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The e-mails came within minutes of each other, and I was stunned by how perfectly matched they were. One was cause; the other, effect.

Both wrote about golden retrievers: one, the retriever he hoped to buy; the other, the dog she'd just lost.

"I promised the kids a dog, and we've decided to get a golden," wrote the first. "I was referred by a co-worker to a breeder who had a waiting list of six months. Yes, she seems to know what she's doing. She certifies the parents as having good hips, and she offers health guarantees. The father of the litter she's planning is a champion, and both father and mother have obedience and agility titles. But we don't want to wait that long! We found someone with a litter -- no papers, but purebred. They're ready to go now. We want a pet, not a show dog. Is there any real reason we shouldn't get a puppy from the people who have them now?"

The second person had bought a pup a year ago from a breeder such as the one that the first letter-writer is considering -- a backyard breeder, they're called. The result of the breeding of two pet goldens, neither of which had health clearances, was that the puppy developed hip dysplasia and was soon in near-constant pain from the malformed joints. Finally, the owner had to make the decision to end the young dog's life to spare him the pain. With three small children and tight budget, she couldn't afford the thousands of dollars for the surgery that might have helped the dog. "We are devastated," she wrote. "We now know we should never have bought a puppy from a breeder like this. Please, can you warn others?"

Some days that's all I seem to do, and it doesn't help much. I get dozens of e-mails and letters every week from people who made a big mistake when getting a puppy, and they leave me as perplexed as they do saddened. They've bought puppies carrying the time bomb of genetic disease, or puppies destined for temperament problems because of poor breeding and a lack of proper socialization. In goldens alone, careless or clueless breeders have produced dogs with hip disease, blindness, heart defects, thyroid disease and cancer, as well as hyperactivity and aggression. And goldens aren't alone. Every breed has its own problems that dedicated fanciers are working to eliminate.

How can it be that people still don't know the higher potential for problems when you buy a purebred puppy any other way than directly from a reputable breeder? How can intelligent people who spend hours researching a VCR or vacuum cleaner buy a purebred puppy on a whim? Why do so many people spend more time reading the label on a frozen dinner than they do researching the purchase of an animal who will be a family member for years?

I don't have the answers to these questions. But it's easy to find the answers to the questions you (BEGIN ITALICS)should(END ITALICS) be asking if you're considering a purebred puppy. The best writing on finding a good breeder I've ever seen is in Michele Lowell's book "Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide" (Holt, $14). But there is a lot more information out there, as close as the Internet or your local library.

When you do make the right decision about where you buy your puppy, you're helping to end the problems caused by bad breeding. When there are no buyers for purebreds with problems, there'll be no sellers of them. No backyard breeders. No puppy mills. And that will make a big difference, not just to the future of purebred dogs, but also to rescue groups and shelters who'll eventually have to deal with so many unhealthy and unstable purebred dogs. Finally, it will spare a great many families the heartbreak of dealing with a sick dog.

If you must have a purebred puppy -- and no one says the dog you get has to be either purebred or a puppy, I hasten to note -- don't buy from anyone but a reputable breeder. Ask about health clearances. Ask about guarantees. Ask about socialization.

If you don't get the right answers, ask where to find the door out. You want to be dealing with someone else, let me assure you.






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Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of Dogs for Dummies, Cats for Dummies and Birds for Dummies. She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals.
 

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If we knew then what we know now.....Someone that finally "gets the problem". We pray every night that Sisse will be one of the "lucky" ones and NOT develop any problems from her poor breeding. We'll love her forever, but if we had the chance to do over again, knowing what we know now, we would of "passed" and gotten a well bred puppy.

Please do not get me wrong, there is nothing we wouldn't do to keep her healthy and happy, we will spend what we have to to see to that. But, I feel guilty knowing that she may have to endure poor health and poor quality of life due to her Hobby Breeder....she is the love of our lives....
 

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Marj, I think that article is very helpful in describing some of the concerns with BYBs. As usual, you are a valuable resource.
 

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Originally posted by Sisses Momma@May 4 2005, 02:03 PM
If we knew then what we know now.....Someone that finally "gets the problem".  We pray every night that Sisse will be one of the "lucky" ones and NOT develop any problems from her poor breeding.  We'll love her forever, but if we had the chance to do over again, knowing what we know now, we would of "passed" and gotten a well bred puppy.

Please do not get me wrong, there is nothing we wouldn't do to keep her healthy and happy, we will spend what we have to to see to that.  But, I feel guilty knowing that she may have to endure poor health and poor quality of life due to her Hobby Breeder....she is the love of our lives....

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You read my mind! I feel exactly as you do......
 
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