Tag Archives: health testing

Rescue vs breeder: which is right for you?

There are a million places to get a new dog if you’re in the market for one. Some, like petstores or huge kennels, are never a good idea. But when it comes down to the simple question of do I get a puppy from a breeder or do I get an adult dog from a shelter or rescue, there are definite pros and cons to consider so that you can make the best choice for your household. Pros and cons are not universal— some people are more flexible and have a less specific vision of what works for them while others need predictability; some people do not want to deal with puppyhood while others can’t imagine bringing home anything but a puppy.

Sometimes there is no clear-cut answer, but lets lay out some of the pros and cons.

First let’s look at breeders. There is a world of variation in quality of breeders out there, but for the purposes of this post, let’s just talk about people who are breeding with quality in mind– people who afrank081209bre health-testing their dogs before breeding them (hip certifications, eye certifications– whatever is appropriate to the breed), who are doing their research before breeding and who care where their pups are going and what happens to them.

The pros of buying a puppy from a breeder:

  • You’ll have an idea of the genetic lines behind your dog including temperament and health. If you’re looking for a mellow house-dog Golden Retriever, you probably don’t want to buy a pup from somebody breeding high-energy hunting dogs. And you always, always want to know the family of dogs that your pup is coming from are healthy.
  • While genetics are always a bit of a wildcard, you’re doing everything you can to stack the deck in your favor. If you breed a dog with good hips to a dog with good hips, chances are pretty good that you’re going to get dogs with good hips. If you’re buying a pup of a breed that is prone to seizures, knowing that none of his immediate relatives have had seizures is a big plus. Nothing is absolute, but the odds are with you.
  • You’ll get a lifetime of support. A good breeder is invaluable in the assistance and knowledge they can provide. Plus, it’s nice to have a cheerleader sometimes, especially through those teenage months.
  • You get a health guarantee. Good breeders stand behind the pups that they’re producing. But be careful to read the fine print to see what exactly the guarantee is.
  • A good breeder will have already started the oh so important process of socialization. Pups will have been exposed to different sounds, different textures, different people. Some will have already been started on crate training. They’ll be on their way to being well-adjusted, happy dogs.
  • A good breeder will take back a dog at any time, no matter what. Your pup will always have a safe place to land if something happens that you can no longer keep him, or even if he is simply not a good match for your family.

So what about the cons?puppy4

  • Good breeders don’t breed often (a litter or two a year) so you will likely have to wait.
  • It takes time and effort on your part to find and reach out to breeders to find one who is a good match for you and your family.
  • Good breeders can be hard to find, especially if you don’t have connections in The Dog World.
  • The pricetag. No getting around it. It costs money to do things right, so your pup will cost a bit more. Although the purchase price is still a drop in the bucket compared to the price of caring for a dog for his lifetime, the initial layout of cash can still feel a bit painful.

On the flip side, there are tons of good dogs out there in shelters and rescues who are there through no fault of their own. It’s a common myth that dogs in shelters are there because of behavior problems, but in this day and age, money, housing, and job changes are huge reasons for dogs not staying in their homes.

What are some benefits of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue?

  • Adult rescues are often very “what you see is what you get”, especially if they’ve been in foster care. You can get a good idea of what kind of dog you are bringing home, which takes some of the mystery out of adopting. You’ll know simple things such as size and coat type (it can be so hard to predict what mixed-breed pups are going to turn into when they grow up), but you’ll also get a good idea of temperament– is this dog good with other dogs? cats? kids?
  • Many dogs in shelters have already lived in somebody’s home and are housebroken and come with some basic skills. Training a new dog is important regardless because it is such a huge relationship-builder, but I’m always a big fan of pre-housebroken dogs, myself.
  • Most rescues will take back dogs that they’ve placed, again, for any reason, so if something should happen, the dog has a safe place to go.
  • You’re saving a life. Whether you adopt from a shelter that does put dogs to sleep due to overpopulation or you adopt from a no-kill rescue, you’re opening up a spot for another dog in need. Plus, there are simply some great dogs in shelters, and one of them might just be The Dog for you.

But there are also cbaltoons to adopting:

  • There are a lot of unknowns. You have no idea what kind of health issues the parents and grandparents of your new dog may have had. You get no health guarantee, and there’s no accountability.
  • With a puppy, you’re bringing home a complete wildcard. You might adopt a “Chihuahua mix” puppy and have it grow into a 30 pound dog. For some people, that’s part of the fun. For others, not so much.
  • You’re not getting a blank slate. When you bring home an adult dog, you’re bringing his history home with him. While a lot of behavior issues will be readily apparent before your pooch comes home, some are not. While a dog may not show issues in a highly structured foster home, for example, he may have some issues in your more relaxed home environment.
  • It can be a lot easier to teach manners to a puppy than to an 80 pound adolescent Labrador. Bad habits can be hard to break; it depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it.
  • Some rescues can be very inflexible in their screening. They want the best homes possible for the dogs in their care, and they have a very concrete vision of what that is. It can take some time to find a rescue that you mesh with. (Shelters tend to be much more flexible, but you lose the benefits of seeing what a dog is like in a foster home environment.)
  • If you have your heart set on a certain breed or type of dog, you may need to be very patient and persistent in your search. Some breeds are a dime a dozen in rescue, others are in much higher demand. It all depends on what you’re looking for.



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Websites you should know about.

The internet has become a wonderful resource for many things over the past decade. There is bad information out there for sure, but there is also good, helpful, and timely information. Here are a few websites that might be useful to you.

klwindowThe Indoor Pet Initiative from The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine is an extremely nice and informative website packed with information about how to enrich your indoor pets’ lives. This began as a cat-only project, and they are only just now beginning to flesh out their site for dogs, but the cat information is absolutely invaluable. It has information about why cats are the way they are, what they need to be mentally healthy, and how to solve some common behavior problems. Dr. Lauren frequently recommends this site to clients with indoor kitties.

Petfinder. Looking for a new family member? Petfinder allows you to search for a suitable new pet available from a shelter or rescue in your area . And they don’t just limit themselves to cats and dogs. They have listing for everything from horses to hamsters to birds. You can refine your search by species, breed, size, and age to help you locate pets who might end up being The One.

Looking for a good dog trainer? Check out the Association of Professional Dog Trainers’s Trainer Search. This is not an exhaustive list of trainers, but of members of the organization, which is one of the foremost professional training organizations around. They also have a nice page on how to choose a trainer.

Having behavior troubles with your cat? The Cat Behavior Associates website is a wealth of good information on dealing with issues at home as well as when to contact a professional. There is also a really nice tutorial on how to give your cat medication, which is something that can be a very tricky thing, depending on the cat.

For lots of general information and entertainment, check out the Dogster and Catster websites.

Another good source of general information, largely health-related and veterinarian-approved, check out Vetstreet. They also have a nice overview of dog breeds and cat breeds.

cooperlaneNot sure what breed of dog is right for you? Try out Animal Planet’s Dog Breed Selector to help narrow down your choices. They have one for cats as well.

The ASPCA offers a great resource for poisoning, including a thorough list of plants that are toxic to pets, and their Poison Control for Pets hotline in case of emergency.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers an up-to-date list of pet food recalls, which is worth keeping an occasional eye on. We have definitely seen an increase in pet food recalls over the past several years. This website includes treats as well, which is nice.

Interested in breeding or considering buying a purebred dog from a breeder? Health is of major importance! The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) website provides information on a wide variety of different genetic concerns, from hip and elbow dysplasia, to thyroid and cardiac screenings. They offer a records search, so you can look up individual animals who have been tested, and see what their results were, as well as the results of their relatives. Anyone considering breeding or buying should know what health issues are a concern in their breed, so that they can make sure that dogs are being tested for the correct things to help increase the odds of producing sound, healthy puppies.

And last but not least, some very helpful information for owners of pets who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes can be an overwhelming disease, especially at the beginning. It can take awhile to get pets stabilized, and you have to learn to give your pet an injection twice a day! Here is the website for cats, and here is the one for dogs.

Hopefully you’ll find some of these resources helpful to you, whether now or sometime out in the future, and that this post will prove to be a valuable resource.

Do you have any favorite websites about pets? Please feel free to share in the comments! We’re always looking for new information to hand out to clients when it will be helpful.


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Tips for finding a good breeder. Part one: Doing your homework.

This is a question we get asked frequently: in an area with so many puppy mills (which we all know are bad news!), how do I find a good breeder from whom to purchase a puppy? It’s a complicated question, and it takes some patience and some work on your part to do the research and make the contacts, but buying a puppy from a truly good breeder who is breeding to create better dogs and who stands behind her dogs for their entire lifetimes is something well worth the investment.

And more than anything, how do I find the right dog for me?

Step One: Do your Homework

Is this the right breed for me? With so many different breeds and mixes out there, make sure you are choosing a breed that fits with your personality and lifestyle. Are you a fairly sedentary person living in an apartment? No matter how little and cute they are, a Sheltie- a highly active breed that loves to bark- may not be the best choice. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a jogging partner, a smoosh-faced breed prone to overheating is probably not going to fulfill your needs. Sit down and discuss with your family what characteristics make up the ideal pet for your household and go from there, instead of choosing a breed on looks or because somebody you know has one and loves him.

What health issues are common in this breed? There are so many different health issues out there afflicting our purebred dogs. The good thing is that there are screening tests for many of them, and these are tools that a good breeder will be using. Many results are available to the public, and a breeder that you are talking to should always be able to provide you with proof of testing. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provides a searchable online database for dogs who have been tested for a variety of health issues from Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia to Patellar Luxation (loose kneecaps) to Sebaceous Adenitis, a skin problem that primarily affects Poodles. It also provides an overview of which breeds are the most affected by each disorder so that you can know if it is something that you should be worrying about. Looking for a Rottweiler? You should know that they are ranked third highest overall for Elbow Dysplasia and you want to look for a breeder who screens for this. Looking for an American Pit Bull Terrier? You should know that 24.4% of dogs tested had dysplastic hips. Health testing does not guarantee litter outcomes, but it is a valuable tool that helps breeders play the odds in their puppies’ favor as much as possible.

For dogs prone to eye issues such as Collies and Cocker Spaniels, the CERF Certification database is also searchable and will give you results for any individual dog who has been recently tested. It’s another good thing to know about. And last but not least there is the CHIC Database. This one can be valuable not only to search for individual dogs, but because each breed club has decided and listed what health issues in the breed they find to be the most significant. This is an easy way to find out what you should be asking questions about of a breeder.

In what area does this breed excel? Some breeds are frequently used for the sport of obedience or agility, some are primarily conformation dog show dogs (think Westminster), other breeds are used for hunting and retrieving, some make great therapy dogs and love to go into nursing homes to visit the elderly. Why is this important? You want to look for a breeder who is Doing Stuff with her dogs. If that’s floofing them up and trotting them around a show ring in front of a judge in order to judge their physical structure or retrieving ducks or herding sheep, a good breeder is going to take a strong interest in her dogs and getting them out and comparing them against other dogs to see what she is doing right and what she could be doing better in her breeding program. It is easy to take a male dog and a female dog and make puppies, but with that type of random breeding with no goal other than make money or make “nice pets”, you’re doing nothing to guarantee that you’re going to get a healthy dog with a good temperament. And shouldn’t that always be the goal?

I know a lot of people say “I don’t need or want a show dog”. Most people don’t. But I do think that most people do want a dog who is going to stay healthy for as long as possible, who is going to be friendly and tolerant instead of skittish and bad-tempered. Nature and breeding are not everything- socialization and training are also big factors- but a dog’s potential can very much be shaped by the genetic baggage he is born with, or by the genetic gifts he was given by his parents. Good breeders want to test their dogs in the real world, and frequently want to have them judged by some third party, so that they can get a better idea of what they truly have instead of just the rose-colored image in their hearts of the dogs they love. They want to produce the best puppies they possibly can.

So, some places to get started. <a href="; target="_new"Next up? How do I find these breeders and how else do I know that they’re good?

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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Breeding, Dogs, Health, Puppies


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