The main objective when searching for a puppy should ALWAYS be nothing less than to purchase a purebred, registered, quality, healthy puppy from a reputable breeder.
1. Eye color should be considered a bonus not a requirement. We cannot control mother nature & make no guarantee on eye color. Blue eyes can change as late as one year of age so if you purchase a puppy strictly on eye color you are likely to later be disappointed if/when they change to brown or green as the puppy ages. Eye color does not make the dog & should not be sacrificed in place of quality or buying from a reputable breeder.
2. Price is another factor to consider. Though I realize not every buyer has $1,000 to spend on a puppy, again, price should not be put before buying a quality, healthy puppy from a reputable breeder.
Important things to consider when searching for a responsible breeder:
1. Beware of "cash only" breeders. They likely will not give you a written health guarantee & if something goes wrong during or after the sale you have no proof you purchased a puppy from them. I hear of situations like this often. It is much safer for you, the buyer, to write a personal check or pay with a credit card so you have proof of your transaction with the breeder. Keep in mind that "cash only" breeders may sell their puppies for less, but if the puppy dies or becomes ill & needs vet care, you really didn't save any money. In addition, if the puppy dies, you may decide to purchase another puppy as a replacement & have to spend even more money.
2. Don't buy from anyone who does not want you to come to their home & see how their dogs & puppies are kept & cared for. You should be invited to view all of the adults & puppies in the breeders care & see where & how they spend their day as well as where they sleep & exercise. The exceptions would be a dog or puppy that may be ill or under a veterinarian's care or is too aggressive. However, keep in mind, puppies are very susceptible to germs and injury caused by mishandling from people who are simply uneducated on how to handle young puppies so you may not be allowed to visit or handle puppies until they are 6 weeks of age or older. Also, puppies cannot be vaccinated until 6 weeks of age per manufacturer recommendation so anyone visiting puppies younger than 6 weeks can expose them to disease brought in on your shoes and clothing. The practice of not allowing visitors til 6 weeks of age is not the result of the breeder being difficult but rather for the safety and best interest of the puppies.
3. Don't buy from anyone who does not have the puppies registration paperwork readily available at the time of purchase. "I'll get the paperwork to you" RARELY works out. If breeders are not responsible enough to apply for the registration paperwork well in advance to have it back in time to make the sale, they shouldn't be breeding. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule such as importation. The importation process can take 6 months or more to complete the paperwork transfer and is of no fault of the person who purchased and imported the dog as they are at the mercy of the foreign registry to complete the transfer process. Another exception to not having paperwork available at time of sale is when there are delays in processing DNA at the lab before the registry will complete the registration application.
4. I have been approached by other breeders looking to buy my puppies to broker .... that means buy them with the sole intention of reselling them to one of THEIR buyers to fill an order and make a profit. Brokering puppies in the state of OK is illegal without a brokers license. So if the breeder you choose to purchase from does not have the registration paperwork readily available at time of sale, how will you know if they truly are the breeder of the puppy you purchased? Always check the registration paperwork for the breeder listed so you know this puppy has not been purchased for resale. There are a host of problems that can come along with purchasing a puppy in this situation. You can't be guaranteed you will get your paperwork as the original breeder is under no obligation to get the paperwork to you. Puppies moving from breeding program to breeding program can also bring disease along with them from exposure to a number of dogs & facilities & then onto your property at time of purchase. Furthermore, the breeders that have approached me to buy my puppies for resale are in fact approaching other breeders for the same reason.
What to expect when visiting a breeding program:
1. Cleanliness should be a priority. A good rule of thumb I like to use is, if I wouldn't take my shoes off & walk barefoot in the yards, then I need to have a better maintenance program. The only exception would be if you visit during inclement weather. Outside pens are expected to be wet & muddy during & after rain & snow as are outside dogs. Water tubs should be clear & free from visible algae. An exception would be for a breed of dog that loves the water & is in the water constantly. Australian Shepherds are one of those breeds. I keep several 6 gallon hard plastic tubs with adequate fresh cool water at all times and 25 gallon stock tanks during the summer months. My dogs are in the water constantly thus making the water murky at times. I empty & refill their water tubs at least 3 times daily in warm/hot weather. A good rule of thumb I use is, if I wouldn't cup my hand & drink water from the tub that is offered to the dogs, my maintenance program needs improving.
2. Dogs that are kept in pens should have adequate room for exercise. A red flag would be dogs/puppies that are kept in cramped cages stacked on top of each other or multiple dogs kept in very small pens. Dogs need sunshine & fresh air for adequate physical & psychological development & should not be confined to a cage. Dogs who have access to the ground to run, jump, & play for the majority of the day have better muscle tone and movement than dogs kept in crates, cages, & small pens.
3. If you buy from a breeder with any of the above mentioned faults in their program you are enabling them to continue to breed & sell their puppies. Don't get caught up in the "oh what a cute puppy" & buy him because you feel sorry for him or because you told the kids you would buy a puppy TODAY.
4. Consider buying from a breeder who knows & represents the breed well & is willing to educate the buyers & answer questions ... not from someone who had a male or female & thought they needed to have a litter of pups to "settle them down" or to "give their kids the puppy experience". These types of breeders usually know very little about the breed and did not produce puppies to "improve the breed".
How to locate a responsible breeder:
1. Many breeders sell from a referral basis. Buyers can participate in the same process. If you know of someone who already has the breed of dog you want to purchase, & had a good buying experience, ask them who/where they purchased the dog from & contact them for available puppies.
2. The internet is a great tool for searching & locating responsilble breeders. Use good judgement if purchasing out of state & contact the breeders references. Request pictures & video of the parents, the entire litter, & pictures of puppies from previous litters, if available, from the sire & dam. Simply put; DON'T buy from any breeder not willing to offer pictures and video. With the ease of today's technology and ability to transfer pictures and video quickly & effectively there is NO reason for such a simple request to be refused.
3. Visit AKC & ASCA's websites, or other breed specific websites, for breeder referrals.
Responsibilities of visitors/prospective buyers:
1. It is important to know that breeding age adult dogs can be well socialized but not be accepting to strangers. Australian Shepherds are very social animals but some can become very protective of their people & property & may not appear well socialized to visitors. Mama dogs may also be more aggressive than females kept only as pets if someone approaches their area to view their puppies. It is best to ask the breeder to remove the puppy you want to hold or view more closely from their area rather than just reaching for the puppy yourself. Never put yourself or your children in a position to be bitten. Never put yourself at face level with a mama dog you don't know.
2. Disease can be carried on your clothes & shoes. DO NOT visit more than one breeding program without returning home to change clothes, shoes, & wash your hands thoroughly so you don't bring disease with you to an unsuspecting breeder. Be respectful of breeders who won't allow visitors until the puppies have had at least their first set of vaccinations, again, because disease & parasites, can be transferred from your clothes & shoes. DO NOT expect to bring a dog you currently own with you to a breeding program & be allowed to remove him/her from your vehicle.
3. Responsible breeders should offer a list of references. Be sure you contact at least a few of the previous buyers on the list to find out how the sale went.
4. Though visitors are always welcome, we are very busy here at Fifteen Acre Farms so be respectful of our schedule & call ahead for appointment. We may have other buyers scheduled to arrive & we don't want to keep them, or you, waiting. We also don't want to make a hurried presentation to someone who just "dropped by" & we want to have time to answer all of your questions or address concerns so scheduled appointments are always best & the most considerate. It also may be chore time, dinner time, family time, or we simply may not be home, or available, if you just drop by. If you cannot keep your scheduled appointment, be courteous & let the breeder know so they can fill the scheduled time with another buyer & not miss a sale.
What is a puppymill?
1. It is my opinion that puppymill is a word that defines how dogs & puppies are kept & cared for, or rather lack of care, NOT the number of dogs a person owns or how many litters of puppies produced per year. Just because a breeder has more than one litter at a time does not make him/her a puppymill. Female dogs are no different than any other mammal, including women. The adult females cycle in groups thus producing litters at the same time. You NEVER look out in a pasture of cattle & see one baby calf or visit a horse farm & see one baby colt, one baby lamb, or kid, etc.
2. Questions to ask yourself when visiting would be: Would I drink from their water dish or walk barefoot in their pen? Does the breeder sell to a broker or pet store to avoid their marketing responsibilities or obligation to take the dog back if needed? How does the breeder handle the puppies? Does he/she show compassion & care towards the animals?
3. Some of you have shown excitment toward the new law scheduled to take effect here in 2011. I'm afraid you are being misled as this "new law" will NOT stop puppymill practices. Either people take care of their animals or they don't and a law is not going to change that. Afterall, there are laws against murder, child abuse, animal cruelty, & selling drugs yet those things still take place EVERYday. A law is only as good as the enforcement behind it. Half of our police force, fire & rescue, & teachers have been laid off in our area. If our area cannot provide protection & education for our children it really isn't logical to expect enforcement of this new "breeders law". It's just another way for the government to get more of our income forcing us to raise sales prices even higher so we can meet expenses. In fact, this new law is contradictory to the farm tax provided to us by the state enabling us to NOT pay taxes on the sale of livestock. Again, either people take care of their animals or they don't ... regardless of what the law states so use caution & buy from a breeder that takes pride in the care of his/her animals and represents the breed well.