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Guidelines For Prospective Puppy Owners

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Some questions you need to ask – the breeder and yourself – before you buy that Labrador puppy:

Before you fall in love with the first adorable Labrador face you see, take the time in an initial phone call to ask a few questions of the breeder.

Remember you are adding a new member to your family for the next 10 - 15 years, so don’t go on a bargain hunt! Prepare to spend at least R5,000 or more for a well-bred and well-raised puppy.

You may have known someone who has or you may yourself have purchased a “backyard”-bred dog, from a pet shop, or a puppy mill dog and had great success. However, the high number of serious problems seen in the breed today makes it highly unlikely that you will be that lucky again. Chief among these are temperament problems ranging from aggression to shyness to hyperactivity. Hip- and elbow dysplasia, eye problems causing blindness, epilepsy, auto immune disorders and cancer can all seriously shorten life span, quality of life, and are also becoming more prevalent.

Responsible breeders will do all they can to avoid these problems by researching pedigrees and screening parents for certain inherited problems before breeding. However, please remember that even with all these checks there are no guarantees that problems will not occur - you are only lessening the risk factor. These are the questions you should be asking:

  1. Where did you find out about this breeder? Responsible breeders may have a waiting list of puppy buyers. They don’t find it necessary to advertise in newspapers or with a sign out in the front yard or on the side of the road, nor do they sell to pet shops. Go to the LRKC website, or buy the latest dog magazines.

  2. Do both parents (the sire and dam) have hip and elbow certificates issued by a SAVA-approved veterinary radiologist? “My vet Okayed the x-ray” is not a valid clearance.

  3. Do both parents have at least current eye clearances from an Ophthalmologist? This must be re-done every year.

  4. Check for health certificates for any relatives of the sire and dam. Is the breeder prepared to discuss problems that may have cropped up in previous litters?

  5. Is the dam at least 20 months old?

  6. How often is the dam bred? If it is every heat cycle, THIS IS TOO OFTEN, and may indicate that profit is the primary motive for the breeding.

  7. Will the puppy have a limited registration, either breeder restrictions or a mandatory spay/neuter contract? A breeder who cares enough about the breed to insist on these is likely to be a responsible breeder. On what basis was the sire chosen? If the answer is “because he lives down the street” or “because he is really sweet” it may be that insufficient thought was given to the breeding.

  8. Is the breeder prepared to take the pup or mature dog back at any time in the event that you are unable to keep it?

  9. Will the breeder be available to answer any question you might have for the life of the dog? Is this someone you would feel comfortable asking any type of question?

  10. Is the breeder knowledgeable about the breed? Is he or she involved in competition with his/her dogs?

  11. Are the puppy’s sire and dam available for you to meet? If the sire is unavailable can you call his owners or people who have his puppies to ask about temperament or health problems? You should also be provided with photos or videos.

  12. Have the puppies been raised in the home - not isolated in a backyard or kennel?

  13. Is the breeder knowledgeable about raising puppies, and proper socialization techniques? Puppies that are raised without high exposure to gentle handling, human contact and a wide variety of noises and experiences OR are removed from their dam or litter-mates before at least 7 weeks, may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems.

  14. Does the breeder provide you with a 3 - 5 generation pedigree, a contract to sign, copies of all clearances, health records and material to help you with feeding and training?

  15. Do the puppies seem healthy, with no discharge from eyes or nose, no diarrhoea, no foul smelling ears? Are their coats soft, full and clean? Do they have plenty of energy when awake, yet calm down easily when gently stroked? Will the puppies have received their first vaccinations? Have they been regularly de-wormed and checked by a vet prior to going to your home?

Questions you need to ask yourself:

Are you prepared to ...

  1. Take full responsibility for this dog and all its needs for the next 10 - 15 years? This is NOT a task that can be left to children.

  2. Invest the considerable time, money and patience it takes to train the dog to be a good companion?

  3. Always keep the dog safe; no running loose, riding in the back of an open pick up truck or being chained outside?

  4. Make sure the dog gets enough attention and exercise? (Labrador puppies need several hours of both, everyday.)

  5. Live with shedding, retrieving, drooling and high activity for the next 10 - 15 years?

  6. Spend the money it takes to provide proper veterinary care including, but certainly not limited to - vaccines, de-worming, spaying or neutering and annual checkups?

  7. Become educated about the proper care of the breed, correct training methods and how to groom? (There are many good books available, ask any member of the LRKC Committee or members to make a few suggestions.)

  8. Keep the breeder up-to-date on the dog’s accomplishments and problems?

  9. Take your questions to the breeder or other appropriate professional before they become problems that are out of hand?

  10. Have the patience to accept the trials of puppy hood, which can last for two years (and some!), and each stage thereafter?

  11. Continue to accept responsibility for the dog despite inevitable life changes such as new babies, kids going off to school, moving or returning to work?

  12. Resist impulse buying, rather have the patience to make a responsible choice and decision?


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