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Choosing the Right Puppy Breeder

It is a sad fact that many dog shelters are bursting at the seams with unwanted dogs. For many owners, what starts out as a fun and exciting adventure into puppy ownership, turns into a nightmare of all proportions. Choosing the right puppy is one of the most important decisions you will make to ensure yours and your dogs long term experiences are positive and rewarding.

Which Breed Should I Get?

It is important to understand that nearly all dog breeds were originally bread for working purposes. Breeding and breed evolvement was based on developing key traits that made dogs suitable for a specific job at hand. Looking at the original working purpose of a particular breed gives prospective owners a clue as to the likely characteristics that breed will have.

The kennel clubs of the world still group dog breeds according to their original working purpose. The following table looks at the most common breed groups and the likely characteristics you should expect.

Group(and example breeds) Original Purpose Exercise Req’t Socialisation Req’d Ease of Training
Hound Group Used for hunting either by scent or by sight. The scent hounds include the Beagle and Bloodhound and the sight hounds such breeds as the Whippet and Greyhound. HIGH MED. MED.
Working These dogs were selectively bred to become guards and search and rescue dogs. The group includes dogs such as the Boxer, Great Dane and St Bernard. MED. HIGH MED.
Terrier Bred and used for hunting vermin. ‘Terrier’ comes from the Latin word Terra, meaning earth. This hardy collection of dogs were selectively bred to be extremely brave and tough, and to pursue fox, badger, rat and otter amongst others. MED. MED MED.
Gundogs Dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded. This group is divided into 4 categories – Retriever, Spaniels, Hunt/Point/Retrieve and Setters HIGH MED. HIGH.
Pastoral Herding dogs that are associated with working cattle, sheep, reindeer and other cloven footed animals. Breeds such as the Collie family, Old English Sheepdogs and Samoyeds are in this group. V.HIGH HIGH HIGH.
Utility This group consists of miscellaneous breeds of dog mainly of a non-sporting origin, including the Bulldog, Dalmation, Japanese Akita and Poodles. Varies Varies Varies
Toy Small companion or lap dogs. Many of the Toy breeds were bred for this capacity although some have been placed into this category due to their size. Breeds include Chihuahua, Yorkie and Maltese LOW MED. Med.

The full characteristics of each breed can be found in the Canine Concepts Dog Breed Directory

Before deciding on a breed, you should consider what characteristics you are looking for from your chosen dog. You are ill advised to base your decision on looks or appearances alone, concentrate on what your circumstances are, what you want from a dog and how much time, space and energy you have. Then decide on a shortlist of 2 or 3 breeds that you would like to look into further.

Try to find people with the breeds you have short listed and ask questions about their characteristics and the demands they place on owners. Ask a local dog trainer or behaviourist for their opinions. They are very useful sources of information, particularly if there is a prospect for a new student at puppy class. Look at the websites for the breed clubs; these sites often have detailed information about the breed for which the club represents. The many breed specific books available are also a useful source of detailed information. The website is a useful directory of breed clubs and breed specific books.

Mixed Breed vs. Single Breed?

It is less easy to determine the likely inherited characteristics of a puppy of mixed breed parentage. Quite often little is known about parents of such dogs and in many cases such puppies find their way into rescue shelters. Selecting a dog or puppy from a rescue centre warrants a separate article and is not discussed here. That said, don’t be put off, the absence of inbreeding often makes mixed breed dogs generally live longer and have less health problems than pure breed dogs.

Which breeder?

As mentioned earlier, traditionally approaches to breeding was based on selecting breeding dogs that excelled in their specific working area. These days however, most breeding is predominately focused on producing dogs that are of show stock and are typical of the breed appearance. Most good breeders will breed dogs that are of good temperament, but in a determined effort to produce champion dogs, there are still many breeders who consider temperament less of a priority.

There still many dogs that are breed for there working ability. Sheep dogs are a good example and breeders will often breed the best working dogs, then keep the best puppies back for working and sell the surplus. You should consider very carefully whether you want a dog from this background, as these dogs can have insatiable requirements for exercise.

What Questions Should I Ask ?

Always go and see a puppy with its mother and never buy a puppy from a shop or take up offers to bring the puppy to you. During early puppihood, puppies pick up on many of the traits of their mother. When meeting the mother, take note of any behaviours such nervousness or aggression. Be cautious of any breeder who does not allow you to meet the puppy’s mother. The nature of breeding is such that meeting the father is often a little difficult, but if you cannot ask the question anyway.

Selecting the most appropriate breed with the best possible parentage is only part of the challenge in creating the perfect puppy. The experiences in the first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life often shape its behaviour right into adulthood. Since you will not be picking up the puppy until around 6-8 weeks, this places a huge responsibility on the breeder during the early weeks of development.

When you visit the puppies, consider the environment into which they have been born. The best start to life is in a busy household, where they will quickly become familiar with all of the sights and sounds of normal daily life. Do adults and children handle the puppies regularly? do they get to see other friendly dogs? Are they being taught to interact with toys?

Ask the breeder to see the pedigrees of both the mother and father. If you want a quite low maintenance dog, it is not necessarily a good thing if the father is a champion at sheepdog trials. Ask questions about the father and why he was chosen for breeding.

Be cautious of puppies that have been breed in kennels or on farms where the amount of early interaction and socialisation may be limited. Good rescue centres will take measure to ensure puppies are kept in places where they will get plenty of human contact and new experiences.

Unfortunately, ‘puppy farming’ is still practiced in many countries. In these places, puppies are breed on a large scale and often little care is taken in the selection the breeding partners. Puppies are often moved long distances to pet shops and may receive little in the way early positive experiences. It is well proven that puppies bred in such an environment have much higher likelihod of developing future behaviour problems.

When should I take a puppy home?

The debate continues on when is the best time to take puppy home. Taking a puppy from its litter mates to early and they lose out on valuable socialisation time with other dogs. It is this socialisation time that builds their canine communication skills enabling them to cope better with encounters with other dogs. Take a puppy to late and you delay the start of the learning to live in the human world. Current thinking is that about six to eight weeks is about the right time to take a home.