|A Puppy Buyer’s Guide to the Internet: Online Resources to Find and Raise a Healthy Purebred Dog|
The following was contributed by Stuart F. Eckmann, Co-Chair of the Health Committee of the Tibetan Terrier Club of America, club liaison to the AKC/CHF, and developer of the Tibetan Terrier DNA Bank & Registry.
Remember when you got your first puppy, and how you thought it was so soft and cuddly, and just perfect? Well, we realize now that there is no such thing as the perfect dog. Responsible breeders work diligently to reduce the incidence of health problems. They monitor their dogs’ health through hip evaluations, eye exams, and other phenotypic, or outwardly observable, expressions of genetic conditions. When actual genetic tests have become available, these breeders use them as an integral part of their breeding programs.
But which breeds are disposed to what? And which breeders have used available exams and tests to try to improve their breeds’ health and temperament? Fortunately, there are a number of online resources which can help you determine the right breed for you, identify responsible breeders within that breed, and also point you toward good resources to help you train and care for your puppy. If you’re trying to decide which breed is right for you, check out the American Kennel Club’s website at http://www.akc.org/breeds/index
information on size, temperament, coat care, and
general care requirements for 150 different
breeds. More importantly, though, you’ll find out
what kind of adult that cute puppy you’re
considering will turn into, and what type of
commitment you’ll need to make.
The AKC’s website provides links to the national breed club for each of these breeds. Many of the breeds’ websites include a breeder referral list and a code of ethics for responsible breeders. It may state, for example, that breeders will breed only mature bitches over the age of two, will skip a cycle between breedings, will have completed certain health checks prior to breeding, and will submit the results of these tests to certain registries.
For many breeds, these include submissions to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF)
hip evaluations by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) http://www.offa.org/ . The OFA is
now also registering the results of other exams, such as hearing tests, and has also become the universally-recognized database for registration of the results of genetic marker tests. Some of the more progressive breeds are participating in a database called the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)
A joint effort of OFA and the AKC Canine Health Foundation http://www.akcchf.org/ , CHIC requires each participating breed to designate at least three mandatory tests for participation. CHIC is now the gold standard for online databases for dogs.
You can go online to CERF, OFA, or CHIC and see if the sire and dam of the puppies you are interested in are listed; all you need to do is submit their registered names. You can even search the kennel name of the breeder you’re considering to see which of their dogs they’ve registered for these exams and genetic tests.
Remember that the dam – the mom – is only half of the equation. The other half of the genetics that goes into your puppy will come from the sire. When you search these registries, check out the background of the sire. If the sire comes from another breeder, you can also use these online databases to check out that breeder. A good way to ensure that both sire and dam come from breeders with a commitment to the ethical standards of the breed club is to make sure that the breeders of both are members of the national breed club. Another good way is to print off the code of ethics from the national breed club’s website and go over it, point by point, when you visit a breeder, to ensure to your satisfaction that they are adhering to acceptable standards. Many of the genetic tests have been developed through the dedication and generosity of breeders whose contributions have helped fund genetic marker studies supported by the AKC Canine Health Foundation. The AKC/CHF has acknowledged the generosity of these breeders on their website, and a search of the breeder’s name on http://www.akcchf.org/ identifies those whose support has made this genetic research possible.
After you’ve identified a breeder with a focus on health, how do you determine which one of their dogs is right for you? Some breeders have gone beyond the concept of a waiting list to matching each of their dogs to the most appropriate home. Many of them use a temperament test such as the one listed at http://www.golden-retriever.com/puppy_aptitude_test.htm. Temperament testing helps a breeder to match the dog’s temperament to the new family’s lifestyle. Your new puppy should be seen immediately by a veterinarian, who will examine it and work out a schedule for vaccinations, microchipping, routine medications, and regular well puppy visits.
unforeseen and unexpected health emergencies, the American Red Cross offers excellent Pet First Aid classes throughout the country. The course description and list of locations is on their website at http://www.redcross.org/news/hs/firstaid/010801petfirstaid.html . Instruction includes CPR and rescue breathing, choking, and fractures.
Once a breeder has placed a puppy with you, it’s your responsibility to start socializing that puppy, both within your home and outside. One of the best ways to do this is to do this is through puppy “kindergarten” obedience/socialization classes. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers provides a listing of members offering such classes at http://www.apdt.com/cgi/trainer-search
Their site also identifies those trainers whose
levels of knowledge and experience have qualified
them to be designated as a Certified Pet Dog
Using these websites when you’re looking for a puppy should help you become an informed consumer. It should also help frame the questions you’ll want to ask breeders. It’s a short investment in time that will yield immediate returns. And once you’ve chosen a breed and brought your puppy home, consider contributing to that breed’s welfare through the AKC Canine Health Foundation at http://www.akcchf.org/donations/make.htm. This is an investment that will return dividends throughout the life of your dog. For questions and comments, email Eckmann@ix.netcom.com
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