You have decided to get a new dog. You've done your homework and have your heart set on a specific breed. Perhaps you watched Lassie on TV when you were a kid and still yearn for a gorgeous Collie. Or maybe your neighbor down the street has a breathtaking Golden Retriever who's got you longing for a big blonde dog of your own.
We would not be true to our mission if we didn't tell you to check out purebred dog rescues and shelters in your area. It's as easy as googling it. There is a rescue for every breed (even the most rarest of breeds!) and many have puppies for adoption. Check out AKC.org for a breed rescue group in your area.
Either way, though, you've taken to heart the instructions that every dog expert proclaims: buy a purebred dog only from a reputable or responsible breeder. That's great advice - but how can you tell whether a breeder is reputable? And how do you find a breeder in the first place? Here are some answers to both questions.
Learn about "Breed Clubs"
National breed clubs and e-mail lists of breed enthusiasts are good places to start your breeder search. Log onto the American Kennel Club's listing of breed clubs. There you'll find links to the website of the clubs for the breeds you're interested in and, in many cases, links to electronic mailings lists devoted to those breeds. Contact the breed club, join the list and ask questions. Soon you'll start getting breeder recommendations. "By the time you've been recommended to the same person 2 or 3 times, you'll have a good feeling," says Chris Walkowicz, author of Choosing a Dog For Dummies (Wiley).
Read the pet classifieds with care
"Most serious breeders have waiting lists for their pups and don't need to advertise in the newspaper," says Walkowicz, who lives in Sherrard, Illinois. "But some beginners who don't have the market that long-time breeders do sometimes do advertise ... and beginners can have very good dogs and be responsible, caring breeders."
See below for the questions to ask a dog breeder about your future puppy.
Go to a dog show - but be polite
Most reputable breeders exhibit their dogs at shows - and chances are, you'll find out about any shows in your area when you visit the breed club's website. But if you decide to visit a show and talk with the breeders there, time your approach carefully. Walkowicz recommends that waiting until those breeders are through showing and have begun to pack up to leave. "Breeders are usually stressed and busy prior to a show," she explains. "Afterwards, they're more relaxed and have time to talk."
Questions to ask a dog breeder before getting a new puppy
Once you've identified some prospective breeders who have puppies available, make an appointment to visit them at their homes. But before you lose your heart (and your cash) to a puppy, ask the breeder some questions. Walkowicz recommends asking the following four questions:
1) May I see the dam? The dam is the mother of the puppies, and her temperament is a good indicator of what her puppies' temperaments will be. The Dam MUST be present on the premises if the pups are less than 3 months old.
2) Do you health test? A reputable breeder will test her breeding dogs for health problems that are prevalent in that particular breed, and will show you the certificates indicating that the dogs are healthy. Be sure to research the health issues that your breed is prone to.
3) What is your guarantee? A good breeder is willing to take a puppy back at any time in the dog's life, though not necessarily for a refund. She'll also give you 72 hours to have your own veterinarian give the puppy a check-up, and will either give you a refund or replace the puppy if the vet finds a major problem.
4) Will you be available to answer questions and for guidance? A good breeder is more than happy to be an information resource for the puppy's entire life.
Award-winning writer Susan McCullough's books include Housetraining For Dummies, Senior Dogs For Dummies and Beagles For Dummies (all, Wiley). She lives with her husband, daughter and Golden Retriever in Vienna, Virginia. Visit her website at www.susanmc.com.