II’ve had a number of conversations with people lately, about the “process” of finding a puppy, and how people tend to put less thought into the purchase of a living being that will hopefully spend a decade or more in their home, than they do into buying an appliance for their home, or a car.
One of the things that was said to me, was that there was no real “guide” available for people who have decided to add a canine to their home, so while I think there are many great books and guides available, I am hoping that this will serve as a synopsis of how to go through the process properly, and guarantee yourself the best chance of finding a happy healthy family member that with the best of odds longevity, with the minimum of major veterinary expenses.
Step 1 – Is it the right time to get a puppy?
Making the decision to add a new dog to your home, is not something that should be done on the spur of the moment. A dog is a lifetime commitment and will change everything about your lifestyle. Your schedule will need to take into consideration that there is a living being who is dependent upon you at home.
While it is very easy to make the last minute decision to not go home with a cat or a fish, a dog cannot be left alone for great stretches of time. They need to go outside. A puppy needs to eat 4 times a day. You can’t just book a hotel for the weekend and go away. You will need to make arrangements for someone to care for your puppy with the associated expenses.
Do you have a fenced in safe area for the dog, or are you able to give it the exercise that it will need? A fenced in yard does not mean that a dog should be left out in it all day!
Are you financially ready to take on the commitment of a puppy. So many people look for a “bargain basement” puppy at the lowest price not considering that the purchase price is just the smallest part of dog ownership. Quite often, unfortunately when it comes to buying a puppy, it is “pay me now, or pay me later”. In other words, the bargain that people think they got, ends up costing much more in medical expenses. Had they saved their money for a well bred dog without structural issues, many of the expenses could be avoided.
Step 2 – Choosing your breed
Not every breed is suited to every person. Each breed comes with its own unique set of “options” – and just as some love sports cars, and others love SUV’s, you need to evaluate the features of each breed and whether they are things that you can or want to live with. You wouldn’t buy a bar fridge for your kitchen, or a 48” wide sub-zero for a condominium apartment. Perhaps you may find out that a purebred is not really the dog you need in your life, and a mixed breed from a rescue would be more suitable.
Here are come of the things to consider:
- Size – dogs come in all sizes from the smallest Chihuahua’s to the tallest Great Danes When considering size, consider the size of your home, and of your yard. Who will be walking the dog – a child may be able to walk a well trained giant dog, but not a giant puppy. A large rambunctious dog could bowl over a toddler in the home. On the other hand, a small toy dog could be too delicate to live with active children, and may suffer broken limbs from rough play. With these things in mind – make a decision if you can live with a toy, small, medium, large or giant breed.
- Type of home – Do you live in the country, in a single family home, or an apartment. The size of dog you choose will probably be related to the type of home you live in.
- Coat type – again there is a wide variety of coat types. Take into consideration a few different things when deciding what type of coat you are willing to live with. Are you very house proud? Would shedding hair drive you crazy? Then most breeds will be ruled out. Even short haired double coated dogs shed! Are you willing to spend the time brushing every day to keep a longer coat free of the tangles and mats that occur no matter how careful you are to ensure you brush thoroughly. There are terrier coats that you might see in breed pictures that require hand stripping. This is beyond the ability of most pet owners, and these coats, like the curly poodle type coats will need regular appointments with a groomer. Are you willing to take on the added expense of that requirement? If you have an allergy sufferer in the house you may want to consider one of the breeds that are considered less likely to trigger allegies
- Level of activity – there are two things think about – indoor and outdoor activity levels. Some breeds are actual couch potatoes indoors, but need a great deal of exercise outdoors. Some breeds are like wind up toys indoors also. When you are researching breeds, be sure you find out about both the indoor and outdoor exercise requirements of the breeds on your short list.
- Protectiveness – There are breeds that have more protective instincts and are not as good with strangers as others. While this may seem to be a good thing, take into consideration people coming in and out of your home – children’s friends, family members, employees. If they are not good with dogs, perhaps a breed known for its guardian tendencies is not the best choice.
- Trainability – Some breeds are much easier to train, and some are headstrong. Some housebreak almost immediately, and some are very slow to get it. When thinking about this factor, also think about your own experience in training dogs. Are you willing to commit to attending training classes to ensure you raise a good canine citizen?
- Experience required – some breeds are very good for first time dog owners. Others require experienced owners. No breed is perfect for “every” buyer.
- Sociability and suitability for children – Some breeds are more social with strangers, and some are not suited for young children, but are fine with older children. Again you will need to look at your own family situation to determine whether these factors are important to you.
- Noise – Barking can be a consideration if you live in a city, not usually as much in rural settings.
There are a number of tests available on the internet that will match you to breeds. The AKC, Purina, Iams, etc all have online breed selectors. My favourite book to recommend for people is “Choosing your Purebred Puppy: A Buyers Guide” by Michelle Lowell. This book has extensive breed profiles and has all the factors mentioned above covered. It is out of print – but used copies or library copies are still available.
Step 3 – Meeting the Breeds
Once you have come up with a short list of breeds, the next step is to actually go and meet the breeds and talk to breeders. How do you do this?
One way to meet breeds and breeders is to attend a dog show in your area. You can find what shows are in your area utilizing the event search tools on the AKC or CKC webistes.
American KC: https://webapps.akc.org/event-search/#/search
Canadian KC https://www.ckc.ca/Event-Calendar/Default.aspx
Another option is to meet breeders of the breeds you are considering. In order to find them start with the National Club for the breed and look at the Breeders Directory. Contacting either the American or Canadian Kennel Club, or the Kennel Club in your own country will give you the names of the contacts for the clubs of the breeds you are interested in, if you can’t find a website.
A third option, but one which will require more screening on your part is to use the Canadian Kennel Club’s Puppylist or the AKC Marketplace. While these sites cannot guarantee quality, they CAN guarantee that you are at a minimum, dealing with a breeder who is not trying to dupe you by selling you an unregistered dog. You will still need to meet and screen the breeders as detailed in Step 4.
When you are writing to breeders, introduce yourself, tell them what attracted you to the breed and something about yourself. If your email to a breeder is solely “Do you have puppies and how much are they?”, your email is almost guaranteed to end up in the Deleted mailbox. Breeders who do not make a living from their dogs, but rather breed smaller numbers of quality puppies, want to find the very best homes for their puppies. Think of your opening letter as the cover letter of a resume. You want to convince the breeder that your home is worthy of one of their puppies.
Join some “groups” on the internet for breeds that interest you. Nothing will give you more insight of the good and bad features of a breed than reading about experiences of large numbers of pet owners.
Caveats and Scams
As people are using the internet more and more to find a puppy, so the number of breeders of poor quality dogs and scam artists has proliferated. A slick website does not guarantee the quality of a dog. Coming first in Google ranking just means that a company has lots of money to spend on Search Engine Optimization.
First is to be aware of Broker sites such as puppyfind.com and eclassifieds such as Craigslist, Kijiji, etc. . These are paid advertising sites. While reputable breeders do occasionally list puppies on there – the MAJORITY of the puppies are from backyard breeders and have not had health testing and are not registered with reputable registries. Many of these breeders are using the acronym “CKC” which refers to the CONTINENTAL Kennel Club (basically a scam registry) instead of the Canadian Kennel Club. There are a number of scam registries out there being used to market poor quality puppies not eligible for registration with a real registry – here is a link for a listing of a number of them.
When searching out breeders beware of breeders selling rare colours, patterns or sizes (for example “Blue Merle Pembrokes” or “teacup” or “King-sized” dogs). The National Breed Club will usually have the Breed Standard posted. It will list the correct size, colours, temperament, etc and all the important features of the breed.
The other thing that is unfortunately happening is that scam artists are stealing pictures from reputable breeders websites, and showing puppies as available for sale. Once the buyer has selected a puppy and sent the money, communication is blocked and the buyer has not only lost their money, but will never get the non-existent puppy either.
One further point on the subject of scams. Many people are now finding it highly profitable to sell mixed breed dogs for high prices by giving them “cutesy” names. If someone is trying to sell you a puppy with a doodle, poo, -sky, or some other combination of breed names, it is a mixed breed! It is not worth a high price tag! The same can be said for cowboy Corgis – they are mixed breeds and not eligible for registration with any national kennel club. The registration these people are claiming to give you is from one of the fake registries where you send in money and they send you a registration (think of it as the equivalent of a forged passport). They are never going to be recognized by a legitimate registry as much as the people producing them will try to convince you otherwise. The marketing hype that is used is that hybrids are healthier than purebreds. This is False on two counts First, off hybrid is not a blend of two breeds. It is a blend of two different species, such as a wolf dog or a mule which is a combination of a horse and a donkey. Secondly, a study done at UC Davis has found that mix breeds are not any healthier than purebreds and in fact can carry the genetic maladies of all of the breeds used to create them. So golden doodles have all of the health issues of golden retrievers as well as those of poodles in their genetic make up. Click here to read the UC Davis study.
Shop smart!! You wouldn’t send someone money without proof that any product exists – don’t pay for a puppy in advance without verifying that the puppy actually exists! There are many ways to do this – arrange for a video chat and have them show you the puppy. Have them send a picture of the puppy with a newspaper showing the current date.
Step 4 – Narrowing down your choice of breeder
Once you have narrowed down your choice of breed the next step is to align yourself with a breeder that you feel you have a connection with. Arrange to meet breeders and meet their dogs whenever possible. With less common breeds this may not always be possible.
Ask to speak to people who have purchased dogs from the breeder previously – specifically ask to speak to someone who had an issue, so you can find out how the breeder handled it. Ask to speak to someone who can verify their membership in any breed clubs.
Ensure that the breeder you choose to work with is doing the minimum health testing recommended by the OFA for your breed here: Browse by Breed Once again, ask to see the paperwork that will prove the health testing has been done. Verify the results with the testing laboratory or the OFA website.
When possible, I always recommend going with a breeder who shows their dogs. You may ask, why do I need to go to a show breeder, when I don’t want a show dog. It 5may surprise you to learn that the majority of puppies produced by show kennels actually go to pet homes. On average 20-50% of a litter goes on to compete in conformation or performance events, the rest go on to be “Champions of the Couch”. They have all the same health screening, and care as their littermates that show, but don’t have the “it factor” to become show dogs. Read the articles “Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners” on the blog. These will explain the reasons why it is important to get a well bred dog.
Further articles to assist you in finding a breeder of quality dogs can be found at the links below.
I think the most important thing to remember is don’t select a puppy, select a breeder you feel that you can work with. It is very easy to fall in love with a picture of a puppy – all puppies are adorable!! However, what you should be looking for is a breeder that will match you with the best puppy for you, and support you throughout the life of that puppy. A breeder who will provide you with a healthy puppy from health tested parents that has the best odds to live a long, happy and healthy life.
Step 5 – Be Patient!
In order to ensure that you are getting a healthy puppy, do your research thoroughly and take the time to find the very best breeder for yourself – someone you feel comfortable having a relationship for a decade or more.
Don’t make a rush decision – you will regret it later. You will see many people trying to raise money to take care of surgical and other medical needs for puppies from backyard breeders. A well-bred healthy puppy is worth the wait.