Puppies are absolutely adorable and easy to fall in love with. Here are some simple tips to point you in the right direction of getting the best possible dog for you and your family.
Pedigree vs Purebred
There is much confusion between a pedigree dog and a purebred dog. A pedigree dog and a purebred dog are technically the same thing in terms of the breed of the dog. The difference between the two is that a pedigree dog is essentially certified as 100% being of that breed. A pedigree puppy will come with pedigree papers.
For many, the pedigree papers don't mean much, but it should mean a lot. The pedigree papers mean that your dog should have been bred to the breed standard and that it is truly a purebred dog.
A purebred dog that does not come with pedigree papers, simply means that two dogs of the apparent same breed have been bred together. This often is done with inexperienced breeders and dogs that are not health tested or carefully selected for breeding purposes.
Once upon a time, a "registered breeder" meant a breeder who was registered with the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) to breed pedigree dogs. Unfortunately these days, the term is used to describe a large number of breeders.
Many non-ANKC breeders, advertise that they are "registered breeders". What this usually means is that they are registered with their local council or another organisation. The ANKC is the only governing body in Australia for pedigree dogs.
An ANKC breeder will be registered with a state controlling body such as Dogs Queensland, Dogs NSW, Dogs Vic, Dogs SA, Dogs West etc. They will also have a kennel prefix (as you may have guessed, mine is "Ravensnite").
You just want a pet... Why does pedigree matter?
Just because you only want a pet, does not mean that you should have an animal that is not of good quality.
Buying from a good ANKC registered breeder and not the local resident that has two cute dogs, means that you have a far better chance of a quality dog.
Cocker spaniels do have hereditary health issues and a good ANKC registered breeder will always work to ensure that the pups are as healthy as possible and free from the genetic diseases pre-disposed to the breed, Unfortunately, the cute dogs down the street are not likely to be health tested but they'll still cost you the same amount of money to buy!
If you can, go to your local dog show (this is much easier if you live in a metro area) and see what the different breeders have on display. See how they interact with their dogs, see how their dogs interact with them and with others and see the style that they breed. Feel free to ask them questions if you have some. It's a good way to learn about the breed and to learn about the person you may be potentially buying your next dog from!
Questions... Be prepared to ask them and be prepared to be asked.
A good breeder should ask you a lot of questions about the potential new home for one of their puppies, and you should ask a lot of questions about your puppies past.
Some questions to ask:
To see the pups parents and/or any other relatives
What they breed for (temperament etc)
What they health test for (at an absolute minimum: AON, PRA, FN. Do not buy from a breeder that does not test for all three of these genetic diseases. These tests are done via DNA swabs and should be done prior to the parents being bred)
How long they have been breeding
What they love about the breed
What they find most difficult about the breed
Whilst we all live in a very busy world, breeders appreciate you introducing yourself on initial contact. A simple message of "how much are your puppies?" often offends many breeders. We can appreciate you need to know the price, but you also need to understand how much love, time and sometimes heartbreak goes into breeding. It is a big emotional roller coaster and having healthy puppies means the world to us. It usually means we're incredibly sleep deprived and often a short email asking price makes us feel like the puppies are just a commodity. It often results in people being offended.
Generally as a whole, a breed is around a similar price point across breeders. Obtaining the cheapest price should not be what influences your decision to buy that particular pup from that particular breeder. In fact, this should be the last reason. You'll have this puppy in your life for approximately 15 years, it is important that the puppy you take home is the puppy that best matches what you're looking for in a puppy and what the puppy is needing in it's new family.
As a breeder we'll often ask things about how your property is fenced, whether you rent or own. If you rent, whether your real estate allows you to have pets. Remember, we're looking to home this puppy for it's entire lifetime, so these things are important to us. We'll ask if you're home during the day or whether you work long hours. Whilst some breeds suit perfectly well to be outside all day with very little human contact, this isn't the case with a Cocker Spaniel. They're really not built to be outside with very little human attention. This little bundle of joy needs to feel and be part of your family. We're not doing this to be nosey, we're doing this because we want to make sure the puppy is going to the right home.
Meeting the parents
Most articles/guides on buying a puppy will advise you to meet the puppies in their home and their parents. This is really good in theory but not always practical.
Often the stud (father) does not live with the breeder so it is not uncommon to not be able to meet him and whilst the mother will live with the puppies, it isn't always possible to meet her. Some dogs simply do not like strangers.
What you should be able to meet though if you are unable to meet the mother or the father, is some of the breeder's other dogs. This way you'll be able to see the condition that the dogs are kept in, how they interact with their owner, their general mannerisms and often you'll see what style of dog the breeder is breeding for.
Please don't hinge your decision on being able to meet mum and dad. However, if you can't meet or see any other dogs at all (other than the parents), this should ring alarm bells.
Choosing your Puppy
My best advice here is to not insist on picking the puppy. This is for a couple of reasons:
The breeder if keeping a puppy from the litter, will choose the pick of the litter. If you've picked this puppy previously, you will be given another puppy. Having an attachment to a puppy that may not become yours, can be upsetting.
You may not be able to view the puppies until they've had their first vaccinations (viewing around the 7 week old mark). This can vary from breeder to breeder or litter to litter. Baby puppies are exceptionally susceptible to diseases and whilst you may not realise, you could bring those with you. Not only does it risk the life of your puppy, but every other families puppies too. If the breeder is not allowing you to come earlier, they're just trying to protect the health of their puppies. Please do not insist on coming if they have advised otherwise.
By the time the puppy is eight weeks old, the breeder will have spent approximately 220 hours with your puppy. This is a far longer time than the 30mins - 1hr you spend looking at the puppies and loving all of them. This means that the breeder has watched the puppies grow and develop personalities. They've seen whether they are introverts or extroverts. They've learnt what some puppies like and what they don't like.
Be prepared to wait.
Puppies often aren't readily available. Sometimes we might have 4 - 6 litters in a year and other years we might have 1 - 2 litters. Being prepared to wait for the right puppy is worth it in the end. Buying the next available puppy from the next available breeder may not end up being the right investment you were looking for. If you do go on waiting lists for a couple of breeders, please let the other breeders know when you've purchased a puppy so that they can take you off their list.