So you’ve decided a whippet is right for you. Maybe you’ve even been looking at adorable whippet puppies and have a serious case of puppy fever. Whether you are looking for a family pet or a dog for competition (showing, racing or coursing) there are some basic things you should look for in a breeder. Notice that I said breeder – because that is the only place (other than shelters or rescue) that you should be looking.
Why Pet Store Puppies are a Bad Idea
Pet stores rely on the fact that people will see a cute puppy and have to have it. They take advantage of the emotional aspect of buying a puppy, without giving you any of the benefits a reputable breeder will give you. For one thing, ALL pet store puppies are from puppy mills. The employees will often lie about where the puppies come from, because no one wants to hear that their puppy came from a commercial breeder that treats dogs like livestock. Some lies I have heard from pet store employees are “We only work with local breeders” and “We hand pick breeders who raise happy healthy puppies in a home environment.” The truth is that in order to purchase puppies for resale by law the pet stores have to by from large commercial breeders who are USDA licensed. These puppies have limited interaction with people and have spent their entire lives in a kennel environment. The first couple months of a puppies life are critical and these poor pups basically start off with a severe handicap. I have seen several puppies who were bought from a pet store who could never be housebroken because of their early experiences. Pet stores will not be there to help you out if your pup gets sick, develops a congenital disease, if you need training advice or to watch your pup in an emergency. Good breeders will provide support for the lifetime of your dog. What many people don’t realize is that pet store puppies are often more expensive than puppies from a reputable breeder.
What Makes a Good Breeder?
A good breeder has a purpose in mind when they breed each litter, whether it is perfecting type in a show dog or increasing speed and agility in racers and coursers. They spend hours pouring over pedigrees and learning about the breed. The often drive hours to use a stud that best complements their bitch. They make sure both dogs have health tests done before breeding (eyes, heart and hearing). In every purpose-bred litter (show, racing coursing, etc) there will be pet quality puppies. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with these pups, maybe their tail set is a little high or their shoulder angulation is a little straight. A good breeder will have taken care to socialize the puppies and gotten them started on crate training and housebreaking. They will ask you a lot of questions about your home, family and what you are looking for in a puppy in order to match you up with the right one. They will be honest about the breed’s qualities, even if that means telling you whippets aren’t the right dog for you. They will be available to you via phone or email to help with any questions you might have. Most importantly they will take back the dog at any time, whether its a month after you bought them or ten years later.
How Do You Spot a Bad Breeder
This is not an exhaustive list and keep in mind that every situation is individual – so having one thing from this list doesn’t make someone a terrible breeder. These are just some things to watch out for.
- The breeder offers to sell you a pup without asking any questions or having you to fill out an application. They offer to ship even though they don’t know you.
- They don’t do any health testing on their breeding stock and when questioned say they’ve had a vet checkup. (a general exam and pre-breeding health screening are totally different)
- They advertise puppies always available.
- They don’t have any sort of plan and aren’t breeding towards a goal (other than “to make cute puppies!!”). Their dogs don’t compete in any venues (conformation, racing, coursing, obedience).
- They can’t give you references to contact previous puppy buyers. (obviously for someone’s first litter this doesn’t apply)
- They offer to sell you a puppy younger than 8 weeks.
- Their animals are flea-ridden or filthy, or have obvious medical problems that haven’t been taken care of. (*note that puppies make a LOT of mess, so don’t expect their living area to be pristine or them to be spotless)
- They advertise dogs outside the standard or certain colors as “rare” or “special” and possibly charge more money for them. For example; “Special blue eyed whippet” or “Rare solid blue puppies!”
How to Find a Good Breeder
So now that you know some basics – how do you find those good breeders? One good place to start is whippet rescue, even if you want to buy a puppy your local rescue rep will usually know of any litters in the area and be able to refer you. You can also email Mary Downing with the American Whippet Club, who will send you a list of breeders in your area. Ask other people who have whippets – if you don’t know anyone then join a whippet group online and ask people for referrals. Also, check out my links page for a list of breeders.