and on a much more cheerful note!
Visit a Show or Gundog Working Test / Field Trial
Here you can see breeders and their off-spring in action. It’s worth remembering that Show and Field Trial competitors breed primarily for their own use, and therefore take a keen interest in using only the very best available breeding stock - now that’s a big hint!
See your local paper for show details, or ask your newsagent for “Dog World” or “Our Dogs” - for shows nationwide.
Read the book
Once again your Vet is a very good place to start. Ignoring all the old magazines, make for the reception area
and look for pamphlets - usually produced by the big pet food companies. Yes - I know that they want you to buy their food, but first, they’re going to help you look after your puppy .
Two companies - “Denes” and “Pedigree Chum” - are particularly good in this area.
Visit the breeder
At about 4-5 weeks old, the puppies should be able to be visited.
Take a good, long and hard look at how and where they live.
It doesn’t have to be a posh house or very pretty cottage, just good, clean, wholesome and hygienic.
Is “Mum” around? If not - why not? She must be there somewhere! “Dad” may not be at home, he probably lives elsewhere - but if “Mum’s” not there - walk away!
Does “Mum” look well - maybe a little tired - but contented? Bear in mind that she’s been suckling up to 10 hungry mouths for the past few weeks!
Do the puppies appear happy, well rounded, cuddly and relaxed?
Are they pleased to see you - or do they back away?
Does the breeder allow you to pick them up - and if so - are you asked to wash your hands and shoes in disinfectant before you go near?
Will the breeder be keeping any - and if not - why not?
Have sympathy for that look that says “I’ve only got one pair of hands - and I’m not a millionaire!”
How many litters has the bitch had? Labradors normally have one or two - maybe three.
Any more than that, then maybe you’re in a “posh” puppy farm - walk away!
Is the breeder willing to “house guest” your puppy when you go away?
If not, can they recommend a breeder who would, and if so, could you please have their ‘phone number.
When you get home - check it out.
Hips, Elbows and Eyes
Somewhere in all this, the subject of Hip / Elbow scores and Eye tests should come up. I don’t want to get too technical, other than to say that - if the parents’ certificates are “unavailable” for any reason - walk away!
Eyes test certificates must be valid (within 12 months) - and must state either “pass” or “clear” or “unaffected”.
In the case of hip / elbow scores - to put it simply - the lower the score the better.
Hips - the total score per parent really must be less than “15” - preferably less than “10”.
Elbows - the total score per parent really must be less than “2” - preferably “zero”.
Pedigree - an original, signed by the breeder - is vital.
Diet Sheet - will tell you how much and how often, you need to feed your puppy.
You’ll need to know the brand of food the puppy has been fed on at the time you collect it.
Contract of Sale - must set out, clearly, the terms and conditions under which the puppy is being given over to your “care and love”. It seems a shame that animals should be subject to contracts, but, I’m afraid, it’s to protect your puppy, you ......and the breeder.
Kennel Club Registration - which may take a few weeks.
Once the puppies have left for their new homes, your breeder will send the registration papers to the Kennel Club, who in turn, register you as the new owner, and you’ll receive a certificate to that effect.
It’s your puppy’s equivalent of a birth certificate - please don’t lose it.
Shopping List - If good guidance isn’t given then please ask - it’s part of what you’re paying for.
If that doesn’t happen ... here’s a "SHOPPING LIST" for you ... credit card at the ready?