Questions to Ask when Buying a Purebred Puppy

You’re on the hunt for a puppy of a specific breed and investigating breeders of the type of dog you want to add to your family. You can find many poor-quality purebreds around — virtually every breed has some kind of genetic problem that reputable, knowledgeable breeders work to eliminate.

Following are a few questions, along with the answers you want to hear.

An indication of a reputable breeder is that she asks you more questions than you ask her.

  • How long have you been in this breed, and what others have you bred?

    You’re looking for someone who has worked with two breeds — at the most — and studied them for years or, someone who has bred a litter with help from a mentor in the breed. (Everyone has to start somewhere!)

    Someone who has jumped from popular breed to popular breed is, more than likely, in the business to turn a fast buck and won’t have the expertise you’re looking for in a breeder. And an outfit that can get you any breed of puppy? Run!

  • What are the congenital defects in this breed?

    Every breed has some problems, be it hip dysplasia, increased cancer susceptibility, epilepsy, or a dozen others.

    Avoid a breeder who answers “none” or “I don’t know.” A good breeder tells you every possible problem in the breed, from droopy eyelids to ear infections.

    Do you have the parents on site? May I see them?

    This is a bit of a trick question. You should always be able to see the mother — unless she died giving birth — but reputable breeders usually don’t have the father on hand because the best match for any particular dog may be owned by another breeder, and the female is sent away for breeding.

    People who have just a pair of dogs and keep breeding them over and over are not the breeders you’re looking for.

    The mother may be a little anxious with strangers around her puppies, but on her own you want to see a well-socialized, calm, and well-mannered dog.

  • Where were these puppies raised?

    “Underfoot” is the best answer. “In the basement,” “in the garage,” “in the kennel,” or “in the barn” indicate that the puppy may not be well socialized. You want a puppy who knows what the dishwasher sounds like, whom you don’t have to peel off the ceiling when a pan drops, who has set a paw on linoleum, carpet, and tile.

  • How have you evaluated these puppies?

    You’re looking for someone who not only knows the difference between show and pet pups — and can explain the difference — but also has a feel for the temperament of each pup as an individual. Within each litter are shy pups, bold pups, and some in-betweens.

    A reputable breeder will help you choose the right pup. For most people, one of the “middle” pups — not too pushy, and certainly not too shy — is the best choice.

  • What guarantees do you provide?

    You want to buy a puppy from someone who provides you with a health record on the puppies to date — vaccinations and wormings — as well as a contract laying out her responsibilities to you should the puppy develop a congenital ailment. In most cases, such contracts state either replacement with a new puppy or refunding of your purchase price.

    The contract also states your responsibilities, which often include neutering your pet. You may also be required to return the dog to the breeder if you can no longer keep her. A reputable breeder will always take a dog back.

  • When can I take my puppy home?

    Some breeders start selling puppies when they’re weaned, at five or six weeks of age. But puppies still have lessons to learn from their mother and littermates, so reputable breeders don’t let puppies go until they’re a week or so older than seven weeks, and maybe longer for a tiny breed.

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