Good Breeders: worth the effort to locate
Updated: May 18
I recently spoke with a woman who was excited about the imminent arrival of her new pup, which was to be one of the popular 'doodle' breeds that are proliferating everywhere. While I do indeed meet some lovely doodles (please, no hate from the doodle camp!), I'm devastated on behalf of my clients (and the poor dogs!) for the many doodles I meet with serious behavioral issues from a young age.
So when we connected for a pre-puppy phone consultation, I asked what she knew about the breeder, and whether she'd gone to meet the parents and the puppies and seen the rearing environment. She had not, but explained that she'd read good things on a FB page. After discussing for a while, and mentioning my concern about the many troubled doodles I've been meeting in recent years, we went on to discuss preparations for pup's arrival, and various other relevant topics. Then we scheduled some in-person lessons for after the pup arrived.
A few days later, she called back to say she'd been thinking more about our discussion, and had done additional research on the breeder. The signs were not good, at all. After much careful discussion, she decided to back out of this puppy purchase. I think that was a very wise and brave choice.
There are so many things to consider when selecting a breeder. I'd like to touch on just a few, to get you thinking carefully about this topic:
The parents of the pups must be thoroughly screened and tested for health-related issues. Every breed carries its own set of issues, and thus should have the full panel of relevant tests. Do your research, and ask the breeder for proof of the testing.
The parents are BEHAVIORALLY healthy -- not anxious, fearful, aggressive, noise phobic, etc.
The dam (mom) is not be under a lot of stress while pregnant, because this can negatively impact the pups in utero. Her diet must be of high quality, too.
Ideally, the environment where pups grow up is an enriched home environment, so they're exposed to the many sights, sounds and activities a typical household offers.
Positive early socialization and safe exposure to novelty begin while pups are still with the breeder.
The breeder strictly screens YOU to be sure you understand all about the breed, that your lifestyle is a good match for the breed, and that you're prepared to be a great guardian for the life of the dog.
Puppies are not removed from their mom at too young an age. (State laws vary on this point.)
Some red flags that should send you fleeing from a breeder:
They take your deposit without screening YOU carefully.
They seem to have an inordinate number of dogs, often of various breeds, and are producing many litters per year.
They don't do thorough health screenings.
The pups are raised in kennels, without ample opportunity to explore new environments and be safely socialized to new people, things, sounds, activities, etc.
A visit to meet the doggie parents isn't allowed. Often, this is combined with the fact that puppies are only delivered to you or to some neutral location where various buyers come to pick up their new pup.
The puppy is sold at a pet store! What conscientious breeder does this? (None. That was rhetorical.) These are from PUPPY MILLS and it is horrendous to support them when they consistently choose greed over quality of life for the poor animals they breed. Please, do your research! Here's one place to start: https://www.aspca.org/barred-from-love/puppy-mills-101
I had the privilege of helping to raise this litter of border collie pups. Kay was a perfect mother. And I spent many joyful hours with them, beginning with early neurological stimulation and then, as they grew, on-going socialization to novel objects, sounds, obstacles, my own healthy and social dogs, new people and kids, car rides, handling exercises, etc. They were taught a few simple skills using positive reinforcement, and were gently desensitized to accepting some time alone in a crate.
Bottom line: please table your excitement about acquiring a new pup long enough to do careful research. Though there's never a 100% guarantee, you surely increase your chances of getting a physically and behaviorally healthy pup by approaching this with eyes wide open, and squishy heart-based urges in check. Some trainers offer guidance in this area, too, so reach out if you need advice.
Sincere best wishes to those in search of their new pup!
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, puppy matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120
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