How to Find an Exceptional Breeder
When I was a kid, picking out a dog was simple. We drove to the pound, I found a Cocker Spaniel, took her home and named her Lady. Now, the process is more complicated.
Kinsey turned seven over the summer, and the sad truth is that a search dog only works until about ten years of age. So, I’ve started to look for my next working dog. While there are several breeds that can become a search dog, I have the most experience with two, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. Rook and Sherlock convinced me that I need a Golden in my life, so I’ve put a deposit down on a litter due next week! Below is what I’ve learned about how to find an exceptional dog breeder!
If you’re looking for a purebred dog don’t go to Craig’s List! Spend time attending AKC events. Talk to the people that show dogs in obedience or rally competitions and ask them about their dogs. How did they find such a hard working companion? When you ask a dog lover about their dog, they won’t stop talking, and they’ll help you find an exceptional breeder! You should also spend time on the Internet and/or Facebook. Join dog groups. Follow breeders. Then, ask questions. Send emails. See who responds. Yes, it’s time consuming. But, it’s worth it! The dog you choose will be a part of your life for the next ten to fifteen years!
Each breed, unfortunately, has it’s own set of health issues. You need to be aware of them so that you can ask the right questions. For example, Goldens suffer from a skin condition called Ichthyosis. However, there’s a genetic test that can be run to see if the parents are carriers of the disease. The breeder should run tests on the sire and the dam to make certain genetic diseases won’t be passed down.
Once you know the issues, ask questions. Breeders should be happy to talk about the screenings they’ve done. In fact, there’s a database where you can see clearances for things like hips, elbows and eyes. You don’t want a dog that needs elbow surgery at the age five! And a good breeder won’t want to pass those problems on to the next generation! Your breeder should send you links to all the information you need. For a quality breeder, health clearances are standard practice. They want to sell you a healthy dog!
Yes, dogs come with a warranty! Standard practice is a two year health warranty. Once your puppy is fully grown you can, and should, have hips, heart, elbows and eyes tested. If there are any issues the breeder should be willing to take the dog back and replace it with a healthy puppy.
In addition, a good breeder will insist on “right of first refusal.” Meaning, if you can’t keep the dog, you must first contact the breeder and offer the dog back. Good breeders don’t want their dogs ending up in the pound! They will take your dog back, no questions asked. They want what is best for the dog!
Breeders Are Artists
Good breeders spend a lifetime trying to create the perfect dog–their masterpiece. So, approach with reverence. If your initial contact is poor, they won’t sell you a dog. Thirteen years ago, when I first started looking for a pet, I sent an email to a breeder and asked if I could leave my new puppy penned up for ten hours a day because I worked full time and had a long commute. The breeder didn’t bother to reply to my email. She was right to ignore me! A dog shouldn’t be left alone for ten hours every day!
Good breeders want their dogs placed in exceptional homes. So, expect five page applications and long telephone conversations. Expect to have to fly across the country to pick up your dog because they don’t ship! That’s the kind of breeder you want! One that interviews you and may very well tell you no. Good breeders need to know all about you because they know their dogs, and they know if the dog will be a good fit. It’s worth the effort! An exceptional breeder will sell you an exceptional dog.
Feel the Excitement
A good breeder will share pictures, have beautiful websites and/or lots of stories. They may compete with their dogs in obedience, agility or hunt tests. Most importantly, when they tell you about their dogs you should hear how much they love them. Then there’s no doubt, they’re in this for the right reason.
Be Willing to Walk Away
After you find the right breeder and you put down a deposit, it may be months, or even a year, before your puppy is born. Once your new pup is ready to go home, take the time to pick up your puppy in person. Meet the sire and the dam. Have the breeder show you around. If you don’t like what you see, you must have the courage to walk away. You’ll lose your deposit. But, you can’t support a breeder that doesn’t treat their dogs well!
This can be an overwhelming process. My advice is to take it in small chunks. Once you decide to buy a purebred dog, plan for it to be a year before you bring your puppy home. Enjoy the reading and the Facebook groups. Visit one AKC event a month. Ask people about their dogs. It’s the start of a grand adventure, and you’ll be a much better dog owner as a result!