So you want a puppy...
Buying a puppy is an expensive prospect and unfortunately there is a ton of misleading information about what makes a good puppy or breeder. Many pet parents have been convinced that because they have “papers”, they have bought a healthy, happy puppy, from a legitimate breeder.
Those who don’t buy from a breeder, often fall for the claim of an “oops litter” they see on Craigslist. Often these people are repeat backyard breeders who lie to get puppies sold quickly and for the largest profit without any real knowledge of what creates a happy or healthy pet.
We want you to know, there is no judgement if you have fallen prey to these tactics. It is near impossible for the general public to really know what goes into vetting a breeder and a pup. Not to mention that the cute little baby puppy faces wreak havoc on our emotions and it is incredibly difficult not to make an impulse purchase.
What questions should I be asking when buying a puppy?
What is the breeder’s background?
You should ALWAYS be able to meet the breeder and ask them questions. Pet store employees who assure you the puppy comes from a responsible breeder doesn’t cut it. Real breeders do not send their puppies to store to be sold to anyone. They want their puppies to go to good homes where they will be appropriately loved and cared for. Breeders should also be asking you lots of questions and fill out an extensive application.
How many litters do they have year?
Lower numbers are better in this case. Large quantities of puppies are not getting the individualized attention the need and deserve. Mama pups need time to rest and heal between litters.
Can I meet Mom and Dad?
You should ALWAYS be able to meet Mom. She should be living in a home environment and be getting regular veterinary care. Dad can often be tougher, but a good breeder will have a lot of information about Dad.
What genetic and health testing has been done on the parents?
Proper breeders care about the health of their dogs. A breeder who is truly invested in the animals and not just out to make a buck will have done health and genetic testing on all the animals they breed. Be sure to ask what health issues run in the family. Some are more minor and unavoidable in different breeds and others should be avoided at all costs.
What are the overall temperaments of Mom and Dad?
As part of furthering and loving the breed, breeders should always be mating animals of sound mental backgrounds and temperaments suitable to live as family pets. I personally have a soft spot for scaredy shelter pups, but they are not pups I would want to actively breed. Fear and anxiety do have genetic components and we will do well not to continue those lines in purposeful breeding.
What vet is the puppy going to before it comes to your home?
The breeder should be happy to send you the information of the vet your pup is seeing prior to coming home. Further more, they should be able to arrange for you to talk to or email the vet and ask any questions you might have there.
What things will the puppy experience before coming home with you?
Responsible breeders will know about the important stages of puppy socialization and make every effort for them to SAFELY have all kinds of important experiences. They should be on all different flooring types, be handled by kids (again safely), men, women, men with beards, people with hats and or glasses, people of different ethnicities, and more.
At what age does the breeder recommend you get your pup?
The legal minimum for taking a pet home in Virginia is 8 weeks old. It is much better to wait 10-12 if at all possible. Puppies learn an incredible amount of information we as humans are incapable of teaching them, from their mom and siblings. Bite inhibition is one of the most obvious. Puppies will learn to use a “soft mouth” when playing with litter mates. Often those separated too soon will not know how or why to control the strength of their bite in play and other situations, leading to “hard mouths” or even what some would deem aggressive behaviors.
What happens if the pup is not a good fit for your home?
If the pup is not a good fit for your home for any reason and at any time, a responsible breeder will want to be the one to take the pup back. They will make you sign an agreement that you cannot re-home the pet to anyone else. Ideally they will see if they can help you with appropriate resources to be able to keep the dog in your home, but if it does not work out they should take the dog back. Please know, this does not mean you will get your money back. It does mean the breeder values the safety of the animal over all else.
If you are seriously looking to buy a puppy, we are happy to help you vet a breeder. There is a lot more that goes into getting a puppy the right way and the process can be long and confusing. This list is a good starting point but is certainly not all inclusive. Send us an email and let us know how we can help.
We also highly recommend the book “Before and After Getting Your Puppy” by Dr. Ian Dunbar. This is the best $15 you will spend on your puppy and will serve you both for years to come.