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rec.pets.dogs: Getting A Dog FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/getting-a-dog
Last-modified: 20 Nov 1997

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                                 Getting A Dog

   Cindy Tittle Moore,
   Copyright 1995-1997.
Table of Contents

     * In General
     * What Kind of Dog Should I Get?
     * What are My Responsibilities?
     * Where Do I Get One?
     * Where Do I NOT Get One?
     * How Do I Find a Good Veterinarian?
     * How Do I Introduce Several Pets?
In General

   This article is intended to provide anyone contemplating a new dog,
   whether a puppy or an adult, with useful information. There are more
   detailed FAQ articles with further information if you get a puppy
   (new-puppy) or an adult (new-dog).
What Kind of Dog Should I Get?

  Factors to consider
   There is an enormous variety of dogs in shape, size, personality, and
   abilities. Different breeds will have certain characteristics for
   which they were bred. Ask breeders at dog shows and look them up in
   breed books for further information. You must consider several things
   before deciding on a dog:
     * _How much time can you spend with it?_ Dogs are social creatures.
       They will not be happy left out in the back yard alone. You must
       be committed to spending several hours a day with it.
     * _What space can you provide it?_ If you live in a small apartment,
       you must take this into consideration: many dogs will not do well
       unless you expend a good deal of effort in meeting their needs.
       Dogs can be pretty adaptable so long as *you* help them out. Don't
       be fooled by size into thinking a dog will be OK in a small
       apartment -- Jack Russell Terriers require a LOT of exercise.
       Conversely, many Mastiffs are content to flop on the floor and do
       nothing at all while you are gone.
     * _How much money can you set aside for it?_ Even if you get a dog
       from the shelter or otherwise inexpensively, you will have to buy
       food, pay for veterinary checkups, vaccinations and routine
       medical care, and purchase other equipment over the lifetime of
       the dog. Not to mention replacing anything the dog may damage or
       destroy, or putting money out for medical emergencies. Do you have
       the financial resources for this?
     * _How much exercise can you give it?_ If your time is limited, you
       should look for smaller or less active dogs that can obtain enough
       exercise in your home or from short walks. Note that not all small
       dogs are less active, or larger dogs more active; research your
     * _How much training can you do?_ Regardless of the dog you get,
       training will make your dog much more compatible with you and what
       you want to do. A trained dog can go to more places with you
       without disruption, and can be more easily a part of your life.
     * _How much grooming can you do?_ How much hair are you prepared to
       have in your home? You should give serious consideration to these
       factors: some dogs shed little and require no grooming (clipping,
       stripping, etc); others shed little but require more grooming;
       others shed but do not require grooming; and still others both
       shed and require grooming. Do note that just about all dogs will
       require some nail clipping regardless of conditions. If you get a
       dog that requires regular grooming, are you prepared to pay for
       its grooming or learn to do it yourself and to do either
     * _Which sex do you want, male or female?_ There are pros and cons
       to either sex, all of which are generalities and may or may not
       apply to a specific dog. By all means, if you have a preference,
       get the sex you want. If you are not sure, it really doesn't
       matter -- look for the dog you hit it off with.
     * _What characteristics do you want in a dog?_ Different breeds have
       been bred with specific purposes in mind. Dogs bred for scent, for
       racing, for retrieving, etc, will exhibit these traits. Consider
       which characteristics you would like and which will annoy you.
       Reading up on dogs in breed books (some are listed below) and
       talking to breeders will give you some idea of these kinds of
       characteristics. This also may be a reason to choose a purebred:
       characteristics in purebreds appear more reliably because of their
       consistent breeding. Do recognize, however, that dogs show
       individual personalities, and variety exists within each breed.
       Breeds are only a general indicator of what to expect. Some
       questions to ask yourself:
          + What sort of exercise do I want to do with the dog? Walking?
            Jogging? Hiking?
          + Do I want a dog that is bouncy and ready to go, or more
          + Am I prepared for a dog with some protective tendencies? How
            about a dog with possible dog-aggression (because of its
            background or breed)?
          + Do I want an indiscriminantly friendly dog or one that is
            more reserved?
          + Do I want a dog that must be near me whenever possible or do
            I prefer a more independent nature?
          + Will I want a dog that readily accepts other animals (e.g.,
            cats, rabbits, etc.)?
          + Am I interested in: obedience, agility, hunting, herding,
            coursing, showing, etc. with this dog?
  Purebred or mixed-breed dogs
   If you are interested in a purebred dog, you should pick up a book on
   dog breeds (most libraries will have a good selection) and do some
   research, with the above questions in mind. There are some
   breed-specific FAQ's available. Finally, you should SERIOUSLY consider
   attending a dog show where not only can you potentially contact
   breeders, but you can see ADULT specimens of the breed you are
   considering. It's very important to remember that cute little puppies
   remain cute little puppies only for a matter of weeks. There is a long
   period of ungainly and rebellious adolescence finally followed by
   mellow adulthood.
   If the dog's breed is not important to you, you should still consider
   the above list when choosing the dog. You do face a few more unknowns
   since a mixed-breed puppy (e.g., a "mutt") may or may not clearly
   exhibit what its adult characteristics will be.
   Many people have strong feelings about purebred dogs, especially the
   characteristics of the breed. Other people feel that the "stereotypes"
   are overrated. Jon Pastor made some nice comments about the usefulness
   and caveats of typical breed behaviors:
  Are behaviors commonly ascribed to specific breeds based in fact or are they
  just stereotypes?
   They are really a bit of both: they are informal statistical
   descriptions (i.e., stereotypes), and to the extent that they reflect
   reality they're also facts. "Stereotypes" -- or, more simply, "types"
   -- can be, but are not necessarily, evil: it depends on how you use
   Typical means "characteristic of the type," and is a statistical
   abstraction; it does not have any normative implications -- i.e.,
   there is no claim that all (or even most) examples of the type in
   question have the characteristics that are stated to be typical. One
   of the ways in which people make sense of the world is by comparing
   entities they encounter with the types they've stored in their
   memories in order to identify them; it's a remarkably effective way of
   compiling knowledge about an infinitely complex environment so that it
   can be accessed quickly enough to (in the extreme) save one's life.
   Thus "typical" is a largely ad-hoc, somewhat personal label, until it
   is agreed-upon by some number of people who share the same notion of
   what common characteristics identify the "typical" object of a
   particular kind. If we could eliminate the biases that have been
   identified in such behavior (e.g., if the last 20 dogs you've seen
   have been Borzois, you will most likely over-estimate the true number
   of Borzois in the dog population), we would find that "typical"
   approximated some statistical tendency in the population we're
   addressing, typically the mean (average) or mode (most common).
   If you pick some characteristic and look in a particular population to
   see how many individuals have different levels of that characteristic,
   you'll find that when you graph the results they look like this (more
   or less):
|                             |
|                             *
|                         *   |   *
|                       *     |     *
|                      *      |      *
|                     *       |       *
|                    *        |        *
|                  *          |          *
|               *             |             *
|          *                  |                  *
| *                           |                          *

   There will be some value that occurs most frequently (the mode); in
   the case of a perfectly symmetric curve like the one above, this value
   will also be the average (mean). Symmetric curves like this occur
   surprisingly frequently, so I'll continue to use it as an example.
   For example, let's say that you want to plot the aggressiveness of
   various breeds. First, you have to come up with a way of ranking dogs
   on aggressiveness [an exercise left to the reader ;-)], and then for
   each breed you score a large number of dogs on aggressiveness and plot
   the results:
no. with
score                         |
|                             *                   |
|                         *   |   *               o
|                       *     |     *         o   |    o
|                      *      |      *      o     |     o
|                     *       |       *    o      |      o
|                    *        |        *  o       |       o
|                  *          |         o*        |         o
|               *             |     o       *     |             o
|        *                    |o                 *|                   o
| *                o          |                   |      *                    o
      "aggressiveness" score

   Here, breed 1 is represented by '*' and breed 2 is represented by 'o'.
   Notice a couple of things:
    1. the centers of the two curves are clearly separated, from which
       you'd conclude that the breeds differ to some degree in
    2. there is some overlap, so that the most aggressive breed 1 dogs
       are substantially more agressive than the average breed 2 dog, and
       the least aggressive breed 2 dogs are substantially less
       aggressive than the average breed 1 dog.
   The significance you attribute to the results depends on the shape and
   position of the curves, but in most cases there will be substantial
   variation within groups and at least some overlap between groups.
   Now, by doing this in N dimensions you can play the same game on as
   many characteristics as you wish, and make statistically meaningful
   statements about tendencies of one particular breed or typical
   differences between breeds.
   By doing so, you are *NOT* saying that
    1. all dogs of a particular breed have all -- or, in fact, *any* --of
       the "typical" levels of each characteristic
    2. there is necessarily any real dog that has all of the "typical"
       levels of each characteristic
    3. it is impossible for a dog of breed 2 to have some -- or, in fact,
       *all* -- of the typical characteristics of breed 1
   This is not a True/False situation, it's an infinitely-graded
   situation. If you get a dog of that particular breed, the modal
   (typical) value is simply the one you'd be most *likely* to get.
   A big caveat: breed traits are not computed scientifically, and are
   thus not quite subject to the laws of Statistics. However, they do
   reflect the cumulative wisdom of hundreds (thousands?) of years of
   human observation and active breeding of dogs.
   The bottom line is that if you get an Newfoundland, it is highly
   likely that it will be a good lifesaving dog; it is possible, although
   less likely, that it will be a *great* lifesaving dog; and it is also
   possible, although also less likely, that it will show no aptitude for
   lifesaving. Similar statements hold for "typical" traits of sight
   hounds, Rotts, Poodles, GSDs, Goldens, Irish Setters, and any other
   breed you can think of.
   If you use this "stereotype" information to inform your choice of a
   dog, and make some effort to determine how "typical" a given dog is
   likely to be of its breed (by looking at parents and siblings, by
   observing the dog, by asking the owner, etc., etc.), it's innocuous
   and can be quite useful. If you use it blindly to make blanket
   judgements of breeds, use of stereotypes can be foolish. In the
   extreme, if you don't understand the meaning of the characteristics,
   or have mis-identified or mis-measured them, use of stereotypes can be
   positively evil, such as when "all Pitbulls" are identified as
   dangerous and banned.
   The only conclusion that this discussion licenses with respect to the
   purebred-vs.-mixed-breed question is that prediction is easier with a
   purebred because the number of purebreds is (relatively) small and
   (relatively) fixed, while the number of possible mixes is essentially
   infinite; as a result, there has been more observation of individual
   "pure" breeds, and there is consequently more data to support
   generalizations about breed characteristics. This is not, by any
   means, to say that purebreds are necessarily better or worse; they're
   just more predictable.
   So if you want a dog with a particular set of characteristics, you
   will be more likely to get such a dog if you find a breed that
   typically has those characteristics and choose a dog of that breed
   *intelligently* than if you choose a dog of mixed breeds (unless, of
   course, you're talking about an older dog whose behavioral
   characteristics are already obvious and therefore observable). This is
   a statement about probability, not about quality, and anyone who
   attempts to apply an absolute value-scheme to it is making unwarranted
   and unjustifiable extrapolations.
   Statistics is a powerful weapon. As with any other such weapon, use it
   ignorantly or indiscriminately at your peril...
   Listed here some good references on dog breeds; others appear in the
   Publications FAQ. In addition, there are many that are specific to one
   breed. Space prohibits listing any of these type of dog books here,
   but you should look up breed specific books on the breeds you are
   especially interested in for even more detailed information. The breed
   specific FAQ's mentioned in the introduction will contain recommended
   One word of warning on breed specific books. In general, avoid the TFH
   "KW" series readily available in most pet stores. These are small
   books, about 150 pages. Most of them recommend pet stores as a source
   for puppies, blithely talk of the "joys" of breeding, and contain very
   little actual breed-specific information. Instead there is a large
   amount of general information repeated from book to book, and what
   amounts to advertising for a number of brands of dog products. Leaf
   through the book carefully before deciding (or not) to buy it.
   De Prisco, Andrew and James B. Johnson. _The Mini-Atlas of Dog
   Breeds_. TFH Publications, One TFH Plaza, Neptune City, NJ 07753 1990.
     This book lists and describes over 500 breeds from around the
     world. Abundantly illustrated with color drawings and photos.
     Includes a short forward on what criteria you should consider in
     choosing a breed, and a short description of the categories it
     chose to group dogs in (slightly different from, eg. AKC
   Mandeville, John J., and Ab Sidewater, eds. _The Complete Dog Book:
   official publication of the American Kennel Club_. Eighteenth edition.
   Howell Book House, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. 1992.
     This is the reference for the AKC breed standards, each of which
     covers several pages and includes a black and white photograph and
     text on the breed's history, characteristics, and nature. Newly
     admitted breeds, such as the Shar-Pei, have been added to this
   Sylvester, Patricia, ed. _The Reader's Digest Illustrated Book of
   Dogs_. 2nd edition. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.,
   Pleasantville, NY. 1994
     Besides the excellent text and illustrations in the album, which
     cover 2 pages for each breed (175 total), the informative sections
     are also well-written and illustrated and include many color
     photographs as well.
   Tortora, Daniel F. The Right Dog For You. Fireside, Simon & Schuster
   Trade Books. 1983.
     Offers a complex decision procedure, with lots of questionnaires to
     alert you to the potential significance of various features of
     breed behavior and physical characteristics. One of the few that
     lists potential problems of each breed rather than giving a
     glowingly positive one for each.
   Wilcox, Bonnie and Chris Walkowicz. _Atlas of Dog Breeds_. TFH
   Publications. 5th ed, 1994.
     Over 900 pages long in large format. The authors are top notch
     writers and did extensive research to compile this comprehensive
     resource of the world's dog breeds. The book is profusely
     illustrated with excellent quality photographs and a 3-5 page
     article. This book makes a good effort to show every color and
     every coat type of each breed in the various photos. Expensive. The
     latest edition is out in two volumes.
   _Project BREED Directory_. Network for Ani-Males and Females, 18707
   Curry Powder Lane, Germantown, MD 20874, 301-428-3675. 1993.
     There is a section on each breed (over 100 listed) listing specific
     breed rescue organizations and individuals throughout the US. It
     also describes each breed's appearance, origins, traits, and the
     most common hereditary health problems for that breed. No pictures.
     Check or money order ($15.95 plus $1.50 s/h) for a copy.
   The _AKC Breed Identification Series_ is a set of seven short video
   cassettes that give a brief overview of each breed of dog recognized
   by the AKC. The tapes are categorized by AKC breed groupings
   (sporting, working...) The segments for each breed last less than five
   minutes each. The information is often erratically presented and
   incomplete. The tape set is probably unavailable at video rental
   stores. Since the set of seven tapes is probably quite expensive, the
   public library would be the best way to examine these tapes.
   Some breed clubs have much better videos describing their breeds. They
   are expensive enough that it's probably not worth getting them if
   you're still "browsing," but if you have a dog of that breed, they're
   often quite nice to get ahold of.
What are My Responsibilities?

   There are responsibilities that go along with being a good dog owner.
   A dog will live from 10 to 20 years, depending on its breed, size and
   general health. This is a long term commitment, and you must be ready
   to provide the dog with a home for that duration. You must make
   provisions for it when you go on vacation. It needs attention, love,
   and respect from you: feeding and watering it are not enough. Consider
   it part of your family: this is no joke as that is exactly what the
   dog thinks YOU are: its pack, its family.
     * _You are responsible for its health_. An essential part of owning
       a dog is making sure that it gets good medical care. Check the
       vets in your area and pick out one before you even get your dog.
       Take your dog in to the vet immediately after acquiring it and
       take it in regularly thereafter. You will have expenses for yearly
       shots and, in many areas, heart-worm preventive. Puppies and dogs
       routinely die without adequate veterinary care.
     * _If you get your dog for protection, you are obligated to make
       sure that it is safe, reliable, and trustworthy around people_.
       Never chain it up in the back yard, or encourage it to snarl and
       bite other people. Never try to make a dog "vicious." Such
       irresponsible treatment results in tragic stories of children and
       adults being mauled or even killed, the dog being put down, and
       various dog bans being enacted. A dog can protect you just fine by
       barking at suspicious noises and allowing you to investigate. It
       does not have to be vicious. A good protection dog is always well
       trained, properly socialized, and has a relationship with its
       owner that encourages it to be protective. Higher levels of
       protection (such as attack dogs) require considerable training and
       experienced handling and are most definitely not for everyone.
     * _You are responsible for your dog's reproduction_. You must either
       get it neutered, or make provisions for keeping your bitch away
       from dogs when in heat. If your male is intact, you must keep him
       under control when he smells a bitch in heat. If you breed, you
       are responsible for making sure that your dog or bitch is suitable
       for breeding (i.e., good health, good temperament, good specimen
       of the breed, and free of genetic defects), and making sure that
       all resulting puppies are placed in good homes. The millions of
       dogs that must be put down annually in the US are the result of
       owner irresponsibility about their pet's reproduction.
     * _You are responsible for your pet's behavior_. This means keeping
       your dog under control. Do not let it roam; do not let it become a
       nuisance to others in your neighborhood. Keep it on a leash when
       walking so that it does not run up to other people or dogs and
       bother them. Clean up after it or curb it (make it go in the
       gutter) when it eliminates, *especially* in public areas. Many
       parks, beaches, and lakes are closed to dogs because of
       irresponsible owners in this regard.
     * _You are still responsible for the dog when you "get one for your
       kid_." Unless your child is old enough, at least 13 (and highly
       variable at that), she or he will not have the sufficient maturity
       to take responsibility for the dog. A dog can be a good way to
       teach children about responsibility, but the dog is still *your*
       main responsibility. Dogs acquired for this reason often wind up
       in the shelters when the parents find out that they are the dog's
       primary caretaker.
     * _You are responsible for becoming more knowledgeable about dogs_.
       Find some good books and read up. Enroll in puppy and dog classes
       where you can learn much from the instructor; attend them even
       before you get a dog or puppy for first hand knowledge of what you
       can expect. Many dogs are in animal shelters with a note that says
       "couldn't be housebroken" or "couldn't be trained."
     * _You are responsible for being prepared for the new dog_. Never
       get one as a "surprise gift." All members of your family must
       agree on having a dog. Have food, water and food dishes, bedding,
       collars and leashes, chew toys, and a veterinarian lined up before
       you pick up your dog. Many "Christmas puppies" are found in the
       shelters by New Year's Day.
   Some books to try:
   Milani, Myrna M., DVM. _The Weekend Dog_. Signet (Penguin Books USA,
   Inc.) (1985). ISBN: 0-451-15731-1 (paperback).
     This book outlines practical solutions for working people with
     dogs. It has excellent suggestions for understanding dog behavior,
     particularly destructive or unwanted behavior. Gives all kinds of
     practical solutions to the problems of adequate exercise, adequate
     training, housetraining, and so forth.
   Miller, Harry. _The Common Sense Book of Puppy and Dog Care_. Bantam
   Books, Third Edition (revised) (1987). ISBN: 0-553-27789-8
     This small book provides a surprising amount of useful information.
     A little on the "lightweight" side, nevertheless, it gives a good
     outline of what you should know about your puppy or dog. You can
     use this to decide how much you do know and where you need to brush
     up on what you don't. Besides sections on how to select the right
     dog, it covers basic puppy needs (housetraining, feeding,
     illnesses), basic training, basic pet care, and a complete list of
     AKC breeds.
   Monks of New Skete, The. _How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend_. Little,
   Brown & Company. 1978. ISBN: 0-316-60491-7 (hardback).
     A monastery in upstate New York breeds, raises, and trains German
     Shepherd Dogs. On the basis of their considerable experience, they
     offer troubleshooting guides, discuss discipline, environmental
     restrictions, basic and puppy training, and much more. Extensive
     bibliography. The emphasis is on understanding the dog in order to
     communicate with it or to solve problem behavior. An excellent,
     well written classic, although becoming a little dated.
   Spadafori, Gina. _Dogs for Dummies_, IDE Press, 1996.
     This book is my current favorite and most up-to-date volume on dog
     ownership, especially for the novice owner, although there is
     something for everyone here. The author writes a newspaper column
     and has been answering basic questions every day for years, the
     same type that show up in rec.pets.dogs. This experience and
     helpful advice comes through in every page on this book.
   Taylor, David. _You and Your Dog_. Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1991).
   ISBN:0-394-72983-8 (trade paperback).
     This useful book is an overall guide to the health and care of
     dogs. It includes a basic listing of dog breeds (AKC). This is a
     good general purpose book that gives you an idea of what all is
     involved in owning and caring for a dog.
Where Do I Get One?

   There are really only three places that you should get a dog from: an
   animal shelter, a _responsible_ breeder, or a rescue organization.
   Typically, dogs from shelters or rescue organizations are neutered, or
   you will be required to neuter them as condition of purchase.
  Animal shelters
   The animal shelter is a good place to pick up a dog and save it from
   death in the bargain. Look for a clean, healthy dog, keeping in mind
   any constraints you may have. Look for signs of friendliness and
   liveliness. Does it approach you in a friendly manner? Talk with the
   people caring for the animals for any information on a particular
   animal they can give you.
   The best thing to do is to go the animal shelter every weekend and
   spend time with the dogs. Try to put their plight out of your mind for
   the moment--it would be nice to save them all, but you can't. Instead,
   you should get to know the dogs on an individual basis.
   Read the tags on each cage and see whether the dog was a stray, or
   whether its owner turned it in for some reason. There are some
   beautiful adult dogs in the pound that have been given up reluctantly
   by ill or elderly, or even deceased, owners. Don't overlook these!
   Ask to see the dog in the holding area most shelters have. You'll be
   able to check for signs of hostility, see if the dog knows anything,
   and in general how it reacts to you. Expect some fear and nervousness!
   A few doggy treats may help calm it. If things seem to be going well,
   ask if you can take it on a walk, even just around the compound. If
   you are curious to know its reaction to cats, take it by the cat
   Finally, don't be afraid to say "not this dog," and walk away. It is
   hard, hard, hard to walk away from a sweet dog, but you are looking
   for a companion for life, so you will have to be honest with yourself
   about what you want. There are heartbreaking stories from people who
   made an impulsive decision in the pound and lived to regret it. Bring
   along a friend who can help you look at the dog more objectively.
   If you plan to show your dog, or desire a healthy pet-quality
   purebred, find a responsible breeder. Don't use newspaper
   advertisements. Attend dog shows or performance events instead and
   talk to the owners and breeders there. Try contacting the local breed
   club for the breed you are interested in. It's best to get to know
   several breeders before they actually have litters you would like to
   get puppies from. This gives you a chance to learn more about the
   breed, learn more about the philosophies and intents of the breeders
   you know, and learn more about the prospective parents of your pup.
   The more information you have, the better off you will be.
   Remember, though no breeder is *automatically* responsible or ethical
   just from the source you were referred from. You must determine
   whether a particular breeder is suitable for your needs, and the more
   time and research you put into this, the better your results will be.
    Selecting the breeder
   After you compile a list of potential breeders to contact, screen them
   through the phone first. Here's a list of questions to ask (in no
   particular order).
     * Can you see the dam and if possible the sire?
     * Where are the pups being raised, in a family setting or in a
     * What health problems occur in the breed?
     * Have these problems been checked in the parents? As appropriate:
       OFA certification, CERF certification, blood tests, etc.
     * Request a copy of the sire and dam's lineage/pedigree.
     * Titles on sire and dam.
     * Info on puppies the sire and dam (together or with other mates)
       have previously produced? (That is, are either of the parents
     * Has the puppy been crated trained, paper trained, etc.
     * What breed clubs do you belong to? Do you have references?
     * How many puppies were in the litter?
     * Any difficulties during delivery?
     * How often is the bitch bred?
     * What guarantees do you offer on your animals?
     * What is in your sales contract?
     * Do you offer a spay/neuter contract for pet quality puppies?
     * Have they been to the vet yet? Wormed? Shots? Are the dogs bred
       for the ring, field, or for general pet purposes?
     * How many breedings have you done to date? How long have you been
       breeding? Names and phone numbers of several customers, and the
       vet you use.
     * How many different breeds have you bred? How many breeds are you
       breeding now?
     * If for some reason I cannot keep the dog, will you take it back,
       no matter how old it is?
     * If I want a bitch puppy so I can breed her as an adult, what kind
       of, if any, restrictions will you include in the sales contract?
     * Do you have a litter available? If not, when are you planning one?
       (If a litter isn't presently available, ask if/when they are next
       planning to show their dogs in your area. If you can go, this is a
       golden opportunity to observe the structure and temperament of the
       dogs they breed.)
   When you meet with breeders, look for people that seem more concerned
   with the welfare of their dogs than the amount of money they're
   making. Look for ones raising the puppies "underfoot" and around
   people. If the breeder is using kennels, check for cleanliness, happy
   dogs, no overcrowding, shelter from the elements, plenty of fresh
   water. Check and see how many different breeds the breeder is breeding
   -- good breeders limit themselves to one or two (usually related)
   breeds because of the time, expense, and energy involved in producing
   excellent specimens of a particular breed. Otherwise, the breeder may
   be operating what is essentially a puppy mill (check this against how
   often the dam is being bred & what condition she is in).
   A responsible breeder should have some history of breeding animals.
   They may be breeding for show or field work or just plain good pets.
   They should be able to tell you about some of their previous puppies.
   They should be able and willing to discuss the health and well being
   of the parents of your puppy including: eye conditions, hip dysplasia,
   etc. In general, be suspicious of puppies from anyone who has not had
   the parents at minimum x-rayed for hip dysplasia and had the eyes
   checked by a veterinarian, or for other problems associated with the
   breed. Not all breeds have the same problems, but breeders should know
   what they are and be able to tell you which ones they've tested for.
   And if you've done your homework beforehand, you'll know if they're
   checking the right things.
   Here are some red flags that should make you wary. The presence of any
   one of them is not necessarily an indication that something IS wrong,
   but you should definitely check further if you see any of these:
     * Breeding more than one breed
       A few breeders branch out into a second breed, but the truth is
       that there is so much work involved in breeding right that one
       breed is more than enough for most people. If they are breeding
       more than two breeds, something may be very wrong.
     * The sire and dam are both on the same premises
       Now, sometimes the breeder owns the dog they decided would be best
       for their bitch, it does happen. If you see this, ask who else the
       bitch has been bred to and generally try to find out if the
       breeder always uses her own stud dogs (a BIG red flag), or uses a
       variety of dogs depending on the bitch (the flashing red lights
       can turn off now)
     * The bitch was bred her previous season as well as this one
       This is called back to back breeding and is extremely rare among
       responsible breeders and all too common among unethical breeders.
       Unless the previous litter resulted in no live puppies (or perhaps
       only one or two pups) or there was a compelling reason to do this
       THIS TIME (the sire is on his last legs, etc), this should be
       reason enough to leave.
   Expect to be shown the paperwork on the parents: OFA hip certificates
   are printed on heavy stock, white paper with a blue background; elbow
   certificates are similar but with a green background (and no grade is
   given). ACVO (eye examination) paperwork is on light tissue apper and
   will be a carbon copy; if they have the CERF paperwork, that will be a
   narrow computer printout with some blue lettering (and they will no
   longer have the original ACVO paper but a copy as the original is
   turned in when requesting a CERF number). Take note of the numbers
   assigned and CALL OFA and/or CERF and verify them. The sire's
   paperwork will probably all be photocopied unless the breeder owns the
   sire as well.
   Here are additional things you can do to verify the information the
   breeder gives you.
     * Call the AKC and confirm claimed points: 1-900-903-4252. Be
       prepared to enter the dog's AKC number when prompted. It costs 99
       cents a minute, but most queries take just two minutes or so.
     * Use OFA's web site to confirm the certificate. Go to and enter the dog's OFA number or AKC number
       to verify.
   Yes, it's possible to fake all of these, but generally folks who are
   lying will trip up somewhere when you double check on the numbers and
   such. This is where checking references come want to be
   satisfied of the breeder's overall integrity, etc.
   Get references of previous clients and call them up and ask them how
   they liked their dog. Don't overlook this step, you can learn a lot
   about what the puppies are like and how well they did this way. A
   responsible breeder should have no problem supplying you with such
   You should be able to see the mother of your puppy; her temperament
   will give you a good idea of your puppy's adult temperament. Obedience
   and temperament titles can indicate good temperament. Being unable to
   see the sire is not uncommon, picky breeders will often ship their
   bitch cross-country to a good prospect. If you've done your homework,
   though, chances are you are already familiar with the sire and know
   that he has the qualities you want. If both parents are owned by the
   breeder (and those are the only two), chances are this breeder is not
   responsible: what are the chances you'd own the perfect stud dog for
   your bitch? On the other hand, many long term breeders have developed
   distinct lines and will have breed two dogs of their breeding (whether
   they own both or not) for the puppies. So consider the big picture as
   Check for some basic health problems: a litter that was larger than
   the breed average may mean that the puppies are smaller and not as
   healthy, a small litter might indicate trouble during pregnancy. A
   litter of size one or two means that the puppies are getting little or
   no socialization with littermates, regardless of health. The puppies
   should look vigorous and be strongly sucking, beware of listless
   (though sleeping is OK) puppies and indifferent suckling. Try to see
   the puppies when they're likely to be active.
   "Runts" are puppies that are significantly smaller than their
   littermates. If they are otherwise healthy (actively rooting and
   sucking, playing with littermates, etc.), then they are probably
   simply younger than their siblings. When dogs are bred, they mate over
   a period of several days, and it's possible for some of the puppies to
   be concieved on the first mating and others on subsequent matings.
   Over a period of four days, this can make the youngest puppy
   significantly smaller. These puppies frequently catch up several
   months later, and it's not uncommon for such a pup to turn out to be
   the largest one in the litter! Puppies that are runts due to health
   problems should be avoided. A responsible breeder will let you know
   which kind of runt the pup is.
   Puppies should be at minimum dewormed by eight weeks of age. The first
   set of puppy shots is desireable as well. Beware of breeders who have
   not had a vet see the puppies (or mother) at all.
   Many responsible breeders only guarantee the general health of a pup
   for a limited time (e.g. 48 hours). This is not a rip-off. The breeder
   has no control over the pup once the new owner takes it. Reputable
   breeders will stand by that guarantee *if* the new owner takes the pup
   to a vet who finds something wrong (e.g. a communicable disease)
   within that period but the breeder can hardly be held responsible for
   a disease contracted after the pup is in its new home. Thus, such an
   early trip to the vet is for the protection of all concerned.
   Guaranteeing against genetic defects is common: such a guarantee
   generally means a refund or replacement in the case of a defect
   occurring; it does NOT mean that the puppy will "never" develop a
   genetic defect. Be wary of breeders that claim their puppies can never
   develop some defect that does occur in the breed.
   The breeder should also guarantee to take the puppy back if you are
   unable to keep it rather than having it go to the pound. The breeder
   should also be concerned about your living conditions and what you
   plan to use the dog for before they allow their puppy to go live with
   you. Many breeders will want to know what you plan to do about
   reproduction. Many will require that a pet quality puppy be neutered,
   and withhold registry papers until receipt of proof of neutering (thus
   making any puppies from that dog unregisterable).
   If guarantees or other contracts (such as spay/neuter) are involved,
   get it all down in writing. A responsible breeder will not be offended
   by such a step. If something goes wrong, you have no legal recourse if
   there is nothing in writing, verbal contract laws in some states to
   the contrary.
   If you're planning on a puppy for show (conformation or hunting or
   whatever else your breed does) and possible breeding, look for a
   breeder that is very picky about selling such puppies. If this is your
   first such puppy, expect an offer of co-ownership if they think you're
   serious. At the minimum, the breeder should be discussing how they'll
   remain involved with the puppy. This is a valuable resource, by the
   way, the breeder will be able to explain what the puppy's pedigree
   means, what other dogs it should be bred to, how to show it, and so
   on. Moreover, if you are planning something like this, definitely take
   your time and get to know several breeders doing the same things you
   are interested in. This will give you contacts, information, and a
   break when a good litter comes along and the breeders know you or you
   are vouched for by another breeder. It can be hard to "break into"
   showing and breeding, but a little patience on your part will give
   better results.
   Good breeders often have a waiting list of potential puppy buyers and
   often will not breed until they know they can place all the resulting
   puppies. If you find a breeder you like, do not be surprised if you
   are placed on a waiting list for a puppy. The wait will be worth it!
   Approach getting a puppy as if you were adopting a child. Expect a lot
   of questions and ASK a lot of questions! A responsible breeder is also
   looking for a responsible owner.
    Selecting the puppy
   Many breeders let you see and play with the entire litter at once. One
   puppy may come right up to you and investigate. Of course, it's cute
   -- all puppies are. You may think this puppy has "chosen" you.
   Instead, it's likely to be the most dominant puppy in the litter.
   Dominant puppies will check new things out before the rest of the
   litter does. Your "chosen" puppy may not be right for you if you're a
   novice at dog ownership or obedience training.
   A better way to select a pup from a litter is to do a little
   temperament testing and pick the dog with the temperament that best
   meets you and your family's needs. The Monks of New Skete's book, "The
   Art of Raising a Puppy," discusses the Puppy Aptitude Test developed
   by Joachim and Wendy Volhard. They indicate the degree of social
   compatability and how readily a pup will accept human leadership.
   If the breeder picks a puppy out for you, that's also normal:
   responsible ones will have evaluated their puppies and match one to
   you based on what you've indicated you want.
  Rescue organizations
   Another excellent source for a purebred dog is from a rescue
   organizations run by various clubs across the country. If it is a
   breed rescue, dogs of that breed are rescued from shelters or private
   homes as needed, fostered while a placement is found, and then placed.
   The adoption fee usually is less than the cost of a purebred from
   other sources.
   For addresses of rescue services for various breeds, call the American
   Kennel Club library, 212-696-8348, or check the breed-specific FAQ, if
   one exists for your breed. You can also check the BREED book (listed
   above); it contains over 1500 sources for rescue assistance for 72
   breeds throughout the US. Breed clubs often run a rescue program; try
   contacting the local breed club for the breed you're interested in.
   There also exist all-breed and mixed-breed rescue groups; this is
   another source besides the shelter to obtain a dog.
   You should try to spend some time with each dog you consider adopting,
   as recommended and described for shelter dogs. Talk to the people who
   are fostering the prospective dog for a better idea of the particular
   dog's temperament. Ask questions like you would with a breeder; expect
   a good outfit to screen you as well. Expect them to ask for a donation
   and require that the animal is neutered, if it isn't already.
   Further breed-rescue resources: The newsgroup rec.pets.dogs.rescue;
   the mailing list dog-rescue (see the Email List FAQ); the November
   1994 issue of the AKC Gazette.
Where Do I NOT Get One?

  Backyard breeders
   "Backyard breeder" is a nebulous, ill-defined term often applied to
   people who have unplanned litters or who breed for profit as sort of a
   cottage industry. A better term is probably "Ignorant" or "Careless"
   breeders. By whatever name, they are not a good source. If you must
   try these, check the health of the puppies carefully. As with
   breeders, look for people more concerned with the welfare of the
   puppies -- people out for a fast buck will not likely have seen to the
   health of the puppies. If you are looking for a purebred, forget these
   breeders and find a responsible breeder instead. It will save you time
   and money and heartache. If you don't care about having a purebred,
   you will do better at the animal shelter.
   It is not impossible that you will find a conscientious breeder
   through the newspaper. Just check them carefully when you go and visit
   them, like you would any other breeder.
   Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you "only" want a nice
   pet, there is no reason for you to look for a high quality breeder. On
   the contrary, no litter is 100% up to the criteria the breeder is
   looking for...and the pup that doesn't quite meet the expectations of
   the breeder in ability or looks will make an excellent pet as he will
   otherwise be healthy and good tempered...just what you want in your
   new companion.
  Irresponsible Breeders
   Any breeder that has in mind one single goal and breeds only for that
   must be considered irresponsible. Many "backyard" breeders (goal =
   money) fall into this category, but so do "professional" breeders such
     * those who breed ONLY for the perfect show dog
     * those who breed ONLY for top performance
   The key word is ONLY. Responsible breeders seek a balanced dog: they
   will breed for:
     * proper conformation (good structure is key for comfortable and
       free movement)
     * good level of appropriate ability (if a hunting breed, dogs in the
       pedigree have hunting titles or have been used for hunting; same
       for herding, coursing, etc.)
     * good overall temperament
     * good health
   Irresponsible breeders with a single goal in their view will
   frequently sacrifice many of these points; a breeder seeking top
   performance often lets temperament or health slide, just so long as
   the dog can perform; a breeder seeking top show dogs may let the dog's
   abilities and health slide. Someone out to make a fast buck may niot
   have checked any of these criteria in their dogs! Examine your
   breeders carefully and go with the ones that match your overall
   philosophy and goals.
  Pet Stores
   Don't buy pet store animals. These are often obtained from
   irresponsible sources such as "puppy mills" (where animals are bred
   (and bred and bred) only for profit). By buying from the store, you
   are supporting these mills and adding to the pet population problem.
   In addition, you are obtaining an animal of dubious health and any
   money you might save will likely go directly into vet costs as its
   health deteriorates and you may even have to put it down. If it is
   purebred and has papers, chances are very good that the papers have
   been forged in some way and even that the puppy is not really
   purebred. Even if the papers are legitimate, the pedigrees are often
   extremely poor. Many behavioral problems appear in these puppies as
   they are carelessly bred, separated too early from their mother and
   littermates, improperly handled, unsocialized with either humans or
   dogs, and forced to live in their own feces.
   A graphic article in LIFE Magazine (Sept. 1992) illustrates the kinds
   of problems with puppy mills.
   Many pet stores have been instructing their employees to tell
   prospective clients that all the animals in the store are from local
   breeders. In many cases, this is simply not true. Other stores will
   have pictures and commentaries on their walls to inform you how clean
   and sanitary THEIR puppy mills are -- but "clean and sanitary" still
   does not obviate the problems with socialization and bloodlines. Don't
   be fooled! And you may not even want to patronize the stores for pet
   supplies as this will indirectly support the mills, too.
How Do I Find a Good Veterinarian?

   Before you even bring your new dog home, take it to the vet you have
   already selected. Annual shots and examinations are a must for keeping
   your dog healthy. If you cannot afford veterinary care for a dog,
   don't get one. Preventive and consistent care is less expensive in the
   long run.
  Choosing a vet
   Choose a vet who you are comfortable with and who will answer your
   questions. Check out the office: do animals seem just frightened or
   are they also out of control? Is it bedlam, or reasonable for the
   number of different animals there? Do you have local recommendations
   from friends? Does the vet specialize in small animals as opposed to,
   say, livestock? Try to get word-of-mouth recommendations.
   Asking other pet owners isn't always effective because they may not
   have had any unusual or challenging health problems with their pets,
   and vets that can be okay for routine stuff often are less impressive
   with unusal stuff.
   Call vets in your area and ask the vet techs, not the vets themselves,
   who they would recommend other than their own current employer.
   Another good source is groomers, as they tend to hear a lot of stories
   from their clients.
   If you find the recommended vet is very expensive, he probably owns
   the practice. Try one of the associates. They tend not to run up the
   bills so much, and a good vet will usually hire good associates as
   Look for a vet who is willing to refer you elsewhere if they don't
   know the answers rather then saying something like "It must be an
   allergy", etc.
   Check to see if the vet is licensed by the AVMA (American Veterinary
   Medical Association). They do extensive and picky inspections of the
  24 hour emergency care
   A good vet will either be associated with a 24 emergency care plan or
   be able to give you the number of a good place in your area. Keep this
   number on your refrigerator and check with your vet when you visit
   that it's still up-to-date.
  Fecal samples
   Any time you bring your dog to the vet, try to bring a fresh fecal
   sample. Put a small, fingernail-sized sample into a plastic bag, or
   ask your vet for a supply of fecal samplers. The vet cannot always get
   a fecal sample from the dog, and this saves you extra trips to return
   the sample and then bring the dog in if the tests are positive.
   Try an ordinary sandwich bag (e.g. a "Baggie" -- ziplock is convenient
   but not necessary) and turn it inside out over your hand like a rubber
   glove. Then simply pick up the stool with your covered hand, turn the
   bag right-side out, enclosing the sample. Zip if ziplock otherwise use
   a twist tie. This is perfectly sanitary (and you can use the same
   procedure to clean up after your dog on walks).
How Do I Introduce Several Pets?

     Creating A Peaceable Kingdom: How to live with more than one pet by
     Cynthia D. Miller. Animalia Publishing Co., 1997. 1-888-755-1318.
     It includes dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, children, and any
     combination thereof.
   When you get your new dog, you might already have pets that you will
   need to introduce the new dog to. Exactly what you will need to do
   depends on the kinds and temperaments of the animals involved.
   Introducing a puppy to an older dog is probably the easiest
   combination. If the older dog is properly socialized with other dogs,
   you will not have problems. If the older dog is not, you may have to
   keep the dogs separated until you're more confident about their
   getting along. (In any case, a puppy will often be restrained as per
   housetraining efforts when you are not at home.)
   If you are introducing a puppy to a cat, you will probably have some
   trouble for a few months. Older cats, unless they've dealt well with
   dogs before will probably hiss and spit at the puppy or avoid it for a
   long time. As long as the cat has a place to retreat to and you teach
   the puppy to leave the cat alone (granted, easier said than done), you
   will work through problems eventually.
   Puppies and kittens tend to get along just fine. Watch out for
   possible accidental injuries if the puppy is (or will become) much
   bigger than the cats.
   If you are introducing an adult dog to an adult dog, it will depend on
   their temperament and how well they get along with other dogs. You
   might have some scuffles to establish a hierarchy -- keep an eye on it
   but don't forbid it unless things get out of hand. If one dog reacts
   very poorly to the other, you will have to separate them for a while
   and work on introducing them slowly. You may have to keep them
   separate when you are gone.
   An adult dog with a cat can present problems if the dog thinks cats
   make tasty snacks, or if the cat takes a dim view of dogs. You may
   have to keep them separated, or expect a longer period of adjustement.
   If the dog is fine with cats, introducing it to a kitten is easy.
   In sum, it depends on the temperament and ages of the animals
   involved. In most cases, you can simply introduce them, let them work
   it out, and after a week to a month or so, things are fine. However,
   sometimes this is a lengthy process that you will have to work
   through, especially if it is cross-species. In general, this will
     Put the dog in its own room, where the original pet can smell it,
     but not see it. After a day or so of this, remove the dog from the
     room and let the original pet smell and explore the room
     thoroughly. Put the dog back in. Depending on the reactions
     involved, let the pets meet under supervision. If there is some
     hostility, separate them while you are gone until you are certain
     that they get along. It is best if you can arrange a "retreat" for
     each animal.
   Meeting first in a neutral area such as someone else's house or in a
   park, if possible, may help.
   Arrange a retreat for a cat by blocking off entrance to a room with a
   child's gate that the cat can jump over but the dog cannot.
   Be sure that the original pet gets plenty of attention after the
   arrival of the new pet. Resentment at loss of attention and change in
   routine can exacerbate the problems with the two getting along.
   Finally, remember that it can take several weeks to a year for the
   animals to adjust. Don't rush things. Your best resource is patience.
    Getting A Dog FAQ
    Cindy Tittle Moore,
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