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Picking a breed
First, select your breed. What is best for your family?
Size, care requirements, activity level and temperament are all important variables to consider. A benefit of selecting a purebred dog is that many of these variables are more predictable than with mixed-breeds. You will also have a better idea of what health risks are more common in your chosen breed and you can take steps to find the healthiest puppy possible.
There are many websites that will help you decide what the right breed is for your lifestyle. You may want to look at more than one website, as many will ask slightly different questions and you can compare all the recommendations to determine the best fit.
Picking a breeder
Second, screen breeders. This is where the real investigation begins.
Talk to breeders. For AKC breeds, the parent clubs can be found at www.akc.org. For other breeds, search for the parent club online. Ask friends if they know anyone with a dog of the breed you’re interested in. You can also meet breeders at dog shows.
Ask lots of questions! A responsible and well-respected breeder will be happy to answer your questions. They will also be interviewing you, as they will be just as interested in finding the right home for their pups.
Third, visit the breeders.
Visit their facilities and meet their dogs. Facilities should be clean and the dogs should behave as you would want your future dog to behave. See where the dogs sleep and play. See how the dogs in your breeder’s home interact with your breeder and family. Are they friendly and outgoing or do they shy away?
Research the common health problems of the breed beforehand and ask your breeder for proof of screening (e.g. OFA certificates). Responsible breeders are concerned with the betterment of the breed, and they are dedicated to producing the healthiest puppies possible. They are very careful about the pedigrees of their litters and the health testing done on parents. Ask to see at least one of the parents (preferably both) of your puppy, and review the health screenings of both parents’ bloodlines. Note: Hip Dysplasia is a common, potentially crippling and painful disease. Young pups can’t be screened for it, so it’s very important you review the parents’ and grandparents’ screenings.
Don’t be surprised if a breeder will not allow you to handle puppies at this initial visit, or if they take precautions, such as protective clothing or gloves. A good breeder will want to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases to his dogs or on his property.
Fourth, select a responsible, respected breeder, then wait for a litter.
A good breeder will likely have a waiting list for their puppies, and prices will be at the high end of the range. (This is not a time to look for bargain pricing.) They will have a written sales agreement that clearly spells out the obligations for everyone involved, including a spay/neuter agreement or AKC limited registration for the welfare of the breed. Reputable breeders will also provide a guarantee that you can return the puppy if needed.
Fifth, bring your new puppy home.
At approximately 8 weeks of age, your puppy will be ready for its new home. This age is important because it allows for proper socialization with littermates and the time to build up immunity defenses. Plan to take your puppy for a complete veterinary exam right away to start preventative care, such as heartworm and tick prevention. Also start puppy obedience classes. Your breeder or vet may have recommendations for a training program.