"Furry little stocking stuffers," "Chocolate Labs for Easter," etc., for these come-ons could indicate that the pups were bred simply as a moneymaking scheme. That furry little stocking stuffer at eight weeks could become an 80-pound unmanageable giant at eight months if it's the wrong breed for your family. And what do you do with a chocolate Lab after Easter, when the color appeal may have worn off and you're faced with caring for a growing, exuberant puppy that needs obedience training and lots of exercise?
"Puppies: full-blooded, no papers." These "breeders" are so inexperienced that they don't know the correct terminology to refer to purebred, pedigreed, registered puppies. The breeding was probably an accident or was planned because the dogs would make pretty puppies or to give the kids the experience of seeing a birth, not because they would actually contribute anything to the health and stature of the breed.
"Full-blooded" probably means that the parents are of the same breed. However, it could be an attempt to characterize puppies of mixed parentage. For example, two cocker-poos do not produce a purebred litter. Even though the parents may be called a breed, they are not. It takes generations of careful breeding to produce a new breed. A cocker-poo is the result of one breeding of a cocker spaniel to a poodle. At the risk of repetition, it is a mixed breed dog. It cannot be a full-blooded anything but dog. Offspring of two cocker-poos (or any other -poos) are mixed breed dogs.
"Papers" in an ad could refer to a pedigree or to a registration certificate. A pedigree is a family tree that tells something about the quality of the parents, grandparents, and great grandparents of the puppy. It can help to trace the dogs in the background to find out if the puppy may be a carrier or a potential victim of several genetic disorders. A registration certificate allows the owner to register the puppy with the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, a rare breed registry, or an independent kennel club or breed registry. Eligibility for registration does not affect the health or genetic fitness of the puppy. It only affirms that the puppy comes from registered parents of that breed.
If you are tempted to call the folks who placed this ad, be sure to ask them why they produced a purebred litter that could not be registered. And find out about prices before going to see the puppies -- don't assume that the lack of papers means the price quoted is less than the price for a comparable registerable puppy of the same breed.
If the ad reads "papers available," find out if the papers include both a pedigree and a registration form. Don't pay extra for the pedigree, and only pay the registration fee to reimburse the breeder for registering your puppy if the breeder asks. Breeders who register the puppy for the buyer usually do so as part of the cost of the puppy. A registration form is given to the breeder by the AKC when the litter is registered; don't be suckered into paying extra for it.
AKC - registered refers to the American Kennel Club, a registry that depends on breeders to keep accurate records of the sire and dam of each litter and to forward that information to its North Carolina office whenever a litter is born. Thus AKC registration means that the dog is likely to be purebred, but it makes no guarantees as to the health or temperament of the dog. Breeders who are careless, particularly those who breed two or more similar breeds, may offer AKC registered puppies but may not actually know whether the pups were sired by Sandy or Brandy. Thus a "Shih Tzu" may turn out to be a Shih Tzu-poodle mix or a Shih Tzu-Yorkshire Terrier mix or a Shih Tzu-anything-else-on-the-premises mix.
"Pups OFA registered" or "Good hips." Puppies cannot be registered with OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of America). The quality of their hips can be guesstimated based on the OFA certification of their parents, but this certification is given only upon examination of radiographs (x-rays) taken after the dog is two years old. If one or both parents are less than two years of age, they can have preliminary x-rays that indicate the absence of hip dysplasia, but they cannot be certified free of this debilitating, inherited bone malformation until they reach two years of age.
"Both parents on premises." Although we always recommend that potential buyers see the mother and father of the litter, the presence of both parents is not a guarantee that the puppies were thoughtfully produced. It can also mean that these are backyard breeders with a bitch that is bred every time she comes into heat (or whenever the family needs a few extra bucks). The parents may have good temperaments and be genetically healthy specimens of their breed, or they may not. So, investigate further if the breed is one you are considering; a few questions should ascertain if this is a source you can rely upon. Many responsible breeders choose mates for their bitches from other kennels in order to diversify their breeding program. If so, the sire of the puppies may live across town or in another state. The absence of the father of the litter should not influence selection of a puppy if all questions are answered satisfactorily by the breeder.
"AKC champion background." It depends on how far back the champions are and how many there are in the four generation pedigree. A champion great-great- grandmother means little to the value, health, or genetic fitness of that puppy. The presence of OFA numbers and a history of eye testing and other genetic testing can make up for the lack of champions in the pedigree.
"Prices lower than the local average for the breed." The average cost of a particular breed can be determined by talking to several breeders, not by looking at pups in a pet store. One area pet store offered a mixed-breed cocker-poo puppy for $300 and another had a mixed breed shih-poo for $150. Frequently, the sale price of pet store puppies is considerably higher than the price for a puppy from a responsible breeder.
Expect to pay at least $200 for a small breed puppy, $300-500 for a medium-breed puppy, and $500-800 for a large-breed puppy.
Some classified ads tout "rare colors" that are actually different labels put on common colors or are unacceptable colors or patterns for the breed. Many of these so-called rare colors and patterns are disqualifications in the breeds because of a genetic association with health problems, particularly deafness and eye problems, or because white is at a disadvantage in a herding or guard breed.
In a recent newspaper, a breeder offered "rare white Dobermans"; white is a disqualifying color in this breed developed as a personal guardian. White Dobermans may indeed be fine pets, but they are no more valuable than colored Dobermans and may be less so if the white in Dobermans is connected to deafness or other health problems.
White is also a disqualifying color in Boxers, Weimaraners, Miniature Schnauzers, and German Shepherds, although there are breeders who specialize in white German Shepherds. Blue and black are disqualifications in Weimaraners.
Merle, a color pattern with a reddish or gray background mottled with darker splotches, is a pattern also connected with a variety of health problems and is unacceptable in Great Danes. Yet merle Great Danes appear in the local classified ads as well.
Dogs of so-called rare colors and patterns should not be bred. If color or pattern is important, a buyer should choose a breed in which white or merle is acceptable. If color is not that important or is outweighed by the dog's other characteristics, a dog with a disqualifying color should not be purchased with the idea of eventually producing more dogs of disqualifying colors or patterns. All such dogs should be sterilized in order to maintain the integrity of the breeds.
There are legitimate rare colors: blue is acceptable in Dobermans; white or mostly white is okay for collies; brown and gray are approved in Newfoundlands; cream is fine for Chows (but white is not); and fawn is acceptable for Bouvier des Flandres.
"Interested parties only need call." These breeders don't want to talk to people who aren't serious about their breed and this particular litter. They are interested in placing their pups in families that already know the breed and its strengths and weaknesses.
"Parents OFA, eye-tested." These breeders are serious about producing healthy puppies from healthy adults.
"Puppies home raised." These puppies have lived in the house, not in a kennel, and have had human contact from the time they were born. Kennel-raised, unsocialized puppies are often shy or fearful and have difficulty relating to people, and, often, to other dogs.
"AKC champion parents." These breeders are generally serious about producing healthy puppies. however, if OFA and eye-certification are not available, the puppies are not raised in the house, the mother has a lousy temperament, etc., championship means nothing.
"Health guaranteed". These breeders stand behind their puppies. They do not guarantee that the puppy will never get sick, but they do offer replacement puppies if the one you buy is a victim of a genetic disorder.
"Needs room to run." Don't even consider this one unless you have a securely fenced yard and intend to do some obedience training.
"Friendly." Could also be overbearing, untrained, undisciplined, obnoxious, destructive.
"Protective." Read "overprotective." Otherwise the appropriate words would be "good watchdog."
"Free to a good home." Could mean "get him out of here before he drives me crazy."
Buying a puppy is not as simple as it seems. The chances that you will get the right dog for your family increase with the amount of work you put into the selection of a breed, a breeder, and a particular puppy. So, study the classifieds if that is your choice of a source. Don't simply call the ad with the cheapest price or the closest telephone number. Or call a veterinarian, a training club, a kennel club, a groomer, or a boarding kennel for the name of a responsible breeder in your area.
Additional information on locating a responsible breeder
[More on the AKC and registration]
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