Finding the right breeder and puppy takes footwork. Here’s what to know
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
A few months ago, Rebecca Barocas drove from California to Idaho to pick up her new German shepherd puppy. She met the breeder through a friend on Facebook who also has German shepherds and got to know the breeder and her dogs personally a couple of years ago. She put down a deposit for a dog in 2018 and “met” the litter in 2020 through Facebook photos and videos of the pups from the time they were born. Through lots of phone conversations about the pups’ emerging temperaments and an extensive buyer questionnaire, she and the breeder were able to determine the right pet for her.
Buying a puppy is, at its core, an old-fashioned endeavor. Unlike books and dishwashers and socks, purchasing one is best done in person, not online. It’s important to be able to meet their mother, see pups interacting with siblings, and evaluate the environment in which they’re raised and the family or person raising them.
These days, Zoom meetings can take the place of some of those things, and likely will for the near future, but simply searching for a pup online and ordering the first cute one you see to be shipped to you is often a recipe for heartbreak. (Read our recent column about pet scams for more information -- uexpress.com/pet-connection/2020/12/28/pet-scams.) Here’s what to know about finding and buying a puppy.
But first, let’s debunk the notion that it’s wrong to buy a puppy from a breeder. “Adopt, don’t shop,” is a catchy slogan, but people have different needs and wants for dogs. The right dog is not always to be found in a shelter or through a rescue group, especially now, when many shelters across the country don’t have animals available because so many have been adopted in the past year. There’s nothing wrong with acquiring a puppy from a dedicated breeder who health-tests parents; provides great nutrition, socialization and veterinary care; and offers a one- to two-year guarantee against genetic health problems. Finding that great breeder is the crucial first step.
A good breeder should:
-- Give you the straight dope about what the dogs are like to live with, what health problems affect the breed and what he does to avoid those problems. He should ask about your home and personality to see if you’ll be a good fit.
-- Be more interested in making sure you’re the right home than in getting pups off her hands and your dollars into her pocket.
-- Provide a sales contract that spells out specific health guarantees and any special financial terms related to congenital defects, pet insurance or spaying/neutering; an arbitration clause; spay/neuter recommendations or requirements; return and refund policy; specified monetary damages if either party violates contract terms; and a requirement that the dog be returned to the breeder at any time during the dog’s life if you can’t keep him. In other words, you can’t sell or give the dog to anyone else without the breeder’s permission.
-- Do your homework so you know what questions to ask and understand the responses you get. Books and breed club websites can get you started.
-- Use the internet to verify information you get from the breeder, including how long she has been at her current address, whether she’s really a member of the national breed club and whether she has any complaints lodged against her. Don’t just ask for references to her veterinarian and previous buyers; call and get their input.
-- Email some info about yourself and thoughtful preliminary questions (not just “How much are your puppies?”). If the breeder responds promptly and forthrightly, ask for a phone interview. Ask the breeder to send photos or videos of puppies, parents and other adult dogs on the premises.
Today, Barocas’ new pup, Deckard, is 20 weeks old, and she’s in love.
“I’m 110% satisfied,” she says. “He’s amazing.”
Does my cat
Q: I have a cat for the first time, and I’m not sure if she likes me or just the bowls of food I set down. How do people know if their cat really likes them?
A: Cats are subtle. If you’re not familiar with them -- or if you’re more used to a dog’s “let it all hang out” love -- they may seem aloof or uncaring, but when you learn to read their signals, you may be surprised to find that your cat is fond of you indeed. Here are five ways to tell.
1. Your cat rubs her face on your legs head-butts you. Glands on the head secrete oils that cats rub onto objects and humans to claim them as their own.
2. Even if your cat doesn’t settle into a lap, choosing to sit or lie near you -- maybe next to your keyboard -- is a sign that she thinks you’re A-OK.
3. Humans connect by making and holding eye contact, but for a cat, that’s bold behavior. They don’t do it with other cats unless they’re ready to start a fight. With humans they know and trust, though, they will hold eye contact and give a slow blink. Try making eye contact with your cat and giving her a slow blink. She might give you one back -- the feline equivalent of a kiss.
4. One signal of feline love you might not appreciate so much is delivery of a gift, such as a dead mouse or the body of a grasshopper left on your pillow. They might not seem appealing to you, but they show that your cat cares about your well-being!
5. Finally, cats purr for many reasons, but when you hear a deep, full-bodied rumble, you’ll know for sure your cat is saying “I love you.” -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
for first dogs
-- An “indoguration” party celebrated Major Biden’s move to the White House. The event for the former shelter pup, now living the high life as one of two first German shepherds, helped to raise funds for other shelter animals looking for homes. Held last week by Pumpkin Pet Insurance and Delaware Humane Association, which sheltered Major until he found his new home with the president and first lady, the virtual party celebrated the canine achievement of the American dream by Major and Champ, the Bidens’ other German shepherd. Host for the Zoom event was Jill Martin of the “Today” show, with special guest Sir Darius Brown, a 14-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist and animal advocate. He founded Beaux & Paws to create handmade bowties for shelter dogs to help them stand out to potential adopters.
-- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conditionally approved Laverdia-CA1 to treat lymphoma, one of the most common types of cancers seen in dogs. It attacks the lymph nodes and lymphatic system. Conditional approval allows veterinarians to access needed treatments while the drug company collects additional effectiveness data, such as thorough trials with client-owned dogs. The company then has up to five years to complete effectiveness studies to support a full approval. “Lymphoma is a devastating cancer in dogs, with few FDA-approved treatments available. This conditional approval provides a much-needed option to treat dogs with lymphoma,” said Steven M. Solomon, D.V.M., M.P.H., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “We are encouraged to see drug companies bring forward applications for products to treat serious diseases, even if they affect relatively small populations.”
-- Leopard geckos are popular reptile pets. Their name comes from their spotted skin, which is seen in a wide range of colors and patterns. Cool fact: Their thick tails can regenerate when lost. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.