Ask questions when choosing a dog from a breeder

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Years ago, I was at a conference and privileged to converse with my training and behavior idols.

One particularly resonated with me on what he said to look for when choosing a dog from a breeder. John Rogerson, an international authority on dog behavior, had some cogent comments:

Ask if the puppy's mother or father is present for you to meet; the temperament of a parent can be an indicator for a puppy. If the parent is not well tempered, go elsewhere.

Or, ask who has the mother or father and if you can contact them.

Another importance of having the mother on premises is to find out how long she was allowed to wean. The bonding time between mother and puppy is significant in teaching the puppy initial behaviors.

The shorter the time, the less imprinting is done. Be wary of breeders who sell puppies younger than eight weeks of age.

Were there different surfaces available in the area where puppies were kept? Having puppies raised in areas with two different surfaces, one for playing with mom and siblings and a different surface for going potty, can be helpful when house training.

This helps because the pup already understands to go somewhere else to potty, and not where they eat or sleep.

Abandonment trauma as it affects pups often begins in the breeder's home. We see so much separation anxiety in young dogs, most of which is due to the new home, we never question what might have happened before.

Rogerson has a theory: As each pup is picked up to go to their new homes, what happens psychologically to the ones that are left? One by one their litter mates are removed by a stranger, with the last one left alone, developing fear and anxiety. Where did their siblings go, and who was taking them away?

The original owner can counteract some of this with introductions to other people prior to the dogs leaving the breeder's home and by arranging pickups within a short time frame.

What was the litter size? Not all breeds have the same size litters, but the optimum size litter is about five. Each puppy gets lots of time with each other and with the mother dog. It also makes the abandonment issue less severe.

How do the breeders care for the dogs? Are the dogs in the house interacting with the humans from an early age, or outside in a kennel or kennel building?

Do the pups get exposure to normal house sounds and people activity as well as furniture and noise-making equipment? This exposure helps build confidence as they go through natural fear periods.

In addition, are the pups handled by people, touched all over their bodies, groomed, bathed from an early age to start the human bond not only by touch but by scent?

If the breeder is breeding too many dogs, then the pups don't get that individual one-on-one time that is so critical for the trust process.

Ask questions and you will wind up having a much better pet.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training.

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