If you are looking to buy a purebred puppy or a popular crossbreed, then your pet is likely to be quite expensive.
You may be lucky enough to have already had pet dogs and know the breed that works for your family and know someone with a litter so you can be sure of their heritage. However many people will not be sure of the demands certain breeds can bring and most people will need to find a dog breeder.
But how can you tell what type of dog will be right for you and how do you tell a good breeder from a puppy farm or worse?
Although you may be excited and keen to get going, research is key in this process. In this article, we will point out what to look out for in order to ensure you choose the right breed for you and a great breeder.
Which Breed is right for you?
Before you start, do your research on breeds. Many people see a picture or a pet on TV and decide that is the one for them. Unfortunately, many people pick a breed that is too large or energetic and their lifestyle does not allow them enough time to exercise their dog.
Others may get a dog that has been poorly bred, not knowing the medical expenses that are likely to come along with the ownership.
Luckily The Kennel Club has produced a very good guide, so before reading on, I would suggest you stop off there and see if the breed you think you want fits with what you actually want.
Health & Genetic Disorders
When considering the purchase of a new dog, as researching the breeder you also need to learn about the specific breed as well. Some dog breeds are inherently healthier than others, leading to fewer medical problems.
As a general rule, because purebreds must come from a limited gene pool, there may be more genetic issues and diseases. While this is generally less extreme for crossbreeds, they still have their share.
Certain breeds also have tendencies towards certain issues. For example, Cockapoos can suffer from Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a degenerative disease of the retina which can lead to blindness with early signs being disorientation and night blindness and some other eye conditions.
Brachycephalic Syndrome is associated with many “smushed face” breeds that have become popular recently, including the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Boston terrier, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. So if you are thinking of these popular breeds please be aware that these breeds can need a lot of care at home, especially in hot and humid weather, and possibly even require corrective surgery for breathing difficulty.
Larger dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, which can lead to hip arthritis and an inability to walk in extreme cases. Another common genetic predisposition with several larger breeds is for dilated cardiomyopathy. Dogs with this condition have abnormal heart musculature which leads to a weakened and dilated heart.
Breeds like Dalmatians and Newfoundlands are predisposed towards urinary bladder stones (similar to kidney stones in humans)
Other genetic traits that may affect dogs are epilepsy (this is fairly general but tends to show up more in breeds such as German Shepherds, Beagles, Belgian Tervurens, Keeshonds, Dachshunds, and Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
German Shepherds are also widely associated with Degenerative Myelopathy, which is brought on by the deterioration of nerve fibers and their myelin sheath within the spinal cord, but several other breeds are also associated with this condition including Boxers, Borzoi, Cardigan Welsh and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, American Water Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Pugs.
Dog breeders have an ethical responsibility to produce healthy pets and to educate their customers about the potential medical issues related to the breed which they propagate. Good breeders will ensure they run genotypic evaluations (DNA tests) to discover whether their dogs are carriers of established genetic diseases.
In addition breeding dogs should also be assessed for behavioral characteristics and physical features, such as hip conformation, to minimize the risk of issues like hip dysplasia.
The OFA have created a database to help track hereditary diseases, so do take a look there to set your mind at rest and decrease the risk of a potentially expensive and emotionally tough time as a pet parent.
The Hallmarks of Credibility
The hallmarks of credibility are the small things that prove that the breeder is committed to their business, their animals, and their clients.
Dog breeding is regulated by the Breeding of Dogs Act 1991 and the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. So, the first thing to check is whether they have the correct local license with the local authority.
For pure breeds, also look for registration with the Kennel Club and even Kennels which make the extra financial commitment to buy in a specific selection of names branded to their individual kennels, which shows a level of pride in their work.
Any puppy over the age of eight weeks old must also be micro-chipped according to legislation introduced in April 2016. Since you should not get the puppy until after this date, this should be done as part of the process.
Please do not get confused if the breeder tells you that you will need to register your dog though. The law states that the owner must register the dog on an approved Government website and ensure that all of their contact information is accurate and up-to-date.
Breeders must also abide by this law, so you will need to change the details over, although a good breeder should be able to help you with this process.
Vetting Potential Owners
A responsible breeder will not sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand. Instead, they will spend time asking you questions about yourself. They will show an interest in who you are, your experience with dogs and the type of breed you want to buy, and why.
Good breeders are only too aware that people will buy a dog because their child thinks they are cute, with no idea of the amount of time, effort and love they need. So they will take the time to select homes for their litters, based on the commitment of the owners and a suitable home environment.
They will also not rush through the sale and should let you meet the entire litter, even if all of the other puppies have homes assigned to them so you can get a feel for their relative personalities.
They will also share and explain documentation on health, temperament, lineage, socialization, and development as part of the process to make sure there are no nasty surprises when you get your new pet home.
Good breeders treat their animals as more than livestock and should be prepared to take back their animals (at any time or age) should circumstances change and the buyers cannot keep them.
A breeder who specializes, rather than generalizes, will gain a depth and breadth of knowledge about their chosen breed. They will know the specific traits, problems and of course the best bits of owning “their” breed.
Good breeders invest time and effort in becoming the go-to person in their given breeding niche and this will directly roll out into the health and happiness of the puppies that they breed. They will also know what to look for genetic issues and disorders as well as being able to give the best advice on other health and nutritional areas.
This is why most good breeders generally specialize in a small number of breeds or crossbreeds, so you should feel comfortable tapping into their knowledge and asking as many questions as it takes to feel comfortable.
Some European breeders as much cheaper than UK breeders. This does not mean that they are all bad, there are some exceptional breeders across continental Europe.
However, if you are speaking to a breeder from Europe, make sure they are registered with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Your breeder will then able to prepare all passports and associated documents for the puppy to come to the UK or indeed if you want to buy from a UK breeder and have the puppy brought to you.
Welfare of both Parents and Pups
One or two litters per year is quite normal for excellent breeders, but the breeders should not view the parent dogs as just for breeding. Good breeders love their breed, not just the money the breeding business brings in, so look for evidence that their dogs are seen as part of the household.
They should be a loved and valued member of the family – if you see a couple of older dogs resting by the hearth in the house. This shows that they will not just let every animal go that is past its breeding prime.
The welfare of pups and parents is key, and both should be offered space, warmth, and light. A breeder should take proper care of all of their animals and ensure they are not kept in a confined space or in the cold or darkness.