Shopping for a puppy isn’t rocket science. It takes a little bit of research, perhaps more driving than you had planned on, and PERHAPS spending more money than you expected, but, as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”.
The first thing you should do, is acquaint yourself with the Standard of the Breed (the written description of the breed). You will find this Breed Standard on the website of the “Parent Club” of the breed you are planning to spend the next 15 or so years with. To find the “Parent Club’s” website go to go to the AKC's website, click on National Clubs, then click on Select a Breed, select poodle and research health issues. By the way, it WILL be ‘15 or so’ years, are you ready for that much commitment? Once you get the general idea of the basic size, shape, color(s) of the breed of your choice, go to the section on the website that deals with health problems. Know what to expect, and what to ask breeders about. You have a right to a healthy puppy, and a healthy long time companion. I can only speak specifically about my Breed, or more to the point, my Variety, as Poodles come in three sizes, or Varieties.
At this point, in Toy Poodles, we can (make this MUST) check annually for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Cataracts. This is done not by the ‘vet on the corner’, but by a Certified Veterinary Opthalmologist (or ACVO). “Oh, my dogs can see, or my vet checked for that and my dog is OK” are NOT satisfactory answers. If the breeder to whom you are speaking says the dogs have been checked by an ACVO, ask if you can see the certificate, you have that right. If the dogs have, indeed been checked, the breeder will be very happy to show you the certificates. (Remember, it is an ANNUAL procedure, so check the date on the certificate!) If, on the other hand, the Breeder expresses annoyance at the request, excuse yourself from the conversation, and hang up. There is no excuse for any ethical breeder breeding a female without having her eyes checked annually. None. Period.
Next question: MAY I MEET THE MOTHER? ABSOLUTELY! Is the only acceptable answer! Why, you might ask? Because the mother contributes 50% genetically to each of her babies, and then she raises them! An unacceptable personality in the mother is a monster-sized red flag! If the mother is nervous, fearful or anything less than what you want your puppy to be, accept no excuses! A creepy mom makes creepy babies. Period. End of story. If the “Breeder” has some excuse as to why mom is unavailable, don’t even bother to see the puppy. You’re either dealing with someone who is less than proud of mom’s personality, condition, or appearance, or you’re dealing with a resale puppy, no different than buying a puppy from a pet shop. If you are tempted to ask the Breeder if they might consider selling the mom to you, then you will love her baby!
What kind of personality should you expect to see? The same goes for mom as well as the babies: friendly, forthright, inquisitive, active, cheerful. The tail should be UP! The tail is a barometer of a poodles attitude. If the tail is down, the dog is worried, shy or fearful. None of these personality traits are acceptable in a Poodle, or any breed for that matter. You are getting a Poodle because of it’s intelligence and personality, not because you want a dog in a sissy haircut that you have to spend lots of time and money maintaining, right? So personality in the baby and in the mom is KEY. What you see is what you will get. Shy puppy, shy adult. A shy dog will, eventually bite. That is NOT poodle terperament!
Sound knees are very important as well. Mom as well as the baby MUST have sound knees, or the baby will develop arthritis later on. A responsible breeder will NEVER breed a dog with unsound knees, no matter how fabulous the rest of the dog is. The puppy should have been examined by a vet prior to being sold, if not, have your own vet examine the puppy. In most states, there are what is known as “Puppy Lemon Laws”. Contact the Bureau of Consumer Affairs in your state (or the state in which the Breeder lives) and get a copy. In some states anyone who sells a puppy is covered, in others, only pet shops. Read the lemon law and determine which is the case in your state. If only Pet Shops are covered, then ask the Breeder if he/she would be willing to sign the copy of the lemon law binding him/her to the same conditions. If not, run, don’t walk to the door! The reason is this: Lemon Laws give the consumer certain protections: the seller of the puppy is liable to fix anything hereditary or congenital which affects the health of the puppy up to ____ days from the date of purchase. In New Jersey, it is 180 days! AND, up to twice the purchase price of the puppy! We all hope that will put pet shops out of business, but, in all probability, they will just consider this “the cost of doing business” and keep on keeping on. Just remember, YOU DESERVE A HEALTHY PUPPY! You shouldn’t expect to incur expenses getting your new puppy healthy.
WHY NOT BUY FROM A PET STORE? You might ask? Well, for one thing, no matter what the pet store in question says, all pet store puppies are bred by people who don’t give a rat’s patootie what happens to their puppies as long as they get their money. End of story. If they did care, they would keep those babies with their moms until they are AT LEAST eight or nine weeks old, and they would insist on meeting the families who will be caring for this baby that the Breeder caused to be brought into the world. The breeder is the one who knows what type of environment is right for each puppy in the litter. A pet shop doesn’t care as long as you pay in full! For instance, I would never sell a puppy who would be 3 pounds at maturity to home with two toddlers! It’s an invitation to disaster and heartbreak. Babies believe in their little hearts that “If I love my puppy, I can’t hurt it”, that’s how children think. But they can forget and leave the puppy on the bed, it jumps off to follow and Voila! You have a broken leg, or worse. Toddlers can have puppies, just bigger, less breakable puppies. Good Breeders care about their puppies before AND after they leave home. A good Breeder will always be available to answer questions, and everybody has questions. Why does he do this? When will she do that? Etc., etc. Been there, done that, know the answers. A teenager in a pet store won’t have the answers, or at least not the right answers, OK?
To sum it all up: Educate yourself, don’t be afraid to ask questions (and lots of them, we appreciaie that), MEET THE MOM! Look at those health clearances, ask to see certificates. If they aren’t available for you to see, that means they haven’t been done, or the breeder wasn’t pleased with the results. In either circumstance, you are dealing with an unethical or commercial breeder; no better than a pet store! Fancy websites are only that: fancy websites. If you buy sight unseen, you’re asking for trouble. If you buy without meeting the mom of the puppy, you’re asking for trouble. If you don’t INSIST ON seeing health clearances, well, you know what you’re asking for! And, remember: You Get What You Pay For! Oh, and the puppy of your dreams won’t be 2 miles from you, you will probably have to spend some time in your car, but spread that time over all of the years you will be with your fabulous Poodle, and it will have been worth the trip!
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