A German Shepherd puppy

Buying a Puppy: What Breeders Might not Tell you

You have decided to buy a dog and you have done your homework. Your family have decided which breed of dog would fit in best with your household. You have decided to buy your dog from a person who breeds the kind of dog you want. What can you expect the breeder to tell you about the puppy or older dog you are interested in buying?

All puppies are cute and cuddly. Selecting one puppy from the litter means you need some basis for selection. If you know anything about the breed of dog you are buying then you will have some idea of what it will look like when it is grown up. You will know, for example, how big it will become, what kind of coat it will have, what color it will be, what kind of temperament it will have (in general), whether or not it is good with children (if you have any), and how much exercise it will need on a daily basis. On the other hand, if you are buying a cross or mixed-breed (AKA a Designer Dog such as a Labradoodle) puppy, you won’t know any of these things and it’s unlikely that the breeder will be able to predict what your puppy will be like when it grows up either.

When you do the basic research on the breed you want to buy, you should also find out what diseases or physical handicaps are common to the breed you are buying. It doesn’t mean your dog will get those diseases; it just means these diseases are common in the breed. Since you know what health problems are in the breed, you have the right to ask the breeder about the health histories of the parents, grandparents and siblings of your new puppy. The honest breeder will be happy to share this information with you, the breeder who is only interested in selling dogs, will not. Instead, they will tell you about other breeders who have this or that health problem in their lines, but somehow never get around to telling you about their health problems.

There are many breeds of dogs that are prone to hip dysplasia. Since you have done research on your breed, you know if this is a possibility. Ask the breeder for copies of the OFA clearances for the parents. (This means the parents have been cleared by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals as having no sign of hip dysplasia.) If your breeder says something like, “Oh we have never had a problem with hip dysplasia in our kennel,” and/or they can’t find the certificates, you can be sure they have not had their dogs x-rayed. Breeders who routinely have their breeding stock X-rayed will be quite willing to share their certificates.

Go through the same routine on eye examinations for dogs known to have eye problems or breeds known to have diabetes or bloat.

Breeders of German Shepherd puppies may tell you that they have sold their puppies to the police in an attempt to convince you what a great breeder they are. They will not tell you how often they have made a sale to the police. It may have been only one sale and the puppy was sold as a pet rather than as a potential police dog. You can ask for the name of the police officer or the police department so that you can get a reference from them. If the breeder will not give you references for their puppy buyers they may not be telling you something.

Some breeders will tell you that once the puppy has gone to its new home, they are not responsible for the temperament of the dog. What the breeder is not telling you is that they make no effort to screen their breeding stock for temperament. Temperament is an inherited trait that can be modified, but not changed, through training. Temperament is also variable within any litter. Is the breeder willing to let you do a Puppy Temperament Test on their puppies? (These tests cannot be done before the puppy is 8 weeks of age, so if you are buying a puppy at 5 weeks of age, before they are fully weaned, you will not be able to test the litter.)

What kind of guarantees is the breeder willing to give you when you buy a puppy? Each breed will have different guarantees. Puppy buyers can request a guarantee against “crippling” hip dysplasia. This means that a puppy that has been found to have the crippling form of hip dysplasia can be returned to the breeder and either be replaced with another puppy or the buyer can get their purchase price back. The puppy buyer must have an OFA certificate certifying that the puppy has crippling dysplasia for the contract to go into effect. If the breeder will not give you this guarantee, you can be certain they are not telling you something about their breeding program.

When you are looking for a breeder, find out whether or not the breeder belongs to a breed club and/or to the national kennel club. National kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) revoke memberships for individuals who have been found to have unethical breeding practices. Breeders “who go their own way” without reference to breed standards will rarely belong to local all-breed or specialty breed clubs.

When buying a puppy or dog, remember “buyer beware.”