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So you’ve decided to get a puppy, but how do you make sure you’re doing everything you can to get a healthy dog with a nature to suit your lifestyle?

Just like with kids, nature and nurture both play roles in forming your pups personality.

Nurture is determined by the training and experiences you provide your puppy with, particularly in their critical socialization periods but also throughout the rest of their life.

Nature on the other hand is something that cannot be trained. These are the in-built tendencies and instincts of your dog that will determine you dogs ‘out-of-the-box’ response to things.

The temperament of your dog will affect how your dog interacts with you, other people, other dogs and even other animals every single day of it’s life. Matching the right temperament to you is critical in starting off with a dog that will be a joy to own, rather making you feel like you’re up the creek without a paddle.

 

That’s great you say, but how does this help me choose a breeder?

Well, now that we’ve got the two most important criteria in mind (health & temperament) we can begin searching for our chosen breed. Below are our recommendations on how to select and ethical and suitable breeder:

It’s here I’ll note that hopefully by this stage you’ve done a heap of research on the breed you are interested and have selected something suitable to your experience level, home environment and lifestyle. 

Registered breeders – what does it mean? And how do you know?

In Australia, a registered breeder is a rather ambiguous term.

There are: council (domestic animal business) registered, various industry association registered, ANKC registered, and those that aren’t registered anywhere and just lie and make it up.

In order to purchase a pure-bred pedigree dog, your breeder and the litter of pups need to be ANKC registered.

ANKC stands for the Australian National Kennel Council, Australia’s peak representative body for dog breeding. ANKC breeders are only allowed to breed pure-bred dogs and have to conform to a code of ethics.

Unfortunately, like in all walks of life, not everyone does the right thing. And although most ANKC registered breeders are breeding for the betterment of the breed, only when pups are required and to the highest standards there are some that flaunt the system. Hence the importance of taking your time and thoroughly researching potential breeders.

So where do you find these breeders?

Well a good place to start is DogzOnline and your State breed club:

Akita Club of Victoria (site currently unavailable)

Alaskan Malamute Club of Victoria

Finnish Lapphund Club of Victoria

Samoyed Club of Victoria

Siberian Husky Club of Victoria

Each ANKC registered breeder will have a ‘kennel name’. If you come across a breeder whose kennel name is not listed on DogzOnline or the state breed club you can call your state canine body to confirm they are a currently registered member. In Victoria it’s Dog’s Victoria.

Once you’ve found some breeders, have a look through their website or maybe call or email depending on their contact instructions listed. Be mindful that responsible and reputable breeders do it for the love, not for the money, and often have regular full time day jobs just like us so be patient and don’t expect an immediate response. If contacting by email; consider introducing yourself and briefly describing your home life, the research you’ve already done on the breed and your reason/interest in the breed.

What the breeder will likely require of you.

Just like we do, your breeder will most likely either have you fill in an expression of interest form including information on your lifestyle, home environment, previous dog experience and breed knowledge and/or conduct an in-depth phone interview. Not all dogs or breeds are suited to all people, lifestyles or homes, so a breeder that isn’t asking some questions is doing you a disservice.

  • A responsible breeder will ask you to sign a contract indicating that if you are no longer able to care for your dog it will be returned to the breeders care.
  • Some breeders require deposits when pups are born or young, others do not. There is no right or wrong but if you are paying a deposit ensure you receive a receipt upon payment and a written agreement as to in what case the deposit is refundable or not.
  • A breeder will expect you to shown keen interest as well as a desire to build a rapport with them and a keenness to learn more. They are trusting you with one of their babies, they will want to see that you are committed to looking after a pup for it’s entire life. Your breeder should be an excellent point of reference and mentor.

What you should expect from the breeder.

  • Access to visit the breeders facility (usually their home so don’t be put off if they want to get to know you a little before inviting you over!). Observe the environment the dogs are raised in, is it clean, where do they spend their day, how many dogs are on the property etc.
  • Ask to see the Mum and pups, including interactions with the breeder. Mum and pups should be happy and confident and not shy away from the breeder or new people. Are all dogs on the premises clean, well fed, lively and friendly? Do any dogs look ill or sickly? Viewing the father is not always possible; some breeders use artificial insemination, or take dogs on loan from other breeders just for the mating. In these cases ask who the father is and look up his pedigree online. The breeder who owns/owned him should have temperament notes and achievements listed online.
  • Ask about the parents and pups health. Ask about common genetic and health issues in the breed (you should know these from the breed research you conducted), the breeder should be informative and open about the possible health issues of the breed. Ask to see hip and elbow scores of parents and certification of free from PRA eye condition for breeds that suffer from these conditions.
  • A responsible breeder will raise the puppy until at least 8 weeks of age, some breeders choose to keep their pups a little longer. Ask your breeder what activities they will do with your pup before you bring it home, especially during the pups critical socialisation period.
  • To vaccinate (initial one or two), worm treat and microchip your pup. As well as registration of the litter and your pup with the ANKC. Ask to see proof of pedigree before paying for and bringing your pup home. Their pedigree certificate will include the stamp of the Australia National Kennel Council. In Victoria by law, all dogs must be microchipped prior to sale and the microchip numbers must be listed in advertisements.
  • That your dog is on a de-sexing contract. That is, you are required to de-sex your dog at an agreed age. Pet dogs should be sold on a ‘limited register’ pedigree with de-sexing contract. Breeders may withhold the pedigree papers until proof of de-sexing is supplied. If you have purchased your pup with a plan to show your dog, or it is under co-ownership with the breeder for future breeding plans you may not have a de-sexing contract.
  • Breeders should be willing and able to provide any information or documentation you would like to see, and answer any questions you have.
  • A comprehensive interview session or application form for you to fill out, as they want to make sure their puppies are going to the best home possible.

Red Flags – when to walk away

  • If you aren’t allowed to meet the mother and pups before purchase.
  • If you aren’t allowed at the breeder’s premises where the pups are bred and raised.
  • If the breeder wants to meet you somewhere for sale/pickup of the pup.
  • If the pups, mum or other dogs on the premises are in poor condition, malnourished, ill, lethargic or unresponsive. If they are not vaccinated, worm treated and microchipped before time of sale.
  • If you are pressured to pay in full prior to meeting your pup.
  • If the pup, mum or other dogs are fearful or aggressive towards people or other dogs.
  • If the breeder refuses/hesitates to give you papers, wants to charge you more for ANKC papers, offers papers from a registry other than the ANKC, or tells you he/she will mail them to you at a later date.
  • If the breeder has an excessive number of dogs they cannot reasonably care for themselves.
  • If the breeder is breeding numerous litters a year and/or in quick succession. These breeders are essentially registered puppy mills. They often get away with this by not registering litters. These breeders often advertise on Gumtree and Trading Post and care purely about profit.
  • When your gut says no.

 

Which pup – to choose or not to choose?

Some breeders will let you choose your pup, others will select your pup for you, based on the personality of the pups in the litter and what they know about your lifestyle, ambitions with the dog, and your own abilities.

Whilst it’s tempting to pick your own pup out, and you may feel drawn towards a particular colour or gender of dog, ultimately a good breeder will be able to select the dog best matched to you based on temperament. As we touched on initially, how you will raise the pup is important, but the foundation that you start with is equally so.  Within a litter some pups can be more headstrong, active, curious, shy, compliant, independent, clingy, trainable etc. By 8 weeks of age an attentive breeder has started the pups environmental socialisation and will have a good read on the individual temperament of each pup.

If your breeder is letting you choose, think about asking them which pup they would recommend based on what you want to do with the dog. Do you want to compete in obedience, agility or sledding? Is it to be an only dog or do you want to add to your pack in the future? Do you have cats that your pup needs to live in harmony with?

Ask them about the confidence levels and sociability of each pup to help you make your decision.

I feel sorry for the pups and don’t want to leave them here in these conditions.

WALK AWAY.

NOW.

A lifetime of expensive medical bills and a poor temperament likely await you.

This goes for pet shops, puppy farms, backyard breeders and unscrupulous registered breeders.

If it doesn’t feel right, do not buy the pup.

If you have concerns for the dog’s welfare contact the RSPCA and report the breeder. Take photos if possible. If the breeder is ANKC registered, contact your State canine control council to find out how you can lodge a complaint against the breeder if their practices do not comply with the responsible breeding code of practice.

Whilst people continue to buy these pups the horrific breeders will continue breeding them. Do not fall for this trap. You can help stop the cycle.

Buying a pup is an exciting time, but there will always be challenges and the unexpected. A little patience and preparation goes a long way when considering the next 12-15 years of life that you will share with your new bundle of joy. 

Once you've decided on your breeder and pup, be sure to check out our articles on training (especially critical socialisation periods) and behaviour.