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How to Choose a Healthy Pure-Bred Puppy

WebMD veterinary expert answers commonly asked questions about how to choose a healthy, friendly pure-bred puppy as your new family pet.
By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature

You made the decision to get a puppy and did your research to find the perfect breed -- the one that will match your family’s temperament, energy level, and personality. But how do you find the best breeder to get a healthy, well-adjusted puppy? WebMD asked Lisa Peterson, the director of club communications for the American Kennel Club and a longtime breeder of Norwegian elkhounds, for some advice.

 

Q: There are ads for puppies in the newspaper, on the Internet, and, of course, there are those adorable puppies in the pet stores. Where’s the best place to buy my purebred puppy?

A: Breeders advertise in a variety of ways, including ads on the Internet, in newspapers, and their own web sites. Those are all good places to start, but they are also places you can run into a lot of trouble if you don’t do your research. You can go to our web site, www.AKC.org, to look for the parent club of our breeds. We list breeder referrals for all these clubs and they can put you in touch with breeders across the country.

 

Q: I’ve heard dogs in pet stores usually come from puppy mills. What are those and are they bad?

A: Most puppies in pet stores come from licensed commercial breeders. Those breeders that register with the American Kennel Club are inspected by us for care and conditions, record keeping, and other things.

There are more than 30 dog registries today. But the AKC is the only nonprofit registry and the only registry that inspects our breeders and mandates that the puppies be raised in humane conditions.

The term puppy mill really describes a kennel with filthy conditions, usually where there are too many dogs to care for properly. Many times these places are unlicensed because they sell directly to the public via the Internet. These are not your well inspected, licensed facilities. We have inspected some puppy mills and some were suspended by us.

 

Q: Do purebred dogs have a lot of health problems? Where can I find out about the health problems of the breeds I’m interested in?

A: The majority of purebred dogs are happy, healthy pets. We have a web site, www.akcdoghealth.com, which is a great resource for potential dog owners. It highlights what breeders are doing to avoid genetic diseases and whether they are conducting proper health screenings. You need to ask for certificates that show that the breeder has done the proper health screenings on the sire and the dam before the breeding took place.

A balanced breeding program includes a whole list of what should be done ahead of time, such as genetic testing, pedigree research, confirmation, and temperament analysis of the sire and dam.

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