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Advice on who should you buy a puppy from

Once you have answered all of the questions in part one positively, you are now on the trail to finding the puppy of your dreams. There are many sources only too eager to sell you a pedigree puppy, some good, some bad, beware!

The first point is to know what a "Pedigree" puppy is. I once heard a man in a pub boasting that the pup he had just purchased, "had a pedigree as long as your arm"! So what is a pedigree? It is simply a form (normally printed) on which the breeder fills in the sire and dam (father and mother) then their sire and dam etc, until you have four or five generations shown on one sheet (similar to a family tree). All Pedigree Dogs should have a pedigree handed over with them, when you collect your pup. You are relying on the integrity of the breeder to have filled in this pedigree accurately, so this is your first pointer to the type of person you should purchase from.

Champion Dogs are written on a Pedigree in red ink to highlight them. The frequency of "Champions" in a pedigree does not necessarily indicate the "Show Quality" of the pups. Two Champions mated together can produce a litter of very average offspring. You will have to make up your mind whether you are buying a pup purely for "Companionship" or if you are likely to want to join the "Show Scene" (fully explained later). Regardless of which reason you are buying him, do not be influenced too much by the frequency of Champions in the pedigree.

Pedigree Dogs are registered with "The Kennel Club" and the K.C. as I shall call it, issues a "Registration Form" for each dog which is required if you wish to enter your dog in shows or breed. This form is not always available when the pups are six weeks old, as some breeders don't apply for registration until the pups are about two or three weeks old, to ensure they have all survived (It currently costs the breeder, ten pounds to register each puppy). So whilst the puppy should have been registered, the form may still be in the post when you view the litter.

Are there any hereditary faults behind the sire and dam? Many breeds of dog have hereditary faults such as bad hearts, bad hips, eye problems etc and the serious breeder will have ensured that the sire and dam did not (to the best of their knowledge) both carry the same problems in their background (ideally neither of them suffered from these problems, but this cannot be guaranteed). Even if both sire and dam where free from any hereditary faults, if the gene is recessive, it may crop up again at any time. The whole subject is very deep and could fill many books, but it is important that the breeder is aware of any problems that may exist and has done all in their power to eradicate them.

Is the dam available for you to see? Most important this for several reasons. If the breeder has in fact bred the litter himself, he would be pleased to show off mum, who has gone through so much and is now playing second fiddle as everyone wants to see the pups. If the person claiming to have bred the pups does not want you to see mum, this may be because he has in fact "bought in" the litter, instead of being the breeder! Avoid "bought in" litters like the plague! The person selling them has probably purchased them from a "puppy farm". Seeing mum will give you an idea (but only an indication) of the likely size and temperament of your puppy when it grows up. If dad is on the premises as well, then all the better, but more often than not, the sire will be living elsewhere.

Should you buy a dog or a bitch? There are many old wives tales around on this subject but my personal feelings are that you should follow your instincts. If you couldn't cope with the problems experienced when a bitch comes into season then obviously avoid buying a bitch. Apart from that, I will not try to influence you.

When you see the litter, which one should you choose? Well broadly speaking, if you are looking for a "Companion" where show quality doesn't count, then you are mainly interested in buying a HEALTHY pup with a GOOD temperament. The best time to view is when they are about six weeks old. Some breeders release puppies at this age, others keep them for a few weeks longer. The exact release date depends on the views of the breeder, the strength of the pups and of course, the breed in question. Avoid anyone attempting to sell and release pups less than six weeks old! Avoid any sickly or weak or timid looking pups, don't take pity on them.

Insurance. Most Breeder/Exhibitors will sell or give you (included in the price of the pup) an insurance policy which will cover the puppy for the first four to six weeks of its life. This is the most crucial period, when leaving its litter and going to a new environment. Take advantage of this cover and the Insurance Company will contact you to offer cover after this period expires. I always recommend this as no one can guarantee that a puppy will not contract some form of illness during its life and the Insurance should cover Veterinary costs over and above say about the first ten to fifteen pounds.

Diet / Information Sheet. On purchasing a puppy, you should always be given at the minimum, a diet sheet outlining the type and quantity of food the pup has been used to and the frequency of feeds required for its fastest growth period. If this is not offered, you should ask yourself, does the seller really care for the future of his offspring?

Now you have read about the type of service you should expect from the seller, let us look at who is likely to offer you a puppy.

BREEDER / EXHIBITOR.

I have placed this category first as I sincerely believe that this should be the best option available and not just because I am a Breeder and Exhibitor myself. Most people who actively campaign their dogs at local Open Shows and National Championship Shows have several facets in common. First and foremost, dogs are their hobby and they restrict their ownership to one or two breeds. As they are keen to improve the chances of their stock winning at Shows, they are acutely aware that any puppies they produce will, as near as possible, match the standard as laid down by the Kennel Club for their particular breed.

The Breeder / Exhibitor is therefore more likely to choose a stud dog which will enhance the attributes of the dam and not double up on any faults she may have. Points to be taken into account with both the sire and dam should be physical, temperament, hereditary problems etc. Exhibitors should be fully aware of these standards and be striving to breed a better dog. They have their good name to uphold and have experience of that breed which will enable them to pass on all the necessary information you require. Their stock has to be kept in tip top condition for the show ring and they will be proud to show you all of their dogs. I have purposefully used words like "should" and "more likely to" as of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the percentage of bad Breeder / exhibitors is extremely low and you would have to be very unlucky to come across a rogue one.

PET BREEDER.

This category covers the person who may have just one or two dogs, doesn't show, but breeds one or two litters in the bitches lifetime. Although their knowledge of the breed is unlikely to be as extensive as an Exhibitor, if you yourself are only looking for a pet, then with a few exceptions, you are likely to find a healthy puppy. It is worth enquiring why they used the particular stud dog that sired the pups and as long as the answer is not that "the dog round the corner happened to be the same breed", then do not be alarmed. As long as the pups look healthy, strong and with a good temperament and you are allowed to see the dam, then there is no major reason why you should be put off.

DOG HOMES (BATTERSEA) / RESCUE SOCIETIES.

If you are after a companion dog and not a show dog you may consider taking on a Re-Home who is likely to be older than a puppy. The reasons for them having been re-homed are too numerous to list here, but many breeds are capable of settling down again in a new home and if they receive the love and attention they are looking for, will be your friend for the remainder of their life. You will be stringently vetted to ensure you are compatible with the dog and the reasons for its being there should be made clear. This avenue is not to be overlooked as in many cases, if the dog is not found a suitable home within a given period, it may have to be put to sleep. But don't rush in without thinking, you must still be prepared to go through all the points I have listed in Buying A Puppy!

PUPPY FARMS / PET SHOPS.

I have lumped these two together, as they are NORMALLY the least likely to supply you with a puppy of any quality and they are more often than not, in poor health. Puppy farms are establishments where puppies are produced simply for profit. Many breeds are kept and the bitches bred from every time she comes into season. Any stud dog will do as long as he produces large litters. Very little knowledge of the background of the breeds are known and hereditary problems are not taken into account. Many of these premises pay little attention to hygiene standards and the pups can often be found to be weak or at worst very ill, when they are sold to the unsuspecting public. Many but not all of these establishments are to be found in Wales and advertise their puppies for sale all over the country and are prepared to deliver them to your door.

The best way to avoid buying a puppy from a Puppy Farm is of course to visit the vendor yourself, never follow up any advertisements that offer to deliver the pup themselves.

"How much is that puppy in the window"? Pet shops more often than not will buy puppies in from Puppy Farms. As I have said before, don't buy a puppy unless you can see "mum" and get an idea of what your little beauty is going to grow up like. Although many pet shops have caring owners, you cant beat the knowledge that you are buying from someone who has raised the pup themselves with love and care and are interested in their future home and well being.