Buying a puppy or dog…..

Buying a dog or puppy? Know the tools of the trade (Dog People….their dogs….their breeders and their trainers…..)

Most of us don’t make a conscious decision to become a dog owner; well, at the very least I know that is not what happened with me. I spent my childhood dreaming about dogs, reading books, magazine, watching movies / videos, drawing pictures…..two of the strongest images that remain with me from that era was reading the classifieds in the Age newspaper on Saturdays, The Trading Post on Thursdays and reading through the pages of an awesome book I “forgot” to return to the school library about dogs.

I was obsessed…..growing up in metropolitan Melbourne in the 80’s, I would rush to the milk bar on Saturday mornings for the AGE and Trading Post on Thursdays, in those times both were massive, bulky newspapers with an enormous amount of content (well before the internet) and both of these papers contained exhaustive advertisements for the sale of puppies……my eyes were fixated….German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs……an instinctive, involuntary drawing of my attention to the powerful breeds! So many times I circled ads…..and…..so many times I read the pages of that book….traced out the photos….i was hooked!

So many times I forced my dad to take me to the lost dogs home and bring a puppy home, only to be forced to surrender it within a few months….my parents weren’t dog lovers! Eventually I was old enough and The Trading Post delivered the goods….a male rottweiler puppy from Ballarat!

Let’s just say my due diligence was not what it should have been…..from memory I drove out there and bought what would have been a puppy no more than about 4 weeks old, it had parvo and nearly died….but…it pulled through and lived for about 7-8 years before dying of cancer.

Wondering what the moral of the story is?

Like I said earlier, the decision to be a dog person in my mind is not a conscious one, and yet it requires conscious thought and planning to make the transition to being a dog person a seamless and non-problematic one….

DO NOT ALLOW YOUR EMOTIONS AND WILL TO FULFILL YOUR DREAMS STAND IN THE WAY OF LOGICAL, WELL THOUGHT OUT PROCESSES

My second buying experience was much more well thought out and lead me to Joy Belles and Rotvel Rottweilers….but those emotions did get in my way once more…..they reared their ugly head when I developed the image of what I wanted to achieve in my mind and allowed myself to be seduced by the marketing hype spewed forth by certain quarters of the breeding fraternity….this was compounded by the fact that I was studying bloodlines and learning about dogs and behaviour, training and breeding and it seemed to make sense….but…..

If we take a look at what pre-requisites are required for the successful transition to being a dog person we will identify a number of elements that like so many endeavours in life require learning and an understanding of the subject matter. Problem is we all had a puppy growing up, so….that makes us experts right? At the very least our uncle on the farm, he was an expert and he said…”always pick the runt…they always work out”….how well does that one go?

I can only speak from my personal experience and also what I see happening every day from the breeder perspective and the many people I speak to about their experiences in acquiring their puppies / dogs.

The purchase of a puppy and the ongoing training requirements are subject to influence from 4 distinct groups:
• Owner
• Dog
• Breeder
• Trainer

Whilst all of these groups can and do exist independently they are intrinsically connected or definitely will be connected at a time in the future in some form or other.

The prelude to the article discusses my history and I’m sure it is similar in some fashion to most, so in essence the topic of “owner” has been covered with one significant omission; the owner must understand what dog suits them best, why and what level of commitment they are prepared for.

The need for research and study cannot be underestimated. The variety of breeds of dogs available is enormous, so, to go about buying a dog without research will lead to an impulsive result that is not likely to end well. Owners must understand their life commitments, their own energy levels and their capacity to manage the dog of their choice, both physically and mentally. What type of dog is suitable for their living arrangements and their family set up. You would imagine that once this process has been completed it will lead to the narrowing of the field on terms of breeds and therefore allow the owner to target their search; unfortunately this is not the case albeit this is generally where it ends….

So, let’s assume that most people know themselves well enough to identify the breed of dog they will buy; surely it’s not that hard to find one…..is it? I mean a rottweiler is a rottweiler is a rottweiler right?…..NO! Almost all people that I speak to, seem to overlook that within a breed of dogs, just like a nationality of people there exists significant differences that will either make your experience a great one or a terrible one.

Additionally we must accept that there exists a logical sequence of thought, research and selection that we must go through to achieve our desired result; would you buy a sports car to go cross country 4wd?? Not likely…..for the purpose of the discussion I will assume that we are looking for a “working type” rottweiler….this is almost irrelevant as you should follow the same process when looking for a “show type”; whilst distinctly different they require the same attention in terms of selection.

All living entities are a result of their inception, their family tree, their parents and subsequently their pedigree. So the following is how I start my selection process for buying myself a working rottweiler.

Step 1 – The results!
You need to research and find the dogs that have been successful in the field of endeavour that you are interested in participating in…so, if you are seeking to participate in IPO, Ringsport or other working field, identify the top echelon, look up the results and work out which dogs have been the most successful; repeat success is always preferred. This should be conducted both locally and internationally – the internet and the many dedicated webpages make this much easier today than ever before. Your research should not be limited to the competitive arena alone; there are many other organised events that clearly highlight achievement, ztp, korung and other breed suitability events should also be looked at.

Step 2 – Research
The laborious task of research….research the pedigree of your favourite and see if you can find any patterns that clearly show an inclination to your chosen field. Look for dogs that have produced more than one dog that has been successful, read up on the forums and seek knowledge from others in the area.

Once you have established the “lines” that you are interested in, you are now ready to seek out the breeders.
Additionally you must educate yourself to know what you are reading, watching and looking at. Seek guidance from trainers and other enthusiasts to learn how to evaluate what you are seeing.

Step 3 – Breeders
they are found all over the world; however various constraints will dictate what opportunities you can take advantage of.

Our chosen breed of the Rottweiler and most other working breeds originate and exist in the purest form in countries other than our own – this requires an arduous process to import a live animal or reproductive material courtesy of our stringent quarantine laws! As such, for most people, this opportunity is beyond reach and we must rely on others that have conducted such exercise and have appropriately qualified stock on the ground.

Whilst we are at it, there are several options within all breeds of locally bred animals that will fulfil your purpose(s), and you will be able to identify them via the same process.

But it is not merely the case that once you have found the pedigree you are looking for that you go buy it! Don’t fall for that! The dogs that are being utilised in one’s breeding program and the puppies being produced MUST BE THE PEDIGREE! What this means is that if a pedigree denotes certain characteristics, then the actual dogs being used to breed from, must possess these characteristics! In order to ascertain this you must physically see the dogs and test them – there are various methods to do this and this is likely to form the basis of another article – but YOU MUST TEST THEM! At the very least you must be able to see video…if not…do not buy!

Do not accept any excuses when it comes to this. If you do not know how to read a dog then obtain the services of someone that does, someone that is independent – do not rely solely on the breeder – they have a vested interest and will not be independent in their assessment!

And you must understand that there are good, honest, ethical breeders and then there is the crap! Fancy kennels, facilities, webpages and photos can at times be facades for the crap….don’t be fooled….look at the dogs and test them!

I speak of this subject with passion as I have in the past been seduced by the marketing ploys of some, listened to the dribble and empty promises, allowed myself to believe because I was hearing what I wanted to hear….as I said earlier, the testing of dogs and their character and temperament is a topic for another article, but here are some easy reference points to keep in mind when looking at breeding stock and puppies.

Breeding Stock
• Firstly check health clearances – do the dogs have all of the prerequisites – sight the certificates, do not believe what you are told or read on websites, and wherever possible check the dog

• What are the credentials of the breeding stock or their parents – you will see many claims of superior lineage and bloodlines, but the actual dogs have nothing to show for it

• Visit and see the dogs – both mother and father – and puppies, preferably on the same day – give the breeder notice to make arrangements if the dogs do not live with them – in some cases it will not be possible to see the dogs, but in this age of technology there should not be any issue with some video

• Ask for references – a breeder that has been operating for a number of years should be able to provide references from public figures in the dog world – their mates are not references they are the cheer squad! Public references are from trainers, other breeders, previous owners, clubs etc.
o Most breeders & trainers will have Facebook pages & websites – check the profiles, does it look legitimate, what’s the content? Just photos? Any videos? Information? is it updated?

• Ask the breeder to demonstrate the dogs & puppies temperament
o a working dog should have a very high desire to chase balls, rags, tugs etc.
o it should have a desire to catch, tug and carry – you should not be able to pry the object from the dogs mouth if it does not want you to
o working dogs should be athletic, muscular and energetic
o they should be stable and able to tolerate a gunshot (starters pistol)
o do not fall for the old “I can’t bring him / her out, as I’m preparing them for a show, or, this dog had a hard life and won’t show what he really is, or, this dog is so arrogant he doesn’t even rate you, he won’t do anything because he decides when he does it…etc.
o all of the above also hold true for puppies – do not believe breeders that say it’s too hot or cold or wrong time of the day…..if it’s important, invest the time for multiple visits – if you are interstate insist on video evidence or send a friend – DO NOT TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT!!

Deposits and Pick of litter
Let’s get one thing straight – there is no such thing as pick of the litter – it’s about the right dog for the right application and the right owner!! And furthermore, do not pay extra for the privilege of picking your puppy.
It’s not unreasonable for a breeder to request a deposit in order to secure your reservation for a puppy – it is unreasonable though to not return deposits if they cannot provide you what you are seeking – if “NON-REFUNDABLE DEPOSITS” is one of their conditions – RUN!!! FAR AND FAST!!!

Remember, there is always another litter!

Do not fall for placing deposits for dogs from breeding stock or reproductive material that is not even in the country – chances are it will not eventuate and if you can’t get your money back because deposits are non-refundable you will end up with a lesser substitute! Always wait to see the dog…it may just not be what you are looking for.

Guarantees, Agreements and Receipts
Always request all commercial aspects in writing – if they will not provide this, do not buy! The applicable guarantees should be advertised on the flashy websites!

If you are buying and paying for a “working dog” or ‘sport dog” always seek a performance guarantee – be clear on the terms of the guarantee – get it in writing!

And, do not leave the premises unless you have a receipt for the money you have paid and understand the conditions (in writing) that apply. It’s common sense people.

Step 4 – Trainers
There are many types, many disciplines and many routes to success in the field of dog training. For this article I will assume you have selected your trainer. If you have, discuss the purchase of your dog / puppy with them. They will provide valuable insight to selection and what to look for. They may even be able to come with you when you are selecting your puppy/dog.

The dog world is a small place; particularly in Australia. Most trainers will know most breeders; especially if they are concerned with working dogs. Ask your trainer about the breeder and vice versa. Utilise your and their networks; if they don’t know the breeder or trainer, they will know someone that does.

Purchasing a dog is really not that big a deal, the money is relatively low in comparison to other pursuits, however the sour taste of a bad experience will stay with you for a long time, and the sweet taste of a great experience will remain with you for the same period of time.

Do not ignore the basics….do not fall for the marketing….and if you land on a person that spends more time trash talking the competition than showing you their wares, leave! Do not ignore the warning signs!

Follow these simple steps and hopefully you will end up with the puppy / dog of your dreams – GOOD LUCK!