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What Questions Do I Ask When I Go Buy A Dog?

by Ms. Dany Canino

Purchasing a dog must be one of the most well thought out decisions you will ever make. You should approach it with as much concern (if not more) as you would when buying a car. A car is something that you will probably keep for about 3 years and then trade in for another. A dog is just coming into his prime at 3 years and is something you will have with you, barring any unforeseen tragedies, for 9-13 years. So, just as you would research to make buying just the “right car” and would ask a salesman questions about the vehicle, you need to research to make sure you are buying just the “right dog”. You´ll need to ask questions of the breeder of the dog. You wouldn´t buy a car on an impulse, purchasing the first one you see, and you should not buy a dog on impulse; buying the first one you see.

This process may take a little time on your part as you may have to talk to several breeders. However, for a one-time investment it should be worth taking this time, or perhaps you should rethink be buying a dog at all.

One of the best ways to decide which breed is right for you is to go to the public library and look for a book called: The AKC Complete Book Of Dogs. This book will not only show you pictures of the different breeds, but will teach you the history of the breed and what they were bred to do.

If you are an apartment or condo dweller than you´re wise to stay with a smaller, less active breed; i.e., a smaller Spaniel, a Toy breed, one of the smaller Terrier breeds and also some of the Non Sporting breeds. The Working, Herding, and larger Sporting and Hound breeds may be very appealing to the eye, but would not be a good choice for you.

Once you´ve decided what breed (s) you´re interested in, how do you go about finding a breeder? There are two ways to accomplish this.

  • Contact The American Kennel Club – 5580 Centerview Dr., Raleigh, NC 27606. Attn: Parent Club Referral. ( Ask them to refer you to either the parent club of the breed you´re interested in; or to refer you to a local kennel club referral to accomplish this. I know this seems like a lot of work, but remember this dog is going to be with you for a long time.
  • Buy a copy of Dog World at your local newsstand. A lot of breeders advertise in this magazine.
  • You could also ask the AKC to give you a current list of available dog shows in your area so you could go and see the breed you prefer in person. This way, you´ll get a chance to meet a few breeders. Don´t be shy— breeders love to talk about their breed.
  • There are certain genetic traits carried by each breed that you should learn about. So when you contact the breed´s parent club or when you speak to the breeders, learn to ask questions.

    For example: “Are their genetic problems I should know about? Has your breeding stock been tested for the genetic traits that the Parent Club says is associated with this breed? Should I decide to purchase one of your puppies, what kind of “written” guarantees do you offer?” The more you ask, the more you´ll learn what to ask and how to log in the answers.

    LET ME SET A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION: Let´s say that you´re interested in buying a Golden Retriever. You´ve met a breeder at a dog show and he/she has puppies for sale. You´ve been shown the sire of the puppies at the show and you´re very impressed. The breeder has shown you a picture of the dam of the litter and, again you´re impressed. You´re pretty sure that this breeding is going to be able to offer you just what you want. So now you begin to ask your questions.

    “Y” = You “B” = Breeder

    Y: “Have the sire and dam of this litter been OFA certified?” (hips certified by the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals)

    B: “Yes”

    Y: “Have the sire and dam had their eyes certified for any eye abnormalities?”

    B: “Yes, and the pups were tested at 6 weeks of age.”

    Y: If I should purchase a puppy from you with the idea of eventually showing and breeding, what kind of guarantees do you offer and, is it in writing?”

    B: For a potential show/and breeding stock, I offer a full guarantee against hip dysplasia, eye problems, and disqualifying faults as per the AKC breed standard. I offer partial money back or a replacement puppy after you have proven to me that the effected puppy has been rendered sterile.”

    Y: “Have the sire and dam had the test for “SAS”?” (this is Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis)

    B: “Yes”.

    Y: What is the youngest age you will let the puppy go?

    B: Definitely not before 7-8 weeks of age, so that they´ve had time to socialize with their littermates and I´ve been able to give them some protective shots and have wormed them.

    This breeder would be deemed a conscientious breeder. You can be sure this breeder will respect you for having done your homework. It proves to the breeder that you´re not an “impulse buyer”; working off of your emotions solely, but that you are looking for a long -term investment.

    Should you not have any interest in showing or breeding, you need to alert the breeder. In every litter there are certain pups that don´t quite measure up to the breeder´s ideal of a “show dog”. That doesn´t mean that this dog wouldn´t be a great family pet, nor would it imply that this wouldn´t be a beautiful animal to look at. It just might mean that the pup is lacking some of the attributes that would make it successful in the AKC show ring.

    Be sure to discuss the benefits of spaying and neutering with the breeder. A good breeder will require that a non-showable pup (a pet) be rendered sterile.

    When you ask questions of the breeders, if any one of them answers your question by saying, “…no, I don´t bother with all of that because my line has never had those problems.” (The only way this could be proven to be true is if the breeder tested) Thank them for their time and go talk to another breeder. You do not want to buy a dog from this person.

    When you´ve made the final decision to buy your pup from a particular breeder, there are certain things you should also be guaranteed to get.

  • A pedigree that shows your pup´s family tree.
  • An AKC registration form (called a blue slip), or a promise (in writing) that it will be delivered to you when the breeder receives it from AKC.
  • Instructions on what to feed your pup and how much. Also a 2day supply of food until you can get to the pet store.
  • A health record on your pup noting what inoculations have been given and what boosters are due and when. It should also be noted when the pup was wormed.
  • A 48-72 hour Vet check for your puppy. (This is to ensure you that your pup is healthy in the eyes of a medical professional.)
  • Some verbal or written information alerting you on what to expect from your puppy.
  • An offer from the breeder to be “just a phone call away” should you have any questions about anything.
  • As I mentioned earlier, it might take a litt
    le bit of your time, but when you compare the time frame of asking these questions to the time frame of having this dog, it´s a small trade off.

    So don´t be afraid to ask and don´t feel that any questions are too unimportant. It only shows the breeder that you want to make sure you´re selecting the right puppy to live out its life with you.

    Throughout this article I have referred to “breeders” and “pet supply stores”. This is because I don´t feel it´s wise to ever buy a dog from a pet store. Most pups that are sold at pet shops (originally) come from “puppy mills”. Their genetic background is never checked. Be cautious about buying a puppy from someone that puts an ad in the paper. First make sure that they can answer your questions. If they can´t answer the same questions you pose to the “professional breeder”, don´t buy their pup. Above all don´t be in a hurry to buy. Take your time and be sure. You, your family, the breeder, and in particular the puppy, will be better for it in the long run.