without being over fat or too thin. Most healthy pups will have shiny, alert eyes and healthy looking coats and probably didn't take a good picture because they wouldn't sit STILL!! Make sure the pups have been vaccinated and wormed up to the date they leave. Also, ask for names and numbers of people who have gotten a pup from this breeder in the past. Don't be surprised if the breeder ask YOU for a reference too!

Ask to see all the paperwork that the breeder claims to have (this includes shot records, hip and eye certification, registration papers, etc.). If the breeder will not show you the paperwork, they may not actually have them! Many people who get a pet don't ever send in the registration papers and don't care about them. This is fine, but you are paying for a registered, purebred dog, and it's your right to get them. Also, you never know if later you might want to enter obedience, agility, or other event with your pet!

Do not expect the breeder to allow you to pick just any puppy. This is not to keep you away from "the best dogs". Actually, a good breeder will probably know which puppy's personality fits your lifestyle. If you live a very active life and you want you dog to come along for the ride, the breeder will probably pick a pup that is very active and sociable for you. If you are more of a homebody, you might want a dog that is more laid back. Talk to the breeder about where this pup will fit into your life. You're more likely to find that "perfect pup" with this information.

It is your responsibility to find a reputable breeder that is right for you. No one can do this for you. You have a right to ask as many questions as you like, and remember, there are no dumb questions. If the breeder you contact isn't happy to answer all your questions, RUN, don't walk, to another breeder! The breeder also has the right (and responsibility) to ask you questions as well, so don't be offended if the breeder gives you the third degree! They are just concerned about who is getting their babies!

Finally, if you do not want or cannot afford a dog from a breeder, there are many wonderful dog rescue services that you can adopt from. Rescues only charge a small fee, which is used to off set the cost of spaying/neutering and other care and maintenance. If you adopt a dog from a rescue, you may well save it from being destroyed; particularly the older or less outgoing dogs.  You would be amazed at the love and devotion that you will receive in return.

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