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Picking your perfect puppy

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Picking your perfect puppy

You’ve mulled it over and decided you’re ready – a puppy it is! So what comes next? How do you pick your perfect puppy?

Investing time in a little research will go a long way. After all, your puppy will eventually grow up and become part of your family for a good many years. Here’s a few tips to help you find that perfect puppy without a hitch.

Deciding on the right breed

Looks are one thing and some people choose a dog based on appearance alone. But ask yourself: would you choose your friends that way? I suppose you might if your last name is Kardashian, but for the rest of us, making both you and your dog happiest depends on finding a breed that fits seamlessly into your lifestyle. So be honest with yourself. Are you super active or more of a casual stroller? Do you live in a condo or have a home with a big back yard? Is your house full of kids or are you an empty nester? Do you want a cuddler or a dog that’s a little more independent?

Evaluating your lifestyle and doing your homework before you buy will help ensure your decision meets your expectations. The great thing about a purebred is you know what to expect. Purebred dogs are bred for consistency in size, coat, exercise requirements and temperament. There shouldn’t be any big surprises when your puppy grows into adulthood.

Once you’ve figured out what kind of lifestyle you have, you can start your breed research. Our breed directory on p. 118 is a good place to begin. In it you’ll find brief histories and personality traits for the different breeds. The directory will also give you some idea about coat maintenance and exercise requirements.

Once you’ve narrowed down the breeds you’re interested in, make some calls. Talk to reputable breeders about their dogs. Most have been breeding for a number of years, and have fielded many of the questions you may be asking yourself. Visit breed association or club websites for more details and photos. Constantly cross-check against your lifestyle evaluation and eliminate the breeds that don’t fit.

When you’ve finally decided on the breed that’s right for you, you can begin your search in earnest.

Locating a reputable breeder

1. Make a trip to the kennel

Reputable breeders are happy to have you tour their kennel facilities; some are even in their own homes. This not only gives you an opportunity to ask the breeder questions and look at the environment your pup has been raised in, but it also gives the breeder the chance to get to know you. Reputable breeders want to ensure they’re placing their puppies into good, forever homes. So do expect to answer some questions about your lifestyle.

When you visit, make sure you see the dam (mother) and that she’s in good health and condition. Notice how the breeder interacts with the dogs; do they like him/her or do they shy away? Ask about the sire – it may be possible to see him too, but often he is used for stud services only and lives somewhere else, or the pups are the product of artificial insemination.

2. Review the records

Reputable breeders should possess an official pedigree for their puppies. This outlines the ancestry of the puppies, and includes the names and registration numbers of the sire and dam, as well as the grandparents and great grandparents. 

In addition, your breeder will likely present you with health records for the puppy. Since some breeds have a history of genetic health issues, reputable breeders carefully choose breeding dogs that will help reduce the likelihood of your puppy developing these problems. How do they do this? There are a variety of tests available now that demonstrates a dog’s genetic health (see Dog Speak on p. 170). If the dog is clear, the breeder will have a certificate that indicates this. Your puppy will likely have made at least one visit to the veterinarian, and those records should also be available.

3. Don’t forget the paperwork

As with any purchase, you should receive a bill of sale. Make sure it includes the breed of dog and a general description (gender, etc), your name, the breeder’s name, the total price of the dog (including registration), and confirmation that the puppy is a purebred and you will receive registration papers. (According to the Animal Pedigree Act in Canada, any breeder selling purebred dogs must legally register the dog and provide you with the registration certificate within six months of the sale.) There are several registration bodies, including the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), the Canine Federation of Canada (CFC), the Canadian Border Collie Association (CBCA) and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). Your bill of sale will protect you if any legal issues come up.

Many reputable breeders will also provide you with a written guarantee. Remember, while the breeder may have done everything right to ensure your puppy grows up to be as healthy as possible, there’s no crystal ball that can foretell the future. Should your dog happen to experience a genetic condition despite careful breeding, the guarantee will outline the course of action the breeder will take. This could include replacing the puppy, or financial compensation. It’s important you understand clearly what your guarantee means.

There’s no question that puppies pull on our heartstrings; they’re all so darn cute! But by using your head as well as your heart when shopping for a pup, you’ll help ensure that you and your forever dog enjoy a close companionship for years to come.

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Dana Cox is the co-founder, Chief Creative Officer and editor-in-chief of Redstone Media Group, which publishes Canadian Dogs Annual, Animal Wellness Magazine, Equine Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal, and associated websites. She regularly attends veterinary conferences to stay apprised of leading edge and best practice therapies and modalities. Dana lives in Peterborough, ON with her husband and fellow co-founder, Tim Hockley, and their family which includes two children, a dog and a cat.