We often find dog breeders and look for a puppy when the time just feels right. Or we have recently lost a much-loved member of our pack and are ready for the next “one” to join our family.
Buying a puppy from a breeder can be a great experience, provided you do your homework ahead of time.
Once you have thoroughly researched the breeds you are considering and are ready to take the leap – as one of our favorite dog writers says – “Stop looking for a puppy. Look for a BREEDER.”
Well, the time has come for me. I’m looking for my next agility dog. I’m actually not too certain what breed I want yet, but I am certain about what kind of breeder I’m looking for.
Most of the dogs in my life have been rescues, so I had to go through some serious education when I started looking to purchase my last dog. Just because I was going to spend a certain sum of money didn’t necessarily mean I had higher expectations in my dog. I just want to support the RIGHT kind when I find dog breeders.
Since my dog will be doing agility, I do need to make sure my puppy is as physically sound as possible so I don’t risk injury or lessen his quality of life.
Choosing the Right Breeder
Good breeders don’t make a ton of money. Breeding the right way is expensive. Of course, any breeder that is unknown to me and not local enough to check out is out of the question.
You probably want to avoid any breeders that have multiple litters going at once. Puppies need Early Neonatal Stimulation to be ready to handle the human world. This takes daily care on the part of the breeder.
When old enough, puppies need to move from their whelping area to other safe places where they can experience grass, water, dirt, tables, things to climb over and through. Most importantly for agility dogs, they need climbing things that move.
Find dog breeders who will invite adults and children over to handle the puppies as well, hopefully even with some early toy tug-and-chase sessions.
Find Dog Breeders who Meet These Guidelines
- A good breeder always has a clause about taking the puppy/dog back if there is any question about the new family being able to continue care.
- A good breeder will welcome you to their facility and allow you to meet the parents (at least the mother) as well as the puppies.
- Ask about breed-specific health certifications like hips, eyes, knees (for small dogs). Don’t just accept a general “health certification”.
- What early socialization has the breeder done? Has the breeder exposed them to toys, people, strange things to walk on, etc? If the breeder lives out in farmlands, has the puppy been exposed to the noises a suburban life will bring?
- Rule of thumb: Don’t buy a singleton (one puppy born alone in the litter). Don’t buy in pairs (siblings)!
- Puppies should have had at least one deworming and their first set of vaccines before coming home with you.
- Never, ever purchase a puppy based on price. Buying a dog from an online ad or at a pet store because the price is right is ultimately a poor decision.
- Good breeders choose buyers carefully. They should be as careful about you as you are about them.
- Ask lots of questions. Tell the breeder what temperament type you are looking for. Mellow, active, etc. If you are looking at a working stock Aussie breeder or field Lab breeder, you won’t be getting mellow. Perhaps they can refer you to a breeder that has a more appropriate dog for you.
- Find out the average lifespan of the grandparents, great grandparents, etc.
- Has there been a specific toilet area in the puppy area? Is it dirty or clean? This is not just a cleanliness issue. You don’t want your puppy practicing eating feces at a young age. It may be difficult to curb later on.
- Good breeders NEVER sell to pet stores. Find dog breeders who strive to better their breed and educate pet owners.
- Don’t buy an older puppy from a breeder that the breeder was supposedly going to keep to show and then changed their minds. This is a red flag.
Choosing the Right Puppy
I’m not too concerned about getting proven repeat breedings. First time breedings are okay with me. Once I get a look at the litter, there are many things I look for in choosing my puppy. If you trust the breeder and you are not used to evaluating puppies, it’s fine to let the breeder choose the puppy for you. For me, I want to choose.
Things to Watch for in Choosing Your Puppy
- Active, playful and well-socialized; puppy should not appear fearful.
- Bright eyes, with no discharge of any sort. No nasal discharge.
- Clean ears and skin, obviously no fleas.
- Pink gums and correctly aligned teeth.
- Good eyesight and hearing. Check this by jingling your keys and seeing if the dog responds (find dog breeders who have these things checked by professionals before you purchase and will supply you with documentation).
- With breeder permission, I always bring a soft clicker with me. I get some kibble from the breeder and I will do a simple behavior like a hand touch with the puppy. How eagerly do they want to learn this new game?
- Will the puppy engage with a toy?
- If you hold the puppy and they start to fuss, how long does it take for them to relax and give up the struggle?
- Does the puppy play area look like a toy box exploded? It should.
- Does the puppy know how to sit? They should by 8 weeks. Don’t be fooled by breeders that claim show dogs should not sit, this is a myth.
- Does the puppy want to bite me? They should to some extent – that’s normal. It’s less normal for a puppy to sit in your lap without fussing or biting. They may be shy and need considerable training later on (which is fine if that is what you are able to do).
Most average pet owners should be looking for the “middleman” in the litter. Every litter will have the shy kid, the boss, the one who wants to be boss, and ones in between. Keep away from extremes.
If you are still unsure what type of puppy or what breed you may want, call a Wags Trainer and make a visit to the daycare. We are happy to show you different types of dogs and discuss what options would fit your household.
I hope to find my puppy in the next few months and then we can start talking puppy training!