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Shalako Australian Shepherds Pup Running

Questions to Ask A Breeder Before You Buy a Dog? 
The following is a list of questions you can use as you look for your puppy to help you determine if the puppy, dog and/or breeder are right for you. DO NOT FEEL EMBARRASSED ASKING ALL THESE QUESTIONS! A responsible breeder will welcome your questions and be happy that you show a concern about the breed.
1) How long have you been in the breed and what other breeds, if any, do you own?

Look for someone who has several years experience in their breed, preferably with a history of breeding dogs who were successfully able to compete in various areas of dog sports. This indicates that they are breeding with physical goals in mind.
Be careful of people who have multiple dog breeds. It is not uncommon to find breeders who might own more than one kind of dog (for example, Aussie breeders often are also attracted to Corgi's) but a breeder producing many different breeds of dog is unlikely to have the dedication and knowledge of any one particular breed and probably should be suspected as a puppy-mill or disreputable breeder.

2) Was the breeding planned or unplanned?

The unplanned breedings indicates poor kennel management and that no consideration was given to matching strengths to weaknesses in the parents.
If the litter was planned, ask why the Sire was chosen for this particular Dam?
Was it a matter of economy or convenience or was it because they felt the qualities of the Sire would compliment or even improve the qualities of the Dam to produce puppies that would help the betterment of the breed through their virtues.

3) What are the faults of both the Sire and the Dam?

Educated and conscientious breeder should be both knowledgeable and willing to talk about their dog's faults as well as about their dog's assets.

4) What was the goal of the breeding?

For profit? To produce more "wonderful pets"? So kids could experience the miracle of birth? Every year hundreds of thousands of wonderful pets are killed in local animal shelters. A responsible breeder does not look to make a profit from their dogs. They strive to improve and produce the best possible puppy and ensure that each one finds a suitable, permanent home.

5) Can you explain the puppy's pedigree?

A good breeder should be able to tell you quite a few things about the dogs in your puppy's pedigree. Have the breeder explain the titles awarded and some background on the dogs in the pedigree to give you a feel about how familiar they are about the dogs background. A dedicated breeder will be thrilled at sharing this information with you. You might see the same dogs listed a few times on the pedigree - the breeder should be able to point out any linebreeding and inbreeding and explain the benefits and dangers of both.

6) Where are the puppies to be raised and how will the Puppies be socialized?

Ideally, the pups should be raised among the members of the household and exposed to a variety of sights and sounds to ensure that they are properly socialized and adaptable to changes. Puppies that have been exposed to the different household activities, people, dogs, and noises are better able handle new situations and have less social problems as they get older.

7) What kind of support services will the breeder offer you to help you attain your goals for your puppy?

A breeder should be willing to answer all of your questions honestly. They will be willing to take back the dog AT ANY TIME should you no longer be able to keep it. Purchasing a puppy involves you in a 10-15 year long realtionship with the breeder. You should feel comfortable with the person and never feel pressured to buy a puppy from them. They should be willing to help with training issues as well as any other pertinent question regarding you and your new puppy.

8) Are both the Sire and Dam OFA certified and have current eye examinations?

A breeder should offer a guarantee of health and temperament, provide written, official documentation that both the sire and the dam have hip clearances from either OFA (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) or Penn-Hip. They should also provide current eye clearances from a certified ophthalmologist on both parents *and* the puppies.
DO NOT ACCEPT "My vet says the dogs are fine" "The parents run and jump with no problems" or "The parents were too young" These are not valid reasons and are not evidence that the dogs are free of health problems.
OFA stands for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals which is the organization that evaluates and certifies hip joint conformation. Another organization is known as Penn-Hip. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary , crippling disorder that has been diagnosed in virtually all AKC recognized breeds. The only way to be sure a dog is not afflicted is to have a special radiograph taken and sent to OFA or Penn-Hip where specially qualified vets will read and evaluate it. Only dogs who are found to be free of hip dysplasia are granted OFA numbers or a Penn-Hip rating. OFA assigns each dog a hip quality rating of either "Fair", "Good", or "Excellent", or varying levels of Dysplastic.

9) Have both parents and the entire litter been screened for inherited eye defects?

An organization called CERF deals with the certification of eyes just as OFA does for hips. Hereditary eye problems have been identified in almost every AKC recognized breed. Some breeders may send in the results of their dogs eye exam to CERF for an official certificate, while other breeders may just have a copy of the eye exam results by a qualified canine veterinary ophthalmologist. When looking at the copy of the exam report, be sure to check that it correctly matches the appropriate sire or dam and that it states that the dog is free of visible eye defects. Eye exams are normally done on an annual basis, so check to see that the exam is current ( within twelve months). Again, both hip dysplasia and eye defects are hereditary, so by verifying that the parents are free from these problems you know that your puppy has a better chance of being free from them as well.

10) What type of guarantee does the breeder offer if the puppy is later diagnosed with a hereditary defect?

Breeding only dogs that have been cleared free of any hip dysplasia (and other orthopedic defects) and eye defects will greatly reduce the possibility of reproducing puppies with congenital defects; however, genetic throwbacks do occur. Some breeders offer different alternatives if you happen to have a puppy who ends up with a hereditary problem. These alternatives will vary depending on the breeder, whether the pup was bought as a pet or show prospect and the severity of the problem. Regardless, a breeder should offer some sort of guarantee. Beware of one who does not.

11) Is the puppy's health guaranteed?

Most reputable breeders will offer a 2-10 day guarantee. If the breeder does not offer one, find out if you can return the puppy within a day if the puppy does not pass a health examination given by your vet.

12) Will a written contract be provided to cover the above issues?

Most reputable breeders will offer to put everything in writing for their protection as well as yours. Be wary of anyone who isn't willing to do so. Ask to read the contract before purchasing the puppy to see if it covers all of the breeders verbally stated guarantees. Ask the breeder about anything you don't understand.

 Resist impulse buying and take the time to ask several questions of many breeders. This will hopefully provide you with a solid groundwork from which to begin your search for a puppy.
 Never be afraid to ask questions! A puppy is a ten to twenty year commitment on your part and the decision to buy should be a well educated one.
 Ask to see health certificates and verify that both parents have been screened and found to be free of Hip Dysplasia and inherited eye disease
 Don't be afraid to ask for references and be prepared to offer the same
Ask to take a copy of the sales contract home to review before committing to a purchase

Shelly Hollen |
Houston, Texas |
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