Checklist of Questions to Ask
(and why you should ask them)
Remember, you are bringing in a new member of your family for the next 10 to 15 years. This is not like shopping at Walmart where you can pick up a name brand at a bargain price.
Where did you find out about this breeder?
Reputable breeders don't usually advertise in a newspaper and never put a sign out in their front yard. Some commercial breeders may advertise on puppy finder internet type sites but serious hobby breeders normally do not.
Do both the sire and dam have hip and elbow clearances from the OFA or another acceptable registry?
Ask to see the certificates, "My vet okayed the x-ray" is not a valid clearance. Take time to research the parent's clearances on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website. You can even find information on clearances for the grandparents, siblings and offspring.
Are both parents at least 2 years old?
Final hip clearances cannot be obtained before that age through OFA. Preliminary Clearances before age two may be obtained, but have been known to change when final clearances are done at 2 years of age. (Note: The BVA & Penn-Hip have different age requirements than OFA but are both reputable raters).
Do both parents have current eye clearances from an Opthomologist, OFA CAER or CERF certificate (Canine Eye Registry)? This must be done every 12-18 months.
Do either parent have other clearances?
Different breeds require different clearances. In Labradors an echo cardio exam of the Heart is a definite must for each parent. The results may be posted on the OFA website, if not ask for a copy of the heart clearances. An auscultation heart exam is not enough for a Labrador as Tricuspid Valve Disease (TVD) may be present without a heart murmur. Pawprint Genetics website Pawprint Genetics, DDC and Vet Gen are the preferred companies for genetic clearances. Some clearances may even come from a University. At a minimum Labradors should have clearances for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Exercise-Induced-Collapse (EIC) Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM), Hereditary Nasal Parakaratosis (HNPK) and Dilute Gene. Genes are being discovered at a very fast rate and new diseases are being added to this list all the time. Clearances for Stargardt Disease, Copper Toxicosis and Degenerative Myopathy (DM) should be considered a plus. Keep in mind that PRA, EIC, CNM, HNPK, Stargardt and DM are all recessive genes. At least one parent should be clear of these diseases. In order for a dog to be affected from a recessive gene it must receive one copy of either the carrier or affected gene from EACH parent. A dog that carries one disease gene is not affected with the disease and when bred to a dog that is clear for that diseases cannot product puppies affected with that disease. Copper toxicosis can be complicated, ask the breeder to explain, if they can't, ask yourself if you wish to continue. To ensure you are indeed getting a purebred Labrador Retriever both parents need to be Dilute gene clear. Take a moment to learn "The Truth About Silver Labradors".
Does the breeder offer references?
Remember, both reputable and less than reputable breeders will both provide you with excellent references. Asking for referrals from friends, family, co-workers and neighbors it much more effective.
Will the breeder take the dog back at any time for any reason if you cannot keep it?
Reputable breeders are there for the life of the puppy. They will care for that dog for as long as it lives and they hope for a very happy, long life for the pup. Breeders unwilling to take a puppy back for any reason at any time are more interested in cashing a check than providing you a healthy puppy.
Is there a written guarantee/warranty against congenital health problems?
A three day warranty/guarantee is offered by many breeders others offer much longer and more detailed warranties/guarantees, you need to decide what is most important to you. A written warranty/guarantee should be preferred, be sure to read the guarantee closely.
Will the breeder be available to answer any question you might have for the life of the dog?
No explanation needed for this, it is as valuable as any written warranty/guarantee.
Is the breeder knowledgeable about the breed?
Are they involved in competition (conformation, obedience, field, etc.) or other positive activities with their dog?
Will the puppy have a limited registration with a mandatory spay/neuter contract?
There is controversy today about a mandatory spay/neuter contract. Spaying/neutering prior to sexual maturity is VERY detrimental to the lifetime health of the dog. I highly recommended that bitches be spayed at 24 months due to risk of Pyometra. A reputable breeder will require you to wait to spay/neuter the dog and will provided a limited AKC registration that will not permit you to register any puppies should you "accidently" breed the dog.
How often is the dam bred?
This can be a mis-leading question. More important is how many litters has the dam whelped. This will give you a more accurate indication of how often this girl is bred. The myth of skipping heat cycles is just that, a myth. It is healthier for the bitch to have her litters early and retire from any breeding program at a younger age.
Are the sire and dam available for you to meet?
This is a difficult question. A bitch should be bred to the correct dog not the convenient dog. Sometimes the correct dog lives within the household, sometimes it lives in another state or another country. A breeder who continually mates the same two dogs together does not usually do enough research to be considered a reputable breeder.
Where have the puppies been raised?
Socialization for a puppy begins at 4 weeks of age, they need human contact. Puppies that are raised without high exposure to gentle handling, human contact and a wide variety of noises and experiences OR are removed from their dam or litter mates before 7 weeks of age may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems. (Socially, the longer you leave the pups with their litter mates the puppy will be better socialized.)
Does the breeder provide you with a three or five generation pedigree, a bill of sale/contract to sign, copies of all clearances, a health warranty/guarantee, health records, and material to help you with feeding, training and housebreaking?
This information is more important than you may realize.
Have the puppies temperaments been evaluated and can the breeder guide you to the puppy that will best suit your lifestyle?
Look for a breeder that chooses the puppy for you. Ask them how they make their decisions and if there are any particular methods they utilize such as the Volhard Puppy Aptitude test..
Do the puppies seem healthy?
No discharge from the eyes or nose; no loose stools; no foul smelling ears? Are their coats soft, full and clean? Do they have plenty of energy when awake yet calm down easily when gently stroked? Do they have their first shots and have they been wormed and vet checked by the time they go to your home? Will you receive copies of their veterinarian puppy exam?
Does the breeder have only 1 or 2 litters at a time?
If there are many dogs and many puppies, the chances are the breeder cannot devote the time it takes to raise a properly socialized puppy.
Does the breeder belong to a breed specific club or a local all-breed club?
Belonging to a breed or all-breed club signifies that the breeder continually strives to learn about their breed or dogs in general.
Do you feel comfortable with this person?
You are entrusting this person with one of the most important decisions you will ever make. If you are feeling intimidated or pressured, keep looking. Remember, trust your instincts!
Finally, don't be afraid to tell the breeder you need a few days to decide,
but remember, if that breeder is truly reputable a few days may be enough to ensure their waiting list has closed.