Picking a Puppy.....

(A Veterinarian's Perspective)

Sequoyah German Shepherds



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GSD Placements


Last updated 7/16/07

What To Ask and Look For BEFORE You Buy.....

Poor-quality purebreds are everywhere: Vicious golden retrievers, crippled German shepherds and deaf Dalmatians -- virtually every breed has some kind of genetic problem associated with it the good, reputable, knowledgeable breeders are working to eliminate.  Unfortunately, there are 3 kinds of breeders in the world:

bulletGood Breeders
bulletClueless Breeders:  Blissfully ignorant of the breed they are raising.
bulletCareless Breeders:  Knowledge, but doesn't care.

Here are some questions to ask a breeder before deciding where to get your next puppy:

  What are the congenital defects in this breed? -- The breeder who says "none" or "I don't know" is to be avoided. Don't pay the price for their ignorance.  A good breeder tells you every remotely possible problem in the breed, from droopy eyelids to deafness to epilepsy.

   What steps have you taken to decrease defects in your dogs? -- You want to hear words like "screened" and "tested" and "certified."  In breeds with the potential for hip dysplasia - that's almost every large breed -- look for PennHIP or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals certification. These are expert, unbiased evaluators who know exactly what to look for. Insist on documentation on both parents. And their parents, too.

  Do you have the parents on site? May I see them? -- You should always be able to see the mother (unless she died giving birth) but reputable breeders often don't have the father on hand.  That's because the best match for any particular dog may be owned by another breeder, and the female was sent away for breeding.

  What are the good and bad points of the parents, and what titles do they have? -- You may be looking for a pet-quality purebred, but you still want to buy from someone who knows what top-quality examples of the breed are -- and uses such animals in a breeding program. You want to see show and working titles all over that pedigree.  It doesn't matter if you go home and throw that fine pedigree in a drawer. Recent titles on both sides of a pedigree are the sign of a breeder who's making a good-faith effort to produce healthy dogs who conform to the breed standard.

  Where were these puppies raised? How have you socialized them? "In the house" is the best answer to the first question. You want a puppy who knows what the dishwasher sounds like, whom you don't have to peel off the ceiling when a pan drops, who has set a paw on linoleum, carpet and tile.

   Have the puppies been around children?  How were they around kids? -- This helps with their socialization and gives you a better idea how "solid" their temperaments are.  If they are scared of kids and noises at an early age, it will be a more difficult puppy to raise properly.

  What guarantees do you provide? -- You want to see a contract explaining the breeder's responsibilities should the puppy develop a congenital ailment.  In most cases, such contracts state either replacement with a new puppy or refunding of your purchase price.  The best breeders offer contracts that protect not only the buyer and seller, but also the most vulnerable part of the transaction: the puppy.


What Should You Look for When Picking a Puppy?

  You want to see a well-socialized, calm and well-mannered dogs  -- not only the mother and father of the litter but also the breeder's other dogs.

  You want all of the puppies to be out-going and friendly.


We just want a pet, not a show dog -- Why should I pay for the more expensive breeder dogs?

If you must have a purebred puppy (and no one says the dog you get has to be either purebred or a puppy), I hasten to note -- don't buy from anyone but a reputable breeder. Ask about health clearances. Ask about guarantees. Ask about socialization.

Don't buy a puppy that is a ticking time bomb of genetic disease, or puppies destined for temperament problems because of poor breeding and a lack of proper socialization. The Careless or Clueless breeders have produced dogs with hip disease, blindness, heart defects, thyroid disease and cancer, as well as hyperactivity and aggression. Every breed has its own problems that good, dedicated breeders are working to eliminate.

How can intelligent people who spend hours researching a VCR or vacuum cleaner buy a purebred puppy on a whim? Why do so many people spend more time reading the label on a frozen dinner than they do researching the purchase of an animal who will be a family member for years?

When you do make the right decision about where you buy your puppy, you're helping to end the problems caused by bad breeding. When there are no buyers for purebreds with problems, there'll be no sellers of them. No backyard breeders. No puppy mills. And that will make a big difference, not just to the future of purebred dogs, but also to rescue groups and shelters who'll eventually have to deal with so many unhealthy and unstable purebred dogs.  Finally, it will spare a great many families the heartbreak of dealing with a sick dog.

If you don't get the right answers to your questions, ask where the door is.... You want to be dealing with someone else, let me assure you.