Due diligence when buying a puppy is a must, but you should ask even the best breeder the following questions - and expect easy to understand, but informative, answers. If you are not satisfied with the answers, ask again until you are satisfied with them. If the breeder answers evasively or avoids the question altogether, take that as a red flag and look for another breeder. Remember, you do not rescue a puppy but you purchase yourself problems if you cannot trust your breeder and if you cannot trust the information you get.
Below are some questions which I have been asked by prospective new owners of my puppies and which I consider 'good' questions to ask a breeder. By the way, be aware that the good breeders will ask a lot of questions from a prospective new owner as well. And be prepared to answer some which you think may be 'over the top'. Breeders' questions are usually for and in the best interest of the puppy.
1. Ask to meet the puppy's parents. If possible, meet the puppy's parents. Notice if they appear to be in good health and evaluate their overall temperament. Are they outgoing, shy, aggressive, or well adjusted? Do they come willingly to you without being forced? Some dogs may be cautious when in the group of dogs; once they are alone with people, they will come willingly and with wagging little tails to the visitor.
2. Are the puppies' parents "certified"? This means that my two breeds could be at risk for genetic conditions such as hip problems, heart problems and eye problems. Some of these issues are inherited, meaning the disease is passed from parent to puppy. Many breeders will have their dogs evaluated and tested for breed specific diseases and ultimately "certified" by a veterinary specialist to be disease-free. A good breeder will know about the breed and its possible genetic problems and will address these with you, even if you don't ask about them.
3. Have the puppies been socialized? Have the puppies been around other dogs? Other people? Socialization is important in all puppies but more so in puppies between 7 and 10 weeks of age. Proper socialization consisting of good experiences of a puppy with other puppies and adults, as well as with people will give you the best chance of having a well-adjusted dog. I socialize all my puppies from birth on and once they can walk and go outside, they are exposed to all sorts of other animals, different places on my property and various surfaces. Furthermore, I ask of all local puppy 'owners' to come and play with their puppy and the other puppies from that same litter once a week as of when the puppies are 5 - 6 weeks old. That way the new owners know their puppy and their puppy knows them as well when the puppy leaves here.
4. What vaccines has the puppy had? How many shots has the puppy received and when will the puppy be due for his next puppy shot? I offer all my puppy owners to come for their follow-up vaccinations and direct them as to when their puppy should have another vaccination to complete the round of puppy shots.
5. Have the puppies been dewormed? Most puppies are born with worms and routine deworming is necessary. I start at week 5 and worm every two weeks for three consecutive wormings.
6. What visits has the puppy had with a veterinarian? Has the puppy been examined and declared "healthy"? I have my vet issue a puppy health certificate for each puppy prior to leaving me. A puppy which does not pass the detailed examination by my vet is not going to leave, no matter what the new owners want.
7. What is the breeder's guarantee? What guarantee does the breeder give for their puppies? If the puppy is found to have a severe illness, what will they do? This is a difficult topic but one that is a lot easier to cover up front rather than later. I offer a very extensive health guarantee which is part of my purchase contract. Every prospective new owner is advised to carefully read my purchase contract prior to picking up his puppy and ask all questions arising.
8. Recommendations? Ask the breeder for references of puppy owners that they have sold within the past years. CALL them. Find out if the breeder was fair, if they were happy with their puppy, and how any problems were handled. I routinely offer a list of previous puppy buyers with telephone numbers and email addresses so that a prospective new owner can contact as many previous buyers as he wants to contact.
9. Contract? Does the breeder require you to sign a contract? If so, what is in it? Is the breeder willing to take back the puppy at any time if you can't keep it? As mentioned before, I have a very detailed and extensive purchase contract, with stipulations for the buyer as well as for my duties towards the buyer and the puppy.
10. Limited registration. Some breeders require that you spay or neuter your dog by a certain age. If that is the case, that may not be a problem but it is best to know before you get your puppy. ALL my pet puppies are sold with a strict spay/neuter contract. I very rarely place a puppy for showing and breeding, unless I have known the new owners for a while and know that they don't just want to 'multiply' puppies or 'get their money back' for the purchase of their initial dog. Neither of these reasons are good ones to want to breed.
11. What is the family history? You would expect a good breeder to have information about their lines (ancestors of their dogs). For example, ask how long the dogs have lived and what they have died from. I stay in touch with everyone of my puppy owners and get periodic updates on how the dog is doing, if there are any problems and of course, I am always delighted to get photos.
12. What is the breeder currently feeding the puppy? Regardless of what a breeder feeds, it is advisable to continue feeding the same food to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal disturbances. I advise the new owners to stick to the diet that my puppies have been on since they could eat dog food. I feed well-balanced and free of fillers and undesirable by-products dog food, which is highly rated. It shows in the health of my dogs. Why would the new owners change the diet which is proven to be the best for their puppy?
13. Does the breeder belong to a dog club? All good breeders belong to at least one All-Breed-Club and at least one breed-specific club. Check if the claim of membership is correct by contacting the clubs in question. I belong to various breed specific clubs - national and international ones - and one all-breed club, the Sawnee Mountain Kennel Club of Georgia, www.SMKC.org.
Please remember, proper and responsible breeding, appropriate health care and correct puppy socialization will make a big difference in how healthy your dog is and what kind of dog your puppy will turn out to be.