Christmas puppy season is approaching and generally speaking I don’t have a problem with getting a puppy for the family during the holiday season. However, specifically speaking there is a problem if the prior few months haven’t been devoted to searching for the right match as far as breed and breeder. Far too much can go wrong. Trying to find a puppy a couple of weeks before Christmas is going yield the same sort of results as going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Impulse shopping doesn’t always yield the best results. When you think about it you’re going to have your dog for a decade or more and yet many potential dog owners spend far less time in narrowing the field for quality then we do a car or other long term commitment purchases.
The dog breeding world stacks the odds against finding a quality puppy on short notice. It really takes a lot of research effort to get the best bang for your buck. In North America if you want to be a dog breeder you must write an exam. There’s only one question on the exam and rewrites are allowed. Here’s the question: Do you know the difference between a male and female dog? Even if the breeder candidate has to use their hands to get it right, no problem. “Congratulations, you’re a dog breeder!”, and then they’re unleashed upon the unsuspecting potential dog owners.
This is going to become an intricate part of your household, interacting with children, friends, neighbours etc. for a very long time. Good dogs don’t just happen, they are the result of extremely careful breeding. Genetics plays a very strong part in temperament. There are all sorts of regulations making sure our toasters are safe, microwaves secure but nothing to regulate the breeding community. The last time I checked my sons weren’t sitting on the household microwave but they’ve been known to do so with my dog and I’m very glad his temperament is solid and his brain took well to training.
There is a fallacy that because a dog has papers from a national kennel club that it provides some sort of security. It’s a false security. A breeder just has to prove its a pure bred dog, quality has nothing to do with it. Any back yard breeder can register their dogs if they have the few dollars to do so. Another red herring that breeders bait unsuspecting families with is the when they announce that they have bred dogs that have been shown and accumulated enough points to win ribbons. All that means is that the dog meets the physical breed standard. It doesn’t mean that the dog is tested for temperament or can perform the physical acts it was bred for. It’s meaningless from the perspective of the average family. I like pretty things as much as the next person but brains and the potential for long term physical health go a long way towards avoiding a household of unhappy children when the dog has to be put down because it has become too anxious, aggressive or prematurely physically unsound. Think of it like marrying Paris Hilton on the basis of, “Hey she’s cute and a model too!
Here’s another way you can be blind sided. Any breeder that is selling dogs before 7 ½ weeks and later then 8 weeks had better be able to show concrete evidence that they have had that dog exposed to a huge range of sights, smells, sounds and experiences. If they haven’t you’re almost guaranteed to have a dog that will develop temperament problems.
If you want to start to narrow your breeder selection, go talk to a few veterinarians and ask them if they get any outstanding examples of the breed you’re fond of come through the clinic and then track the breeder down. You’ll still have to do considerably more leg work but it’s a start. Also, do a Google search using the breed name and the word rescue. Call the closest to you and ask them who they’d go to. Breed specific rescues are usually manned by people with considerable experience with the breed and on the basis of the dogs they have to re-home at the very least will know who to avoid.
These are just a very few tips to consider. It’s a lot of work well worth while. Don’t pressure yourself this Christmas, there’s nothing wrong with just putting a gift certificate under the tree for the kids, “Redeemable for 1 Dog Within 1 Year” and then making a family project out of finding the right breeder and dog. You’ll set a good precedent for the kids in understanding that animal ownership is a big deal and I’ve often found when they’re involved in the process in the way it needs to be done, their interest after the fact is more lasting.
– John Wade the Dog Trainer