Questions to Ask a Breeder
If you have decided on a breed of dog, then probably you have already done a decent amount of research about that particular breed’s characteristics, history, temperament, appearance and potential health problems. Then again, maybe you have selected a breed based on childhood memories of another dog or because a friend recommended that breed or simply because you think it is an attractive-looking dog. If your decision is based on a reason like this, you may have done little or no research at all. Either way, if you are going to be getting your dog from a breeder, you are going to have an expert opinion available to help you and guide you once you go to get your new puppy to take him or her home. It would be a sin – not to mention a mistake – on your part not to take advantage of that expert opinion when it is available. So before you choose the puppy who is going to be your companion for the next 10-15 years, here are some important questions you should ask the breeder with whom you have chosen to do business.
Congenital Defects and Other Potential ConditionsAll breeds of dogs have inherited conditions or other health concerns that anyone who wants to adopt a member of the breed should be completely informed about. In addition, there are a number of serious conditions that are common to many different breeds.
What you need from your breeder are two things. First, you need him or her to give you a complete breakdown about the full range of health problems that could conceivably be experienced by your chosen breed. This should include an honest assessment about the risks of severe conditions such as hip dysplasia, epilepsy or heart disease, but you need to know about all of the health problems that could manifest themselves in your dog. Even small problems or chronic conditions could require medical treatment and potential veterinary costs are something that you must be made aware of before you take on the big responsibility of bringing home a new dog. Even beyond the potential medical costs, however, you also don’t want to get a dog who is going to be suffering a lot, that is bad for him and it would be emotionally draining for you and the members of your family as well.
The second thing you need to know is what kind of tests and medical procedures have been performed on your puppy. Has he gotten the shots he needs and has he been wormed? Are there are some genetic conditions or other health problems that he has already been tested for? If this is a breed vulnerable to hip dysplasia, can the breeder provide proof in the form of an Orthopedic Foundation for America certification that your puppy’s parents were tested and cleared? You will also want to know what kind of shots or tests it may be necessary for your new friend to get later once you have him home. You also will want to know what kind of guarantees your breeder is offering. Is he willing to take the dog back and give you a new one free of charge if health problems develop, especially those that were undisclosed? Normally, guarantees based on health issues should last for at least two years.
SocializationSocialization is so incredibly important for any puppy. It is likely you will need to take your new dog to puppy school and continue with the socialization process by exposing him or her to new people and experiences after you bring the dog home, but the breeder should have already started the process of socialization. You will want to know where your puppy has been raised and the answer that you want to hear is that he has been raised inside, in the home. This experience is important, because you want the puppy to feel comfortable and at peace in a home-style situation. You will also want to know if the puppy has had plenty of chances to play and socialize with the breeder’s other dogs. One excellent way to determine your puppy’s temperament is to have the dealer let you meet his or her littermates and mother. You should observe their behavior for a while and this should give you a pretty good idea of how your new puppy is also likely to act and behave, at least initially.
Guidelines for Basic CareThere are a number of different things you could ask about here. What about grooming – how frequently should your dog be brushed? How often should he or she be shampooed and does he need any extra treatments such as shaving or regular claw trimming? Food could be another area of interest. Does he need anything special in his diet and how much does he need to eat and how frequently? Is he a drooler? Does he need to be taken for long walks every day? Ask about whatever you can think of and beyond that ask the breeder if there is anything else you need to know.
Knowing your Dog and Knowing Your BreederBringing a new dog into your home represents both a commitment and a responsibility. Therefore, it is critically important that you be well informed about everything before you make any final decisions. In addition, asking questions of your breeder is very important because it is a test of his or her professionalism and knowledge. Your chosen breeder should be able to answer all of your questions and provide any documentation you request. If he or she is not able to do so, then you should interpret this as a definite warning sign. Unqualified or unscrupulous breeders are a curse and you should never adopt an animal from such a person. These people should be put out of business and the only way to make sure that happens is for prospective dog owners to be informed enough to recognize them when they see them so they can be avoided like the plague.
You want to bring home a dog that is good tempered, well socialized and hardy and healthy. The best way to make sure that happens is to ask as many questions as you can think of and listen carefully to the answers. And if the answers are not forthcoming, or are not what you need to hear, then you may need to select another breed of dog or another breeder or both.