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Last Updated:
4/2/2024 9:02 AM



Before buying or adopting a puppy or adult dog, what you should know....
The acquisition of a dog should not be an impulsive action. Shelters and Rescue groups are full to bursting with dogs bought for the following wrong reasons:
Your children want one.  Although young children can help with taking care of the puppy, they are not responsible enough to have sole responsibility,  and older children have very full social lives and will soon be on their own in the world or going to college.  This means that the parents will initially and always bear the responsibility for feeding, grooming, training and cleaning up after the puppy.  Only buy or adopt the pet if YOU want it.


3)      You are giving it as a gift.  You may want to make up a gift certificate for someone entitling him/her to a dog, but this should really be discussed with the potential owner to make sure the dog is something he/she wants. 

Dogs are living creatures with needs very similar to our own: food, shelter, love, and family. Give owning a dog as much thought as you would to having a baby, or buying a house.  All these actions make profound changes in your lifestyle and you should be as prepared as possible to deal with the changes.  Most of the dogs bought on impulse or given as surprise gifts are dying by the thousands every day in shelters across the country.
Educate yourself on the breed(s) you have chosen.   Read books, but more important, go to dog shows and talk to breeders, talk to pet owners, talk to people doing breed rescue. If you have a computer, join a discussion list for that breed. Meet as many dogs, pet and show alike, of this breed as possible to become familiar with it. If you are looking at a mixed breed, educate yourself about the breeds it came from.  Do not choose a high energy dog if you are a couch potato, and vice versa.



4)       Imagine different scenarios that could occur in the future and how they will be handled. Are you prepared to deal with the early destructive behavior?  All puppies chew, some until 18-24 months.   Large breeds grow very quickly and things that were safely out of reach are easily grabbed. Be prepared for uprooted plants, huge holes in the yard, chewed anything the puppy can get its mouth on.

5)       If you do not have a fenced yard, then remember you will be walking the dog in all weather, rain, snow, heat.

6)       Are you prepared for the cost of doggie “accessories”?  A dog crate can run from $150-$300.  There will be a least one leash, several collars until the puppy reaches full size, obedience classes, not to mention food and supplements.  Check into the price of these things in order to have a good idea of what monthly/yearly costs will be.

7)       Are you prepared for dog hair over everything during shedding season?  For muddy paw prints all over the house when it rains?  To brush, shampoo, cut toenails, or to pay for those services?

8)      What about vet costs?  Yearly shots, heartworm tests and heartworm pills can cost as much as  $150-$250.  What about emergency visits?  There are dog health insurance plans that will cover most of that cost.  Yes, you may never have an emergency run with your dog, but if you do the cost financially and emotionally can be devastating.




12)   What if your hours at work change and are longer?  What if you have to start traveling for your business?   Do you have family, friends or neighbors who can walk or care for the dog when you are not there?  Pet sitters and kennels can help in these situations, but they are not inexpensive. 







  It is, to use an old expression, akin to buying a “pig in poke”.  You support and perpetuate this horrendous puppy processing plant when you buy a puppy from a pet store.
If you decide to go to a breeder or rescue group, do your research.
Call and talk to him/her. Ask for references from previous puppy buyers.


2)      Talk to other breeders, pet owners and rescue about that breeder and his/her dogs.


3)      Beware the breeder who puts down everyone else’s dogs while insisting his are perfect.


4)      Good breeders if they have nothing available would be willing to recommend another breeder or rescue


5)      The breeder should be very interested in the potential puppy buyer and ask many    questions about lifestyle, home and family, or have a questionnaire for the potential buyer to fill out.   This will aid them in matching up the best dog to its new home.


6)      The breeder should assess the puppy buyer’s knowledge of the breed and proceed to further educate them on all aspects including temperament, and health problems in the breed.


7)      Some breeders will want to come out and do a home check also.



9)       A good breeder will also tell you of the problems inherent in his lines (and there is no such thing as a perfect dog, so all lines have some type of problems, some more that others), but more importantly, what he is doing to eliminate them.  Acknowledgement of problems and honest efforts to rectify them is the sign of a good breeder. 10)  The buyer should be told that acquiring a dog from this breeder means the breeder would be part of his life as long as he has the dog.


11)   A dog is a 10-20 year commitment; the breeder should not pressure the puppy buyer to make an immediate decision, but let the potential owner think things through, even though it may involve several visits and numerous phone calls. A good breeder will remain gracious and helpful whatever your decision.
One or both parents should be on the premises.  The puppy buyer should be able to approach and pet the parents, with them showing no signs of aggression.  Any breeder who does not want the buyer to come to his kennel, who wants to meet the buyer somewhere to give him a puppy, who will “drop” the puppy off at the buyer’s home, is breeder to avoid.
-What can you tell me about the breed standard?  Can you show me using one of your dogs?  The breeder should be familiar enough with the standard to cite most of it without using a reference.  If they use their dog to demonstrate, see if they point out how their dog does or does not meet the standard.
-Why did you breed this litter?  There should be some goal or purpose other than just having puppies.  Best answers: To correct a fault in their line to bring their dogs closer to the breed standard, whether it is a physical fault, or to improve temperament.  The breeder should point out the good and bad aspects of the sire and dam, and explain how he is trying to improve upon what he has.
-How long have you been in the breed and how long have you been breeding?  If this is their first litter, are they under the guidance of someone more experienced?  If so, who? Is that person available to talk to?
-How many litters have you bred?   If the breeder only has one female, more than one litter a year is too many.  There should be 1 to 2 years between litters.  If they have 5 or 6 females with litters on the ground, use caution. 
-How old are the sire and dam? In large breeds, they both should be at least 18 months, preferably 2 years old.
-May I see a pedigree?  Most breeders have at least a 4 or 5-generation pedigree available to puppy buyers. There may be many champions in the background, but don’t be fooled by the hype.  Just because there is a Champion several generations back does not mean this breeder is producing champion dogs, nor are they a guarantee of health and soundness.
-Are both parents AKC registered?  This is important if you plan to show in conformation or obedience.
-Do you show your dogs?  If so, how many champions do you have or have you produced?  This guarantees nothing, but if they do show, and have produced champions, they are at least interested in producing dogs that meet the breed standard. 
-Are you a member of the National breed club, a local breed club, or a local kennel club?  Most clubs have a code of ethics that all members agree to and sign when they become members.  Once again, this does not guarantee anything, but it is a step in the right direction.
-Have you ever been suspended from the AKC or any kennel/breed club to which you belong?
If the answer is yes, find out why.  BUT this should raise a cautionary flag.
-If buying a show puppy, ask if the breeder will teach you to show or show your dog for you. If so, ask about fees.
-Do you show in obedience?  If so, are any dogs titled?  Dogs titled in obedience generally have good temperaments and a willingness to learn and obey. Your breeder
should strongly encourage you to take a puppy to puppy and adult obedience classes.
-Do you have the names of puppy buyers; both show and pet quality that I can contact for references? Any breeder reluctant to do so may have something to hide.  They may ask to contact the previous puppy buyers first for permission to give out their numbers and or have the owner call the puppy buyer.  Either way is fine.  When speaking with owners ask if the breeder has been responsive to their calls and assisted them in a timely manner when they needed help. Ask how the puppies/dogs are currently doing and if they have any health problems.
-What genetic testing have you done?  In large breeds, the dogs’ hips should have been x-rayed and certified by OFA*.   An x-ray is the only way to verify if the dog has dysplasia.  Watching them walk or run is not a reliable method of ascertaining the dog is free of hip problems.  The eyes should have been tested and certified by CERF**. The eye certification is good for 1 year, so check the date. At the very least, they should have a copy of the ophthalmologist’s report showing that the dogs have had an exam in the past year.  The breeder should have researched the backgrounds on both parents to avoid genetic defects, should be able to explain his search, and what he is doing to avoid any possible problems that may surface.  Ask to see the certification papers or vet reports.
Ask about any genetic problems exhibited by the parents’ siblings or the grandparents.  If mom and dad don’t have it, and others in their family do, it could be passed on to the puppies.
-What other health checks have you done?  The sire and dam both be tested for thyroid and brucellosis just prior to the breeding and should be up to date on their vaccines.  Ask to see written proof from the vet.
-What vaccines and vet care has the puppy/dog received?  Puppies should have a fecal check at 6-8 weeks and if necessary, should be on a regular worming program recommended by the vet.  Heartworm preventative can be started as early as 10 weeks, depending on what part of the country the breeder lives in. Puppies get vaccines at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks.  Adult dogs are vaccinated once a year for DHLPPV, and every three years after the first two shots for rabies.  Some vets are re-thinking yearly shots and may have the animals on a two or three year regimen.
There are some breeders who prefer a more holistic or natural approach to rearing.  They may not vaccinate at all, they may use homeopathic nosodes, or they may use nosodes in conjunction with a moderate vaccination schedule.  Frequently they feed raw, whole food instead of commercial kibble. If a breeder uses any of these approaches, ask them to explain their approach, and to recommend reading material to further investigate their methods.
Natural rearing should NOT be an excuse to avoid vaccinating!!  Most people who use this approach have done extensive research prior to implementing it.  If the breeder seems unable to provide a logical explanation for his beliefs, then perhaps he is not truly practicing “natural rearing”, and should be avoided. You can verify the dog's OFA status at this website, http://www.offa.org/ .  You can verify their CERF status here https://www.addl.purdue.edu/. Some breeders use Pennhip at the University of Pennsylvania instead of OFA.

If the dogs are kept outside, there should be shelter from the elements such as a doghouse, and trees or a sunshade over the top of the kennel. The doghouses should provide sufficient protection from rain and cold. The kennels should be clean and the dogs should have water available.
Indoor kennels should also have fans or air conditioning for the summer and heat for the winter.  The kennels should be clean, and the dogs have water. 
Some keep their dogs indoors. The house should be fairly clean, with no obvious feces or urine around.  If they are crated, the crates should be clean with no feces or urine in them. 

All the dogs should look healthy, clean, and if not friendly, at least be polite.
The puppies should be in a separate area and be clean and healthy looking, not too fat, not too thin, with clear eyes and noses.  The breeder should encourage interaction with the puppies and visitors as a form of socialization. 
Read the Contract.  This is something you may have to utilize one day.  Know what you are signing.
The contract should cover the following items:
- When outdoors, the dog should be provided with shelter from the elements, be in an enclosure, or fenced yard, and be given clean water.
-Should require the dog be given regular veterinary care, medical and dental for the rest of its life.
-For pet puppies, that no papers will be issued or only a limited registration given until the puppy is spayed or neutered
-That as far as the breeder is able to tell, through testing and background knowledge, the dogs bred were free of genetic conditions or diseases.
-That, if for whatever reason the puppy owner can no longer keep the dog, it can and should be returned to the breeder at any age instead of being taken to an animal shelter or humane society.
-For show quality dogs, that the dog must be shown, and be given all the testing clearances prior to breeding, and not bred before adulthood.
-All puppies should come with health and soundness guarantees valid until a reasonable age (1 ½ -3 years) against conditions such as crippling hip dysplasia, knee problems, blindness, heart defects, uncontrollable epilepsy . (Most of these diseases will have manifested themselves by then).   If any of these occur, the breeder should offer a replacement puppy or a full refund without the owner having to return or euthanize the original dog. 
- Show puppies should come with guarantees to clear OFA , CERF, patellar exams, etc, and that the puppy has no show disqualification.
- Should have a stipulation that the buyer have the puppy independently checked by a veterinarian within 48-96 hours of purchase.  If it is found to have health problems, the puppy accompanied by the vet report should be returned and the buyer receives a full refund.
- Acknowledge that autoimmune problems affect this breed, and while the seller cannot guarantee against their appearance when the dog is older than stipulated above, the breeder is available for assistance at any time.
-There should be a blank area to be filled in with any special agreements or arrangements agreed upon by the breeder and puppy buyer.
The breeder should supply information such as diet, vaccination, and worming records as well as four-generation pedigree and registration papers.
Most rescue dogs come from shelters and have no papers.  Therefore the dogs’ background is unknown.  Rescue groups make every effort to ensure the dogs are healthy and free from defects and that they have a good temperament.   If they have a health problem the potential owner should be told right up front.  Many rescuers have contact with the dogs on a daily basis and can tell you all about the dog’s personality and its’ individual quirks.  An owner who does not want a puppy can often find a loving companion in rescue.
Rescue personnel will talk with the potential owner about the breed to find out their current level of knowledge and then try to further it.  They will discuss lifestyle, work hours, children, other pets, living situation all in an effort to match the right dog to the right owner.
Most rescue groups require the potential owner to fill out an adoption application, and sign a contract.  Many require that references are checked and a home visit completed prior to introducing the prospective owner to the available dogs.  Because rescue is staffed with volunteers, who have to fit rescue duties into their normal lives, this can take between two and six weeks.
The rescue group should make it clear that they will be available to the owner for any assistance with health and behavior questions for the rest of the dog’s life
-How long have you been involved with the breed?  Someone with more years of experience will be better able to evaluate dogs as to their placeability.
-How long have you been involved in rescue?  If only a short while, ask if they have a mentoring group and if you may contact them.
-Do you have the names of previous adopters for references?  They will either give names and numbers, or contact previous adopters for permission to give out the name and number, or have the previous adopter make the contact.
-Do you have the names of shelters or humane groups for references? They can tell you how well the rescue works with them and how their placements are.
-Do you have some kind of formal temperament testing?
-Should give the dog ample time (4-6 weeks) to make the adjustment to the new home
-Should stipulate the dog be returned to rescue at any time, and not be taken to a shelter or humane society, nor given away to someone else.
-Should stipulate the dog cannot be used as a guard dog for any agency, firm, corporation, or organization, nor should it be attack trained.
-Should stipulate the dog is a house pet, not to be kept outdoors all the time.
-Should require the dog be fed a high quality food.
- When outdoors, the dog should be provided with shelter from the elements, be in an enclosure, or fenced yard, and be given clean water.
-Should require the dog should never be left chained up unattended, indoors or out.
-Should stipulate the training collar (choke) chain should not be on the dog unless it is being trained or walked.
-Should require the dog be given regular veterinary care, medical and dental for the rest of its life.
-should be up to date on shots and heartworm medicine.
-should be spayed/neutered prior to adoption (preferable) or the provisions should be made to spay or neuter the dog within a certain period after adoption.
-should be clean and healthy looking, with good temperament.
The original purpose of animal shelters was to house stray dogs and cats for a mandated period of time so they can be claimed by their owners.  If unclaimed they are put up for adoption.  Unfortunately, so many people misuse shelters as a dumping place for unwanted animals that they are overwhelmed and many dogs and cats are euthanized because of lack of space to keep them.
-Most require adoption application.
-Most require spaying or neutering within a certain time period if not already done.
-Ask if they do any type of temperament testing.
-Ask about heartworm testing and shots.
-Most require a signed adoption contract.
Jodi Marcus.   Copyright January 2004
I want to thank everyone who contributed information to this article.  I knew which way I wanted to go, but having never been a breeder, solicited and received very good information about contracts, testing, and vaccination schedules as pertains to breeding pairs and puppies.  A big thanks to Linda Walker of Sunapee Akitas, who was especially responsive.
Permission is granted from the author to reprint this article

 Any good breeder will not be put off by questions and in fact, will welcome them.  They are happy the buyer took the time to do some research. 5)      No reputable breeder will send puppies to a pet store to be sold.4)       Many of the puppies in pet stores are taken from their mothers too early and are shipped across country at a this very young and impressionable age, are kept in little cages, and when they grow older, have physical, emotional and mental trauma from such a poor start in life.3)      Breeding mothers may be kept in small cages and bred each heat cycle until they are worn out, then discarded. 2)      Puppies in pet stores come from big “puppy mills” to whom these little dogs are nothing more a saleable product.  There is no genetic testing done, and no prior thought or planning goes into their breeding program.  They just put two dogs of the same breed together and Voila! Puppies, little moneymakers.  The importance of prior research and careful planning cannot be emphasized enough. If you think ahead and make contingency plans, you may save yourself and the dog the heartbreak of going to a shelter or rescue group.
Decide if a puppy or adult will better fit your lifestyle. The best place to acquire a puppy or adult dog is from an ethical breeder, rescue or animal shelter, not a local pet store.  Why?    
At a Pet Store: 
1)      You cannot meet the parents of the puppy that is being sold.  Meeting the parents and seeing what their temperament is like will give you an idea of what the puppy’s temperament may be like.  Temperament has a definite genetic component.
11)   What if you have children?  Merging a dog and children can be a little time consuming and energy intensive initially, but pays off in big dividends. Be prepared to teach the dog to respect the children, but also for the children to respect the dog.   There are some dogs who may never like children, and these dogs may have to kept separate from your children for the rest of their lives or may have to be rehomed.
10)   What if your marriage breaks up? Who will take the dog?
What will you do if you move?  If you are renting, finding an apartment or house that allows large dogs can be very difficult and expensive.
Find out what genetic and health problems are associated with the breed. All breeds have some problems.3)      Make sure this breed will fit in with your family and lifestyle.  Make sure all family members are aware of the breed’s traits and are in agreement on the breed.  A dog is a 10-20 year commitment, and you should be no less committed to your dog than you would to children.  Both are dependent upon you for food, shelter and a loving environment.
You are in the midst of emotional upheaval, such as a divorce, move, marriage or death, and you want a companion.  Once things settle down and life becomes normal again, you may not have time to take care of a dog.  Wait until the dust settles and then decide.

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