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Puppies > Choosing An Aussie Breeder > Questions For Breeders

Section Overview
Even though these questions were compiled for the Australian Shepherd breed, feel free to use them when looking for a puppy of any breed.

Some of the questions might not apply to the breed you are thinking of getting, but some of them will. Make sure you check the health concerns for the breed you are interested in.
How do I find a reputable breeder?
The first thing that happens is “Puppy Fever”, we’ve all had it at one time or another.  But the problem is most of the time the emotions take over where logic should prevail.  

Which color? What gender? What color do I want the eyes to be? These are some of the first few questions that run though any one’s brain when they get Aussie fever, but they are the least important questions to answer.  Selecting the correct new puppy is an emotional rollercoaster, as soon as you see all those little fur balls running around and playing your heart melts.

Getting connected with the right breeder is always the hardest thing to do, sometimes you can get lucky and they are right around the corner, but most of the time you will be driving to pick-up your new baby or flying it to the closest airport.

Before you choose that perfect puppy to take home you must always ask many important questions, making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons wi...

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What should I ask the breeder?
There are many places to start.  I feel the best starting place is to do some research on your own.  You accomplish at least two things this way; you get acquainted with the breed and the history of the puppy you are looking at.  All reputable breeders, if they have a website, will try to put as much information about their dogs and available puppies up.  At the very least they will have the registered names of each dog they own.  With the registered names you can find out hip ratings, sometimes eye ratings, other off spring ratings, sibling ratings and so on.  This can all be accomplished at the OFA website at www.offa.org.  After finding as much information as possible on your own start asking the breeder questions.  Never feel as though you are prying or imposing on a breeder, reputable breeders welcome questions.  If a breeder EVER gets frustrated with your questions, don’t buy a puppy...

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The first piece of paper in a long paper trail -
If you are looking on the internet you can typically get a pedigree from the breeders website.  If they don’t have a website and you are contacting them by phone ask for a copy or get the registered names of the parents.  With the names of the parents you can typically look up the ancestry on the internet at www.hrdndog.com/pedigrees this is an on-line database of Australian Shepherds going back a very long way.  You will need to set up an account, e-mail address and password only, it usually takes 24 hours for access.

Pedigrees are not the end all to finding the right puppy though, a pedigree with herding champions on the sire side and conformation champions on dam side does not automatically mean the puppy with be a champion in either arena. Also, many champions have come from a lineage with no champions in a 5 generation pedigree.  It is always what you do with your Aussie that makes it e...

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Do the parents ears break correctly?
Not really an important question, but it puts them at ease as one of the first question on your list, and it’s an easy question to answer.
What are the registered names of the parents?
Very important question, you can check other places if you have their registered names for all kinds of health information about the lineage of the parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. (repeat from previous question, just in case you forgot to ask)
Have the parents ever been used on stock?
Not really a detramental question, just gives an idea what they do with their dogs. This could be at home, at the neighbors, or at a family members house
Have you ever shown your dogs in competitions?
Conformation, stock, agility, obedience, Flyball, Frisbee, etc? Not really an important question, again just gives you an idea what they do with their dogs.
Do you know of any health problems with the lineage of this puppy?
Very important question. Ask about such things as Hips / Eyes / Genetic / Epilepsy etc?

Most of these can be passed on to offspring and could interfere with what you want to do with you puppy after it gets older.
Do you plan on having the puppies eyes CERF’ed?
This shows how dedicated the breeder is to the breed and not to money.  Most certified Veterinary Ophthalmologists are very busy and are hard to get an appointment with, also you typically have to travel an hour or more for your appointment.
Can I get single pictures of the puppy stacked (front, back, top, right, left)?
To properly pick the coloring of the pup and check for structure of the pup, you want to get as many pictures as you can.  If the breeder only sends you pictures of the puppy with litter mates, be very clear that you want individual pictures.  Top pictures are hard to get, so if the breeder says they are having trouble gettin this shot, cut them some slack on this one.
Have you individually checked His/Her hearing?
There are very simple tests that a breeder can do to insure that each puppy can hear, here is the easiest one that I know of. 

One at a time take each puppy and a pot with a spoon to a separate room, then wait until the puppy is turned away from you and hit the pot.  The puppy should turn to see what the noise was.
When will / did you first worm the puppies? And what type of wormer will / did you use?
If a breeder doesn’t plan on worming the puppies they will not grow as needed and they will not be healthy.  All puppies are born with worms and should start de-worming between their 3rd and 4th weeks. Strogid T is the wormer that most vets use for puppies.  Some breeders use Nemex, because it is readily available from any animal supply store.
When will / did they receive their first shot? And what will / did you immunize against?
Most puppies will be protected against Parvo before they come to you.  The first shot will be given at 5 or 6 weeks old and the second at 8 or 9 weeks old.  The first shot is just for protection against Parvo and the second shot will be for Parvo and Distemper.  If a breeder gives their own shots, that is fine but be sure that the immunizations are not a 5 or 7 way shot.  The combo shot (5 or 7 way) will NOT protect a puppy against Parvo.
Have you conducted personality tests on all the puppies?
If a breeder doesn’t conduct personality test on their puppies, at least once, they can not properly place the puppies with the correct owner.  For instance, if a puppy tests as a very docile puppy it would make a good pet and not a good herding prospect or show prospect. 

Here is a link to the personality tests that I use, it will open in a different window so you won't loose your place here.
How does this puppy place in the litter? Dominate or submissive?
This question only applies to placement with litter mates.  If a puppy is at the top of the litter (very dominate) it should also test close to a dominant personality.  If a puppy falls in the middle of the litter it should have a personality of a B, C, or D.  You can also tell how much time a breeder spends with the puppies if they know where the puppies place in the litter.
What kind of food will they be started on? And When?
Puppies should be started on moistened food the end of their 3rd week or beginning of their 4th week.  Giving a puppy a good start in life is very important and the food the breeder chooses indicates if they consider their dogs as part of the family or just a dog.  Puppies should be feed an all natural super premium feed.

Here is a list of GOOD foods: Flint River Ranch, Bakery Blends, or Precise Plus. 

Here is a list of BAD foods, Pedigree, Purina, Science Diet, Eukenuba, Iams, and Ol Roy.

If you would like to read or compare more dog foods go to my website dedicated to dog food information at www.FlintRiverFeed.com
Have pups been socialized? How?
All puppies should have been socialized by having people play with them or by taking them places after they have been immunized against Parvo.
What are the Sire and Dam faults?
This is not a question that should be answered, “my dogs are perfect.” A breeder should know, and be willing to talk about their dog's faults. They should also be proud to point out their assets and accomplishments, even if it’s just what they do around the house to help.
What area(s) does the breeder feel these pups will excel / lack in?
Yes a breeder will know this, even at eight weeks old. Some of the areas are: Obedience, working, agility, show, pet, search and rescue, etc?
Support After the puppy goes home?
Will the breeder be there if you have any training questions or problems, or where to find a trainer if needed.
What are the OFA / PennHipp ratings of the Sire and Dam?
A breeder who does not know what hip certification is, is a breeder to walk away from, also be very apprehensive of the breeder that can not provide you with a copy of both the parents hip certifications. An OFA certificate or PennHip rating is the only means of providing you with proof that the parents are not genetic carriers of hip Dysplasia.  If the breeder has lost the certificate (it happens), look it up on the OFA website using the registered names of the parents.  The problem comes in if they were certified through PennHip, in this case the breeder will have to obtain a new copy of the certificate.  

A breeder, trainer or judge can not look at a dog and tell you if they are dysplastic or not, from the way they run, play, sit or lay down.  Dysplasia is hereditary, but having parents with normal hip ratings does not guarantee against any problems with your puppy, it does give a better indication as to the history of the pup and if the breeder is rep...

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Have both the Sire and Dam had a current eye examination?
Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is the organization that tracks eye certifications the same way OFA does for the hips and elbows. After a dog has been examined by a canine ophthalmologist breeders can send the results of their dog's eye exam in to CERF for an official certificate.  By doing this the results will be published in the OFA database, this process costs approximately $35.00.  So, most breeders will just have the eye exam results signed by a qualified canine ophthalmologist. Either of these reports is fine. Some breeders have an eye exam schedule, 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, 7 years, 8 years.  This is typically okay, but only because after the dog reaches its mature years the exams are being done every year.  Eye defects are also hereditary. Having parents with normal eye ratings does not guarantee against any problems with your puppy, but it gives a better indication as to what you are getting and if the breeder is reputable.

When revi...

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What type of written health/genetic guarantee does the breeder offer?
Breeding only dogs that have been cleared free of any health problems will greatly reduce the possibility of reproducing puppies with problems; however, genetic throwbacks do occur. Some breeders offer different alternatives if you happen to have a puppy that ends up with a hereditary problem. These alternatives will vary depending on the breeder and depending on whether the puppy is bought as either pet or show quality.
Is the puppy's health guaranteed for the first week after you get it home?
Most breeders will give a take home health guarantee; however, if the breeder does not offer this, find out if you can return the puppy within a few days if the puppy does not pass a health examination given by your vet.
Can I review the contract before I make-up my mind?
A breeder should always offer to let you review a written contract before you decide on a puppy.  The contract should outline any and all guarantees offered with the pup, whether it is being sold as a pet or a show / breeding quality puppy.
What about registration papers?
Find out where the puppy can be registered.

The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) is the parent registry for the Australian Shepherd, founded in 1957. ASCA keeps records on registered purebred Aussies only; it sanctions conformation, herding, search and rescue, agility, and obedience shows and trials that allows Aussies to earn titles.

The National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR), also know as the International English Shepherd Registry (IESR), and the American Stock Dog Registry (ASDR) also register Aussies.  These registrars allow all stock dogs to be registered with their organization, the y do not need to be purebred.  Some of these registries are not active in sanctioning their own events; they are basically just a paper registry.  Aussies registered only with NSDR and ASDR registries, even though they may be a purebred Australian Shepherd, they are not allowed to compete in ASCA or AKC sanctioned events for titles.

American Kenne...

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Should I get competition quality or pet quality?
This is not really a question for a breeder, but it seemed like the most logical place to put it.

A competition quality pup will be sold on a full registration contract.  What this means is that at eight weeks of age the puppy was structurally sound and appeared to be an excellent choice to compete in conformation, herding, agility, etc.  It also exhibited the correct personality for these types of competition.

A pet quality pup will be sold on a limited registration contract.  What this means is that at eight weeks of age the puppy did not have the correct markings, gait, or structure and/or did not exhibit the correct personality for competition.  These are types of things that only an experienced eye is going to notice, a first time puppy owner will probably never even be aware of any faults with the puppy.  It does not mean that the puppy is deformed in any way.  It does mean that this puppy can not be used for breeding because it...

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