ARK Veterinary Services

1301 E. Missouri
Evansville, IN 47711


Ask a Dog Breeder These Questions Before You Buy

Deciding to bring a new pet into your household is a big decision.  There are numerous adoptable pets available at shelters, through rescue organizations or animal control facilities.  To some people interested in obtaining a purebred pet, a breeder may be the most convenient way to find one.  Unfortunately, adopting a purebred pet does not guarantee good health.  Below are some important points and questions you should be prepared to ask a breeder to help ensure you are getting what you want out of your new family pet.  The AKC (American Kennel Club) has devoted sections towards potential owners to help you determine if you are you ready for a pet?.

  • What are the congenital defects in this breed? The breeder who says "none" or "I don't know" is to be avoided. That's a person who's not screening for what she doesn't know about, and you don't want to pay the price for her ignorance.

    A good breeder tells you every remotely possible problem in the breed, from droopy eyelids to deafness to epilepsy.

  • What steps have you taken to decrease defects in your dogs? You want to hear words like "screened" and "tested" and "certified."

    In breeds with the potential for hip dysplasia - that's almost every large breed -- look for PennHIP or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals certification. These are expert, unbiased evaluators who know exactly what to look for. Insist on documentation on both parents. And their parents, too.

  • Do you have the parents on site? May I see them? This is a bit of a trick question. You should always be able to see the mother -- unless she died giving birth -- but reputable breeders often don't have the father on hand. That's because the best match for any particular dog may be owned by another breeder, and the female was sent away for breeding.

    As for the mother, she may be a little anxious with strangers around her puppies, but on her own you want to see a well-socialized, calm and well-mannered dog. So, too, should be the rest of the breeder's dogs. If you don't like the temperaments of a breeder's grown dogs, what makes you think you'll get a good temperament in one of the puppies? 

  • What are the good and bad points of the parents, and what titles do they have? You may be looking for a pet-quality purebred, but you still want to buy from someone who knows what top-quality examples of the breed are -- and uses such animals in a breeding program. You want to see show and working titles all over that pedigree.

    It doesn't matter if you go home and throw that fine pedigree in a drawer. Recent titles on both sides of a pedigree are the sign of a breeder who's making a good-faith effort to produce healthy dogs who conform to the breed standard. 

  • Where were these puppies raised? How have you socialized them? "In the house" is the best answer to the first question. You want a puppy who knows what the dishwasher sounds like, whom you don't have to peel off the ceiling when a pan drops, who has set a paw on linoleum, carpet and tile.

    Environmental socialization is important, but so, too, is the intentional kind. The best breeders make sure puppies have been handled by adults of both genders and by children. 

  • What guarantees do you provide? You want to see a contract explaining the breeder's responsibilities should the puppy develop a congenital ailment. In most cases, such contracts state either replacement with a new puppy or refunding of your purchase price.

    The contract also states your responsibilities, such as neutering your pet. You may also be required to return the dog to the breeder if you can no longer keep him. Such language is the sign of a concerned and responsible breeder.

Read and discuss the paperwork with the breeder. The best breeders offer contracts that protect not only the buyer and seller, but also the most vulnerable part of the transaction: the puppy.


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