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Puppy temperament and great "dog-ittude" should be number one priority

Two labrador puppies
Two labrador puppies

A local veterinary technician has been breeding Labrador Retrievers for over 21 years and has some essential advice for breeders and prospective puppy-owners. An opportunity came up to inquire about her work of love with this popular breed.

Priority is great “dog-ittude”

Family connections are so important. The litter should be very interactive and playful with a mom that wants to be there with her puppies even when she is not nursing. You should observe that the mom is protective of her litter, meaning you could see her being standoffish when humans come to see her pups; however you should not be seeing any signs of stress and aggression toward prospective adopters. The breeder serves as a partner to this new family and has a hand in their socialization, emotional development and physical health. The environment you are looking for is a family environment where there is appropriate contact with humans who do a lot of touching, holding, playing and other positive interactions. Breeding for temperament should be this person’s mantra. If you find a breeder that is more concerned with coat color and conformation, you are barking up the wrong tree. Attitude is passed down from generation to generation so a healthy, well-adjusted breeding pair will bear the gentle, happy puppy that you are seeking out to add to your own family.

Selective breeder, selective adopter

Just as you are checking out the breeder and the litter they are raising rest assured that they are evaluating you as well. This breeder I interviewed is one that is very particular about whom her pups go to. She does not breed for profit and so does not consider her pups a product for sale but a companion that is being born and brought up to go to the right family.

To find a quality breeder go by word of mouth from friends and family who have adopted a pet from this person. Do your homework and read about the particular breed you are considering as well as go to the home of the people who are making the referrals to this specific breeder. Spend time with the puppy or adult dog that has grown up in their home to get a preview of what challenges and joys are associated with the breed.

Getting to know you

When you meet a breeder be prepared to answer questions about your lifestyle, schedule, family makeup, yard and recreational space, activities you plan to do with your dog, i.e. hunting or agility, and why you want to adopt this particular breed. Some breeders may even want to do a home visit or may ask for references from veterinarians if you have owned a dog before. Be absolutely honest about your home life so there can be a successful match to a forever home.

You’ll want to screen the breeder as well. There are a variety of questions to ask and items that you should make note of.

  • Ask to see the mother and father if they are not already present. You may not be able to meet the father as the match they found for breeding may be owned by someone else.
  • Inquire how long they have been breeding and why they chose this particular breed of dog to raise.
  • Ask if they breed every heat cycle or if they give the mom a break. If the reply is that they breed every cycle, you make be dealing with someone who is doing this for profit. Beware.
  • Look in the puppy pen, yard and other play areas for clean water bowls, clean towels and blankets. Expect to be asked to remove your shoes and wash your hands to help prevent transmission of disease.
  • Observe the health of the puppies by looking for signs of illness such as discharge from the eyes or nose or foul-smelling ears. The coat should be soft, full and clean.
  • A good breeder knows the temperament of each pup as an individual. Within each litter there are pups that are shy, adventuresome and everything in between. Observe them at play with their litter mates as well as how it responds when you pick it up, restrain it gently, massage it and touch its ears, toes and tail.

Are you ready for unconditional love? Evaluate where you are now so you can be prepared for the lifetime commitment of a dog.

  • Is your home large enough to comfortably house a dog? Dogs should not be confined to a single room or a yard.
  • Do you have the free time and energy to spend with your dog? They need walks, play and love not just food, water and a roof.
  • The whole family should be involved in the decision to adopt. Things to consider before adopting a dog include addressing allergies, helping family with phobias or past history with dogs, and how other pets in the home will react to the new addition.
  • A dog’s lifetime commitment includes providing quality food, regular vet care and an investment in training for good manners. No dog is perfect and they need positive reinforcement training to learn the rules of your home.

Red flags

Never take a puppy until it has properly been weaned from its mother. Weaning is from three and four weeks of age and lasts up to seven or eight weeks of age.

Never refuse a puppy the opportunity to learn from its own mother and littermates. Important lessons are learned such as inhibiting their own biting habits and submitting to more dominant dogs through play.

Never meet a breeder in a location other than where the puppies are being raised. It is imperative that you meet the mother, see the litter together and evaluate their living conditions.

Never respond to a roadside sign for a purebred puppy or booths set up at flea markets or trade centers. Never look for a puppy on places like Craigslist or EBay. These are popular places for people who engage in puppies for profit through mass backyard breeding and puppy mill dog dumping.

Never buy a puppy from a pet store. Some pet stores have agreed to stop selling puppies and instead have partnered with local animals shelters to give them space for adoptions events and support the movement to Adopt Don’t Shop or Rescue. Not Retail. Responsible and respectable breeders would never sell their puppies through a pet store.

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