Archive for the ‘getting a puppy’ Tag

Finding a Responsible Breeder   3 comments

After reading our previous post on the many different places your new dog or puppy could come from you’ve decided you do not want to contribute to pet overpopulation and the suffering of dogs in puppy mills, and so you will be getting your new companion from a shelter, rescue, or responsible breeder. You want a specific kind of puppy, and none of the shelters or rescues near you have any available right now, so you want to find a responsible breeder. How do you make sure the breeder you buy your puppy from is responsible, and is not a back yard breeder, or worse, a puppy mill in disguise?

  • Visit the home of the breeder. Meet the parents of the puppies, or the mother at a minimum. The parents should live with the family in the home as pets, and should appear friendly, well-socialized, and healthy. Remember, behavioral tendencies can be inherited, if mom is skittish there is a good chance her puppies will be, too! The puppies should be in a clean, safe environment within the home, and if they are 5-6 weeks or older they should be out in the hustle and bustle of family life so they can get used to it. Too much isolation can lead to a fearful adult. Looking at pictures of the home is not enough – puppy mills can take pictures of homes and put them online – this does not mean the puppies are actually raised there! If you cannot visit the home, have someone you trust do so for you. If that is not possible it is safest to look elsewhere. Be sure you meet in the home, meeting in a “neutral location” is often code that you are dealing with a puppy mill.
  • Make sure they only breed one type of dog, or two at most. Every breed has their own potential health problems, and a breeder should be well-versed in them. By focusing on one breed the breeder ensures that they are fully prepared for all of the potential issues that could come from breeding these dogs.
  • Ask what health and genealogical tests have been done on the parents. The breeder should have given both parents full medical exams before the breeding, and should have checked that no congenital problems were present in either parent. They should also have looked back at least three generations in the parents’ history to ensure that there is not a history of congenital problems and that the parents are not closely related.
  • The breeder should ask you questions about yourself. A responsible breeder will want to know where his puppies are going, that they will be cared for, and that you are ready for everything that goes along with the specific breed. They should also be available for contact with questions even after the puppy is home.
  • Ensure they will take back any puppy at any point in her life if her family cannot keep her. This is one of the most important criteria to me. Even if you cannot foresee any condition in which you would need to give up your puppy, such situations can happen, if not to you, then to other owners. If every breeder took responsibility for every puppy they bred for their full lifetime, there would be no need for shelters.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a puppy, as long as you make sure that puppy is coming from a place that is good for dogs and good for their people! A puppy from a responsible breeder will be healthier, happier, and less likely to present behavioral problems, saving you money and heartbreak as you spend the next 10-20 years with your newest family member. When you are looking for a puppy, be sure the breeder you find meets all of the criteria listed above, and you’ll be off to a great start!

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What’s the difference, anyway?   1 comment

There are many places from which you can get a dog – a shelter, a rescue, a pet store, a puppy mill, or a breeder. Some are better than others, for the dogs and for you.

Shelters take in animals who no longer have homes, either because their people brought them in or because they were found wandering the streets, and houses them in a group facility. Many dogs at shelters are purebreds, and there are many lovable mutts. Most shelter dogs are adults,which leads many people to not want them because they are afraid of the possible bad habits the dog already has. Often, however, there will be less training involved in retraining a shelter dog in the few areas he needs it than in training a new puppy in everything. Shelters can be a great place to get a dog if you are open to some unknowns and want to do good for an animal in need.

Rescues are organizations which take in certain dogs who meet their criteria (for example, a certain breed, close to being euthanized but with a good personality) and hold them until homes can be found. The dogs are often held in foster homes, living with a family until a home can be found. This usually means you will have more detailed information about a dog from a rescue than you would from a shelter. A great place to find shelter or rescue dogs in your area is Petfinder, and online directory of animals available for adoption across the country.

Pet stores carry very young puppies, often puppies who are too young to have left their mother. All of the puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills or irresponsible breeders. A responsible breeder will never give their puppy to a pet store. Because price is the bottom line, it is rare that genetic or health tests are done on the parents of the puppies, and the puppies are usually very under socialized before arriving at the store, which means that there is a high likelihood that pet store puppies will have health or behavioral problems – or both! Pet stores will lie about where their puppies come from. Buying puppies from a pet store is in all ways a bad idea; the puppies typically cost more than they would from a responsible breeder, have not had health tests done on their parents (a guarantee is offered after the fact in case genetic problems show up, but they do nothing to try to prevent the problems, gambling that by the time they do show up you’ll be too attached to the puppy to return it), are poorly socialized, had poor early care, are highly likely to show health problems leading to high vet bills, and buying from pet stores supports the horrific organizations known as puppy mills.

Puppy mills are disgusting organizations in which dogs are kept in tiny cages, deprived of human contact, and often do not have their basic requirements of food, water and cleanliness taken care of. In mills dogs are mass bred like livestock. Often such organizations will say their dogs are fine, because they follow USDA standards. However, USDA standards only require dogs to be kept in a cage with enough room that they can turn in a circle. They do not ever have to be let out of that cage in their entire life. When adults get to old to breed, puppies do not look enough like they should (i.e. a “designer” mix which looks too much like a purebred), or puppies get too old to sell, they are killed. Dogs from puppy mills rarely receive vet care, and so suffer from conditions like having their teeth and jaws rot away, urine burns where the dog is so caked in urine the ammonia actually burns the skin, legs and feet which are broken or torn off in wire cages, hernias which can reach the size of grapefruits, sores between the pads of the feet from standing on wire, all of which are typically left untreated.

Breeders come in two kinds, responsible breeders and what are known as back yard breeders. Back yard breeders are casual breeders who breed without the knowledge or care required to do so responsibly. Often they just breed a litter or two for fun, have puppies accident, or breed their dogs to make money. They typically are not well versed in what is involved taking care of a pregnant mother, how to deal with problems in the birth, the early stimulation and socialization the young puppies need, and as with puppy mills the parents are not screened for health problems and the proper pre-natal care is not given. Puppies from a back yard breeder will be more socialized than from a puppy mill, but otherwise they are very similar in their likelihood of health issues and behavioral issues. It is back yard breeders and puppy mills who have led to the extreme overpopulation in our nation’s shelters, largely because they do not take responsibility for their puppies once they are sold.

Responsible breeders care for their dogs. They do health checks, give their mothers prenatal care, know what to do in the emergencies that can surround whelping, and know how to care for and stimulate their young puppies. They take responsibility for all the puppies the sell, and ensure that the puppies go to good homes.

If you are looking for a puppy or dog, finding a shelter, rescue, or responsible breeder is not only best for the dogs, it is best for you. You will end up with a healthier, happier dog who will live a long, full life with you. Check back for more information on how to find a responsible breeder, and how to make sure you’re not inadvertently buying from a puppy mill.

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