Choosing a Breed and a Breeder
So far, for a blog called “Rock the Dogs” I’ve done very little talking ABOUT the dogs. Working as a vet tech and being a little dog crazy, I get asked a lot by friends and family and acquaintances how they should go about looking for a dog. Also, in light of the fact that Bubba is being returned to the rescue, I think it is very important for people to really, really, REALLY think about what kind of dog is right for them, and where they get that dog. I thought that I might be able to sum it up fairly nicely here for anyone out there who might be interested. Part 1 will summarize how to choose a breeder and a breeder if that is how you are planning on looking for a dog. Part 2 will talk about rescues and adoptions, while Part 3 will talk about what to do when you get your dog home.
1. Choose a breed that’s right for your family and lifestyle.
This might seem obvious, but for a lot of people the breed they would LIKE to own doesn’t work with their lifestyle or circumstances. Someone who works 12 hours a day and spends a lot of their spare time watching repeats of CSI on Spike (not that I’m doing that as I write this….not at all…) probably shouldn’t get a breed with a high energy level or that requires a lot of exercise or mental stimulation. Similarly, someone who has an active lifestyle and, say, wants a dog to run with probably shouldn’t consider a basset hound.
There are many resources to find out the characteristics of the different dog breeds, as well as links to quizzes that can give you an idea of what kind of dog might be right for you. The Animal Planet dog breed quiz is short and fun, and actually had the labrador retriever as a 96% match for me when I filled it out. Don’t tell Scout and Rocky, though, they think they are a 100% match hands down.
As for breed characteristics, the American Kennel Club and Canada’s Guide to Dogs are excellent resources. On each site you can find out the history of the breed as well as their characteristics, to compare the breeds to your lifestyle and your expectations.
Please keep in mind that no matter what some people say, dogs that are CROSSES are NOT BREEDS. That includes cockapoos (cocker spaniel x poodle), morkies (maltese x yorkie), labradoodles (lab x poodle), goldendoodles (golden retriever x poodle). THESE ARE NOT BREEDS. They cannot be reproduced from generation to generation (at least not predictably) – this means that you might be able to breeder 2 morkies together, but you cannot reliably predict what they will look like or what their behaviour will be like. This is not true of PUREBRED dogs, where you can breed 2 labs together and always get puppies that are labs, looks like labs, and behave like labs.
I have absolutely nothing against mixed breed dogs (and yes, these dogs are MIXED breeds, NOT purebreds. You cannot get a purebred goldendoodle) but I do have something against people breeding mixed breeds and selling them for the same price as or more than a purebred dog with an impeccable pedigree. These so-called breeders are ripping you off and just want your money – they might care about their dogs and their puppies but they are breeding to make money instead of bettering a breed, like GOOD purebred breeders do. One final thing – in Canada it is ILLEGAL to call a dog a purebred without providing CKC papers. Purebred puppies MUST be registered in Canada in order to be called purebred. Off my soap box, and onto the next section:
2. Choosing the right breeder
When looking for a breeder there are so many things to take into consideration. When we went looking for a breeder for our first puppy, we scoured the internet as well as Canada’s Guide to Dogs’ magazine. We made a list of breeders that we liked the look of, then looked at their websites, checked their policies, and contacted exactly ONE of those breeders.
Grandriver Kennels is where we got Scout. We had to fill out an application online before we could see the dogs or the kennel – this was so that the breeder could go over our information first to see if he was comfortable with us initially. Good breeders care where they place their puppies – they don’t want them to end up in a home where they will be neglected, or abused, or rehomed. They want them to go to a home where they will be well taken care of and where they will stay for life.
Once he looked over our application he contacted us about doing a face-to-face meeting. This was so he could ask us questions, we could ask him questions and see the facility, and also so we could meet all the dogs. Our “brief” meeting turned into something closer to 3 hours as we just had so much to talk about. At the end of the meeting he asked if we wanted to make a deposit on a puppy, and since we were impressed with him, the facility and the quality of the dogs, we said yes! Scout is very happy things happened this way, I’m sure.
The Canadian Kennel Club has a great list of Golden Rules to finding a breeder. I’ll quickly summarize them here but please visit the link for further detail:
1 – Always visit the property. As I stated above, this is to see how the dogs live, how many dogs are on the property, where the puppies will be born, etc.
2 – Always meet the mother dog. If you can’t meet her, this is a big deal breaker.
3 – Your puppy should be registered. Like I said before, in Canada it is illegal to call a dog a purebred unless it is registered with the CKC and permanently identified. The permanent id used to be tattoo (Rocky is tattooed) but most breeders now are microchipping their pups (Scout came with a microchip).
4 – Your breeder should show their dogs. This is to prove that their dogs are good at what they do or are an excellent representation of the breed. If they don’t show conformation, then they should be in obedience, or flyball, or tracking, or SOMETHING. If their dogs are not exceptional, then why are they breeding them? (Brag – Scout’s breeder had the number 1 lab puppy in Canada in 2010 in conformation, and the same dog is currently the number 1 lab in Canada for 2011).
5- Your breeder should have all proper health tests performed on the breeding dogs – so hips, elbows, eyes, heart, etc. Do your research and find out what tests are applicable to the breed you are interested in.
As you can tell I am very passionate about puppies and picking the proper puppy. I’m a bit of a puppy snob, I guess, but I’m also concerned about the welfare of each and every dog. If people are breeding for money and don’t care where their puppies go, or sell them sight unseen over the internet without meeting the new owner, or sell them to a pet store, or sell them on the side of the road – what’s to guarantee these dogs are not going to end up in a shelter, or on the street, or worse. And for the people who buy these puppies, what’s to guarantee you are getting a healthy dog, or one without behavioural problems, etc.
I hope this was somewhat informative and not too long or wordy – stay tuned for the next Picking a Puppy post on adopting from a rescue!