Warning: Be careful of puppy mills, scams, and pet shops!
Although looking for a new canine best friend is fun, be careful when selecting a breeder.
- What exactly is a puppy mill?
- A puppy mill is a place where many dogs and often many breeds are housed in cramped, unsanitary conditions. These dogs are treated as livestock, producing puppies as much as possible until the dogs are too old or unhealthy to continue. Puppies produced in puppy mills may not be socialized or given proper care due to the large number of dogs being produced. Proper ventilation, food and water may not be available. Adequate human contact that is necessary for a well-adapted family pet is usually not given. The goal of a puppy mill is profit. Puppy mills are also known as "commercial breeders", and often sell their puppies to brokers and pet stores.
- Any and all puppies sold at pet stores are from puppy mills! Although, if you ask the person working at the store will likely tell you the pups are from "reputable breeders". Even if they can provide AKC registration and a pedigree, this does not mean the pups came from reputable breeders. No reputable breeder will ever sell their puppies to a pet store. Also, pet stores buy puppies "in bulk" and so stick to buying puppies from brokers and commercial breeders who can supply them.
- Generally, commercial and large-scale breeders will sell directly to pet stores. However, they may also sell directly to the public. In this case, they may sell their dogs at a cheaper price because they produce so many. In addition to having to sell so much "inventory", puppy mills charge less because they spend less on the food, shelter, and vet needs of their dogs. They also do not health test the parents for genetic issues--health testing is very expensive.
- Regardless if they are sold directly or through a pet store, puppies produced by puppy mills are often inbred and/or will have physical or mental problems as they mature. Usually the puppies will look healthy at the store. However, most health problems will not be apparent in the first few days with your new puppy. Genetic problems reveal themselves over the first few years of the dog's life! A "healthy" looking puppy in a pet store can be a ticking time bomb!
- In addition to avoiding pet stores for buying your puppy, be careful of advertisements that advertise dogs priced unusually low for that breed. Often times, puppy mills or backyard breeders (discussed later) will advertise in the paper or elsewhere. Advertisements that advertise several litters of several different breeds of dogs is also a red flag. However, some show breeders and reputable breeders do have more than one breed. Do your research and know what to expect to pay for your breed. The Havanese Club of America suggests to pay between $1500-$2500 for a Havanese! Havanese advertised as significantly less than this range are a concern.
When looking for a puppy:
- Essentially, you get what you pay for when it comes to dogs; research the breed, and be careful when selecting a breeder. Spending a few more dollars for a puppy from a reputable breeder is well worth it in the long run.
- If you see a dog priced unusually low, or just feel something is not quite right about a puppy, an advertisement, or a breeder, trust your gut, and run away!
- Ask to meet the puppy, and if that is not possible (an out-of-state breeder), ask for several pictures of the puppy. Ask to see one or both of the parents of the litter, or pictures of them.
- Ask about health testing. The Havanese Club of America (HCA) has information about what testing needs to be done on every breeding parent.
A Second Warning for "Backyard Breeders"
- Also, get the puppy checked out by the vet after you get it; finding out that something is wrong sooner will save you grief later. All puppies should be vet checked before leaving the breeder...ask to see proof of the vet visit and the vet's findings about your puppy! All puppies sold in MN are subject to the puppy Lemon Law--all breeders selling puppies must guarantee their health for 1 year. If there is an issue, don't be afraid to go back to the breeder and ask questions and inform them of your concerns.
- Backyard Breeders (byb) are those that know little about the breed(s) they are breeding. They may have bred for profit or for "fun". An example might be someone that thinks their dog is cute and so thinks it will be fun to breed; or a family that wants to "teach the miracle of birth" to their children. Or it may just be someone looking to make a few dollars that doesn't care how their puppies turn out or what they are breeding.
- Usually these breeders have bought their dogs from other backyard breeders or from puppy mills. Reputable breeders will not sell AKC full registration dogs or dogs they know will be bred without being shown or seriously evaluated first (as well as health tested!).
How to spot a BYB:
- Although these breeders are usually well-intentioned, their lack of knowledge about their breed, reproduction and the correct way to improve the breed, greatly hinders the puppies they produce. They may not do all necessary health testing and use all precautions needed for serious breeding. The result can be puppies with genetic or other health problems or a maladjusted or unsocialized dog.
- Especially if you are looking for a show or breeding dog, avoid BYB (backyard breeders). AKC standards are strict and the percent of dogs that can/should be shown and bred is very small compared to the overall population.
- First of all, do your homework. Know what to look for in a Havanese and what health testing is appropriate for the breed: OFA hips, elbows, patellas, heart, BAER hearing test, CERF eyes, and even a liver bile acid and thyroid test. A reputable breeder should know all about the breed and what testing is necessary (as well as having actually completed all the testing).
- Your breeder should be able to answer all your questions including general puppy questions.
- Ask if the parents fall within the AKC standard
- BYB usually do not show their dogs or do not compete in AKC events.
- Make sure the puppies are AKC registered. There are other breed registries such as APRI that do not have as strict guidelines. By buying a puppy that is AKC registered, you are assured it is a purebred dog.
- I highly suggest choosing a breeder that currently shows the breed. It takes a lot of money, effort, time and knowledge to compete and win in the conformation ring. A serious breeder that is willing to prove their dogs are worthy and correct and a breeder that is very knowledgeable and experienced will provide you with the best possible puppy--even if you are just looking for a pet. Don't buy a dog impulsively or just for the cute face. They are going to be your longtime friend and companion so research and careful selection is well worth it!