You've decided on the breed of dog for you. What's your next move? It's finding a puppy. This purchase should receive thoughtful consideration, after all, it's not a loaf of bread you're buying. This little bundle of energy will be a member of your family for a decade or more. Choosing a reputable source for your puppy is your primary objective. Because it's almost impossible for you, the buyer, to know what any of the puppies will grow into physically and emotionally, you must rely entirely upon your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your pup. There are three options open to you in choosing this person:
1. Pet Shop or Dealer - The Worst possible choice. The pups may come from puppy mills and be poorly bred, with little concern for health and temperament. They are raised as merchandise to be sold for a high profit. This high profit is possible because little has been put into the care of these pups. Many may be sickly and are unlikely to have been well-socialized. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying which is no way to choose an addition to the family.
2. Backyard Breeder - Also a poor choice. This is the person who owns a pet and thinks it would be "fun" to have puppies or maybe that it would be a great experience for the kids Even worse, perhaps it's being done just to make money. Frequently this breeder doesn't know or care about breed standards, health concerns, or proper methods of raising dogs and puppies. Their goal is to produce pups and then sell them quickly.
3. Hobby Breeder - The best choice. Serious and dedicated hobby breeders do not really expect to make a profit from selling puppies. They breed dogs for the enjoyment and pride that comes from producing high quality, happy, healthy puppies that become cherished family companions. These breeders acknowledge responsibility for each and every puppy produced and stand behind every dog they breed and are there for the lifetime of your dog to help and advise you.
A note on Websites: A puppymill/backyard breeders website will almost invariably consist of pages of individual photos of each freshly bathed puppy showing color and markings with adorable and/or glamorous backdrops - ie expensive pools/furniture etc. Some also show puppies running around a great area of land -yet the puppies are raised in a kennel in the less perfect part of the yard! Speaking with the breeder, should you wish to take it further, will result in talk about the cute puppies, but nothing about what they have achieved with their dogs, or the ancestors. Also beware of the wording "champion lines". It is not difficult to buy the grandson/granddaughter or even the use of a Champion stud to add to the glamor of one's website.
Unequivocally, you should choose your puppy from a responsible hobby breeder. You deserve a pet that was the result of careful planning, a puppy who was bred and carefully raised to be happy and healthy. Only the established breeder, with a selective breeding program, can offer you predictability and consistency of quality, health, and temperament. And you won't pay more for this good quality. Pet shops and backyard breeders often sell their poor quality puppies at prices that are equal to, or higher than those charged by hobby breeders.
Be careful about breeders and their websites. It is very easy to set up a website and advertize puppies. If a breeder only talks about their puppies for sale and the website is mostly about puppies and NOT about the breed or their adult dogs - be CAREFUL!. This is clearly a breeder who only cares about selling the current batch of puppies, not about your best interests or the temperament or longevity of the dogs.
How does one recognize the serious, dedicated hobby breeder?
The list below identifies many of the attributes and characteristics of the serious hobby breeder, though no breeder will have all of these. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to confront the prospective source with these requirements. It is your right, and a dedicated and reputable breeder will respond positively and with pride.
1. Each breed of dog has a national breed club and, in many areas of the country, local specialty (single-breed) clubs exist. Also, throughout the country, there are local all-breed dog clubs. Ideally, your breeder will belong to all three types of clubs, and possibly to other dog-related organizations as well, although sometimes not all the options will be available to them. Usually, participation in dog clubs indicates depth of involvement. The breeder is exposed to other points of view, learns more about their breed and is kept up to date about general dog care and modern breeding practices. Please visit www.pwdca.org to learn more about the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. You should also read the PWDCA's Breeders' Code of Ethics and be aware of all the health recommendations for breeders. If a breeder is not breeding adults in compliance with the PWDCA guidelines, this may not be a breeder from whom you want to purchase a puppy.
2. Breeders should be involved in showing their dogs, so that they aren't breeding in a vacuum. Breeders who don't show may have no idea how good their dogs really are and are deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others. Showing provides competition which encourages breeders to produce better dogs. Breeders who show are not relying solely on a pedigree to indicate quality. The show ring is the forum that indicates the degree to which a dog conforms to the standard for its breed. Breeders who show are known by others, have a reputation to uphold, and will be as careful and honest in selling you a pet as they are in selling show dogs. However, there are breeders who breed for the show ring and are not careful of the temperaments needed for good family pets. Breeders who also compete in the arenas available for their breed, as in agility, obedience, nose work and water training are also very aware of what makes an easily trainable, biddable dog that will work also as a companion in every home.
3. Your breeder should give you a reasonable period of time after purchase to have your pup examined by a veterinarian to determine its state of health. If a problem should arise, it can be quickly resolved. Most reputable breeders will also have the puppies vet-checked once prior to placement to check for things like heart murmurs which aren't easily identifiable by visual inspection. The more experienced breeders are able to guarantee their puppies. Remember to ask for a copy of the Sales Contract well before you purchase your puppy.
4. Breeders should give you written instructions on feeding, training, care and grooming. Breeders should also supply you with basic information about the breed. You should also receive the pup's health and vaccination records, and the health certificates for each parent of your puppy. Breeders should provide a contract or some written, signed conditions of sale. You should also get a copy of your puppy's pedigree and you should be able to see a copy of the AKC Registration Application Form if available.
5. For many breeds, the breeder should supply you with proof that the pups' parents have had their hips X-rayed and certified by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals). Also, the breeder should show you that the pups' parents have been eye checked within the last 12 months by a CERF (Canine Eye Research Foundation) ophthalmologist and are clear of hereditary eye defects. The PWDCA requires that dogs be at least 2 years old before being bred and final OFA ratings are not given before a dog is two years old. There are also other health checks that should be done on PWDs - make sure the breeder has done these (Gm-1, OptiGen and JDCM) in accordance with PWDCA recommendations. Hips checked by a veterinarian or by an organization other than OFA is no guarantee of hip clearance. A breeder who has the results of her OFA and breeds the dog REGARDLESS of the results is not performing due diligence. Remember please to go to the publishing organization and check that the hips, eyes and other checks have been done on the parents of your new puppy. Some breeders have their parent dogs' hips checked by organizations other than OFA that do not recognize a pass/fail system. These breeders can say their dog is "evaluated" by such an organization and give numbers but they do not mean much unless compared to an OFA passing grade.
6. Make it clear that you expect the breeder's responsibility to continue after you have taken the puppy home. Ask the breeder for references so that you may call puppy buyers and check that this is done. Most dedicated breeders will ask that the pup be returned to them or placed with new owners that meet their approval if, for some reason, you are unable to continue ownership. PWDCA requires, in their code of ethics, that all Portuguese Water Dogs breeders do this. Be careful of "first right of refusal" by some breeders - this generally means they will NOT take the puppy back.
7. Be prepared to answer a few questions yourself. Reputable breeders are genuinely interested in finding quality homes for their puppies. Don't be offended if the breeder asks whether you have a fenced yard or what kind of dogs you have had in the past and what happened to them. A serious breeder will want to know what kinds of situations their puppies will be subjected to and what kind of care they will receive. Some breeders may seem a bit hesitant to sell you a pup until they know a bit more about you. A serious breeder will also be quite happy with you visiting other breeders, as this can be an indication of the value you are placing on your new pupppy and its early unbringing and making sure you are buying from someone you feel you can have a 10-15 year relationship with.
8. Breeders should be willing to have you visit their premises where the puppies are being raised. If you are not invited to their home you should look elsewhere. You should see a clean environment, well-socialized pups, and a dam with a good temperament. Puppies should be happy and self-assured. It is desirable to have the puppies living somewhere in the house rather than in a separate building or kennel. This alllows the puppies to become socialized to the ordinary sights, sounds, smells and activities of a household.
9. Breeders should be willing to give you references - their veterinarian, or the names of people who have purchased puppies from them in the past.
10. Breeders will often require that your pet be spayed or neutered when it reaches the correct age, and may withhold registration papers until proof is provided. Most concerned breeders today will not want you to spay or neuter before the dog is 10-12 months old. This is in order to let the bones grow properly. There is some research indicating that the earlier a dog is spayed the taller and more out of proportion that dog will become. In addition, serious breeders spend a lot of time and effort planning a breeding program designed to improve the breed by using only the best breeding quality dogs. Pets should be loved and enjoyed as pets.
Tips for Puppy Buyers:
Choosing a Reputable Breeder
Picking up White Cap Craca 1983
2007 Cutwater wavy puppy
Photo © Gene Tullio
Bailey Kalish - 2007
brown wavy pet puppy
Photo © Arthur Stein
Two Cutwater Dogs in a painting
Copyright Christine Merrell