Ask Nancy: So You Want a Puppy – Now What?

Why a Breeder and not a Pet Store?

A breeder is the person who owns the mother of the pups at the time the breeding took place. This usually is also the person who owns the pups when they are born. This should be the person who knows more about the litter than anyone else might, right down to individual personalities of the pups.

The entire purpose of breeding purebred dogs is to produce pups very much like, or better than, the parents. Seeing the parents of your particular pup and perhaps seeing other related dogs, means you can have a good idea of their looks, health or temperament, meaning you should have a good idea how the pups should turn out.

Visiting a breeder, for a purebred or a mix-bred litter, allows you to at the least meet the mother of your pup to judge how well you like her and sometimes to also meet your pup’s father. It also lets you see where the pups were raised. If mom is an outdoor dog you might question why to see if there may be a reason the pups might not be good indoor pets.

With a mix-bred pup, seeing the mother can help you decide if the pup will have the approximate size, looks and temperament you want to share a home with. While dad may be unknown you will at least know what sort of dogs half the genes came from.

I say no to pet stores, as a puppy source, because no caring, responsible, breeder would ever let a store have their pups to sell to just anyone with the cash or a credit card. Getting to and being in a store is stressful for pups so early in their lives (same as with a shelter). Plus, you miss out on seeing the very important things you want to know about the parents of your puppy. Yes people do get good pets sometimes from pet stores but to maximize the best chances for a good match having the extra information on your pup’s relatives can make a big difference. All pups are cute but having an idea of how they will grow up is an important aid in matching the pup to your home.

Picking the Breeder

How do you find a breeder? Your veterinarian might know one, your friend, who has a dog just like you want, might know one, or you might find one through a dog club, a dog show, an office bulletin board, a local internet ad, or a classified ad!

Now why is it important the pups be local or at least within driving distance? Seeing the dogs in person, unless you are dealing with an extremely knowledgeable breeder with an excellent national reputation for doing a good job of placing their dogs in the right home, will make it easier to make a great match of a new pup for your home.

Some hallmarks of a good breeder include that they are NOT anxious to sell you a dog – any dog! They health test the adult dogs before breeding to be sure they are going to have the best chance at producing healthy pups. They ask lots of questions about you and your family and your ability to care for their precious pup! They tell you all the bad points about the breed or mix in general and maybe their dogs in particular – first!

You can tell that they want to make sure their puppy ends up in a perfect lifetime home more than they care about getting lots of cash from you! They often offer to be there to answer questions about your new pup and they follow the laws including providing health certificates, first shots etc.

What about shelters?

When seeking a puppy from a shelter or rescue you run into some of the same problems as you do with a pet store pup, in that unless the shelter also has the mother you have no idea what the parents of the litter are like. You can get some general impressions based on breed or mix, because breeds have specific behavior, looks and health traits, but seeing the individual parents is still important.

Distance adoption, same as distance puppy purchasing, can be risky unless the person on the other end of the phone or email line is very good at matching homes to well evaluated pups.

If the rescuer has never seen the mother of the litter then any guess about the mix is just a guess and no way to tell how the pup will grow up. Having a unique pup is a plus for many people though and lots of people like surprises and mysteries and don’t care how big or hairy the pup gets as long as they like the pup and that is just fine!

Using the temperament testing from the link listed below may help you pick a nice temperament random bred pup from a shelter litter or the shelter may have already tested the pups and determined the sort of home they should do best in.

More on Mix-bred Dog Breeders

There are two kinds of mix bred dogs, random bred and deliberately mixed. For the deliberate mixes, try to find a breeder who is a good breeder. They too are producing pups for sale and they should take equal care in finding the right homes for their pups and in ensuring the pups are healthy ones.

Do not presume the pups will only get the good traits from each side of the mix. It is just as easy for the pups to inherit all the bad traits from their parents. For example if a shedding breed is crossed with a non shedding breed mostly the pups will shed.

For random bred dogs it is far more difficult to discover who the father was. As you approach the home where the pups are available, scan the neighborhood for likely culprits. In a random bred litter each pup could potentially have a different sire if there are lots of free roaming dogs. Usually though, only one, or maybe two dogs are strong enough to be the winners of the contest. But that means even pups in the same litter could be very different when they grow up.

Check out how the pups are being raised. Barn pups sometimes have a poorer start in life than pups that were raised in the kitchen or house. This start can be easily overcome, but if the mother isn’t good enough to be a house dog you might wonder why. There are good reasons, including one of the pair of owners who doesn’t like animals in the house, or the dog has a working job on a farm etc., but you might wonder if the mother was exceptionally hard to housebreak or had some other objectionable habit. Pups need early handling to make the best pets and may not get this if raised outside.

Ask what the pups are being fed and if they have been wormed and had shots as yet. Ask about the health care of the mother and what kind of a dog she is to live with. Ask about past litters. If you can see one or more of her grown pups that might also tell you a lot about if you want one yourself. If the dam is a mix-bred ask if the owners know what kind of a mix she is to help you determine potential inborn behaviors. Try not to pick your pup based only on color and markings or cuteness!

Even if the puppy owner acts like you are nutty, do the puppy tests outlined below to check out temperament with a pup you are considering! If the pups are under 7 weeks old the puppy tests will be less accurate. Also unhealthy pups will not test out as accurately as healthy pups would.

NH state law requires that no pup or kitten be sold or given away before the age of eight weeks. It also requires that any dog or cat or pup or kitten from a breeder must have a veterinary health certificate before they are transferred. Remember, a breeder is anyone who has produced a litter even if they only have ever had just one.

Here is the link to a puppy aptitude test that can really help you pick out the pup in a litter that is right for your home

How a pup tests out doesn’t mean it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pup but instead gives you an idea if the personality indicates that this puppy is one that will fit in your home just right, or if the pup will need a different sort of home than you can supply.

Here is a good article on picking out an adult dog and why it can be a great idea to do that when considering a shelter or rescued pet

It also includes some temperament checking you can safely do with an adult dog.

I often tell people there are three important things in choosing a dog to live with you Temperament, Health, and Temperament! The ugliest or least healthy dog can still be a beloved companion if the temperament is right. You want good health to maximize the time you have with your dear pet, but if the personality is a right fit for you, then you are most likely to be happy with your new pet!


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