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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Getting A Dog FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:01 GMT
Last-modified: 20 Nov 1997
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
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Getting A Dog
Cindy Tittle Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents
* In General
* What Kind of Dog Should I Get?
* What are My Responsibilities?
* Where Do I Get One?
* Where Do I NOT Get One?
* How Do I Find a Good Veterinarian?
* How Do I Introduce Several Pets?
This article is intended to provide anyone contemplating a new dog,
whether a puppy or an adult, with useful information. There are more
detailed FAQ articles with further information if you get a puppy
(new-puppy) or an adult (new-dog).
What Kind of Dog Should I Get?
Factors to consider
There is an enormous variety of dogs in shape, size, personality, and
abilities. Different breeds will have certain characteristics for
which they were bred. Ask breeders at dog shows and look them up in
breed books for further information. You must consider several things
before deciding on a dog:
* _How much time can you spend with it?_ Dogs are social creatures.
They will not be happy left out in the back yard alone. You must
be committed to spending several hours a day with it.
* _What space can you provide it?_ If you live in a small apartment,
you must take this into consideration: many dogs will not do well
unless you expend a good deal of effort in meeting their needs.
Dogs can be pretty adaptable so long as *you* help them out. Don't
be fooled by size into thinking a dog will be OK in a small
apartment -- Jack Russell Terriers require a LOT of exercise.
Conversely, many Mastiffs are content to flop on the floor and do
nothing at all while you are gone.
* _How much money can you set aside for it?_ Even if you get a dog
from the shelter or otherwise inexpensively, you will have to buy
food, pay for veterinary checkups, vaccinations and routine
medical care, and purchase other equipment over the lifetime of
the dog. Not to mention replacing anything the dog may damage or
destroy, or putting money out for medical emergencies. Do you have
the financial resources for this?
* _How much exercise can you give it?_ If your time is limited, you
should look for smaller or less active dogs that can obtain enough
exercise in your home or from short walks. Note that not all small
dogs are less active, or larger dogs more active; research your
* _How much training can you do?_ Regardless of the dog you get,
training will make your dog much more compatible with you and what
you want to do. A trained dog can go to more places with you
without disruption, and can be more easily a part of your life.
* _How much grooming can you do?_ How much hair are you prepared to
have in your home? You should give serious consideration to these
factors: some dogs shed little and require no grooming (clipping,
stripping, etc); others shed little but require more grooming;
others shed but do not require grooming; and still others both
shed and require grooming. Do note that just about all dogs will
require some nail clipping regardless of conditions. If you get a
dog that requires regular grooming, are you prepared to pay for
its grooming or learn to do it yourself and to do either
* _Which sex do you want, male or female?_ There are pros and cons
to either sex, all of which are generalities and may or may not
apply to a specific dog. By all means, if you have a preference,
get the sex you want. If you are not sure, it really doesn't
matter -- look for the dog you hit it off with.
* _What characteristics do you want in a dog?_ Different breeds have
been bred with specific purposes in mind. Dogs bred for scent, for
racing, for retrieving, etc, will exhibit these traits. Consider
which characteristics you would like and which will annoy you.
Reading up on dogs in breed books (some are listed below) and
talking to breeders will give you some idea of these kinds of
characteristics. This also may be a reason to choose a purebred:
characteristics in purebreds appear more reliably because of their
consistent breeding. Do recognize, however, that dogs show
individual personalities, and variety exists within each breed.
Breeds are only a general indicator of what to expect. Some
questions to ask yourself:
+ What sort of exercise do I want to do with the dog? Walking?
+ Do I want a dog that is bouncy and ready to go, or more
+ Am I prepared for a dog with some protective tendencies? How
about a dog with possible dog-aggression (because of its
background or breed)?
+ Do I want an indiscriminantly friendly dog or one that is
+ Do I want a dog that must be near me whenever possible or do
I prefer a more independent nature?
+ Will I want a dog that readily accepts other animals (e.g.,
cats, rabbits, etc.)?
+ Am I interested in: obedience, agility, hunting, herding,
coursing, showing, etc. with this dog?
Purebred or mixed-breed dogs
If you are interested in a purebred dog, you should pick up a book on
dog breeds (most libraries will have a good selection) and do some
research, with the above questions in mind. There are some
breed-specific FAQ's available. Finally, you should SERIOUSLY consider
attending a dog show where not only can you potentially contact
breeders, but you can see ADULT specimens of the breed you are
considering. It's very important to remember that cute little puppies
remain cute little puppies only for a matter of weeks. There is a long
period of ungainly and rebellious adolescence finally followed by
If the dog's breed is not important to you, you should still consider
the above list when choosing the dog. You do face a few more unknowns
since a mixed-breed puppy (e.g., a "mutt") may or may not clearly
exhibit what its adult characteristics will be.
Many people have strong feelings about purebred dogs, especially the
characteristics of the breed. Other people feel that the "stereotypes"
are overrated. Jon Pastor made some nice comments about the usefulness
and caveats of typical breed behaviors:
Are behaviors commonly ascribed to specific breeds based in fact or are they
They are really a bit of both: they are informal statistical
descriptions (i.e., stereotypes), and to the extent that they reflect
reality they're also facts. "Stereotypes" -- or, more simply, "types"
-- can be, but are not necessarily, evil: it depends on how you use
Typical means "characteristic of the type," and is a statistical
abstraction; it does not have any normative implications -- i.e.,
there is no claim that all (or even most) examples of the type in
question have the characteristics that are stated to be typical. One
of the ways in which people make sense of the world is by comparing
entities they encounter with the types they've stored in their
memories in order to identify them; it's a remarkably effective way of
compiling knowledge about an infinitely complex environment so that it
can be accessed quickly enough to (in the extreme) save one's life.
Thus "typical" is a largely ad-hoc, somewhat personal label, until it
is agreed-upon by some number of people who share the same notion of
what common characteristics identify the "typical" object of a
particular kind. If we could eliminate the biases that have been
identified in such behavior (e.g., if the last 20 dogs you've seen
have been Borzois, you will most likely over-estimate the true number
of Borzois in the dog population), we would find that "typical"
approximated some statistical tendency in the population we're
addressing, typically the mean (average) or mode (most common).
If you pick some characteristic and look in a particular population to
see how many individuals have different levels of that characteristic,
you'll find that when you graph the results they look like this (more
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
| * | *
There will be some value that occurs most frequently (the mode); in
the case of a perfectly symmetric curve like the one above, this value
will also be the average (mean). Symmetric curves like this occur
surprisingly frequently, so I'll continue to use it as an example.
For example, let's say that you want to plot the aggressiveness of
various breeds. First, you have to come up with a way of ranking dogs
on aggressiveness [an exercise left to the reader ;-)], and then for
each breed you score a large number of dogs on aggressiveness and plot
| * |
| * | * o
| * | * o | o
| * | * o | o
| * | * o | o
| * | * o | o
| * | o* | o
| * | o * | o
| * |o *| o
| * o | | * o
Here, breed 1 is represented by '*' and breed 2 is represented by 'o'.
Notice a couple of things:
1. the centers of the two curves are clearly separated, from which
you'd conclude that the breeds differ to some degree in
2. there is some overlap, so that the most aggressive breed 1 dogs
are substantially more agressive than the average breed 2 dog, and
the least aggressive breed 2 dogs are substantially less
aggressive than the average breed 1 dog.
The significance you attribute to the results depends on the shape and
position of the curves, but in most cases there will be substantial
variation within groups and at least some overlap between groups.
Now, by doing this in N dimensions you can play the same game on as
many characteristics as you wish, and make statistically meaningful
statements about tendencies of one particular breed or typical
differences between breeds.
By doing so, you are *NOT* saying that
1. all dogs of a particular breed have all -- or, in fact, *any* --of
the "typical" levels of each characteristic
2. there is necessarily any real dog that has all of the "typical"
levels of each characteristic
3. it is impossible for a dog of breed 2 to have some -- or, in fact,
*all* -- of the typical characteristics of breed 1
This is not a True/False situation, it's an infinitely-graded
situation. If you get a dog of that particular breed, the modal
(typical) value is simply the one you'd be most *likely* to get.
A big caveat: breed traits are not computed scientifically, and are
thus not quite subject to the laws of Statistics. However, they do
reflect the cumulative wisdom of hundreds (thousands?) of years of
human observation and active breeding of dogs.
The bottom line is that if you get an Newfoundland, it is highly
likely that it will be a good lifesaving dog; it is possible, although
less likely, that it will be a *great* lifesaving dog; and it is also
possible, although also less likely, that it will show no aptitude for
lifesaving. Similar statements hold for "typical" traits of sight
hounds, Rotts, Poodles, GSDs, Goldens, Irish Setters, and any other
breed you can think of.
If you use this "stereotype" information to inform your choice of a
dog, and make some effort to determine how "typical" a given dog is
likely to be of its breed (by looking at parents and siblings, by
observing the dog, by asking the owner, etc., etc.), it's innocuous
and can be quite useful. If you use it blindly to make blanket
judgements of breeds, use of stereotypes can be foolish. In the
extreme, if you don't understand the meaning of the characteristics,
or have mis-identified or mis-measured them, use of stereotypes can be
positively evil, such as when "all Pitbulls" are identified as
dangerous and banned.
The only conclusion that this discussion licenses with respect to the
purebred-vs.-mixed-breed question is that prediction is easier with a
purebred because the number of purebreds is (relatively) small and
(relatively) fixed, while the number of possible mixes is essentially
infinite; as a result, there has been more observation of individual
"pure" breeds, and there is consequently more data to support
generalizations about breed characteristics. This is not, by any
means, to say that purebreds are necessarily better or worse; they're
just more predictable.
So if you want a dog with a particular set of characteristics, you
will be more likely to get such a dog if you find a breed that
typically has those characteristics and choose a dog of that breed
*intelligently* than if you choose a dog of mixed breeds (unless, of
course, you're talking about an older dog whose behavioral
characteristics are already obvious and therefore observable). This is
a statement about probability, not about quality, and anyone who
attempts to apply an absolute value-scheme to it is making unwarranted
and unjustifiable extrapolations.
Statistics is a powerful weapon. As with any other such weapon, use it
ignorantly or indiscriminately at your peril...
Listed here some good references on dog breeds; others appear in the
Publications FAQ. In addition, there are many that are specific to one
breed. Space prohibits listing any of these type of dog books here,
but you should look up breed specific books on the breeds you are
especially interested in for even more detailed information. The breed
specific FAQ's mentioned in the introduction will contain recommended
One word of warning on breed specific books. In general, avoid the TFH
"KW" series readily available in most pet stores. These are small
books, about 150 pages. Most of them recommend pet stores as a source
for puppies, blithely talk of the "joys" of breeding, and contain very
little actual breed-specific information. Instead there is a large
amount of general information repeated from book to book, and what
amounts to advertising for a number of brands of dog products. Leaf
through the book carefully before deciding (or not) to buy it.
De Prisco, Andrew and James B. Johnson. _The Mini-Atlas of Dog
Breeds_. TFH Publications, One TFH Plaza, Neptune City, NJ 07753 1990.
This book lists and describes over 500 breeds from around the
world. Abundantly illustrated with color drawings and photos.
Includes a short forward on what criteria you should consider in
choosing a breed, and a short description of the categories it
chose to group dogs in (slightly different from, eg. AKC
Mandeville, John J., and Ab Sidewater, eds. _The Complete Dog Book:
official publication of the American Kennel Club_. Eighteenth edition.
Howell Book House, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. 1992.
This is the reference for the AKC breed standards, each of which
covers several pages and includes a black and white photograph and
text on the breed's history, characteristics, and nature. Newly
admitted breeds, such as the Shar-Pei, have been added to this
Sylvester, Patricia, ed. _The Reader's Digest Illustrated Book of
Dogs_. 2nd edition. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.,
Pleasantville, NY. 1994
Besides the excellent text and illustrations in the album, which
cover 2 pages for each breed (175 total), the informative sections
are also well-written and illustrated and include many color
photographs as well.
Tortora, Daniel F. The Right Dog For You. Fireside, Simon & Schuster
Trade Books. 1983.
Offers a complex decision procedure, with lots of questionnaires to
alert you to the potential significance of various features of
breed behavior and physical characteristics. One of the few that
lists potential problems of each breed rather than giving a
glowingly positive one for each.
Wilcox, Bonnie and Chris Walkowicz. _Atlas of Dog Breeds_. TFH
Publications. 5th ed, 1994.
Over 900 pages long in large format. The authors are top notch
writers and did extensive research to compile this comprehensive
resource of the world's dog breeds. The book is profusely
illustrated with excellent quality photographs and a 3-5 page
article. This book makes a good effort to show every color and
every coat type of each breed in the various photos. Expensive. The
latest edition is out in two volumes.
_Project BREED Directory_. Network for Ani-Males and Females, 18707
Curry Powder Lane, Germantown, MD 20874, 301-428-3675. 1993.
There is a section on each breed (over 100 listed) listing specific
breed rescue organizations and individuals throughout the US. It
also describes each breed's appearance, origins, traits, and the
most common hereditary health problems for that breed. No pictures.
Check or money order ($15.95 plus $1.50 s/h) for a copy.
The _AKC Breed Identification Series_ is a set of seven short video
cassettes that give a brief overview of each breed of dog recognized
by the AKC. The tapes are categorized by AKC breed groupings
(sporting, working...) The segments for each breed last less than five
minutes each. The information is often erratically presented and
incomplete. The tape set is probably unavailable at video rental
stores. Since the set of seven tapes is probably quite expensive, the
public library would be the best way to examine these tapes.
Some breed clubs have much better videos describing their breeds. They
are expensive enough that it's probably not worth getting them if
you're still "browsing," but if you have a dog of that breed, they're
often quite nice to get ahold of.
What are My Responsibilities?
There are responsibilities that go along with being a good dog owner.
A dog will live from 10 to 20 years, depending on its breed, size and
general health. This is a long term commitment, and you must be ready
to provide the dog with a home for that duration. You must make
provisions for it when you go on vacation. It needs attention, love,
and respect from you: feeding and watering it are not enough. Consider
it part of your family: this is no joke as that is exactly what the
dog thinks YOU are: its pack, its family.
* _You are responsible for its health_. An essential part of owning
a dog is making sure that it gets good medical care. Check the
vets in your area and pick out one before you even get your dog.
Take your dog in to the vet immediately after acquiring it and
take it in regularly thereafter. You will have expenses for yearly
shots and, in many areas, heart-worm preventive. Puppies and dogs
routinely die without adequate veterinary care.
* _If you get your dog for protection, you are obligated to make
sure that it is safe, reliable, and trustworthy around people_.
Never chain it up in the back yard, or encourage it to snarl and
bite other people. Never try to make a dog "vicious." Such
irresponsible treatment results in tragic stories of children and
adults being mauled or even killed, the dog being put down, and
various dog bans being enacted. A dog can protect you just fine by
barking at suspicious noises and allowing you to investigate. It
does not have to be vicious. A good protection dog is always well
trained, properly socialized, and has a relationship with its
owner that encourages it to be protective. Higher levels of
protection (such as attack dogs) require considerable training and
experienced handling and are most definitely not for everyone.
* _You are responsible for your dog's reproduction_. You must either
get it neutered, or make provisions for keeping your bitch away
from dogs when in heat. If your male is intact, you must keep him
under control when he smells a bitch in heat. If you breed, you
are responsible for making sure that your dog or bitch is suitable
for breeding (i.e., good health, good temperament, good specimen
of the breed, and free of genetic defects), and making sure that
all resulting puppies are placed in good homes. The millions of
dogs that must be put down annually in the US are the result of
owner irresponsibility about their pet's reproduction.
* _You are responsible for your pet's behavior_. This means keeping
your dog under control. Do not let it roam; do not let it become a
nuisance to others in your neighborhood. Keep it on a leash when
walking so that it does not run up to other people or dogs and
bother them. Clean up after it or curb it (make it go in the
gutter) when it eliminates, *especially* in public areas. Many
parks, beaches, and lakes are closed to dogs because of
irresponsible owners in this regard.
* _You are still responsible for the dog when you "get one for your
kid_." Unless your child is old enough, at least 13 (and highly
variable at that), she or he will not have the sufficient maturity
to take responsibility for the dog. A dog can be a good way to
teach children about responsibility, but the dog is still *your*
main responsibility. Dogs acquired for this reason often wind up
in the shelters when the parents find out that they are the dog's
* _You are responsible for becoming more knowledgeable about dogs_.
Find some good books and read up. Enroll in puppy and dog classes
where you can learn much from the instructor; attend them even
before you get a dog or puppy for first hand knowledge of what you
can expect. Many dogs are in animal shelters with a note that says
"couldn't be housebroken" or "couldn't be trained."
* _You are responsible for being prepared for the new dog_. Never
get one as a "surprise gift." All members of your family must
agree on having a dog. Have food, water and food dishes, bedding,
collars and leashes, chew toys, and a veterinarian lined up before
you pick up your dog. Many "Christmas puppies" are found in the
shelters by New Year's Day.
Some books to try:
Milani, Myrna M., DVM. _The Weekend Dog_. Signet (Penguin Books USA,
Inc.) (1985). ISBN: 0-451-15731-1 (paperback).
This book outlines practical solutions for working people with
dogs. It has excellent suggestions for understanding dog behavior,
particularly destructive or unwanted behavior. Gives all kinds of
practical solutions to the problems of adequate exercise, adequate
training, housetraining, and so forth.
Miller, Harry. _The Common Sense Book of Puppy and Dog Care_. Bantam
Books, Third Edition (revised) (1987). ISBN: 0-553-27789-8
This small book provides a surprising amount of useful information.
A little on the "lightweight" side, nevertheless, it gives a good
outline of what you should know about your puppy or dog. You can
use this to decide how much you do know and where you need to brush
up on what you don't. Besides sections on how to select the right
dog, it covers basic puppy needs (housetraining, feeding,
illnesses), basic training, basic pet care, and a complete list of
Monks of New Skete, The. _How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend_. Little,
Brown & Company. 1978. ISBN: 0-316-60491-7 (hardback).
A monastery in upstate New York breeds, raises, and trains German
Shepherd Dogs. On the basis of their considerable experience, they
offer troubleshooting guides, discuss discipline, environmental
restrictions, basic and puppy training, and much more. Extensive
bibliography. The emphasis is on understanding the dog in order to
communicate with it or to solve problem behavior. An excellent,
well written classic, although becoming a little dated.
Spadafori, Gina. _Dogs for Dummies_, IDE Press, 1996.
This book is my current favorite and most up-to-date volume on dog
ownership, especially for the novice owner, although there is
something for everyone here. The author writes a newspaper column
and has been answering basic questions every day for years, the
same type that show up in rec.pets.dogs. This experience and
helpful advice comes through in every page on this book.
Taylor, David. _You and Your Dog_. Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1991).
ISBN:0-394-72983-8 (trade paperback).
This useful book is an overall guide to the health and care of
dogs. It includes a basic listing of dog breeds (AKC). This is a
good general purpose book that gives you an idea of what all is
involved in owning and caring for a dog.
Where Do I Get One?
There are really only three places that you should get a dog from: an
animal shelter, a _responsible_ breeder, or a rescue organization.
Typically, dogs from shelters or rescue organizations are neutered, or
you will be required to neuter them as condition of purchase.
The animal shelter is a good place to pick up a dog and save it from
death in the bargain. Look for a clean, healthy dog, keeping in mind
any constraints you may have. Look for signs of friendliness and
liveliness. Does it approach you in a friendly manner? Talk with the
people caring for the animals for any information on a particular
animal they can give you.
The best thing to do is to go the animal shelter every weekend and
spend time with the dogs. Try to put their plight out of your mind for
the moment--it would be nice to save them all, but you can't. Instead,
you should get to know the dogs on an individual basis.
Read the tags on each cage and see whether the dog was a stray, or
whether its owner turned it in for some reason. There are some
beautiful adult dogs in the pound that have been given up reluctantly
by ill or elderly, or even deceased, owners. Don't overlook these!
Ask to see the dog in the holding area most shelters have. You'll be
able to check for signs of hostility, see if the dog knows anything,
and in general how it reacts to you. Expect some fear and nervousness!
A few doggy treats may help calm it. If things seem to be going well,
ask if you can take it on a walk, even just around the compound. If
you are curious to know its reaction to cats, take it by the cat
Finally, don't be afraid to say "not this dog," and walk away. It is
hard, hard, hard to walk away from a sweet dog, but you are looking
for a companion for life, so you will have to be honest with yourself
about what you want. There are heartbreaking stories from people who
made an impulsive decision in the pound and lived to regret it. Bring
along a friend who can help you look at the dog more objectively.
If you plan to show your dog, or desire a healthy pet-quality
purebred, find a responsible breeder. Don't use newspaper
advertisements. Attend dog shows or performance events instead and
talk to the owners and breeders there. Try contacting the local breed
club for the breed you are interested in. It's best to get to know
several breeders before they actually have litters you would like to
get puppies from. This gives you a chance to learn more about the
breed, learn more about the philosophies and intents of the breeders
you know, and learn more about the prospective parents of your pup.
The more information you have, the better off you will be.
Remember, though no breeder is *automatically* responsible or ethical
just from the source you were referred from. You must determine
whether a particular breeder is suitable for your needs, and the more
time and research you put into this, the better your results will be.
Selecting the breeder
After you compile a list of potential breeders to contact, screen them
through the phone first. Here's a list of questions to ask (in no
* Can you see the dam and if possible the sire?
* Where are the pups being raised, in a family setting or in a
* What health problems occur in the breed?
* Have these problems been checked in the parents? As appropriate:
OFA certification, CERF certification, blood tests, etc.
* Request a copy of the sire and dam's lineage/pedigree.
* Titles on sire and dam.
* Info on puppies the sire and dam (together or with other mates)
have previously produced? (That is, are either of the parents
* Has the puppy been crated trained, paper trained, etc.
* What breed clubs do you belong to? Do you have references?
* How many puppies were in the litter?
* Any difficulties during delivery?
* How often is the bitch bred?
* What guarantees do you offer on your animals?
* What is in your sales contract?
* Do you offer a spay/neuter contract for pet quality puppies?
* Have they been to the vet yet? Wormed? Shots? Are the dogs bred
for the ring, field, or for general pet purposes?
* How many breedings have you done to date? How long have you been
breeding? Names and phone numbers of several customers, and the
vet you use.
* How many different breeds have you bred? How many breeds are you
* If for some reason I cannot keep the dog, will you take it back,
no matter how old it is?
* If I want a bitch puppy so I can breed her as an adult, what kind
of, if any, restrictions will you include in the sales contract?
* Do you have a litter available? If not, when are you planning one?
(If a litter isn't presently available, ask if/when they are next
planning to show their dogs in your area. If you can go, this is a
golden opportunity to observe the structure and temperament of the
dogs they breed.)
When you meet with breeders, look for people that seem more concerned
with the welfare of their dogs than the amount of money they're
making. Look for ones raising the puppies "underfoot" and around
people. If the breeder is using kennels, check for cleanliness, happy
dogs, no overcrowding, shelter from the elements, plenty of fresh
water. Check and see how many different breeds the breeder is breeding
-- good breeders limit themselves to one or two (usually related)
breeds because of the time, expense, and energy involved in producing
excellent specimens of a particular breed. Otherwise, the breeder may
be operating what is essentially a puppy mill (check this against how
often the dam is being bred & what condition she is in).
A responsible breeder should have some history of breeding animals.
They may be breeding for show or field work or just plain good pets.
They should be able to tell you about some of their previous puppies.
They should be able and willing to discuss the health and well being
of the parents of your puppy including: eye conditions, hip dysplasia,
etc. In general, be suspicious of puppies from anyone who has not had
the parents at minimum x-rayed for hip dysplasia and had the eyes
checked by a veterinarian, or for other problems associated with the
breed. Not all breeds have the same problems, but breeders should know
what they are and be able to tell you which ones they've tested for.
And if you've done your homework beforehand, you'll know if they're
checking the right things.
Here are some red flags that should make you wary. The presence of any
one of them is not necessarily an indication that something IS wrong,
but you should definitely check further if you see any of these:
* Breeding more than one breed
A few breeders branch out into a second breed, but the truth is
that there is so much work involved in breeding right that one
breed is more than enough for most people. If they are breeding
more than two breeds, something may be very wrong.
* The sire and dam are both on the same premises
Now, sometimes the breeder owns the dog they decided would be best
for their bitch, it does happen. If you see this, ask who else the
bitch has been bred to and generally try to find out if the
breeder always uses her own stud dogs (a BIG red flag), or uses a
variety of dogs depending on the bitch (the flashing red lights
can turn off now)
* The bitch was bred her previous season as well as this one
This is called back to back breeding and is extremely rare among
responsible breeders and all too common among unethical breeders.
Unless the previous litter resulted in no live puppies (or perhaps
only one or two pups) or there was a compelling reason to do this
THIS TIME (the sire is on his last legs, etc), this should be
reason enough to leave.
Expect to be shown the paperwork on the parents: OFA hip certificates
are printed on heavy stock, white paper with a blue background; elbow
certificates are similar but with a green background (and no grade is
given). ACVO (eye examination) paperwork is on light tissue apper and
will be a carbon copy; if they have the CERF paperwork, that will be a
narrow computer printout with some blue lettering (and they will no
longer have the original ACVO paper but a copy as the original is
turned in when requesting a CERF number). Take note of the numbers
assigned and CALL OFA and/or CERF and verify them. The sire's
paperwork will probably all be photocopied unless the breeder owns the
sire as well.
Here are additional things you can do to verify the information the
breeder gives you.
* Call the AKC and confirm claimed points: 1-900-903-4252. Be
prepared to enter the dog's AKC number when prompted. It costs 99
cents a minute, but most queries take just two minutes or so.
* Use OFA's web site to confirm the certificate. Go to
http://www.offa.org and enter the dog's OFA number or AKC number
Yes, it's possible to fake all of these, but generally folks who are
lying will trip up somewhere when you double check on the numbers and
such. This is where checking references come in...you want to be
satisfied of the breeder's overall integrity, etc.
Get references of previous clients and call them up and ask them how
they liked their dog. Don't overlook this step, you can learn a lot
about what the puppies are like and how well they did this way. A
responsible breeder should have no problem supplying you with such
You should be able to see the mother of your puppy; her temperament
will give you a good idea of your puppy's adult temperament. Obedience
and temperament titles can indicate good temperament. Being unable to
see the sire is not uncommon, picky breeders will often ship their
bitch cross-country to a good prospect. If you've done your homework,
though, chances are you are already familiar with the sire and know
that he has the qualities you want. If both parents are owned by the
breeder (and those are the only two), chances are this breeder is not
responsible: what are the chances you'd own the perfect stud dog for
your bitch? On the other hand, many long term breeders have developed
distinct lines and will have breed two dogs of their breeding (whether
they own both or not) for the puppies. So consider the big picture as
Check for some basic health problems: a litter that was larger than
the breed average may mean that the puppies are smaller and not as
healthy, a small litter might indicate trouble during pregnancy. A
litter of size one or two means that the puppies are getting little or
no socialization with littermates, regardless of health. The puppies
should look vigorous and be strongly sucking, beware of listless
(though sleeping is OK) puppies and indifferent suckling. Try to see
the puppies when they're likely to be active.
"Runts" are puppies that are significantly smaller than their
littermates. If they are otherwise healthy (actively rooting and
sucking, playing with littermates, etc.), then they are probably
simply younger than their siblings. When dogs are bred, they mate over
a period of several days, and it's possible for some of the puppies to
be concieved on the first mating and others on subsequent matings.
Over a period of four days, this can make the youngest puppy
significantly smaller. These puppies frequently catch up several
months later, and it's not uncommon for such a pup to turn out to be
the largest one in the litter! Puppies that are runts due to health
problems should be avoided. A responsible breeder will let you know
which kind of runt the pup is.
Puppies should be at minimum dewormed by eight weeks of age. The first
set of puppy shots is desireable as well. Beware of breeders who have
not had a vet see the puppies (or mother) at all.
Many responsible breeders only guarantee the general health of a pup
for a limited time (e.g. 48 hours). This is not a rip-off. The breeder
has no control over the pup once the new owner takes it. Reputable
breeders will stand by that guarantee *if* the new owner takes the pup
to a vet who finds something wrong (e.g. a communicable disease)
within that period but the breeder can hardly be held responsible for
a disease contracted after the pup is in its new home. Thus, such an
early trip to the vet is for the protection of all concerned.
Guaranteeing against genetic defects is common: such a guarantee
generally means a refund or replacement in the case of a defect
occurring; it does NOT mean that the puppy will "never" develop a
genetic defect. Be wary of breeders that claim their puppies can never
develop some defect that does occur in the breed.
The breeder should also guarantee to take the puppy back if you are
unable to keep it rather than having it go to the pound. The breeder
should also be concerned about your living conditions and what you
plan to use the dog for before they allow their puppy to go live with
you. Many breeders will want to know what you plan to do about
reproduction. Many will require that a pet quality puppy be neutered,
and withhold registry papers until receipt of proof of neutering (thus
making any puppies from that dog unregisterable).
If guarantees or other contracts (such as spay/neuter) are involved,
get it all down in writing. A responsible breeder will not be offended
by such a step. If something goes wrong, you have no legal recourse if
there is nothing in writing, verbal contract laws in some states to
If you're planning on a puppy for show (conformation or hunting or
whatever else your breed does) and possible breeding, look for a
breeder that is very picky about selling such puppies. If this is your
first such puppy, expect an offer of co-ownership if they think you're
serious. At the minimum, the breeder should be discussing how they'll
remain involved with the puppy. This is a valuable resource, by the
way, the breeder will be able to explain what the puppy's pedigree
means, what other dogs it should be bred to, how to show it, and so
on. Moreover, if you are planning something like this, definitely take
your time and get to know several breeders doing the same things you
are interested in. This will give you contacts, information, and a
break when a good litter comes along and the breeders know you or you
are vouched for by another breeder. It can be hard to "break into"
showing and breeding, but a little patience on your part will give
Good breeders often have a waiting list of potential puppy buyers and
often will not breed until they know they can place all the resulting
puppies. If you find a breeder you like, do not be surprised if you
are placed on a waiting list for a puppy. The wait will be worth it!
Approach getting a puppy as if you were adopting a child. Expect a lot
of questions and ASK a lot of questions! A responsible breeder is also
looking for a responsible owner.
Selecting the puppy
Many breeders let you see and play with the entire litter at once. One
puppy may come right up to you and investigate. Of course, it's cute
-- all puppies are. You may think this puppy has "chosen" you.
Instead, it's likely to be the most dominant puppy in the litter.
Dominant puppies will check new things out before the rest of the
litter does. Your "chosen" puppy may not be right for you if you're a
novice at dog ownership or obedience training.
A better way to select a pup from a litter is to do a little
temperament testing and pick the dog with the temperament that best
meets you and your family's needs. The Monks of New Skete's book, "The
Art of Raising a Puppy," discusses the Puppy Aptitude Test developed
by Joachim and Wendy Volhard. They indicate the degree of social
compatability and how readily a pup will accept human leadership.
If the breeder picks a puppy out for you, that's also normal:
responsible ones will have evaluated their puppies and match one to
you based on what you've indicated you want.
Another excellent source for a purebred dog is from a rescue
organizations run by various clubs across the country. If it is a
breed rescue, dogs of that breed are rescued from shelters or private
homes as needed, fostered while a placement is found, and then placed.
The adoption fee usually is less than the cost of a purebred from
For addresses of rescue services for various breeds, call the American
Kennel Club library, 212-696-8348, or check the breed-specific FAQ, if
one exists for your breed. You can also check the BREED book (listed
above); it contains over 1500 sources for rescue assistance for 72
breeds throughout the US. Breed clubs often run a rescue program; try
contacting the local breed club for the breed you're interested in.
There also exist all-breed and mixed-breed rescue groups; this is
another source besides the shelter to obtain a dog.
You should try to spend some time with each dog you consider adopting,
as recommended and described for shelter dogs. Talk to the people who
are fostering the prospective dog for a better idea of the particular
dog's temperament. Ask questions like you would with a breeder; expect
a good outfit to screen you as well. Expect them to ask for a donation
and require that the animal is neutered, if it isn't already.
Further breed-rescue resources: The newsgroup rec.pets.dogs.rescue;
the mailing list dog-rescue (see the Email List FAQ); the November
1994 issue of the AKC Gazette.
Where Do I NOT Get One?
"Backyard breeder" is a nebulous, ill-defined term often applied to
people who have unplanned litters or who breed for profit as sort of a
cottage industry. A better term is probably "Ignorant" or "Careless"
breeders. By whatever name, they are not a good source. If you must
try these, check the health of the puppies carefully. As with
breeders, look for people more concerned with the welfare of the
puppies -- people out for a fast buck will not likely have seen to the
health of the puppies. If you are looking for a purebred, forget these
breeders and find a responsible breeder instead. It will save you time
and money and heartache. If you don't care about having a purebred,
you will do better at the animal shelter.
It is not impossible that you will find a conscientious breeder
through the newspaper. Just check them carefully when you go and visit
them, like you would any other breeder.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you "only" want a nice
pet, there is no reason for you to look for a high quality breeder. On
the contrary, no litter is 100% up to the criteria the breeder is
looking for...and the pup that doesn't quite meet the expectations of
the breeder in ability or looks will make an excellent pet as he will
otherwise be healthy and good tempered...just what you want in your
Any breeder that has in mind one single goal and breeds only for that
must be considered irresponsible. Many "backyard" breeders (goal =
money) fall into this category, but so do "professional" breeders such
* those who breed ONLY for the perfect show dog
* those who breed ONLY for top performance
The key word is ONLY. Responsible breeders seek a balanced dog: they
will breed for:
* proper conformation (good structure is key for comfortable and
* good level of appropriate ability (if a hunting breed, dogs in the
pedigree have hunting titles or have been used for hunting; same
for herding, coursing, etc.)
* good overall temperament
* good health
Irresponsible breeders with a single goal in their view will
frequently sacrifice many of these points; a breeder seeking top
performance often lets temperament or health slide, just so long as
the dog can perform; a breeder seeking top show dogs may let the dog's
abilities and health slide. Someone out to make a fast buck may niot
have checked any of these criteria in their dogs! Examine your
breeders carefully and go with the ones that match your overall
philosophy and goals.
Don't buy pet store animals. These are often obtained from
irresponsible sources such as "puppy mills" (where animals are bred
(and bred and bred) only for profit). By buying from the store, you
are supporting these mills and adding to the pet population problem.
In addition, you are obtaining an animal of dubious health and any
money you might save will likely go directly into vet costs as its
health deteriorates and you may even have to put it down. If it is
purebred and has papers, chances are very good that the papers have
been forged in some way and even that the puppy is not really
purebred. Even if the papers are legitimate, the pedigrees are often
extremely poor. Many behavioral problems appear in these puppies as
they are carelessly bred, separated too early from their mother and
littermates, improperly handled, unsocialized with either humans or
dogs, and forced to live in their own feces.
A graphic article in LIFE Magazine (Sept. 1992) illustrates the kinds
of problems with puppy mills.
Many pet stores have been instructing their employees to tell
prospective clients that all the animals in the store are from local
breeders. In many cases, this is simply not true. Other stores will
have pictures and commentaries on their walls to inform you how clean
and sanitary THEIR puppy mills are -- but "clean and sanitary" still
does not obviate the problems with socialization and bloodlines. Don't
be fooled! And you may not even want to patronize the stores for pet
supplies as this will indirectly support the mills, too.
How Do I Find a Good Veterinarian?
Before you even bring your new dog home, take it to the vet you have
already selected. Annual shots and examinations are a must for keeping
your dog healthy. If you cannot afford veterinary care for a dog,
don't get one. Preventive and consistent care is less expensive in the
Choosing a vet
Choose a vet who you are comfortable with and who will answer your
questions. Check out the office: do animals seem just frightened or
are they also out of control? Is it bedlam, or reasonable for the
number of different animals there? Do you have local recommendations
from friends? Does the vet specialize in small animals as opposed to,
say, livestock? Try to get word-of-mouth recommendations.
Asking other pet owners isn't always effective because they may not
have had any unusual or challenging health problems with their pets,
and vets that can be okay for routine stuff often are less impressive
with unusal stuff.
Call vets in your area and ask the vet techs, not the vets themselves,
who they would recommend other than their own current employer.
Another good source is groomers, as they tend to hear a lot of stories
from their clients.
If you find the recommended vet is very expensive, he probably owns
the practice. Try one of the associates. They tend not to run up the
bills so much, and a good vet will usually hire good associates as
Look for a vet who is willing to refer you elsewhere if they don't
know the answers rather then saying something like "It must be an
Check to see if the vet is licensed by the AVMA (American Veterinary
Medical Association). They do extensive and picky inspections of the
24 hour emergency care
A good vet will either be associated with a 24 emergency care plan or
be able to give you the number of a good place in your area. Keep this
number on your refrigerator and check with your vet when you visit
that it's still up-to-date.
Any time you bring your dog to the vet, try to bring a fresh fecal
sample. Put a small, fingernail-sized sample into a plastic bag, or
ask your vet for a supply of fecal samplers. The vet cannot always get
a fecal sample from the dog, and this saves you extra trips to return
the sample and then bring the dog in if the tests are positive.
Try an ordinary sandwich bag (e.g. a "Baggie" -- ziplock is convenient
but not necessary) and turn it inside out over your hand like a rubber
glove. Then simply pick up the stool with your covered hand, turn the
bag right-side out, enclosing the sample. Zip if ziplock otherwise use
a twist tie. This is perfectly sanitary (and you can use the same
procedure to clean up after your dog on walks).
How Do I Introduce Several Pets?
Creating A Peaceable Kingdom: How to live with more than one pet by
Cynthia D. Miller. Animalia Publishing Co., 1997. 1-888-755-1318.
It includes dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, children, and any
When you get your new dog, you might already have pets that you will
need to introduce the new dog to. Exactly what you will need to do
depends on the kinds and temperaments of the animals involved.
Introducing a puppy to an older dog is probably the easiest
combination. If the older dog is properly socialized with other dogs,
you will not have problems. If the older dog is not, you may have to
keep the dogs separated until you're more confident about their
getting along. (In any case, a puppy will often be restrained as per
housetraining efforts when you are not at home.)
If you are introducing a puppy to a cat, you will probably have some
trouble for a few months. Older cats, unless they've dealt well with
dogs before will probably hiss and spit at the puppy or avoid it for a
long time. As long as the cat has a place to retreat to and you teach
the puppy to leave the cat alone (granted, easier said than done), you
will work through problems eventually.
Puppies and kittens tend to get along just fine. Watch out for
possible accidental injuries if the puppy is (or will become) much
bigger than the cats.
If you are introducing an adult dog to an adult dog, it will depend on
their temperament and how well they get along with other dogs. You
might have some scuffles to establish a hierarchy -- keep an eye on it
but don't forbid it unless things get out of hand. If one dog reacts
very poorly to the other, you will have to separate them for a while
and work on introducing them slowly. You may have to keep them
separate when you are gone.
An adult dog with a cat can present problems if the dog thinks cats
make tasty snacks, or if the cat takes a dim view of dogs. You may
have to keep them separated, or expect a longer period of adjustement.
If the dog is fine with cats, introducing it to a kitten is easy.
In sum, it depends on the temperament and ages of the animals
involved. In most cases, you can simply introduce them, let them work
it out, and after a week to a month or so, things are fine. However,
sometimes this is a lengthy process that you will have to work
through, especially if it is cross-species. In general, this will
Put the dog in its own room, where the original pet can smell it,
but not see it. After a day or so of this, remove the dog from the
room and let the original pet smell and explore the room
thoroughly. Put the dog back in. Depending on the reactions
involved, let the pets meet under supervision. If there is some
hostility, separate them while you are gone until you are certain
that they get along. It is best if you can arrange a "retreat" for
Meeting first in a neutral area such as someone else's house or in a
park, if possible, may help.
Arrange a retreat for a cat by blocking off entrance to a room with a
child's gate that the cat can jump over but the dog cannot.
Be sure that the original pet gets plenty of attention after the
arrival of the new pet. Resentment at loss of attention and change in
routine can exacerbate the problems with the two getting along.
Finally, remember that it can take several weeks to a year for the
animals to adjust. Don't rush things. Your best resource is patience.
Getting A Dog FAQ
Cindy Tittle Moore, email@example.com