Questions to ask your breeder

Buying a puppy is one of life's special moments. Picking up a puppy melts our hearts. It also clouds our judgement and can make us very hasty. Before you go, read my ten questions to ask a breeder.

Here are my top 10 questions for future pet owners.

1) How old is the puppy – Check with the Vet if suspicious?

2) What are the mother and father like – Check the characteristics of an adult dog?

3) Has it had the necessary health checks – Check the breeding programme is well managed?

4) How many litters have you had in the past – Check the breeders credentials?

5) What priority areas should be covered during the critical socialisation period – ensure you are not going to have problems when the dog is exposed to new stimulus?

6) What are the main breed characteristic – Check its compatible with your lifestyle?

7) What food are you currently feeding the dog – Check to make sure its high quality puppy food?

8) Do you have a facebook site I could join – Check the experiences and potential problems of past litters?

9) Have you considered a rescue or older dog – Check if you are prepared and have time to raise a confident and well adjusted dog?

10) Have you seen enough litters – Check that you are getting the right puppy?


Behavioural questions to consider

I believe that thinking about the practical issues is going to help any owner adjust for their new puppy. 

Questions to consider are:

Do you have a secure garden for a burrowing terrier breed or higher enough fencing to stop athletic breeds?

Do you have access to spaces, for herding dogs, like the collie, to allow your dog space to run and burn off energy?

Will you be able to let your dog out during the day and get regular daily exercise, how might you over-come this if you work long hours?

We you be able to put your dog first, when you make social commitments?

Are you willing to train the dog to a high standard, or would you prefer something easier, such as an older dog?

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The start-up guide for Puppy ownership

Here are some thoughts to consider before buying a puppy

Choosing a dog is an important and difficult decision. Some websites offer advice about the types of dog that are available and provide quizzes to help people select the correct dog for them. For example

The Kennel Club - Finding the right puppy https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/getting-a-dog-or-puppy/finding-the-right-dog/and Pets4Homes - https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/dog-breeds/. Pets4homes use the following criteria: Size, Exercise, Easy to train, Shedding, Grooming, Safe with people, Health concerns, Cost of keeping, Resilience, Intelligence, Breed group.

Size is important if you live in a small flat or space is a premium, such as when taking long holidays in a caravan or boat. Larger dogs can also be harder to control and transport around.  Some dogs require substantially more exercise than others. Dogs such as Collies and Spaniels have a lot of drive and want to be on the go. Shedding is critically important for asthma suffers and has let to a rise in poodle-cross breeds, which don’t shed fur. These include the Labradoodle, Cockerpoo and Pomapoo (Pomeranian-Miniature Poodle cross breed). Dogs such as the Llasa Apso, need to have their fur maintained and cut, because it keeps growing and can become matted over time. Dogs that are well socialised, walked and cared for, will be safe dogs around children. However, some breeds have their origins as fighting dogs. In the UK these are banded breeds. However, breeds such as the Staffordshire bull terrier are not, and are also popular. These dogs also have a heritage in fighting, so its important to get to know the breeder before buying one. These small but powerful dogs are often the most common in rescue centre.  

Just like humans we all have genetic faults which make us more likely to prone to certain illnesses or diseases. Some breeds have only existed for a couple of centuries, if not less, so the gene pool for these dogs has been limited and interbred more. It’s useful to be aware that medical costs will be higher in some dogs than others. For example, the British Bulldog has been so heavily interbred and features exaggerated that the animal has many hereditary problems from birth; such as poor breathing; heart and joint conditions; problems walking and they often live shorter lives. Heathcare can be astronomical for such breeds, let alone the daily challenges for the animal. As well as expensive medical insurance, living cost should also be factored into the purchase decision. If you have a small budget, consider a smaller breed. This is preferable to feeding a larger dog cheaper, over processed food, which can lead to weaker bones and health issues in later life.  

Some dogs are naturally more excitable and energetic. This can be very useful in many ways, such as creating scenting dogs for drug detection, but if not properly directed, can lead to mental issues of anxiety, stress and boredom, which can make dogs destructive and unmanageable.  

The breed of dog is perhaps not as important as many people think. Yes, it makes them more appropriate for a given task, but in general, we buy dogs as companions and train them to live within our rules. 

However, in almost all purchases, the dog’s environment will need to prepared and adjustments made to daily routines. If dogs are going to be brought into multiple dog households, consideration for the incumbent dog must also be considered. Owners need to be able to predict a little way into the future. It’s important for the dog’s health and their sanity that a good long-term decision is made. Owners need to be realistic rather than wishful thinking. If the owner is prepared to make the animal’s health and human safety as a priority, then it is possible that most dogs can be accommodated within most environments. Technology and service providers exist to support us. 

Nowadays, most choices seem to emerge from the look of a dog, unless of course the owner has a specific role for the animals. People seem to like and feel comfortable with certain breeds and make decisions based on family history. Buying a dog is therefore likely to be biased towards what people want and not what would be most suitable for their circumstances. 

Advice, should always be to talk to owners, breeders and pet trainers about the size and behaviour tendencies of breeds. The internet has a lot of resources and facebook groups are great places to find out about problems and behaviours with specific breeds. 

Buyers should also go to events such as Crufts (http://www.crufts.org.uk) to the discover dogs area and see what catches their eye, but more importantly talk to very experienced breeders. The discover dogs exhibition is great, because exhibitors are experts in their breed and can provide real insights. Some people would argue that breeds are unethical because they are ‘designers’ dogs, so the alternative is looking for cross breeds. People also might want to consider older dogs and rescue dogs, as these can be calmer, well socialised and easier to manage. Rescue centres put a lot of effort into ensuring that their dogs find good forever homes and that dogs aren’t sent back due to incompatibility. 

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How to buy a puppy: My buyers guide

It's important to get the right dog. Follow my guidelines to find the perfect match.

Step one – Researching the dog

Potential new owners need to consider a range of dog breeds, but before they do that they need to consider the age of the dog that they are going to get. For many people getting an older dog may be the better decision, because the dedication required to socialisation, obedience and house training the dog, might not be possible. With an older dog this should have all been completed. 

Talking to people at rescue centres and dog clubs might provide a useful starting point. Reputable rescue centres and clubs will be able to identify suitable dogs for the new owners lifestyle. Centres might also have mix bred dogs if the potential owner doesn’t have a breed preference. However, choosing an older dog can also be problematic because the owners will not have complete knowledge of its past life and training. 

If potential owners wish to choose a new puppy there are a number of websites that can help them decide on the right breed. For example:

Selectabreed: https://www.selectadogbreed.com

Pets45homes: https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/dog-breeds/

These websites categorise dogs using the following factors:

 Size; Exercise; Easy to train; Shedding; Grooming; Safe with people; Health concerns; Cost of keeping; Resilience; Intelligence; Breed group;

Things to do:

 Talk to other owners

 Visit dog shows

 Speak to Rescue centres

 Buy a book on the breed

Allergens may prevent some people from owning a dog. Shedding dogs are particularly problematic. The Kennel club have a list of non-shedding breeds. https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/getting-a-dog-or-puppy/finding-the-right-dog/non-shedding-breeds-of-dog/

The choice of dog is a very personal decision, but one that will have a big impact on their lives. Potential owners should make their decisions carefully and not rush into buying a dog. 

Step 2 Finding a breeder

Perhaps the most important decision in the process of buying a dog, is who you buy the dog from. According to Foggle’s Dog breed handbooks, we should avoid puppy farms. However Puppy farms are not always easy to spot.

In my own search, I am not certain of the definition of a puppy farm and how can we always distinguish good breeder from bad. 

The Kennel Club use the following definition: 

“A puppy farmer is defined as a high volume breeder who breeds puppies with little or no regard for the health and welfare of the puppies or their parents. A puppy farmer's main intent is profit.

Unfortunately, these are difficult to spot, because the breeder is likely to disguise its operation and dupe people into thinking, for example that they are family breeders. A range of tactics are used.  

How to ensure you are buying from a reputable breeder:

Use the Kennel Club assured breeder scheme (https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/acbr/Default.aspx)

Assured breeders need to ensure that new owners have a puppy information pack, contract, follow-up support and a willingness to take back the dog. 

Check the appropriate tests and inoculations have been completed. Follow these up to ensure they are legitimate. 

Ask to see the Mother and if necessary the Father and see the dog with it siblings in the litter.

Some breeds will have known hereditary problems, such as hip dysplasia, so breeders  should have evidence of checks for these conditions. 

Don’t buy from a friend in a bar or meet people ‘half way’, it could be puppy farm scam. 

Do not make any decision straight away. When we see puppies for the first time, we are likely to be over-whelmed emotionally, so keep the cheque book at home and do your follow up checks if unsure of anything. A reputable breeder will hold the puppy for you to make a clear and sensible decision. If not, find another breeder. 

Ensure you know the age of the dog. The critical period for socialisation is 6-16 weeks. Dogs that are not socialised with people will be problematic. One sure way to find this out is to ask the Vet. 

Good breeders will take a lot of interest in the future home of the dog. They will ask you a lot of questions, don’t feel to suspicious or embarrassed, it’s their duty. 

Some breeders are now using facebook to communicated with buyers and owners. This helps them stay in touch with the dogs, but it’s also a forum to help new owners. 

Discovers dogs recommends the following 

http://www.discoverdogs.org.uk/content/buying-a-dog/preparing-for-your-visit/

  • To see the puppy with its mother and the rest of litter. This is very important because it will not only give you an opportunity to see the temperament of the mother, but will also give you an idea of the future characteristics and size of the puppy.
  • If you can handle the puppies. Most breeders will let you do this providing you are sitting quietly and they can be assured no harm can come to the puppy.
  • For a Contract of Sale - it is recommended that the breeder provides you with this. Amongst other things this should detail both the breeder(s)' and your responsibilities to the puppy. Before or at the time of sale, you must give a signed acknowledgement of any endorsement (restrictions) that the breeder has placed on the puppy's records
  • For written advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and immunisation.
  • Which vaccinations your puppy has had and which ones are still required.
  • Whether the puppy has received any other treatments such as worming and flea control.

Step 3 Contact the breeder

Contacting the breeder can be done through arrange of methods. Use websites with caution and ensure that you don’t buy anything over the internet without seeing the litter beforehand. 

Discover Dogs suggests the following:

  • Do expect the breeder to ask you lots of questions when you call. Questions like: Where you live? If you have children? Do you work full time? About your family and how secure is your garden?
  • Don't be scared off by this, this simply means the breeder wants to make absolutely sure that the puppy is going to live with good and caring owners and in a suitable environment. Indeed if the breeder does not ask you questions then this should raise alarm bells.
  • Do have a list of questions that you want to ask the breeder too.
  • Do trust your instincts. If something doesn't sound right with a breeder and what they are advising you, don't visit or part with any money. Call 0129 631 8540 or email hbs@thekennelclub.org.uk for any queries you may have.
  • Don't part with any money until you have a Contract of Sale and understand exactly what the terms of sale are. Most breeders do not take deposits on puppies; they may not want to commit to letting you have a puppy until they have met you and similarly they would not want you to feel committed to buying a puppy until you have been to visit the puppy with its mother and litter. However, if you are asked for a deposit then make sure you understand exactly what the terms of the deposit are and whether or not it is refundable and always ask for a receipt.
  • Don't agree to meet the breeder away from where they live or where the puppies are reared. If the breeder wants to meet you at a neutral point, perhaps at a motorway service station then be prepared to say no, however plausible their reason may be.

Step Three – Meet the breeder

Meet the breeder at the same location as the mother and litter. Often the father is a stud dog, which can mean that he is not available. However, it sensible to know what the dogs size and temperament will be. Foggle (1996) recommends observing the puppies in the litter. He believes, it is possible to see which dogs might turn out to be more confident or shy. 

If something doesn’t feel right, don’t buy from that breeder. It is now very easy to finds other litters, so you might only be waiting a few weeks for even the most rarest of breeds. 

Here are my top 10 questions for future pet owners.

1) How old is the puppy – Check with the Vet if suspicious?

2) What are the mother and father like – Check the characteristics of an adult dog?

3) Has it had the necessary health checks – Check the breeding programme is well managed?

4) How many litters have you had in the past – Check the breeders credentials?

5) What priority areas should be covered during the critical socialisation period – ensure you are not going to have problems when the dog is exposed to new stimulus?

6) What are the main breed characteristic – Check its compatible with your lifestyle?

7) What food are you currently feeding the dog – Check to make sure its high quality puppy food?

8) Do you have a facebook site I could join – Check the experiences and potential problems of past litters?

9) Have you considered a rescue or older dog – Check if you are prepared and have time to raise a confident and well adjusted dog?

10) Have you seen enough litters – Check that you are getting the right puppy?

Behavioural questions to consider

I believe that thinking about the practical issues is going to help any owner adjust for their new puppy. 

Questions to consider are:

Do you have a secure garden for a burrowing terrier breed or higher enough fencing to stop athletic breeds?

Do you have access to spaces, for herding dogs, like the collie, to allow your dog space to run and burn off energy?

Will you be able to let your dog out during the day and get regular daily exercise, how might you over-come this if you work long hours?

We you be able to put your dog first, when you make social commitments?

Are you willing to train the dog to a high standard, or would you prefer something easier, such as an older dog?

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