Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


Finding a Quality Breeder
Part 7

Golden retriever mother feeding her puppies that will be service dog candidates
Go back to PART 6

Knowing How to Communicate With the Breeders will help you in finding the best breeder for you.

Here’s a great blog post by a breeder about how you can keep your end of the deal.
Click HERE to read the article

And this one on expressing your preference (if you have one).

More Information:

The environment plays such a large role in what the puppy becomes that any testing done at such a young age is only useful as an evaluation for what parts of socialization the breeder has missed. At 49 days the pups are at their most malleable stage. An example of this are adult dog behaviors that are not innate but are learned. Good working dogs are developed from tiny puppies. Their early experience and training are carefully tailored to what they will be doing as an adult. Hence the need to make a continuous training plan for your puppy. Keep in ind puppies should stay with their litter at least 7 days past the 49 day mark to give them more time with littermates to learn dog behavior.

Recent research suggests that looking at puppies chest whorls, paw preference (right or left) and preferred eyes may also play a role in predicting dogs that will be successful as guide dogs.

Here’s a link

What about mixed breed puppies?  Aren’t they healthier than purebred dogs?
Hybrid vigour is a myth. When breeding two breeds of dog together both breeds are part of the same species and therefore the result is not a hybrid. A hybrid occurs when two different species intermix. Like a mule is a cross between a horse and donkey. When talking about mixed breed dogs, breeding two different breeds together may result in more genetic variety in some individuals, while in others that have similar health issues, may result in dogs that have the same or higher risk of health issues than the parents. So the pup as an adult dog might have less risk, same risk or higher risk than their parents for temperament and health issues.

Be very careful when evaluating ‘designer’ breeds. Check to see if the parents have health tests for health issues specific to those breeds. An assurance that the vet said “the adults are healthy” is not good enough. An example of this are the labradoodles whose parent breeds of labrador retriever and standard or mini poodle who both tend towards hip dysplasia. The hips need to be OFA or PennHipp tested at 2 years of age.

A good practice is to look up common breed health issues for foundation breeds under ‘breed standards’ and find out if previous generations have been tested for all of them.Another thing to watch for in the “doodle” breeds is to find out how many generations removed from purebred you are looking at is. Also be aware at this time, no country in the world recognizes the labradoodle as a breed.

There are breed registries that are working toward one day having them recognized as a breed but they are still in the process. Just like recognized purebreds, the breeders vary in quality. They too need to do health testing on the previous generations.

Some breeders sell first and second generation dogs which are mixed breed dogs. These dogs have great variability in hair type, size and temperament. Having said all of the above, there are some responsible breeders out there if you look and some nice service dog potential puppies available!

Dogs become accustomed to cues from vertical people.
If the pup’s future handler is in a wheelchair, make sure breeder gives the cues while sitting as well as standing. For someone on bed rest, the pup needs to be acclimatized to the handler giving cues in that position.

Consider the specific breed or mixes if breeders do or require spay or neuter at a young age (with the breeder or under a year of age). Many breeds are negatively affected when they are spayed under 18 months or neutered under a year. Affects can be both behavior and medical/structural. This can affect the ability of the dog to be a service dog. Check this article and chart to see if your breed is affected. 

If you can’t find a breeder locally, it is well worth the time and cost (think of it as an investment) to travel to find one that is suitable. It is possible to do most pre-screening by phone and web cam to make sure the pup is a good prospect before going.

Be very hesitant to buy a pup without seeing the parents first. What your interpretation of what a dog is may be very different than what the breeder’s interpretation is. You could hire someone knowledgeable about puppies to do an onsite visit for you after you talk to the breeder and get their permission but it is still second-hand information.

If you are seriously interested in one breed, join a national or regional breed club and see what other breeders say about a prospective breeder. They know the strength and weaknesses of their competition. If you talk to them, you’ll find out pretty quickly what breeder focusses on.

Good luck!

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