Choosing a Breeder
Choosing the right breeder is the most important thing you can do when adding a puppy to your family. After all, this dog will become a cherished family member and live with you for the next 5, 10, even 15+ years. You want to make sure that they have the best chances possible for a long and healthy life and that their temperament will be compatible with your family and your lifestyle.
That starts with choosing the right breed, the right temperament, and the right genetics - all factors that can be controlled by careful selection.
Selecting the right breed
There are a dizzying array of dog breeds, with different looks, temperaments, and jobs that they were bred for. Terriers were originally bred for rat control, retrievers were meant to hunt, and huskies to pull sleds in Arctic conditions. While you may fall in love with the look of certain breeds, you should be honest with yourself in ensuring that you can fulfill the needs of the breed you select.
For example, I love the Shikoku, a Japanese breed of Spitz dogs. However, the Shikoku was originally bred as a hunting dog to track and bring down wild boar, and they were selected to have stamina and energy. I've got to be honest with myself and recognize that I cannot deliver the daily exercise requirements this breed requires and provide adequate mental and physical stimulation to ensure that it will have a happy life.
Selecting the right temperament
All right - you've found a breed that works for you and now you're searching for a breeder. One thing to notice is that some breeds also have "show" lines and "working" lines. Despite being the same breed, working line dogs are selected for higher energy and higher drive, because they were bred to fulfill a job, for example, herding sheep, guarding livestock, etc. Unless there is a highly active person in your family or you plan to participate in intensive dog sports, working line dogs would be incompatible for a sedentary family or those who live in a small apartment.
It's important to have a discussion with your prospective breeder and provide details about your lifestyle to see if their lines would be a good fit for your family. Understand what the parents' personalities are like, their exercise needs, and how they behave in social situations (eg. are the parents good with kids, are they adaptable, how do they fare with other dogs or cats, etc.
Selecting the right genetics
Once you've found the right breed for you, found a breeder whose dogs could be a good match for your lifestyle, it's now time to get down to the specifics - health testing.
Many breeders will claim that they test all their dogs, but ensure you verify that this is true via the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ website (www.ofa.org) for the parents of the specific litter. A breeder that has nothing to hide should have no problems making their test results public on the OFA database and sharing the OFA registration numbers with you.
Each breed is also predisposed to certain genetic conditions and it’s important that these are tested for as well. The most common health issue with Eurasiers are with their thyroid, so Eurasier breeders should also be performing a thyroid test on all breeding animals. Ideally, the breeder tests the thyroid annually as conditions can develop over time.
Once you’ve established that they complete the required health testing, you can review other, more qualitative and subjective factors:
- How many litters do they produce a year?
- How many litters in total will a bitch produce before they retire are?
- How do they raise the puppies?
- Do they show and title their dogs?
- Why did they pair these two dogs together?
- What are the living conditions like?
- How do they pair their puppies to prospective buyers?
I'll add to this page in the future on why it's important to ask these types of questions.