Finding a Puppy

Research, research, research. I should have titled this Finding a Breeder. Read on…

The first time I decided to buy a dog of a specific breed (and I’m not going to tell you how many gazillion years ago that was), the first thing I did was buy a newspaper. My criteria tended to be price and location. Unfortunately, that is just about the worst way to find a puppy and even today is what many people do. That, or look for ads on the internet using the same criteria (price/location). So why not do that? It is certainly possible that the least expensive puppy that is close to you is going to turn out to be a great, healthy, mentally stable dog. But…

I would suggest that your goal should be to first find a breeder that you feel is reputable, dependable, and that produces dogs that you like (looks, health, temperament, etc.) In this day and age, there is no reason for location to play much part in your decision. You can go visit anywhere and if you can’t afford to make that trip, odds are you really can’t afford the puppy. Pups can be shipped safely or you can fly to pick up your pup and carry it home in a soft carrier in the cabin (Spins) or have it go as cargo on your same Continental flight (Mastiffs will most likely be too big/heavy to travel in the cabin even at 8 weeks). We don’t really recommend long car trips because of the risk of exposure to disease every time you stop to potty the pup, but with precautions, that is a possibility too.

How do you find breeders? Despite my comment that location doesn’t matter, I still suggest you start close to home by visiting local dog shows or contacting local kennel clubs. Even your vet may have a client that owns or breeds the type of dog that interests you. You may have chosen a breed that you’ve never met in person. Spins are not to be found just everywhere, so if you’ve seen them on TV or found them on the internet and they interest you, you really need to meet them before you buy one. If you can find dogs locally, talk to the owners and if they are not the breeder, ask about the breeder. If the owner doesn’t even know who the breeder is, you have to wonder about the breeder. I say that, because we believe that a breeder plays a very important role, not just in producing a puppy, but being there to support the owner for the life of that dog.

If you happen to find a breeder close to home, it’s a good place to start to learn more about the breed.

Even if you find a breeder close to home with pups available or on the way, don’t stop there. Talk to several breeders before you make a final decision. There are lots of questions you should ask. Look at their dogs or photos of their dogs. Compare them to the standards of the breed.

You can often find names of breeders via the parent clubs or other breed-specific clubs (i.e., Mastiff Club of America, Spinone Club of America, Wisconsin Spinone Club, Lone Star Mastiff Fanciers) or even all-breed clubs (Houston Kennel Club, Brazos Valley Kennel Club) etc. Not all, but a large percentage of reputable breeders belong to at least their parent club and a local all-breed club. So these clubs are at least a good place to start looking for breeders. With that said, just because a breeder is not a member of their parent club or local all-breed club does not necessarily mean they are not a reputable breeder. But I’d say, ask why they are not members of these clubs.

Anyone can have a website these days, give themselves a kennel name, and put lovely photos on their website. Searching the internet for breeders is common practise these days and as good a way to start as any. But be absolutely certain to have personal conversations with any breeder before sending deposits.

Ask if you can come meet adult dogs and spend some time around them. I believe that breeders represent the breed and as such should be willing to help educate anyone interested, even if they don’t happen to have any planned breedings or puppies available. Of course, be considerate and schedule a visit and understand that many breeders will be busy on weekends with dog shows and may also have full-time jobs.

In many cases, you should expect to get on a waiting list for a puppy. If you are choosing your breeder first, which I highly recommend, there may not be a readily available litter of puppies. Many breeders only have a litter or two per year (or even less) and that could certainly factor into your decision about which breeder to choose and we all understand that. Some don’t breed until they have a certain number of people already on a waiting list to ensure they are not producing puppies that won’t have homes.

When placing Mastiff pups, we consider the family i.e., small children, other animals, dog experience, etc. In general, Mastiffs are gentle dogs, but they are also protective of their people and property. Some are much more laid back and compliant. Others are more active, more intense, and harder to handle. Consider the fact that even a small female is likely to weigh 150 pounds and a large male can weigh 200 pounds or more. Some are very well suited to sharing their home with other pets or livestock, some have a high prey drive and would need extra training and supervision as they grow and develop.

When placing Spinone pups, we look at if the new owner plans to hunt. After show pups, we are likely to choose the pups best suited for hunting. Like so many things, this is not an exact science and although we see great potential in a pup, the final result depends on so many thing after they leave us that there are simply no guarantees. And many a pup that at first would not seem to be naturally suited to hunting has ended up with an intense natural instinct that has resulted in a great hunter. Our Sonny is an example of that. He seemed rather soft and not assertive as a baby, but has ended up with a tremendous drive to find, point and retrieve birds.

In both breeds we try to identify pups that may be strong-willed that will need humans that understand pack mentality and are willing and able to be clear pack leaders. We also look for pups that are naturally reserved and cautious that also need clear pack leaders. If these dogs are placed with humans that are not leaders, the pups can be overly shy and never comfortable except in the quiet security of their own home. In truth, all dogs need clear pack leaders, but understanding the natural tendencies of the pup and the natural leadership ability of the humans helps us place the pups where they have the best chance of reaching their full potential.

We’ve learned that very active pups are not well suited to homes with elderly or very young children where they might knock someone over or require extra exercise. In general, the quieter pups are not the best choice for hunters or in the case of Mastiffs (and Spins), for show homes or people with very active lifestyles that want to include the dog in hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

More soon…