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We have many discussions on here as to what constitutes a really good breeder, and rightly set our standards very high. In an ideal world, everyone would be prepared to research carefully, to build a relationship with an excellent breeder, and be ready to wait as long as it took for the right puppy to come along. But unfortunately we don't live in an ideal world...

In the hope of possibly saving new puppy owners from heartbreak, here are a few absolutely basic checks to go through when looking for a pup.

Absolute basics of puppy buying

Caveat emptor - buyer beware.
• Visit the puppy at its home, and see it with its mother.
• Understand and expect basic health tests and checks for parents and for puppies
• Get copies of registration and other documents with the puppy


Caveat emptor - buyer beware.
Most puppies are friendly, honest, desirous of pleasing, and want to be with you for the long term. Some, but not all, puppy sellers are the same. Would you buy a car sight unseen, from a small ad giving only a mobile phone number? Without registration papers or proof of ownership? When you buy a puppy, you are taking on responsibility for a living, breathing, thinking creature for the next 15 years or so - you can afford a little (or even a lot of) time, thought and research to make sure you choose wisely.

Visit the puppy at its home, and see it with its mother.

If the seller makes excuses - fear of animal rights extremists, in the process of redecorating, mother is elsewhere/out for a walk/too protective of her puppies to be seen, it is easier to deliver the puppy or meet you half way - there is a very high probability they are running or fronting a puppy mill. Practically all puppies in pet shops or sold through dealers (including internet dealers) are produced in puppy mills. Many small ads and free ads - online and in newspapers - are placed by dealers. Dogs in puppy mills are kept and treated as livestock, to be bred till they are no longer useful and then discarded. Every puppy bought from one encourages the business to continue. Every puppy they are unable to sell discourages the continuation. Don't support them - you may believe that you are rescuing the puppy (although if unsold, it will probably eventually find its way into rescue and a good home that way without enriching anyone along the way), but you are supporting the exploitation of the parents. Insist on seeing the puppy with its mother and litter mates, so that you can judge for yourself the puppy's health and the environment it has been raised in.

If you decide to have the puppy shipped to you, be even more careful. Deal directly with the breeder, and expect to have many detailed conversations before they accept you as a home for one of their pups. Look for genuine references (not celebrity endorsements), and ask for veterinary and other references. If at all possible, visit yourself, if not, ask a friend or relation to visit for you. Don't be misled by contracts that are all to the seller's benefit, and avoid anyone who is only interested in getting your credit card details, and not in the kind of home you are offering. And if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is - there is a well known internet scam offering puppies "free", but then asking huge shipping fees for a puppy that never arrives...

People who love their dogs and their puppies care about what happens to them. They will want to talk to you about whether the pup is right for you, to know that you are able to look after it well, to meet you and show off their dogs and pups. They will not treat the puppy like a commodity, with money the only consideration. They would not dream of selling puppies through a dealer or pet shop (not even Harrods!). They will be busy looking after dogs and pups, so may not always answer the phone immediately - schedule a telephone conversation, and then a visit, before making any decision, to make sure this is the right pup for you, and that you are the right human for the puppy.

Understand and expect basic health tests and checks for parents and for puppies
Most breeds, including poodles, have a number of inherited health problems that can be avoided by proper testing before the parents are bred. These include PRA (a form of blindness), and joint problems with hips and knees. Because many of these problems are common to several breeds, poodle mixes are not immune - and parents of crosses need to be tested just the same. There are different schemes in different countries, you need to check which are relevant to your country, but be aware that a puppy from untested parents - particularly closely related untested parents, as is often the case in puppy mills and back yard breeders - may have very significant health problems. Familiarise yourself with what the test results should look like and what they mean, and ask to see them.

Puppies need regular worming, and the breeder should have a record of which wormer has been used, and when the pup was last treated. Pups should have clean coats, bright eyes (some pups get tear staining while teething, but extensive tear stains can indicate eye problems that might need veterinary treatment), clean ears with no smell, no signs of diarrhoea around the anus, and should generally smell of puppy. Check the bite - the top teeth should very slightly overlap the bottom teeth like the blades of a pair of scissors. Pups should be cheerful and playful - be wary of a puppy that seems lethargic or overly fearful.

Get copies of registration and other documents with the puppy
If you are buying and paying for a pure bred, registered puppy, make sure you are given all the relevant documents with the puppy. If they are not available for some reason (and Kennel Clubs can be very slow with documentation), and you are not dealing with a highly reputable breeder with a reputation to maintain, it is quite possible that the papers may never materialise. Be aware that not all registries are equal - some are there purely to make bad breeders look good, and have been known to register invented breeds, cats, and even kangaroos! Check other papers - vaccination certificates, veterinary certificates - carefully. In the UK, most good breeders will take advantage of the insurance schemes for breeders to ensure pups are covered for the first few weeks in their new homes - make sure you have the documentation for this.

And if in doubt, walk away. And if you doubt your ability to walk away, take a hard headed friend or relation with you. It can be very, very difficult to do when puppies are so adorable, but much better to take time to sleep on your decision than to get it wrong.
 

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Bravo, fjm!! I think this thread should be made a "sticky," or assigned reading. Thanks for doing such a wonderful "public service" for man, woman and poodles alike! Since "you can't unknow what you know," everyone can now go forward with their eyes wide open.:)
 

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Thanks to our moderator!

Thanks to Plumcrazy aka Barb for making this a sticky, and for doing it so quickly (within about an hour after the initial post). What a great forum!

I hope that this sticky will direct at least a few puppy buyers away from pet stores, puppy mills, blind internet sales, and impulse purchases. Thanks again to FJM for an excellent summary of basic guidelines.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks Plum!
 

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I agree this is a great sticky!

As to taking a friend or relative, please make sure they are one that you WILL listen to!!!

My mom was asked by a friend to not let her get a puppy. She was just supposed to look, she was going with her mom to get a dog. Well the upshot was that the friend would not listen, she had fallen in love and had to have that dog!

It ended up being very, very, ill and had to have a lot of vet care. Nursing night and day for several weeks. During that time, my mom had to care for the pup. Because her friend had to leave town and the pup could not be brought along. They went on vacation...

I was part of caring for the pup. Lesson learned at a very young age.
 

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Wonderful post FJM!

Might I add, a red flag is breeders offering "papers" from questionable "registries" (which have few if any regulations and will register any puppy or dog for a fee, even mixed breeds and cross-bred designer dogs):

CKC (Continental Kennel Club, not to be confused with Canadian Kennel Club)
APRI (American Pet Registry Inc)
ACA (American Canine Registry)
And so on (there are many, many more)


Legit all-breed registries include:

American Kennel Club (AKC)
United Kennel Club (UKC)
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
The Kennel Club (UK)

There are many other legit national kennel clubs in countries throughout the world.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
In the UK the one to watch for is the UK Dog Lovers' Registry - fancy documents that mean very little, and that do not provide even the minimal protection for breeding dogs given by Kennel Club registration.
 

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A responsible breeder should also ask you questions.I had to provide a vets reference,have a home check,and had a lengthy chat to the breeder about my lifestyle.A good breeder does not breed for money but to improve the breed.They do not cross breed ,and have many litters.They provide lifelong support and care about their dogs.
I waited 2 years for my last dog.
 

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There are so many great comments here in addition to fjm's original post. I would add that if we really want to see puppy mills go extinct and stop backyard breeding (including designer dog breeders for those of us that don't go in for them) then we have to make sure that there is absolutely no market for those puppies or for the businesses that are part of that system. People should stay away from the retail outlets that are the consumer end for the puppy mill breeders. I won't even buy food or toys in places selling puppies that have any chance of being from mills.
 

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Yes, I think this is great to put here on the PF. However you must understand that there so very many, many people that do not go to a breeder because of the money. ( lets just put it out here , like it or not) you are never going to stop the cheep , what you all call the back yard breeder, puppy mill, what ever.People know where to go to get a cheep puppy for $250.00 to $700.00, and thats what most people care about, that and nothing more.There not going to show the puppy , they just wont cheep, and if they don't like it after a while they can dump it, and if it's not killed, or picked up by some one to be used to blood a fighting dog. then it might go to a shelter to ( i hope) find a new home, ( very few do )are the shelter puts them down, and till you get the LAWS changed, your blowing smoke. There many, many poodles killed every day, people are running out of homes to put the animals in.So, if you care, think about how you can help to put an end to all the homeless pets.Get Laws changed, until you hit people where they live(money) your still blowing smoke.
 

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The breeder of my two had as many questions for me as I had for her. Almost her first words for me were tell me about yourself. At the time I had lost a three year old mimi to auto immunine hemolytic anemia. I went to see her puppies, and spent an hour or more chatting with her, sitting on the floor with puppies, and asking her it she would let me have the little male. I returned two weeks later to pick him up. He is now 8 years old, but I know she would take him back in a heart beat if I could not keep him. A good breeder truly cares about the puppies for all of their lives. When you find one, they are a treasure.
 

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I agree that a really good breeder want to know where there puppies are going and will support you throughout the dog's life. I am currently starting to look for a breeder for the next spoo pup (for spring 2014) and am fully prepared to talk about my current dogs, my fenced yard, give references, etc. Unfortunately Lily's breeder is no longer active, thus my search begins.

For any of us who has cats the same is true for responsible breeders. For my Maine Coon girls (miss them still) I had an interview when I met the breeders at a show, then essentially had an audition when I went to their home to see the kittens. I must have passed the audition part with flying colors because when i told the breeder I wanted the two sisters that I ended up with because of their relationship with each other, she said normally she never sells two kittens at once to the same person because she wants them to bond with their owner, but that since I had such a good read on these two girls (there were a total of nine kittens in two litters) that they would both come home with me. Jackie lived to 14 and Alex to 16. They were healthy until close to the end of their lives and the only vet bill other than for routing care were for a freaky accident (one for each girl) that happened inside the house.

It is unfortunate that so many people don't realize that by going cheap at the beginning they are often giving themselves terrible hidden costs later on. Huge vet bills, the possible early death of the puppy (or kitten) and the behavioral issues that puppy mill puppies are often burdened by that result in rehoming or euthanasia need to be better understood by the public. Couple all of those things to the stress and heartache that go along with them and I think more people would opt for going to responsible breeders. If this happens then maybe more people will be willing to spend up from for the greater likelihood of a long, happy, healthy life with their dog (or cat). When we go to the vet, Lily and Peeves are like rock stars. They are polite in the waiting room even when it is crowded and they always pass their check ups with flying colors. Some of their great status is the fruits of our hard work, but some of it was born into them at their breeders.

Abbe gails Mom I hear your passion about trying to effect change, but I don't think we can legislate good decision making here (or in anything for that matter). There are already many laws that are easily flaunted and some of which hurt responsible small kennels. People make good decisions when they have the needed information to do so. Education is our ally here. Every time one of us gets the comment/question "oh your dog is so lovely and well behaved, where did you get him/her?" we have a teachable moment. Don't preach but try to get fjm's original points across and hopefully the tide will turn. One of the reasons I go to our local pet expos and other events for charities is to show what a well bred, well mannered dog actually looks like and to hope that I can convince at least one person to avoid asking "how much is that doggie in the window?"...you know, the one with the waggly tail.
 

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I shared that blog to my facebook.

A lot of my friends have bought puppy mill/BYB puppies recently (the holidays are always the worst time for it...), and I hope that they see this.
 

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Ugh! I wish that could be the last tragic puppy mill/puppy farm story I will ever hear, sadly I know it won't be. But sharing it may help change things for other pups in peril. The more people who get to read about such devastating and preventable experiences, the better the chances of things changing. I will hold onto that hope. Poor little Dudley, and his devastated owners!
 

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This is a terrible story, but an important one to share and spread the word about. The more people see for real the horrible consequences of supporting puppy mills the greater the chances that we can stop the abuse they inflict on the animals the control and produce, and by extension, the people who want to love sad little guys like Dudley.

I find it really sad and a poor comment on the value we place on things that many people are more willing to do tons of research to buy the perfect car or tv (which they will probably sell or throw away when the next hot item comes out), and to spend more money on a cell phone than they are in bringing a puppy or a kitten into their lives with the expectation of having it in their lives for ten or more years. But maybe I am being foolish in thinking that some people don't also view their animals as disposable?!
 
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