Many have commented about the recent Carroll County animal rescue investigation that found dogs in horrible conditions in Hampstead and the resulting arrests of the kennel operators. The rescue operation by our Humane Society along with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and firefighters has been praised and we owe them another thank-you for their efforts.
After all of that, potential dog owners may be asking, “How do I find reputable breeders?”
The internet, pet stores, and newspaper ads might seem to be viable sources for puppies. Purchasing a puppy from such sources presents many risks.
The internet provides numerous websites containing lovely photos of dogs that don’t belong to the seller, may provide questionable information regarding their dogs’ health history, registration, and dog show awards if they claim to have competed at dog shows. Another “red flag” is the seller claiming to be a member of the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC does not offer memberships to individuals but is a “club of clubs” with each club sending a delegate to participate at meetings. So, an AKC-recognized club delegate attends to vote on changes for dog show regulations, etc.
These questionable puppy sources as well as casual or “backyard breeders” usually don’t have their potential dams (mother of a litter) or sires (father of a litter) Nor are the puppies evaluated by veterinary specialists before litters are planned to prevent breed-specific hereditary health problems (that can also occur in “designer” breeds). Their dogs may not conform to the breed standard for correct physical structure and temperament (like aggression and excessive shyness).
If a pup is to be purchased “sight unseen” from a long-distance breeder, there may be no proof of the physical conditions of where the litter was raised (home, outdoors, barn), the amount of direct contact, and socialization with humans, and the socialization experiences the puppies may have received. These factors profoundly influence the physical and social development of puppies and may impact them for life.
The prospective dog owner is advised to learn as much as possible regarding their chosen breed.
Visit the American Kennel Club’s website www.akc.org and click on “Breeds” and select the breed of choice. The site for the breed’s parent club may provide a list of breeders in different regions of the U.S. as well as regional clubs for the desired breed and may provide breeder contact information. Attend a dog show to see the chosen breed in the “flesh” and talk with owners, exhibitors, and handlers.
Be courteous and wait until the handler or exhibitor isn’t busy to ask about the positive and negative aspects of the breed
Contact local kennel clubs since most have a breeder referral service.
Talk with veterinarians as they may have clients who have consistently bred healthy and temperamentally sound specimens of your desired breed.
When communicating with breeders (preferably face-to-face or by phone), ask the following questions:
How long have they owned and bred their chosen breed?
How many litters do they breed each year? Note that over 3 litters may indicate a commercial breeding operation.
What pre-breeding health evaluations were conducted on the dam, sire, and ancestors? Ask for documentation (reports from veterinary specialists, Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Penn-Hip).
How many litters has the dam produced and her age with each litter?
What veterinary care has the litter received (worming, inoculation, physical exam)?
At what age will the puppies be eligible to go to their new homes? In Maryland puppies must be over 8 weeks old.
With which dog registry are the dam, sire and puppies registered? Please note that there are over 30 dog registries in this country but only two are not-for-profit and have credibility: the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
If the breeder is located in Carroll County, ask to see a kennel license, which is a requirement for all dog breeders and for people who own more than 3 dogs. Each licensed kennel must undergo an annual inspection conducted by an Animal Control officer from the Humane Society of Carroll County. Kennel Licenses are issued by the Carroll County Zoning Board.
Be skeptical of ads for dogs with “rare colors” which maybe disqualifying colors according to the breed’s standard and should be sold as “pet quality”
Also be wary about “teacup-sized” dogs because they may have serious orthopedic, neurological, and liver problems, the result of being bred down in size and their small bodies containing normal-sized organs.
Once you have found a reputable breeder, expect to be interrogated. Ethical breeders have an unwritten credo to which they abide: “from the womb to the tomb” meaning that they feel responsible for the pups they’ve brought into the world and want owners who will be committed to providing love, care, enrichment and training throughout the dogs’ lives.
Expect questions regarding your previous dog-owning experience, lifestyle, work and daily schedule, other family members and if there are other pets, the layout of the home (stairs may present problems for long-backed, short-legged dogs) and if there is a securely fenced-in yard. Some breeders may conduct home visits. Reputable breeders prefer to communicate directly with potential puppy buyers and may want to meet the entire family to assess their commitment to dog ownership, and how appropriately family members interact with the breeder’s dogs.
Before the pup leaves for its new home The breeder will provide information regarding diet (sending along food for the puppy), grooming, exercise, behavior traits, and honestly explain why a puppy is considered as ”pet quality” (usually based on minor structural, color or marking faults). Potential owners are advised to put their trust in the breeder’s choice of puppy for them so that an appropriate personality match can be made. For example placing a sound-sensitive shy puppy with a family of young noisy children would not be a good match.
The reputable breeder often has stipulations in the sales contract requiring spaying/neutering and returning the dog (sometimes with partial refund) anytime during the dog’s life if the owner can no longer keep it. The breeder provides a “puppy pack” containing a health certificate from a vet listing shots that have been administered and conditions to be monitored such as an umbilical hernia, feeding instructions and food the pup has been accustomed to eating, registration material from the American Kennel Club and information about the breed. The breeder may provide a grooming demonstration and recommend specific grooming tools to be used at home.
Reputable breeders try to keep the lines of communication open throughout the dog’s lifetime by answering questions and providing support and guidance regarding health and behavioral issues. They also appreciate receiving progress reports and photos of their “grand pups” as well as being informed of the sad news of the dog’s passing. Long-term friendships often develop between breeders and owners.
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Though the quest for reputable breeders takes time and patience it is worth the effort!