Raising a littler of puppies is no easy task if done correctly. Anyone who has raised several litters at once or several in a year are NOT doing it correctly, period! I know because I raised one litter and then another shortly thereafter. Each time I swore I would never do it again. I even burned the whelping box so I wouldn’t say “yes” again. The litters I raised were rescues. I am not a breeder. I ended up building a new whelping box for the next litter and then I burned that one too, because I REALLY meant I was not doing it again.
SO MUCH POOP! There is so much cleaning to do each day, all day, my hands were cracking. So much time dedicated to having people over socializing with the babies. Clean up poop. So much time coordinating their school. Yes, school! I build equipment for them to explore, had new toys, statues, sounds, textures in their gym every day. Clean up more poop. I arranged for each puppy to be socialized with cats. Clean up poop. The puppies needed time to socialize with other healthy dogs. In between activities I did load after load of puppy laundry. Clean up. . . . you know what. . .It is SO MUCH WORK!
Oh, and let’s not forget momma. She needed her alone time and her walks. Oh, and don’t forget my real job. . . . . . SO MUCH WORK! It is exhausting and there is no time off! The babies need what they need when they need it. Your time does not matter to them.
I was inspired to write this blog post after getting several phone calls in a row about puppies who were purchased and were displaying severe behaviors at 8 weeks old. What?!?! An 8 week old puppy should be smoochie, affectionate, clingy, snuggly and playful. I do not care what breed it is, if raised right, it should be all those things and then some. They should be a clean slate. However, the phone calls I received were about new puppies nowhere near a clean slate. They were already guarding their food, so much so, they were biting their owners if they even came near their bowl. They would not allow anyone to pet them except their owners. If a stranger came over to pet the puppy, the puppy would bite them. We are not talking about the usual puppy mouthing and teething situation. That is normal. What is not normal is growling, lunging and biting. Biting to break skin at 8 weeks old. What a disappointment it is to spend $1-$2,000 on a puppy and have to start with a deficit. Here are some things to consider when buying a dog from a breeder.
- Go visit the puppies where they are being kept. DO NOT GO TO AN ALTERNATIVE LOCATION NO MATTER WHAT. If the breeder wants to meet you in a Walmart parking lot, do not buy a puppy from them. This is a huge red flag for a puppy mill. Any reputable breeder will gladly let you see where the puppies are living and show you both parents.
- Look around. When visiting the puppies, look for how clean the area is, look how well the puppies are kept. Are they kept indoors or outdoors? Outdoors is a red flag! Are they roly-poly or are they skinny? Are their coats clean or are they filthy? If roly-poly and clean, proceed. If skinny, dirty and matted, leave the premises and do NOT get a puppy. You are not saving a puppy; you are supporting a bad operation.
- Do the puppies clobber you when you enter their pen? I hope so! If the puppies are shy, red flag. Pick up the puppies. If the puppies want to lick you and lick you and lick you, these are puppies who have been handled a lot. If they cry and scream, RED FLAG. I know of a family who picked up the small puppy and is screamed and squirmed. They took it home and have had problems ever since.
- How well are mom and dad cared for? Both parents should greet you and be happy to be pet. If they are shy and/or barking when you approach or appear to be unkept, abort your mission.
- Before taking your puppy home, ask to get a dish of food. Give it to the puppy you wish to take home. If the puppy allows you to stick your hand in their bowl while eating, proceed. If not, RED FLAG! When raising puppies correctly, part of their schooling is allowing hands in their bowl. I did this with my puppies from the time they started eating out of a bowl. They will never have a problem with guarding. If nobody has ever done this, they will guard their food, and this will be engrained in their brains. Do not buy this puppy. This puppy below, guarded his food and bowl since he was brought home and would bite anyone other than his humans if touched. I know because he bit me and broke skin. His parents feared him at 8 weeks old.
- These tips do not just apply to breeders. Do your homework with rescues as well. This is Dax. Dax was raised by so called “trainers” for a local rescue. One would think trainers know how to raise puppies, but this is simply not the case. Providing a place to stay is NOT rearing puppies correctly. Dax and his siblings have severe resource guarding. Oops, looks like Dax’s “trainers” missed a huge part of their puppy rearing. If Dax’s now parents knew to perform the food test, they could have passed on adopting this puppy with a severe problem and not spend extra money having me come over to try to help them fix the problem. This will take immense work due to it being engrained in Dax’s brain since the time he could even think the thought.
- Get papers. The day you bring your puppy home, you should have papers in hand. The puppy should be registered with an organization such as AKC (American Kennel Club). Included in the paperwork should be health certificates (look up specifics for your breed), shot records and a return policy. A reputable breeder will always state if having the puppy does not work out, you return the dog back to the breeder not a new home or a rescue. The breeder will insist because they care about the welfare of their dog. If they do not have a return policy, do not buy this dog. There is a reason they do not want the dog back.
- Ask questions. Any reputable dog breeder will be a wealth of knowledge about this breed and happy to talk about it. No question is stupid. Ask away! If the breeder is not willing to discuss the ins and outs or the puppies, their parents, their background it is a RED FLAG!
- Getting a puppy should be a two-way interview. You should feel as interviewed by the breeder as the breeder does by you. This is a sure way to know they care who gets their puppies. If not, you know what to do.
- A reputable breeder will NOT let the puppies leave the litter until after 8 weeks of age. If you get one of my puppies you will have to wait until after 11 weeks of age, but I am not the norm. Anything before 8 weeks is detrimental to the health of the puppy. Do not support a breeder pushing another agenda.
Getting a puppy should be a happy event! Your first call should be to a vet and your second should be to a positive trainer to get enrolled in a puppy class. Your first call should NOT be to a trainer and saying, “I am scared of my puppy”. This can all be avoided by not getting emotionally wrapped up in the puppy breath and stay focused. Be prepared to walk away and leave the puppy. There are many out there that will give you nothing but wonderful memories and happiness. The Bassett Hound puppy mentioned above was relinquished to a rescue before 20 weeks of age while the “breeder” laughed her way to the bank and would not return phone calls or text messages. Don’t let this happen to you.