Understanding Your Dog For Dummies
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A dog breeder raises, sells, and often shows dogs of a specific breed. Top breeders conscientiously raise puppies with good genetic lines. When possible, reputable breeders test dogs before breeding them in order to ensure they’re free of any congenital defects. Good breeders also temperament test every puppy before pairing him with an ideal home.

Looking at breeder terminology

Here are some explanations of key terms to keep in mind when searching for and dealing with breeders:

  • Genetic defects: These defects are passed down from parent to pup and can result in a host of maladies, from hip dysplasia to heart murmurs. Conscientious breeders avoid breeding dogs with these congenital defects. As you research each prospective breed, list possible defects and question the breeder’s awareness before looking at his puppies.

  • Line breeding/breeding for show: Breeders of show dogs mindfully try to create puppies who, when grown, adhere to the breed standard. This practice becomes a problem when a breeder pairs closely related dogs as parents: Though the puppies may look beautiful, some of them may be adversely affected by line breeding.

    If you’re interested in a puppy for show, you may be okay with overlooking temperament in favor of beauty, but if personality matters to you, skip a breeder whose pedigrees show the name of a certain dog again and again and reveal breeding that doesn’t space the generations apart. The rule of thumb is that five generations should separate one relative from another.

  • Breed standard: In the United States, the American Kennel Club documents a breed standard, which lists each breed’s specific ideal characteristics, from coat color and personality to the skeletal carriage and direction of each toe. Each detail is very precise, and perfection is the golden chalice every show-oriented breeder reaches for. However, if you’re looking for the ideal family pet or companion, a maligned freckle or slightly offset toenail won’t matter at all!

  • Breeding for temperament: Reputable breeders breed for temperament, which means the breeder’s just as interested in delightfully acting puppies as ones that look good. If you’re getting your puppy to be a pet, this attribute in a breeder trumps all others.

  • Temperament testing: A temperament test is a series of handling exercises performed on a puppy to predict his future temperament. The test provides a fairly accurate assessment of a puppy’s personality and eventual adult demeanor.

Breeders who can help you understand both the positives and negatives of the breed they work with are worth their weight in gold. If they’re serious about the placement of their puppies, they’ll ask you a whole list of questions to ensure you’re a good fit for their breed and their individual puppies. Don’t be put off by their questions, because in the end, you’ll receive a puppy who has been loved and well cared for since its very first breath.

Ask a breeder whether he has a contract for you to sign and what his policy is on returning the puppy if your situation demands it. Many top breeders have you sign an agreement requiring you to spay/neuter your puppy and stipulating the rules for returning the puppy. At this time, also ask whether the puppy has received any inoculations and what type of human interaction and socialization the puppy has been exposed to.

Checking out a home breeder

Puppies who are bred in someone’s home may be purebred or mixed. These homebred puppies usually come from dogs who have mistakenly escaped their owners’ yards and have mated with unknown sires. However, sometimes these pups come from dogs who live with people who thought breeding two purebred dogs would be fun, educational for the kids, or lucrative.

If you follow a sign advertising puppies for sale, talk to the owners about the following points:

  • If the puppies are mixed breed, is the mix of breeds known or has it been speculated?

  • Were the parents tested for genetic defects known to the breed(s)?

  • Can you meet the parent dogs?

  • Have the puppies been seen by a veterinarian? If so, how far along are they with inoculations?

  • What sort of stimulations have the puppies been exposed to (cats, kids, and so on)?

  • If the puppy turns out not to be a good fit for your family, would the breeder consider taking the puppy back? Forewarning: A home breeder is unlikely to take the puppy back, so if the situation turns ugly, you may be left with the prospect of re-homing or dropping your puppy off at a local shelter.

Don’t adopt a puppy younger than 8 weeks old (7 weeks may be okay only if you’re experienced with very young puppies) because a pup’s mother normally spends weeks 6 through 8 socializing and teaching her puppies. The result of this socialization is good for you because the puppies will have more organized elimination habits, respect, and bite inhibition.

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