Monday, April 20, 2015

Q -- Questions To Ask BEFORE Buying a Puppy

Bringing home a puppy is a big commitment. That puppy will be a part of your life for the next decade -- or more, if you're lucky. And if you're planning to show the puppy, it's going to cost you a lot of time and money. There are questions you need to ask yourself and the breeder beforehand, because once you see that puppy all objectivity is thrown out the window. (Seriously, they're all so darn cute!) Be honest with yourself. Trust your gut and walk away if the breeder gives you answers that make you feel uncomfortable. It's better to be a little disappointed now than to beat yourself up with all the "woulda, coulda, shouldas" down the road.

Ask Yourself:
  • Do you have time for a puppy? They're a lot of work. Even if you think you're prepared.
  • When and where will you train? Be specific and find locations now. It's so easy to "put this off until tomorrow" only to discover six months have gone by.
  • Do you have a Plan B? Some dogs don't like the show ring, you may decide it's not for you, your dog may not meet breed standards or there may be a medical condition that prevents you from showing. I have a friend whose show puppy had a cryptorchid (undescended) testicle requiring the dog to be neutered and therefore unable to show. It happens.
9-week old Jedi. Wasn't he cute?!

Ask The Breeder:
  • Does she specialize in more than one breed? How many litters does she produce a year? More isn't better in this case! Multiple breeds (more than one or two) and a large number of litters could indicate a puppy mill.
  • Are the parents registered with the AKC? Are the puppies registered? Remember, if you're showing the dog in conformation, it must have a full AKC registration.
  • Ask to see the pedigrees of both parents. If the breeder doesn't have them, ask for the dogs' registered names (verify spelling) and look the pedigrees up online.
  • Ask why she chose to pair up these two dogs. The answer should be more than "I thought they would make cute puppies." Responsible breeders breed for form, function and temperament, and her answers should indicate that.
  • Ask what health and genetic tests were performed on the parents. Ask to see the results.
  • Ask about her early stimulation, socialization and training protocol. Puppies learn a lot in the first few months of life. A responsible breeder exposes puppies to a wide range of sights, sounds, textures and experiences before they go into their new homes.
  • Ask to see the contract that accompanies the puppies. Read it over carefully. Are there any spay/neuter requirements? Breeding restrictions? Health guarantees? What is the return policy? How much support will the breeder provide after the sale of the puppy?
  • Ask to meet the dam and see where the puppies are being raised. If the breeder will only meet you in a McDonald's parking lot, run away.

Questions From The Breeder:
  • A responsible breeder is very conscientious about where her puppies end up. A lot of time and effort goes into each litter; she wants to make sure that every puppy gets the best life possible. Expect her to ask a lot of questions of you as well. (In fact, consider it a red flag if she doesn't.) Expect questions about:
    • Your experience with dogs in general and this breed in particular.
    • Why you want this dog and what plans do you have for it.
    • Your lifestyle. Are you active? Do you travel frequently? Do you have an unpredictable schedule? How long will the puppy left alone during the day?
    • Your home life. How many people live there? Any small children? Any other animals? Anybody have allergies? Where will the dog sleep?
    • Your home. Do you own or rent? Do you have a fenced in yard? Do you have an insurance company or HOA that restricts this breed?
    • Contingency plans. Have you thought about what you would do with the dog if you move? Your job changes? You have a new baby? The dog becomes seriously ill?
    I waited 35 years for this puppy
    Bringing a puppy into your life is a big decision. It's important that you and the breeder work together in the beginning to ensure a good fit. Be honest. And if the breeder says that she feels her puppy isn't the right one for you, don't be disheartened. Ask her why. She may have a valid point. Or she may be close-minded and unreasonable. In that case, you wouldn't want one of her puppies anyway.

    Above all, be patient. The "right" puppy may not be available right away. Chances are you'll interview a few breeders before finding one you're comfortable with (and is comfortable with you -- it's a two-way street). It can be frustrating. But when you finally get that puppy, you'll realize that he was worth the wait. -- K

    Tomorrow's Topic: Running Around the Ring

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