If you are getting a dog, most veterinarians recommend that you buy from a breeder. Choosing a reputable breeder, however, can be rather difficult.
To help you get a healthy and happy pet from a humane breeder, you’ll need to be prepared to ask some questions. The answers you receive will help determine the quality of your breeder and puppy and provide you with information you need to help raise your puppy.
Important Questions to Ask a Breeder
1. Are the puppy’s parents “certified”?
Since certain breeds are at risk for genetic conditions like hip, eye, and heart problems, responsible breeders should have their dogs evaluated and tested for diseases and ultimately “certified” disease-free. Study up on your specific breed to see if there are common genetic problems worth discussing.
2. What are the individual sizes of the puppy’s parents?
Knowing the size of a dog’s parents can give you a good indication of how big a puppy will get. Is that the size dog you want?
3. Can I meet the entire litter?
View and interact with the entire litter. This will allow you to evaluate the cleanliness of the environment and the size, personality, energy level, and health of the puppies. The puppies should interact and be playful with other dogs and comfortable around people. They should not cower when you approach or touch them and not resist when you roll them on their backs and hold them in that position.
4. Can I meet the dog’s parents?
If possible, meet the puppy’s parents. Make sure that they appear to be in good health and evaluate their overall temperament. Are they shy, aggressive, or well-adjusted?
5. What preventative care do you provide to the parent dogs?
A measure of the quality of care provided for the puppies can be evidence by the care delivered to the parent dogs. Ideally, the parent dogs should have a yearly examination by a licensed veterinarian, fecal examination, vaccinations for Bordetella (kennel cough), a distemper combination vaccine (such as DHLPP), and be on routine flea, tick, and heartworm prevention (this may vary depending on your dog’s exposure and geographic location). Optional vaccines include Lyme and the canine flu, which depend on disease risk.
6. Have the parent dogs had health problems?
What health problems have the parents had to date? When did they develop and how were they treated? This will help guide you as to what to look for and take preventative measures for your dog.
7. How old are the puppies? What age can I take my puppy home?
Puppies ready for adoption should be between 8 and 12 weeks old. It is important that the puppies socialize with their litter mates and other dogs early in life. Taking them away too soon can be a problem. Puppies not taken by other buyers over 12 weeks old or puppies that have been returned can indicate problems as well.
8. Have the puppies been socialized?
Question the puppy’s socialization exposure. Have the pups been around other dogs and people?
Socialization is critical in puppies ages 6 to 16 weeks. Proper socialization consists of positive experiences with other dogs and humans of varying ages, race, and sizes.
9. Have vaccines been administered to the puppies?
How many shots have the puppies received and when are they due for their next round of shots? Puppies generally start their vaccine series between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Ideally, vaccines are administered by a licensed veterinarian rather than a feed-store vaccine.
10. Have the puppies been dewormed?
All puppies are born with worms and routine deworming is recommended. This often begins as early as 2 weeks of age and most puppies have at least one dose of dewormer by 6 weeks of age.
11. How many veterinarian visits have the puppies had? Have any puppies in the litter been sick?
Have the puppies seen the vet, been examined, and declared healthy? If not, what problems have they had? If any of the puppies were sick, what were the signs, the diagnosis, and treatment measures? Have they been on any medications? Have any puppies had parvovirus?
Ask for medical records that includes examinations, weights, deworming treatments, and vaccines.
12. What is your guarantee?
What guarantee does the breeder give with their puppies? If the puppy is found to have a severe illness, what will they do to compensate? How long does the guarantee last? This is a difficult topic, but one that is a lot easier to cover up front rather than after the fact.
13. When do I need to go for the first vet visit?
How soon is the first vet visit? Most breeders recommend, or may even require, a “prepurchase exam” within 3 to 14 days of acquiring a puppy. Consider it a probationary period to see your vet and get the puppy evaluated before finalizing the contract.
14. Do you have any references?
Ask the breeder for references from puppy owners that they have sold to within the past year. Call their clients and find out if the breeder was fair, if they were happy with their pets, and how any problems were handled.
15. Do you require a breeder’s contract?
If so, what is in it? Is the breeder willing to take the puppy back at any time if you are unable to keep it?
16. Do you require puppies to be spayed or neutered by a certain age?
If that is the case, it may not be an issue, but it is best to know before you get your puppy. Some breeders have strict criteria for spaying or neutering early or waiting until one heat cycle/year of age for larger-breed dogs.
17. What is the dog’s family history?
Ask if the breeder has information about the breed line. For example, ask how long most dogs in the breed line have lived and what they typically die from. Be sure to write this information down, since it may be important for monitoring your pet’s health as they get older.
18. What are you currently feeding the puppies?
Regardless of what they are feeding, it is ideal to continue feeding the same food for the first few days at home to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal distress. If you choose to change a puppy’s diet, do it gradually. If you buy a puppy from this breeder, ask for at least 3 to 4 days’ worth of food. Learn how much and when they are feeding to keep your puppy on the same schedule for the first few days.
19. Will you supply a health certificate and certificate of sale?
Ask the breeder if they will supply a veterinarian-issued health certificate for your puppy. Also, be sure to ask for a certificate of sale, which may be required depending on your location. Are there any required certificates if you are shipping out of state?
20. Do you belong to a breed club?
If so, ask for the club’s name and references.
21. Do they have any training tips that have worked well for their puppies?
One of the most challenging things a new puppy owner has to deal with is housetraining their puppies. Breeders have a lot of experience training and may have useful tips that have worked well for other puppies.
22. Do you offer support?
Top breeders are passionate about their puppies and adamant about finding them the best homes. In fact, they usually want to interview you more than you want to interview them. Many want to track the lives of their puppies and are willing to answer questions and help you navigate small issues as you raise the dog.
23. What do you provide with the sale of the puppy?
When you are finally ready to pick up your puppy, what will the breeder provide?
Here are some examples of what is typically provided:
- A copy of the dog’s medical records, indicating vaccinations, deworming mediations, and any illnesses and their accompanying treatments
- Copy of certifications
- Breed club information (if applicable)
- Pedigree information and certificates
- Receipt for payment
- Contract (if applicable)
- A couple days’ worth of the food they were feeding
- Contact information (ideally email and phone)
- Guarantee information
- Specific instructions about care, treatments, etc.
- Any medications the puppy is on (if applicable)
- A towel or item that has the scent of the litter and mother
Asking questions will make you feel more comfortable about welcoming a new pet into your home. Proper and responsible breeding, appropriate healthcare, and socialization will make a big difference in how healthy your puppy is and how happy they are with their new family.
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