If you've decided you want to buy a purebred puppy, let's talk about what you need to know to be an informed consumer.
First educate yourself about the breed. Do a Web search for "(breed name) national club." You can research health and temperament issues there, and perhaps find a puppy referral link to reputable breeders that uphold the club's code of ethics. Contact the Capital Kennel Club of Juneau, http://www. ckcoj.org, to be put in touch with owners of the breed you are considering. Attend competitive dogs events - http:// www.akc.org/dic/events - and talk to owners of the dogs you like. Ask them to give you recommendations for reputable breeders to contact.
Once you have a list of possible breeders to contact, prepare a list of interview questions. Oftentimes, you can find sample questions on the national breed club Web site. Be prepared to spend some time initially on the phone asking breeders questions. They, in turn, will pepper you with just as many questions about your suitability as a home for their breed. Reputable breeders and conscientious homes will be reassured by lengthy, in-depth conversations. The following points are usually indicators of conscientious, ethical breeding practices. Observe if breeders:
1) are active members in national breed and local dog clubs. Membership usually denotes a willingness to increase their canine knowledge and to expose their breeding practices to peer review.
2) educate you thoroughly about the breed before trying to sell you a puppy. They may tell you the downsides of their breed up front, just to see if you've done your homework and how serious a home you are for one of their puppies.
3) ask you about your lifestyle; why you want a dog, particularly this breed; how you will care for it; and previous dogs you've had and how long they were with you. They will expect references from your veterinarian, a professional colleague and/or a long-time friend before selling you a puppy.
4) show, trial and/or title in competitive events to tangibly prove their breeding dog's merits.
5) mention active involvement in the breed for at least five years and/or have a mentor to guide them in their breeding decisions.
6) explain the choice of their dog's breeding partner as based on a desire to improve the breed in terms of temperament, health, structure or working ability. The mate is nearby, popular or cheap; they stand to profit from the sale of a litter; their dog needs to bred at least once; or for status and prestige, are insufficient reasons for breeding.
7) screen their breeding stock with board-certified veterinary specialists for breed specific health issues (learn about these at the national breed Web site).
8) warrantee health for up to two years with a written contract.
9) require a written contract with mandatory spay/neuter clause for companion dogs and issue AKC paperwork with a limited registration designation.
10) hope to meet you in person when you to come pick up your puppy.
11) require you to return the dog to them at any time in its life if you cannot keep it.
12) offer to supply you with a list of previous buyers as references.
13) through word of mouth, have a waiting list for unborn puppies and do not advertise in the newspaper.
14) mention they will follow up at least yearly to see how your puppy is developing physically and mentally, and whether there are behavior or health problems.
15) commit to being available to you for the dog's lifetime for help, information, advice and education.
16) ask you to do health screening tests and report any health or temperament concerns so they, as breeders, have more information to scientifically improve their breeding program.
17) do not sell puppies prior to seven weeks; 12 weeks for some smaller breeds.
18) support breed rescue work.
Ethical breeders cannot guarantee your puppy will be free of health or temperament issues. However, they hope to reduce the severity and frequency of problems by thoroughly knowing a pedigree for several generations on both sides and by verifying health clearances for the breeding pair and any progeny. Distrust breeders who say their lines do not have problems. All pedigrees come with issues. How breeders manage these indicates the depth of their concern.
You may need to exercise patience to find a sound puppy from a reputable breeder. They breed selectively and go to great lengths to insure their puppies will not be abandoned, mistreated, bred indiscriminately, or turned over to an animal shelter or breed rescue program.
Do your homework. Talk at length with as many breeders as possible. Visit lots of dogs. Then follow your heart!
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