There’s nothing cuter than a puppy, but don’t be so dazzled by that irresistible little bundle in the breeder’s arms that you forget to ask the right questions. Asking questions will help determine if this is the right breeder from whom to buy your new family member. A reputable breeder won’t mind and she or he will likely have questions for you too. After all, a breeder wants to ensure you and your puppy area a good match, too!
Your questions should include the following:
1. How long have you been involved with this breed?
Ideally the breeder should answer ‘several years’. Membership in breed clubs can indicate a deep interest in the breed and its activities.
2. What dog-related activities do you participate in?
A breeder should have some criteria for measuring the success of her breeding stock, and this should be reflected in participation in conformation or performance events such as obedience, agility, field trials, etc.
3. Is the puppy registered?
In Canada it is an offence to sell a puppy described as purebred without a registration certificate issued by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) under the Animal Pedigree Act. Among other things the certificate describes the puppy’s breed, colour, date of birth, sire and dam, and registered name. The certificate may not be available at the time of sale as it takes time to process, but it must be forwarded to the buyer by the breeder within six months of the date of sale. Other associations may issue registration certificates for breeds not recognized by the CKC. These include the Fédération Internationale Cynologique (FCI), the Canadian Border Collie Association (CBCA) and the Canine Federation of Canada, which recognizes rare breeds.
4. Do you offer guarantees or references?
A contract can spell out the responsibilities of both buyer and seller, such as what the breeder will do if the puppy develops a debilitating hereditary condition, or if the buyer can no longer keep the dog. A breeder may also expect the buyer to spay or neuter the dog, or to attend obedience classes with the dog. Read the contract carefully and be sure you are comfortable with the wording before you sign – you may consider some of the conditions unreasonable. Ask for references from previous buyers and check them out.
5. Where are the puppies raised?
The best place to raise a litter is inside the breeder’s home. The puppies experience the usual household sights and sounds, and have contact with people and lots of handling. Puppy mill puppies are raised in isolation and this lack of socialization can lead to later behavioural problems. If the puppies are raised in outbuildings, ask how they are exposed to household activities and human contact.
6. Can I see the puppy’s parents?
Usually the dam will be available but she may be quite protective about her puppies and view you with suspicion. Away from her puppies she should be well-mannered and calm. She should appear in good health, though she may look a little scruffy – raising puppies is hard work! The sire may not be available if he lives elsewhere; if the litter was conceived using frozen semen, he may even be in another country! Ask to see pictures of him.
7. What health tests are done on your breeding stock?
Research your chosen breed so that you know what the common genetic health problems are. There are tests such as x-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, exams for eye problems, heart checks for cardiac disease, etc. The appropriate checks should have been done on the sire and dam.
8. Has the puppy been vet checked?
Your puppy should be examined by a veterinarian before leaving the breeder. He or she should also have been de-wormed; the breeder may do this at home – ask what was used and when.
9. When can I take my puppy home?
Most puppies go to their new homes between seven and nine weeks. Beware of any breeder offering puppies younger than this. Many breeders of the Toy breeds keep them longer – up to 12 weeks – as these puppies are small and often fragile and need some extra growth time.
10. Will you take back this puppy if I can’t keep it?
Reputable breeders care very much for the puppies they produce, and if a dog does not work out, or if the buyer can no longer keep it, the breeder should be willing to take it back at any age, or at the very least assist you in finding it a good new home.