The Ideal Puppy Purchaser

'What kind of owner am I looking for?' says George
'What kind of owner am I looking for?' says George

UK-based canine behaviour consultant Karen Wild asked me my thoughts about what makes the ideal puppy purchaser. This was too good a question to Twitter so I’m writing my response here.

What We at Kennel Björkwood Look For

First and foremost, I look for someone who is prepared to commit their time and energy to raising a healthy, well-socialised dog. And that doesn’t mean just for the first month after you bring pup home. Training and behaviour modification can be necessary throughout a dog’s life.

Here at Kennel Björkwood we’re very wary of people who think you can get instant results with a dog, and particularly a basset, because we know they need time and patience. Hell, make that a hefty dose of patience!

Beginners Welcome

An ideal puppy purchaser doesn’t have to be an experienced dog person. Some old-hands believe they know it all and aren’t open to changing the way they interact with dogs. I’m always happy to come across people who ask questions, seek answers and don’t rest on their laurels. Nowadays there’s more emphasis on positive reinforcement when it comes to training and I look for people that are open to that.

We never stop learning about dogs no matter how much experience we have.

Ideally, you want someone who has taken the time to find out about a breed (or the multi-breeds that make up mixed-breed pedigrees) and is not just trying to buy on impulse or because, for example, bassets are in fashion this month.

What to Avoid

“Can I pop round and pick a pup up?” one gentleman recently asked me, as if I was a hardware store, not bothering to ask me any questions about our kennel other than did we have a pup available. He also didn’t like it when I asked him my list of questions.

He wasn’t invited round.

I’m also wary of people that don’t realise the cost of what it takes to look after a dog and especially people that don’t listen. If a prospective owner doesn’t listen to me, how are they ever going to listen to a dog that primarily communicates paralinguistically?

Be Well-Prepared

The ideal puppy purchaser to my mind would come to a dog show, say Lilla Stockholm, and have a look at the bassets. They’d talk to lots of breeders and get an all round feel for the breed.

If possible they would come and visit the kennel when there were no pups there to see how adult dogs really are. It’s hard to think straight when presented with the cuteness that is a basset hound puppy.

I appreciate it if people come again when pups are five or six weeks so we can talk about what they’re really looking for in a dog. I want to see them interact my dogs and get a sense of who they are. That way we can offer them a variety of choices, hopefully, to find the best fit.

Then having settled on a pup, my ideal puppy purchaser would keep in touch as the dog develops.

My biggest fear is that puppy buyers disappear with a pup and never get in contact again. As a breeder you want to know how your dog has developed; have there been any health or temperament issues that you need to know about.

So I also look for people who are reliable and know how to communicate. We don’t want to be best buddies with everyone who buys a dog from us; but we do want to feel that we can pick up the phone and ask how things are going. And vice versa.

What about You?

If you have a kennel, what do you look for? Or if you’re a puppy buyer, what do you look for in a kennel?

You can hear an interview with me talking about what we look for in a puppy buyer over on Dog Cast Radio. The interview was broadcast on June 13, 2009 and is available to download as a podcast.

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  • becky

    great write-up! if i was a breeder, i would be just as particular as you are. very important to find the right owner for your pups.

    “It’s hard to think straight when presented with the cuteness that is a basset hound puppy.”
    so true!!

  • Sheila Atter

    Lots of good information there, Jon. Like you I like my puppies to go to people who will keep in touch. Whereas a few years ago most people had grown up with a dog in their family, nowadays that isn’t always the case and people sometimes need support over ‘problems’ that are really normal teenage behaviour.

  • Cat, Chaps and Emma

    Great blog posting Jon.

    You would be exactly what I would look for in a breeder. I actually tried to go the exact route you are speaking of when I purchased Emma and was given Chaps. However, I was not told the truth about Emma’s health records. She wound up getting primary, closed angle glaucoma at age 2. Her medical records showed that she had an abnormal eye examination from birth. The breeder told me she had a normal eye examination.

    So, one of the most important things for me is honesty in a breeder.

    I hope you don’t mind me putting a blog posting I did called: Questions to ask a reputable breeder, to answer your question. I send this blog posting to people who are interested in what to ask a breeder. I get inquires all the time since my website pops up pretty quickly if you google basset hounds. Here it is:

    OK, you have done all of the research and you want to add a basset pup to your family. You are armed with your list of reputable breeders and the search is on for your new pup. The Basset Hound Club of America offers QUESTIONS TO ASK A BREEDER, which are listed below 1-7. In my opinion these are just a starting point. If the breeder cannot answer all of your questions to your complete satisfaction go to the next breeder on your list. This is the most important part of picking your new pup.

    Feel free to print this list of questions so you can make sure you do not forget any of them. This is not the time to be shy. There are plenty of reputable breeders that would love to place their dogs in wonderful families. The breeders will be thrilled you have done your homework.

    1. How long have you been breeding AKC Basset Hounds? Good breeders have usually been breeding for a minimum of 3 or 4 years. note from Cat: This seems a bit short to me. I would go with breeders who have more time under their belt and can answer all of your questions. A longer successful breeding record will unveil more statics’s in their line.

    2. Do you belong to the Basset Hound Club of America or a regional Basset Hound Club? Membership in these clubs involves working within a code of ethics which helps give credibility to a breeder.

    3. What type of activities do your dogs participate in? Many breeders show their Basset Hounds and may participate in showing, obedience, agility, tracking or field trialling competition.

    4. Do you have any puppies available, and if not, when do you plan another litter? If they have puppies available, the majority of breeders will put your name on a waiting list. Other breeders whose lists are full are usually more than willing to refer you to reputable breeders in their area. note from Cat: You should already have your list. If they don’t have pups, move on.

    5. What kind of warranty do you offer? Most breeders will guarantee the health of a puppy for a specific period of time and if something goes wrong will offer to replace the puppy with another one or give a full refund. Warranties differ with each breeder. note from Cat: Will the breeder cover the cost of health problems that arise from the genetics of their line. For example, if the pup does turn up with glaucoma will they pay for any of the expenses related to that disease. If so, get it in writing.

    6. What is the price of the dog? A pet puppy is usually less expensive than a show prospect.

    7. What type of paperwork do you provide and will it include proof of vaccinations and worming? Breeders should provide a Bill of Sale, a contract detailing the conditions of the sale and a copy of the puppy’s health record. In some cases, breeders may withhold AKC registration papers until they have received notification from your veterinarian that the puppy has been spayed or neutered. note from Cat: If they do not provide proof of vaccinations and worming they are not reputable and do not buy a puppy from this breeder, also see number 8.
    This ends the BHCA list, and number 8 starts’s list.

    8. Do you do an opthalmologic examination on your pups? If not, do not buy from that breeder. If so, make sure you get a copy of the eye examination and make sure that the pup has NORMAL ANGLES. Under no circumstances purchase a basset hound pup that has abnormal angles. Basset hound are pre-disposed to glaucoma and abnormal angles will increase the changes that your pup will develop this horrible disease and go blind.

    9. Ask the breeder if any of the following heath concerns has shown up in their line. If so you may want to consider another breeder. These are serious health concerns that you want to weed out of your new pup. This is why I say to pick a breeder who has been in the business for more than 8 years. This will give the breeder and the buyer access to much more of a health history in their breeding program.

    Panosteitis (Pano, wandering lameness, puppy limp) An inflammation of the long bones often seen in Bassets from 5 months of age to two years. Because dogs outgrow pano, it is not considered a serious health problem. Lameness caused by pano may move from one leg to another and can last from a week to 6 months or more. Bassets with pano should not be exercised until symptoms disappear. Although pano itself is not serious, if a Basset is otherwise injured and the ensuing lameness is mistakenly attributed to pano, lasting harm may result. Because X-rays can determine the presence of pano, a veterinarian should be consulted in any case of lameness.

    Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD) A genetic disorder of the blood which may cause moderate to severe bleeding, similar in some ways to hemophilia. Up to 15% of Bassets may carry this platelet abnormality.

    Thrombopathia Another blood platelet disorder, also similar to hemophilia. The clinical presence of Von Willebrand’s and thrombopathia are fairly easy for Basset owners to spot because bleeding which cannot be stopped is the symptom of these disorders.

    Glaucoma This eye disorder has been found in the Basset Hound breed. Symptoms include painful, bulging eyes and sensitivity to light. Consult a veterinarian immediately.

    Eyelid and eyelash problems Bassets are prone to ectropian (a turning out of the eyelids), resulting in a dry cornea, and entropian (a turning in of the eyelids), causing lashes to dig into the surface of the eye. Both conditions can be surgically corrected. note from Cat: This is true, but surgery is costly and risky.

    Allergies Some Bassets may be prone to allergies, dermatitis and seborrhea. note from Cat: This may not seem like a big deal, but Emma is allergic to everything. She has a costly dermatologist and is on expensive special food to keep her from getting urinary tract infections. This is very costly and adds unnecessary expense.

    10. Ask to see the Mom and Dad of your pup. Also visit the kennel and see how the conditions are for the hounds on site.

    11. Some breeders will tell you that they will pick the pup for you. I never really cared for that approach. Ask if you can pick your own pup after they determine which pups are up for sale.

    12. Never buy a pup from a breeder contingent on if you take another one of their hounds as well. You may choose to take another hound which should be free, but never let them make this part of the deal. Many times breeders will be looking for homes for their x-show dogs or dogs who did not work out for whatever reason. Make sure if you do take an extra hound that all of the above questions are answered. Make sure you get that hound’s entire medical history. Chaps was an x-show dog that I willing took when I bought Emma.

    13. Make sure you have it in writing that you will be taking the pup and the extra dog to your vet within days of the purchase. Have your vet do a complete examination of the dog. If any major health issues turn up you will be returning the hound before everyone gets too attached and the breeder should pay for that examination if a hound is returned.


    So – there you go. My list is long but I sure wish I had my list when I picked the AKC/BHCA breeder that I did. It may not have uncovered the secrets and lies but it would have been worth a try.

    After Emma went blind and I asked for support from my breeder they ignored me when I refused to lie for them. I have never felt so betrayed in all of my life. Emma turns 5 years old this month and her medical bills are almost 15,000 dollars. She is worth every penny to her family.

    Cat, Chaps and Emma

  • Jon

    Whew! Great post Cat & Co. I really appreciate such a cogent response. Thankfully, here in Sweden we don’t have so many cases of Von Willebrand’s Disease if you look at the statistics available. However, with American dogs being imported and used at stud, it’s important to know if dogs have been tested for this.

  • Cat, Chaps and Emma

    Very good point Jon. If American dogs are being imported it is very important to learn all of the health facts of that dog. The more information the better!


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