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Choosing a Puppy
Choosing a puppy to join your family is an exciting event. If you are undecided about what breed you'd like, think about the kind of lifestyle you lead and the place that you live. Research breeds on the internet or talk to people who own a breed you are interested in. Some breeds have inherent congenital defects and health problems. Find out what they are. Also consider the costs of owning a dog. These costs include purchase, vet care, food, toys and supplies, boarding, grooming, and training. The American Kennel Club's website offers information on all the breeds they register.
If you know what breed of dog you'd like, the next step is finding a breeder. There are usually local clubs for many breeds and these people are a good source of breeder information. Club members are passionate about their breed and will only work with reputable breeders. The AKC also has breeder information. Hallett Veterinary Hospital has a list of breeders that has been provided to us by the Waukesha Kennel Club. Be careful of ads in the paper advertising puppies. Sometimes these ads are placed by "puppy mill" breeders or someone who just wanted to breed their dogs. They are not always people who carefully breed dogs for quality.
When you are choosing a breeder, feel free to ask them questions. How often are their dogs bred? Are both parents kept on site? What kind of temperament do the parents have? Have they been OFA certified? What kind of guarantee do they offer on their puppies? How long have they been breeding dogs? Can they offer references from other people who have purchased puppies from them? Are their dogs bred for show, performance, or temperament? Have their eyes been CERF'd? Keep in mind that reputable breeders usually have a waiting list for available puppies, so you may have to wait until you bring your new friend home. The breeder may also want to check YOU out before they are willing to sell you a puppy. They want to ensure that this puppy will fit you and your lifestyle.
When you go to visit the breeder and to look at the puppies, look at the facilities. Are they clean and relatively odor free? Where are the dogs and puppies kept? Ask to see one or both parents, reputable breeders will be happy to show them to you. This will give you an idea as to how big your puppy will get. It will also allow you to see the temperament of the parents. This can be a good indicator of what your puppy will be like. Be wary of breeders who will not allow you to see at least one of the parents.
Watch the puppies interact and try not to fall in love with the first puppy that comes to you. The way the puppies behave with their littermates can be a good indicator of their temperament. The shy puppy in the back will probably be a shy dog, the same can be said of the bullies. The puppy that comes right up to you is usually a friendly, outgoing dog.
Physically look at the puppies. They shouldn't have discharge from their eyes or noses. Their coats should be shiny and healthy-looking. Open their mouths and look for an overbite or underbite. Run your hand over their umbilicus to check for a hernia. Most reputable breeders will have the puppies on a regular deworming schedule and may have given them their first vaccines.
Ask about the parents' OFA status. OFA stands for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. This organization evaluates x-rays that are taken of breeding dog's hips or elbows. They then give the dog a rating of excellent to poor. Most reputable breeders will only breed their dogs if they have a rating of excellent or good. Ask to see the certification papers or check out the dog's status on their website. This is not a guarantee of what your puppy's hips will be like, but offspring of dogs without hip dysplasia are much less likely to have dysplasia themselves.
Most reputable breeders will offer a guarantee for their puppies for the life of the dog. This usually means that they will take the dog back, for any reason, for the dog's lifetime. You may not get your money back, but that is up to the individual breeder. Most breeders would rather have their dogs returned to them than to have them go to a shelter.
Humane Societies and Animal shelters have many purebred dogs available for adoption. Some advantages to adopting a dog from a shelter are that they may already know basic commands, may be spayed or neutered, and that you may be saving their lives. They can be great dogs that will make great pets. Mixed breed dogs are also available and many people believe that they make as good or better pets than their purebred counterparts.
Breed Rescues are also a good place to look for dogs. Contacts can be found on the internet and these organizations are a good source of breed information. Most of these dogs were surrendered to the rescue because they didn't fit into their previous owner's lifestyle.
We would like to offer a word of caution on pet store puppies. This is not the best place to look for a puppy. You are not able to see the parents or know their OFA status. They have usually been bred for quantity, not quality. They are often the puppies that the breeder was not able to sell. The pet store staff may not be knowledgeable about that particular breed. It is better to talk with a reputable breeder.
Bringing a new puppy into your home is an exciting experience. Take the time to research and have a relationship with a good breeder. They will help you make informed choices about your puppy. Call Hallett Veterinary Hospital with any questions you may have. A good puppy will give you a lifetime of happiness.