Selecting a Puppy
Purebred vs Mixed Breed
What type of dog will you get?
The first decision most dog owners make is whether they would like a purebred or a mixed breed, sometimes known as a "mut". Like most things in life, there is a plus and minus side to each. The following matrix identifies some of the prominent characteristics:
||Known hereditary defects. Parents are able to be screened. Testing does not guarantee the puppy will be healthy.
||Unpredictable based on composite gene pool. Generally less issues due to diverse gene pool.
||Bred for specific purpose or exaggeration of ability.
||Looks determined by breed.
||Adult features may not be evident in puppy, even if parents are known.
||Predictable to a certain degree Environment plays a role
||Strong for breed purpose. May be unable to change a natural trait through training.
||Typically less pronounced behavior that may be changed through training.
Points to remember:
- One can mitigate some of the unpredictable features in a mixed breed dog by adopting an adult.
- The expense associated with the purchase of purebred is a very small, incremental cost to the overall care throughout the life of your pet. An alternative would be to adopt from a rescue.
- The characteristics of a purebred may be so ingrained that even the most diligent training will not relieve a behavior.
- Selecting a purebred allows you to pick dominant characteristics.
Considering a purebred dog?
Purebreds come in a somewhat predictable array of sizes, coat lengths, energy levels, and behavior traits that need to fit your lifestyle.
- The physical characteristics: Will it live in an apartment or on a farm? Does anyone in the family have allergies?
- The energy level: Will you have time to run with it everyday or will it be confined indoors for most of the day?
- The inherited behaviors: Are there children in the home? Does the dog require alternative training to alleviate breed behaviors? (See: Beyond the Basics)
Think before you buy or adopt!
It is not uncommon to research for one or two years before bringing a dog into your home. Having a dog is a long term commitment.
Finding a Good Breeder
Starting your search
Once you have decided you would like a purebred, you will need to find a good breeder. Understanding the qualities is quite important.
A Good Breeder:
- Does not breed for money. They breed to promote a healthy, mentally sound puppy that is indicative of the breed's characteristics. They research the lineage and potential risks of mating the male to female. They typically are not a neighbor who wants to have a litter and make a few bucks.
- Will welcome you to visit the place where their dog was bred and raised. It will be clean. They will want to meet all the people in your family that will live with the dog. They will question you on what your home is like, where the dog will be kept, how the dog will be raised. They may want to know your veterinarian's name. Don't be offended! They want to insure that the dog is well placed.
- Will always take an unwanted dog back regardless of the situation. This is usually written in their contract of sale; sometimes with an agreement that if you ever decide to give up the dog they have first rights to reclaim it. They want to insure the dog does not end up in a rescue.
- Provides written proof that screening was done for heredity defects indicative of your particular breed on both parents and the puppy. This includes things like eye certifications and hip certifications. They are aware of hereditary defects and willingly disclose information about them in the breed and their stock.
- Does not breed the mother every heat cycle. This insures a healthier mother and pup. They may only have one litter a year and do not readily have puppies available.
- Feeds their dogs a premium dog food or special diet that adds insurance to health.
- Participates in competition with their dog. Typically, the breeded pair will have a championship title or have points toward a championship from an accredited organization like the American Kennel Club. This is your way of knowing they care about the breed.
Where to find a good breeder
There are many resources available to help find a good breeder.
- Attend dog shows. Mingle with the breeders. Ask them questions. If you know what breed you want, attend a show dedicated to that breed. For example, if you would like an australian shepherd attend an ASCA, Australian Shepherd Club of America, show.
- Ask your veterinarian for references.
- Attend a dog training class.
- Research the internet. Ask questions and evaluate the responses.
- Ask friends
Selecting the Pick of the Litter
What exactly is the pick of the litter?
This is a trick question with no definitive answer; The pick of the litter is the puppy that best suits your lifestyle.
- If you decide on a mixed breed puppy, it may be more difficult to determine what the adult dog will be like. More you likely you will need to make a judgement based on your interaction with the litter.
- If you decide on a purebred, the breeder will most likely pick the puppy that best suits your lifestyle. You may have a choice between a few dogs depending on the size of the litter and the qualities you are looking to find. The breeder conducts a personality test around seven weeks of age. The test looks at all aspects of the personality and structure. Typically, dogs that are suited to promoting the breed in build and demeanor are reserved for those interested in breeding. Although the other pups are not breed quality, they are still wonderful prospects for other competitive showing and as family pets.
- If you adopt an older dog from a reliable rescue, the organization will likely have fostered the dog for a time. They will know if the dog fits your lifestyle. They will only place dogs that are a good fit. Like a good breeder, a good rescue organization does not want to see a dog come back.
A word on the "runt"
Many people consider the runt of the litter to be an undesirable puppy. If you have done your job picking a breeder, this may not be the case at all. There always is a smallest puppy. You need to look for signs other than size to determine if the puppy is a good choice for you. Many believe that the smallest puppy is the picked-on , more submissive puppy. It is just as likely that the smallest has learned to protect himself in the pack better than its littermates and may be the most dominant puppy. Most times the smallest puppy is just as healthy as the others. It may actually grow bigger than some of its littermates or it may not. I have personally seen larger pups grow into small adults. The key is to watch for activity level, evident health issues and personality.
Top ten items to prepare for your visit
- Research dog care
- Research the breed if it is a purebred
- Have references with telephone numbers
- Ask question on how the dog has been raised so far
- Ask to see the parents if both are available
- Have the name and phone number of your veterinarian
- Be ready to share information about yourself and family
- Wear old clothes. Some breeders will spray you with a mist of bleach and water.
- Be prepared for biting, licking and snuggling
- Be prepared to walk away before making a decision