Chapter 5
How To Know The Best Source For Your Dog
When are Puppies Available? Some breeders have websites or standing advertisements year-round regardless of whether they have puppies available or not. Other breeders, typically pet dog breeders, may only advertise when they actually have puppies available. When you talk to a breeder or look through their website, find out when puppies will be available. It may be months before a litter is ready and you may not want to wait. Or puppies might be ready to go home now and you may not be quite ready for a dog. If you want to reserve a puppy from an upcoming litter, most breeders will require you to leave a deposit in order to hold one of the puppies. If you decide you want a puppy, don't put down a deposit until you've fully evaluated the breeder. Try to see a current litter and, at the very least, meet the parent dogs if possible. Review the sales contract, pedigrees and health information for the parent dogs. If you put down a deposit without fully researching the breeder, you may find yourself with a puppy that has an increased chance of health problems or a sales contract that severely restricts your ownership rights. Ask about the Coefficient of Inbreeding. When you're selecting a breeder, ask about the Coefficient of Inbreeding in his puppies. Many breeders don't measure inbreeding in their dogs, and don't make the effort or know how to track the Coefficient of Inbreeding, or COI. If a breeder can't provide you with information about his dogs' COI, you may be able to reduce your risk of getting as puppy with genetic health problems by finding a different breeder. Breeders who administer breeding programs without regard for the coefficient of inbreeding may be producing inbred puppies with genetic health problems either with or without their knowledge. Even if a breeder can answer your questions about the Coefficient of Inbreeding, ask to see the dog's pedigree so you can substantiate the breeder's claim. Ask about Health Testing. Responsible breeders conduct health testing on breeds that are likely to have genetic health-related issues. If you're considering a breed with known genetic health problems, ask whether your breeder conducts OFA, CERF or BAER testing. If your breeder raises dogs that are prone to health problems evaluated by these tests, but doesn't administer them to his dogs, the dogs are more likely to suffer from the genetic issues seen in the breed than is typical. If you want to avoid these risks, you should seek out another breeder. Breeders who don't administer health tests may produce unhealthy dogs that could come with a lifetime of medical issues. Beware of phrases such as "health certificates" or "vet checked." These phrases typically mean that the breeder has not conducted health testing, and is trying to assure potential dog owners that his or her dogs are healthy. Unless a breeder offers OFA, CERF or BAER certifications for the most common breed-related health issues, you should assume sufficient health testing has not been conducted. How Old are the Parents? The age of the dog's parents plays a role in several aspects of evaluating a puppy. First, the age of the parents gives you an insight as to how accurate the health testing results for them are likely to be. Older dogs that have been health tested after adolescence are more likely to have accurate test results than dogs that are tested in adolescence. This is because some health problems cannot be accurately detected until after adolescence, hip dysplasia for instance. Some tests, such as CREF eye exams may not indicate a problem well into a dog's life as an adult. Remember, these test are looking for symptoms of the disease, which may take years to develop. In many cases, tests are not generally available to detect the genes associated with the disease. Additionally, it's easier to judge temperament and physical characteristics of dogs that are past adolescence. Ideally, you'll want to meet one or both of the parents before you get a puppy from a breeder. If you meet an adolescent dog, you may not be able to accurately judge the size of the puppy because the parents may not have reached their full adult size. It can also be more difficult to judge behavioral characteristics, especially activity level, if the parents are still adolescents. Alternately, if you meet an adult dog, you have a much better indication of the dog's physical characteristics, including size, plus its behavior, including activity level, and temperament. Unless your puppy inherits recessive traits, the physical and behavioral characteristics that the parent displays will be similar to the characteristics that the puppy displays as an adult, so knowing the age of the parent's is useful for a variety of reasons.