Author: Kathy Belville

The puppies pictured above are tri color

Where to start? First place NOT to look is at a pet store. Pet store workers do not have an intimate knowledge of your puppy's pedigree; the parents, grandparents, great grandparents. They do not know what health issues any of these individuals may have had or how long they lived. They were not there when your puppy was born. They did not sit up all night rubbing his mother's tummy while she labored. They didn't watch him grow, handle him daily, worm him, vaccinate him; expose him to common sounds, sights, surfaces and activities. The puppies in a pet store are generally bred by large scale commercial breeders and may or may not have come from a clean, well run facility. Commercial breeders are not concerned with how well their purebred puppies conform to the breed standard, the blueprint for a perfect purebred. They generally do not screen for genetic diseases, such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, von Willebrand's disease, hypothyroid disease to name a few. Should you buy a puppy advertised on the internet or in a newspaper? Yes and no. Dog breeders run the gamut from mom and pop breeding their Fluffy to Stud Muffin down the road to serious students of the breed who may have started out with their own Fluffy or Muffin once upon a time. Hey, we all had to start some where. The difference is how seriously breeders take their commitment to producing the healthiest (mentally and physically), best representatives of their breed.

Here are some questions you should ask a breeder when inquiring after one of their puppies:

1. Do you have a contract that spells out exactly what is expected from me and what I can expect from you?
2. What is your health guarantee?
3. What if circumstances change and I have to return my dog?
4. What health tests were done on the parents prior to breeding them?
5. Where were the puppies raised? (best case scenario is in the house, not a barn or kennel.)
6. What health care has my puppy received so far? (wormed, vaccinated, treatment for coccidia)
7. Has a vet seen my puppy yet? (it's a good idea to have puppies vetted for heart murmurs, hernias, cleft palates.)
8. What comes with my puppy? (food, health record, contract, registration papers, toy that smells like home, information on how to raise a puppy....a lifetime of advice.)
9. When can I take my puppy home? (The earliest a puppy should be allowed to leave their mother is 8-9 weeks of age. They need that time to learn how to be dogs from their mom and to learn that biting hurts from their brothers and sisters. Nine weeks is preferable as puppies can go through a fright stage around 8 weeks of age.)
When you get to the home to see the puppies:
1. Is the house clean? (messy is okay, dirty is not.)
2. Are the adult dogs happy, well fed and groomed?
3. Where are the puppies kept? Are their papers reasonably clean? (Puppies pee frequently and can mess up clean papers rather quickly.)
4. Are the puppies playful and happy to meet new people? (A correct sheltie temperament MAY be reserved, but should not be fearful. Take into account that puppies sleep a lot and it may be nap time.)
5. Are you allowed to meet the mother and father if he is on site? (At about 8 to 12 weeks the mother dog starts to "blow her coat". She will look like a "picked chicken." This is normal, don't hold it against her.)
6. How does the mother dog respond to you? (Remember that the mother has not only contributed her half of the puppies' genes, but has influenced their behavior during those first, formative weeks.)
7. Don't be too quick to count out the puppy that hangs back. In a large litter the more dominant puppies will surge to the front and draw your attention, but the quieter puppy will blossom into an endearing and entertaining companion once he no longer has to compete with his more vivacious littermates.
Additional information you may ask the breeder is what club affiliations they may have. Members of local breed and/or parent clubs are expected to adhere to a code of ethics. A key question to ask is why they bred this litter. Serious breeders plan each litter meticulously, they agonize over who to breed to. Each litter is a crucial step in their breeding program, but they can't keep all of the puppies themselves and that is why there are healthy, happy, well bred representatives of the breed available to good companion homes. You will be asked a lot of questions too. Each puppy is matched to the best home environment for it's temperament and potential. Our dogs are our pets first, but we enjoy doing fun things with them whether it is hunting, herding, obedience, agility, tracking or showing them in conformation shows.

GOOD LUCK on your hunt for the right puppy for your household.