Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buying a Border Collie Puppy

So you have decided on a Border Collie Puppy….congratulations!  A Border Collie can either be the best thing that has ever entered your life or the worst; here are some tips to avoid the latter.
First do your homework!  This would include finding a reputable breeder, visiting the kennel, learning about the bloodlines of the dogs at the kennel and asking lots of questions to every professional and enthusiast you can find.  If they won’t answer the questions or can’t, it might be time to move on to someone who can.
The Breeder: A breeder can be anyone that breeds dogs; a reputable breeder is someone that has a keen sense of responsibility, knowledge and concern for their dogs and the future of your new puppy.   
The Parents: Make a point to find out who the parents are of your potential puppy, ask to meet them if possible.  Review their pedigree, health history, temperament and training/activities of parents and siblings. 
The Kennel: Visit the kennel; this is a VERY important step.  A visit to the kennel will give you the opportunity to find out more about the breeder, the parents, and the environment your puppy will be exposed to during the crucial first weeks of its life. 
The Litter: Visit the litter as often as possible, this will give you assurance of health, temperament and the socialization of your newest family member.
The Puppy:  Picking the puppy is a matter of preference and there are many considerations to make in the process.  Frequently, appearance is the deciding factor, but do not overlook temperament.  The breeder should be able to help you make this important decision; they should know the temperament of every puppy in their kennel and try to help match you with the right dog.
Your Visit to the breeder/kennel……What to do:
Ask questions!  The breeder should be willing to talk with you about their dogs, your needs as a buyer and any issues or questions you have before AND after you make a purchase.  A reputable breeder is willing to take as much time as you need and help you make the right decision for you and the puppy.  Picking a breeder based on price and availability alone could cost you considerable heartache along with unwanted financial obligations due to health and behavior issues.  A sign of a reputable breeder is one that also asks you many questions.  They will be concerned about where “their” dog will live and what the conditions he/she will be living in.  Will the dog run loose, be kept in the house, tied up, have other dogs to interact with, are there small children in the house, will the family schedule include time for a puppy? 
You will want to observe the surroundings at the kennel as well as the cleanliness of the facility and animals.  Do all of the animals have access to food, fresh/clean water, shelter, space for exercise, opportunities to socialize with other dogs, animals and people, and do they have a dry/clean place to rest?  Does the breeder appear to have a strong relationship and bond with their dogs and puppies?  Border Collies are a unique breed and often have greater physical and emotional needs than other breeds of dogs.  Try to evaluate why the breeder is breeding dogs, are they working dogs, pets, show or performance animals or just “money makers?  I assure you that all of these things matter to the pup you may bring home.  
A breeder should be able to show you their paperwork on the parent, including their up to date vaccination records, deworming program and lineage.  If they are selling purebred dogs then the paperwork should go home with the puppy in most cases.  Some breeders will claim to be breeding pure bred pups, when, in fact, they have never registered the parents or the pups, these are technically not pure bred animals.  If in doubt, you can call the American Border Collie Association and inquire on the breeder or the parents.  They are the keeper of all records and I have used them many times “just to check”.  Registration is not a requirement or assurance to having a great dog, however, it does validate the lineage of the dog and therefore can help rule out some health problems.  Additionally, if you ever want to compete with your dog in AKC events, registration is necessary.
Socialization is likely one of the most crucial elements of a puppy’s life, second only to proper health and nutrition.  Ask the breeder how they socialize their puppies; observe the puppies and the adult dogs on the premises.  Puppies should be friendly and curious.  No animals should avoid contact with people, especially with the breeder.  Puppies should be handled daily from the beginning; they should also be acclimated to common household sights, sounds and activities.  This early, good socialization will result in a well acclimated member of your household and make puppy training that much easier.
A reputable breeder will not allow a dog to go home before 8 weeks of age and they will have started them on their vaccination and deworming program.  It is very helpful if they provide you with details on the products they have used and a schedule for upcoming health maintenance activities.  You can then work with your veterinarian to ensure proper health maintenance is continued throughout the life of your pup.  A reputable breeder will be willing to openly discuss nutrition and make recommendations based on their experience, ask for a sample of the food the puppy is currently eating to take home with you, this will avoid additional stress related to a sudden diet change.  If you plan to change the diet, do so slowly over several days.
The breeder can be a very valuable resource once you take your puppy home.  Will the breeder be available if there is a health problem or any other issue or question?  A breeder should be accessible for the life of any puppy they raise.  They should be willing to either take a dog back or help re-home a dog in the event you can no longer keep the dog, regardless of the reason. They will want to avoid the chance of any of their dogs ending up in a shelter or a rescue.  With any good breeder, it may be your dog, but it will always be their puppy.   

A question about Border Collies

Question: What is the worst thing about Border Collies?

 Answer: "Border Collies are extremely intelligent and active dogs. Intelligence and hyperactivity are not characteristics that most people are capable of handling.  Border Collies need constant attention and if they are not true working dogs, they need to be given "chores" and "tasks" around the home to serve as outlets for their boundless energy. If no outlet is given, they will find one on their own (generally one not desirable).  Being smart allows them to learn quickly, not only how to behave but also how to get into trouble.  It is not easy to "fool" a Border Collie into doing or not doing something.  You must always be one step ahead of them and sometimes it isn't so easy.  The hyperactivity is also something you must think long and hard about. Some individuals are certainly calmer and less active than others but the breed as a whole, because of their breeding goals, is highly active. If you live in a small apartment or have no place to run the dog in wide open spaces, I think another breed of dog would be better suited for your circumstances. If you want a dog that lies around the house most of the time, is rarely noticed, and is generally unobtrusive, then a Border Collie is not for you. They demand (literally demand) lots of attention and lots of activity. If you do not have the time or energy to devote to the dog, then there are better choices."

A note on Puppy Mills
Buying a puppy can be very difficult, especially when you don’t know anything about the breeder.  This is just a short note that I feel very passionate about and felt it needed to be written.  I get many calls and emails for pups and most people wanting advice.  For the last couple of years, I have had calls about several breeders here in Indiana and people wanting information on them.  Selling a pup is not a competition for me and if I don’t have any, I am glad to refer them to a reputable breeder.  I have gone to several breeders just to look around and found a few that were true “puppy mills”.   I have never used this term before because I didn’t really think they existed, but they do, I saw them firsthand.
There are many attributes that may indicate you are visiting a puppy mill.  The first clue will be overcrowding, most puppy mills have a large number of dogs, they may be single or group housed and in conditions you wouldn’t consider appropriate.  The puppy mills I have visited had dogs living among weeks worth of urine and feces with no access to a dry area or appropriate space for exercise.   There is typically a lack of socialization, the dogs will frequently hide in the back of their pen, and even the puppies seem apprehensive about approaching.  This is NOT normal behavior for a dog, particularly a border collie.  You may see a lack of food and clean/fresh water and some dogs may not even have access to shelter.  Typically hair coats will be rough, perhaps matted with feces.  A general rule to follow, if it doesn’t seem right or you wouldn’t want to sit in the pen and allow the puppies to climb on you and lick your face; you should re-consider a purchase from this breeder.  Do not purchase a puppy because you feel sorry for them or want to ‘rescue’ them, remember you will be trying to fix mistakes made for the next 15 years.  A lack of proper healthcare, nutrition and socialization may shape a dog into an insecure, anxious dog which may have trouble bonding with people.  Additionally, by supporting these puppy mills you will only enable them to continue to breed.  If you are concerned about the health and welfare of any facility you visit, you can contact the local animal control officer and file an official complaint.  You can also contact the Human Society of the Unites States (HSUS) and ask for assistance.