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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


Finding a Quality Breeder
(Part 3)

Golden retriever mother feeding her puppies that will be service dog candidates
Go back to PART 2

Questions for Later Conversations with Reputable Breeder

1). Is breeder is aware of their breed limitations and weaknesses (behavioral, genetic etc) and willing to admit them to potential buyers. All lines have them but not all breeders acknowledge them. Some have ‘breed blindness” where their breed is perfect. 

2). How long does their lines live? Choose dogs from long-lived lines for their breeds. For example among labs, there are lines that live on average to only to 8 years while others live 12 to 15 years. A longer life allows a longer service life for your dog.

3). Ask to view the pedigrees of dogs they breed (they may be available online as there are registries for Goldens and Labs, for example.) Look to see if any of the dogs are related. If so: how closely and in what way. If too closely related, there may be genetic disease passed down.

Note what titles (both conformation and obedience-related titles) the parents and grandparents have. Ideally a basic Canine Good Citizen (CGC) or CGN (Canada) plus either championship or a sport title are good things to have. Therapy dog training? They are an indication of the dog’s potential trainability. 

4). Does the breeder have a vet available in case of complication during delivery of the litter? 

5). Does the breeder want you to come to their location to meet the mother (and father if available) and the see where the puppies are spending the first 8 weeks of life? Look for a clean safe area with happy friendly confident puppies! Or they can show you this via webcam. If you can’t travel then hire a friend or trainer local to the breeder to check them out in person.

Look at how clean the puppy area is. There should not be excessive poop laying around. It should be cleaned up fairly promptly after the puppies leave it behind. Use your sense of smell. If there’s excessive smell of urine or bleach be suspicious that there was a hurried cleanup before you arrived.

6). Is the mother dog on-site? She should be.  You can meet her and evaluate her temperament grooming and overall health. Ask to see the results of any health test that have been done on her. Keep in mind that she may not look her best because she’s just raised her puppies. Her body may be lean, fur may be thin or patchy and and she may hanging over all but she should have clear bright eyes with no discharge, look healthy overall with no pest infestations (fleas or ticks). Some discharge is normal recently after birth as is bad breath. Female dogs lick their puppies to stimulate them and eat the droppings for the first few weeks. Her breath is likely to smell bad because of this but her teeth should be clean. 

Look for a dog whose body language is relaxed and confident and who is not aggressive with her puppies.

Ideally you should be able to either meet the father or at the very least your picture of the father and see the results of any health tests that have been done. Ideally, if you can see the adults off site (such as at a dog show) that is ideal so you can see how comfortable they are out of their own environment.

7). Will provide you with the Kennel Club registration for the puppy (with the puppy’s registered name on it). This usually is not usually received by you until a few months after you take the puppy home. You should receive a copy of the parent’s registration if you ask.

8). Will provide you with a receipt for the puppy or dog.

9). Get to know the puppies individually. Many breeders have pups colour coded (collars or dyes) and make notes on them as they grow.
Anything from weight gain, to behaviours, interactions with other pups, response to new objects etc. 
Some breeders may do some sort of temperament testing as part of getting to know each puppy. Be aware that the ability of these early tests to predict the dog’s temperament is very low since the social and physical environment the dog grows up in plays such a large role in shaping their temperament. The 49 day Volhard test, for example, is generally a better indicator for holes in socialization done by breeder for that puppy rather than adult temperament. The tests are only valid for the day that the test was taken. Each time a puppy learns something new, the results change.

10). Provides environmental enrichment for the puppies.  
Breeder should have a heavy emphasis on environmental enrichment as the puppies exposure to new things between three and eight weeks is critical to start growing the puppies brain. They should be exposed to as many different surface textures, things with moving parts, sounds etc. as possible without stressing them. 

Here are some examples of what can be done:
Moving puppies to a different room for just 15 minutes a day either with litter or a person, moving the litter box room to room each week as they grow, exposure to different textures and surfaces improves body awareness. 

Adding new toys and objects daily: puzzles to solve, pop bottles, milk jugs, cardboard tubes to play with, crates to go into and climb on, obstacles like boxes, tunnels, hanging items, change stations on radio, access to outdoors to potty etc.

This needs to start from week 3 and increase to when the pups go to new homes.

Exposure to different surfaces:

General Socialization: the Rule of 7s

(as a minimum): Source unknown

By the time a puppy is seven weeks old, he/she should have:

A). Been on 7 different types of surfaces: carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl,grass, dirt, gravel, wood chips, etc….

B). Played with 7 different types of objects: big balls, small balls, softfabric toys, fuzzy toys, squeaky toys, paper or cardboard items, metal items,sticks, hose pieces, etc….

C). Been in 7 different locations: front yard, back yard, basement, kitchen, car, garage, laundry room, bathroom, crate, etc…..

D). Met and played with 7 new people: include children, men, teenagers, and older adults, hair colour, different races, …people with glasses, people wearing hats

E). Been exposed to 7 challenges: climb on a box, go through a tunnel, climbsteps, go down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, go in and out of a doorway with a step up or down, run around a fence, etc….

F). Eaten from 7 different containers: metal, plastic, cardboard, paper, china,pie plate, frying pan, etc….

G). Eaten in 7 different locations: crate, yard, basement, laundry room, livingroom, bathroom, car, etc…

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