Yes, puppies are cute. Puppies are cuddly. But don’t forget, puppies are also chewing demons with limited attention spans and bladder control. Puppies are surprise packages who leave plenty of surprises–some nice and some not so nice.
Dear, what happened to my favorite shoes? Just how much will it cost to refinish/repair/replace the trim/cabinet door/door frame? You remember that designer angora sweater you bought? The puppy thought it was delicious, let’s hope it doesn’t clog his stomach or we’ll have to visit the vet.
Purebred puppies of 7 to 12 weeks rarely come into rescue or to the local animal shelter, so you’ll want to find a breeder.
What to look for in a breeder:
1. You’ll want a breeder who is involved with the breed, either showing in confirmation, competing in other activities such as obedience, agility, herding or carting.
This might seem minor, but you’ll want someone who is breeding within the standard. Breeding and genetics isn’t something for the novice or the average pet owner. A lot of things can go wrong before the pups are born and even after.
Be careful of those people who claim they have exotic colors. One (Scottish) collie breeder on the East Coast advertised collies coming in red merle or red tricolor or gunmetal merle. These are colors that are possible, but not recognized by the breed standard. Red merle, brindle and red are recognized colors for the border collie.
Be particularly careful of anyone breeding double dilute merles or someone who isn’t clear on just what that is. This doesn’t seem to be as much a problem with the Scottish collie (although a few have shown up in rescues here and in other places in the Southwest), but it is a big enough problem with the border collie and the Australian shepherd that special rescue groups have been set up.
- White Angels Hope Rescue
You might watch the various classified ads for as long as two breeding seasons to see who always seems to have puppies and what happens as the puppies age and what the dogs look like. If the kennel seems to be going to quantity, you have to wonder about the quality.
You might also ask the local breed rescue to see if this person is actually actively adding to the pet overpopulation, or, showing one dog as the sire or breeding bitch while the actual dog being bred is a neglected puppy machine. One rescue (Collie Rescue of the Carolinas) rescued two nearly bald collies with nails that had grown so long and curled under so they could barely walk. These two dogs had been puppy factories without proper care or exercise. Buyer beware!
As I’ve come to learn about conformation showing, I’ve learned it isn’t all about the looks the dog is born with. The judge is also looking for physical condition. The dog needs to have a good strong back and legs that come for getting more exercise than maybe the average backyard dog gets.
Even among breeders, be careful about the attention the breeder pays to genetically prevalent problems in that breed. For collies, it is eyesight. Does the breeder get the puppies tested? Have the parents been tested? Are you ready to pay a couple of hundred dollars for a dog that is deaf (double dilute) or blind if the breeder had an accident (or worse, didn’t know what he/she was doing)?
Don’t think that these problems do not happen in mongrels. Deafness is also a problem in Dalmatians, some colors (Harlequin) in Great Danes. So when you cross certain breeds of certain colors you will may get problems of deafness or even a double dilute merle. A double dilute merle is the result of breeding two merles together. While some merles are obvious (blue merles), a sable merle is less obvious.
2. The breeder should have a standard contract. Ask to see it.
A contract is to protect both you and the breeder. You’ll want to know what the breeder expects from you and what you can expect from the breeder. The best breeders will ask for the first opportunity to have the dog back should you be unable to care for the dog in the future.
Rescues also require adoption contracts as do some animal shelters. A contract can help clarify everyone’s expectations, but don’t forget to read the fine print.
The Collie Club of America has a standard contract. That’s a suggested starting point. With a good breeder the contract isn’t set in stone. We renegociated our contract when circumstances led us to show our first puppy. But just being a member of the local or national breed club doesn’t guarantee a good breeder. For more on this, see below.
The breeder probably has opinions about food, care and training. Both times, we were given a lot of information to read. People, like dogs, can always learn something new.
3. The contract should outline under what circumstances you get a refund. Try to avoid non-refundable deposits.
Some breeders take a deposit before the pups are born. That might work if you aren’t picky, but you never know how many pups will be produced if any at all. If you’re interested in a certain color or a dog of a certain gender, then you can’t even be sure if the pup you want will be produced.
Another thing I noticed is that some of the photos seemed vaguely familiar or the prices were absurdly low. Check carefully. If you notice the person has just recently joined or started posting on certain puppy Website, be suspicious. If you can, cross check and see if the person is offering puppies of several different breeds. This might be a puppy mill or it might be a puppy selling scam. Some of these people steal photos from other Websites and pretend they have the pup or rather, many puppies. The puppies never age and the people won’t answer a lot of questions and it’s likely you won’t be able to find them showing dogs. Again…don’t be in a hurry to get a puppy.
If you’re looking for a pet quality or a show quality dog, that will be hard to tell at birth. Eye checks can’t be done until the pup is eight weeks old.
One breeder who sounded good and does show her dogs, couldn’t provide me with a contract before hand (although she assured me she had one). She never produced one, even after I had driven across two states. She couldn’t give me a vaccination schedule (she just handed me the wrapper from her vaccines). There was nothing in writing.
She couldn’t produce the papers to show the dog had had an eyecheck which was one of my requirements. I sent the deposit check only after the puppy reportedly had a good eyecheck.
Worse yet, the puppy seemed clean, but less than 24-hours later I found ticks. The puppy had been bathed to take off most of the adult ticks, but in the summer desert heat, the young ticks hiding in certain areas quickly matured. After a two-hour drive back to my hotel, the puppy had thrown up, yowled and the ticks began to show.
The next morning, after spending the night picking out ticks, I took the poor puppy to the vet. The vet said the number of ticks wasn’t normal and the ten-week-old puppy could have been on a preventative at seven weeks. The breeder had kept off of spraying for ticks believing that ticks were normal in the Southwest desert areas and otherwise, the puppy was healthy (although she admitted she had never tested her dogs for tick-related diseases). For that reason, she would not give me back the refund or consider paying the cost of testing for tick-related diseases.
Bringing ticks or fleas into your car, the hotels where you’re staying or your house and neighborhood probably won’t win you any friends and is an extra expense (and not a surprise bonus).
You might consider “rescuing” the dog, but remember you’re also supporting a breeder and the breeder’s kennel name will be part of the dog’s history no matter what you do.
Oddly enough, that Southwestern breeder made such a fuss that people who had no idea which breeder I was meeting figured things out quickly and she probably lost any future business in California and other places.
4. Ask about the puppy’s training schedule.
Puppies can begin their training immediately. That doesn’t mean you should expect them to sit, stay and come when called at less than a month. However, the breeder can begin by getting the dogs used to people, to being handled and to being separated from the mother.
By 7-8 weeks, if the puppy is used to to being bathed, having its nails clipped and being picked up and being separated from its mother, then it will be less of an unpleasant shock when you take the puppy home. Even better, the puppy should be used to being crated so that no accidents happen on the way home.
5. Are you looking for a pet quality dog?
If you’re not looking for a show dog, and showing is a lot of work, then decide what you can handle. Minor problems in a dog’s eye sight won’t matter much for a pet. A dog can still live a productive and happy pet life. A blind dog or a deaf dog can be a challenge, but you’d be surprised at how easily dogs can adapt to such situations.
- Owners of Blind Dogs
- Blind or deaf dogs (info and adoption): mostly Australian shepherds
It’s better to decide and do research ahead of time so you’ll be aware of the financial repercussions before you fall in love with a cute face or feel your heartache for a sob story.
There’s no real point in spending the extra money for a show dog, if you don’t mean to show. If you’re not showing, there also isn’t a good reason for not spaying or neutering your pet.
An unaltered pet is an extra responsibility and, in some cases, you’ll have a harder time finding a place to board your pet when you go on vacation. In many areas of Southern California, you’ll have to pay extra money for an unaltered pet.
6. Meet the pup and fall in love or try a mail-order bundle?
Our second puppy was sent from Iowa to Los Angeles via Delta. What helped is we read reviews, we looked at the Website and the breeder patiently answered our questions and provide us with videos and photos that gave us an idea of the puppy’s character. Because the breeder had properly trained the puppy, he was happy and healthy when he arrived at the airport. He came with everything we needed (food, toys, a collar and a leash).
Our first puppy we picked up. We are still in contact with both breeders. If you have questions or problems in the future, you want to be able to work with the people who sell you your pup. Remember, a puppy is a long-term investment and the returns are unconditional love.
The big question is: Will our two puppies get along when they are adults? Time will tell.
What do you want?
- Pet/Show quality
- What problems can you deal with? Mild eye problems? Blindness? Umbilical hernia?
- Have a vet picked out for the 24-72 hour health check.
- bowl (food)
- bowl (water)
- bag of food that the dog is used to eating