If you are looking for a new purebred puppy, it’s important to know what questions to ask a breeder, since 75% of purebred AKC registered dogs have genetic disorders – many life-threatening or seriously compromising the dog’s life, whether in early age or later on. These problems include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hyper- or hypothyroidism and many others. It is the roll of anyone who decides to become a dog breeder to know his breed and the hereditary disorders that breed has. It is then that breeder’s responsibility to screen prospective breeding dogs to ensure that these dogs do not carry these problems in their individual backgrounds, and educate people interested in purchasing his puppies, to the best of his or her ability.
As an example, take hip dysplasia: dogs to be bred should be x-rayed at 4 months to 2 years of age, before they are bred, to be sure that their hip sockets are tight and will not weaken with age or activity. If the parents of your puppy have certified “good” or “excellent” hips, the chance is far greater that your puppy will have good hips as well. Note that “certified” or “X-rayed” does not mean that hips are good or bad – make sure to see the results of the certification. If the parents are not tested, but “have never shown any sign of lameness,” there is every possibility that the puppy will have some degree of hip dysplasia, more serious cases often requiring a TPL, or total hip replacement, at, often, a young age (especially if he’s a large breed.) Recently I saw x-rays of a local 6-month old “purebred, AKC registered” Golden Retriever, with hips so bad that they were dislocating regularly.
Many breeders may respond by saying that there is no guarantee that certification will prevent your puppy from having a genetic disorder, and this is true. Simply by creating “pure” breeds, we reduce the genetics available and therefore create dogs that are all of one type, or “purebred.” We also isolate the genetic traits, good and bad, that create the unmistakable look of, say, a Golden Retriever. Part of being a responsible dog breeder is to breed only those dogs that show the better or best qualities in conformation, mental and physical ability, and all the other traits that make the Golden Retriever one of the most popular breeds ever. It’s absolutely not enough to breed those dogs that look the part – they must also pass the certifications that mean that every effort has been made to breed only the healthiest of the best. The problem with being a popular breed is that “backyard breeders”, or those who just want to let their dog have a litter so the kids can see the miracle of birth, can produce more and more unhealthy specimens of the breed.
If you look around Telluride, you’ll find several hundred Golden Retrievers – many differing greatly from the purebred AKC description of the breed, or “standard.” Many have thyroid conditions, hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems, etc. What this means is that many people who have bred these dogs haven’t been too concerned about the quality of the puppies they’re producing – either in look or physical health.
If your average dog breeder says that it’s too much work and too much money, they’re right – we have several thousand dollars invested in testing of our purebred (non-AKC registered) dogs. Those “breeders” should not be offering puppies for sale unless they’re willing to go to all of this effort. Except for testing, there is no other way to ensure that a breeder will produce mentally and physically healthy specimens of any given breed, those also suitable for producing good-quality purebred dogs of the next generation.
Why is all of this important to you? We can generally assume that you’re not too interested in breeding the puppy you get – but unless you get a puppy from a reputable breeder, you can also assume that you will have at least one physically debilitating illness attacking your purebred puppy – either now or at an older age. You’ll pay a lot more over your dog’s lifetime in vet bills, and you may watch your dog suffering. You’ll also probably have a dog with a shorter lifespan – sometimes dramatically shorter.
Here are questions to ask anyone advertising (either on a website or by newspaper ad) purebred (or “designer crossbred” dogs, such as Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, etc.)
1. What genetic disorders does your breed have? If the answer is “none,” quietly hang up the phone! Do your research on the internet first – do a search on your breed, then add “genetic disorders” or “diseases,” and you should pull up a good deal of information. This way, you know what you should be hearing from the breeder.
2. What are you doing to screen for each disorder?
3. Have the parents of the puppy you’re considering been tested for these problems – and if so, may you see copies of the results? (If there is a problem with this, do not go further with this breeder.) If not, why not?
4. How long have you been breeding this breed?
5. How often do you have a litter? It takes a lot of time and effort to produce a healthy, well-socialized litter of puppies – anyone who has more than a litter or two per year isn’t taking the time and effort needed.
6. Is the litter inside or outside your home? If in a kennel outside, the puppies may not have been socialized very well.
7. Can you provide me with names of owners of puppies you’ve bred so you can contact them for references?
8. Do you have a veterinarian who will provide references?
9. Can you meet the parents of the puppies? Stay far away from anyone who is eager to deliver the puppy to you. (puppy mill??)
10. Do you ship your puppies? We do not, and feel that the prospective puppy owner should want to come to our place and check us out. The internet has made it very easy to breed dogs in, sometimes, very bad situations, and make people think that your breeding setup is idyllic. If you see it, in person, you know for sure. In addition, shipping an 8-week old puppy can be very stressful, and can potentially cause long-term damage. On the other hand, many pups have been shipped with no ill effects, but you should meet the pup’s parents and the breeder. Most important: when you go to get your pup, be ready to change your mind and leave without one. This pup is a big commitment – if something doesn’t feel right, DON’T DO IT!! There’s always another breeder, and always another puppy.
We are trying to help people find good purebred (or crossbred, or mutts) dogs. There are wonderful breeders out there – and there are those who are just trying to make an extra buck. If you have questions about a puppy you’re considering, please feel free to call us so we can help you make a good decision (at no charge!) In addition, try not to make a decision based on emotion – this member of your family may be around for 10-15 years – logic should be part of your choice as well.