SELECTING YOUR PUPPY
Before you begin the search for that special puppy to share your home, there are several issues that you must first resolve. The most important question of all is whether or not you are ready to commit yourself to being a responsible dog owner. Is there time in your life to devote to your new companion, or will he be left alone for long stretches of time, while you are at work or school? Are all members of your family happy about getting a puppy or do some view him as an intrusion? Questions such as these must be honestly answered before you make the decision to get a puppy, as this is a long-term commitment and you must do what is best for both you and the animal.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PUPPY
When evaluating litters of puppies, in an attempt to select the one that is right for you, what should you look for? Your primary concern should be for signs of health. A puppy should look plump and well-fed. His ribs and hip bones should not be protruding prominently. A very thin or potbellied puppy may have worms and should be carefully inspected by a veterinarian. A healthy puppy should have clear eyes and there should be no discharge from his eyes or nose. The coat should be filling in nicely, without bare patches or obvious sores, and there should be no sign of a rash on the inside of the dog’s legs or on his abdomen. Check his hearing ability by standing behind the puppy and making loud noises. He should quickly respond to the commotion and turn to you. Given that most puppies you see will pass this basic health exam, what else should you be looking for?
Among a litter of healthy puppies, one may stand out as the most jovial or outgoing. He may do things to attract your attention and generally seems to like you, as if he has picked you for his own! Be sure he is vigorous and of similar size with his littermates. Generally the runt or giant of the litter does not grow into the best specimen. He should be alert and full of energy, not listless and shy. Concern yourself with his general appearance and that of the area he has been raised in. A caring, thoughtful breeder will not allow his breeding quarters and animals to become infested with parasites, and such good breeding care often results in healthy, lively dogs.
WHAT AGE IS BEST?
While puppies certainly are the most adorable at six weeks of age, this is not the most advantageous age from an owner’s point of view. At six weeks the puppy is like a baby that requires care twenty-four hours a day. He is too young to reliably housebreak, he requires four or more feedings a day, and he is undisciplined. In fact, a much higher percentage of four-to-six-week-old puppies die shortly after being placed with new owners than do eight-week-olds who have greater stamina. From an economic standpoint, it is certainly best for breeders to sell their puppies when they are very young; they do not incur the additional expense of those first few trips to the veterinarian. But from a buyer’s standpoint, one must consider how much time one has to devote to a puppy’s early care before setting out to purchase that new family member.
Purchase your puppy when you find the one you feel will be best for you – whether he is six weeks old or six months old. One possible solution for dealing with primary puppy care is to board the six-week-old puppy with the breeder for a month or two after you purchase him. Experienced breeders are generally more adept at dealing with the needs of puppies and may be amenable to this arrangement for a fee, of course. If you are considering the purchase of an adult dog that has never been kept as a house pet, be sure to check his disposition carefully, as he may have trouble adjusting to family life.
MALE OR FEMALE?
If you are interested in breeding and raising a litter of puppies, you should, of course, select a good-quality female (a bitch). Those who do not plan on breeding their dogs should bear in mind that a non-neutered female will attract males whenever she comes into heat. These heat cycles occur approximately every six months, last two to three weeks, and can be very annoying. Spaying will eliminate this problems.
Males are often slightly larger than their female counterparts, but both sexes make good pets.
SHOW QUALITY OR PET QUALITY?
When purchasing your purebred puppy, you must decide whether you want him to be a companion or whether you want to show him in competition. This is very important because only the finest breed specimens should be entered into active competition. Show-quality puppies are the hardest to find and are the most expensive to buy. If you are not interested in dog-show exhibiting, any healthy, well-bred specimen of the breed should do.
If showing is your intention, you should buy a puppy from a knowledgeable and reputable breeder. The puppies available from most neighborhood owners are generally termed “pet quality.” This does not mean that they will make inferior or superior pets as compared to show-quality dogs; it just means they are somehow slightly faulty when measured against the breed’s standard of perfection. This faultiness is rarely evident to anyone except a breeder or dog-show judge and is of great concern only when you are entering the dog in competition. Be sure to make your desire to show the dog clear to the breeder so that he or she will sell you the best specimen possible that you can afford. Dedicated breeders strive to produce the finest dogs they can, ones that will enhance the quality of the breed. Not all dogs owned by even the top breeders are of superior quality when compared against the standard; therefore, a breeder may stipulate that you may not breed the pet-quality animal and thereby pass on his faulty traits. So bear this in mind and be sure to clarify your breeding intentions at the time of sale. Also, be aware that you will pay top prices for show dogs and for those females with brood bitch potential.
ONE DOG OR MORE?
Dogs, once they mature from puppy hood, generally prefer the attention of humans to the companionship of another dog, so there is no real need to buy your puppy a companion unless he is to be left alone a lot of the time. If this is the case, the second dog may help counteract loneliness, but you run the risk of having two unhappy pets on your hands.
If you are introducing a puppy into a home with an older dog, remember that there will be a period of adjustment for both dogs. The older dog may manifest signs of jealousy and resent the intrusion of the puppy. To counteract this, be sure to give the older dog lots of attention. At feeding time be sure to watch both dogs – especially the puppy, who, not knowing the rules, may try to steal from the other dog’s bowl. Most adult dogs will accept a new dog in the home after a day or two; but if either dog shows any aggressiveness, you may want to keep them separated. Introduce them to each other for short periods of time until they become more accustomed to each other.
PURCHASING YOUR PUPPY
Once you’re decided that you are ready to commit yourself to being a good owner and you’ve selected those characteristics and traits that you want in your dog, where do you go to locate that specific puppy you’ve been thinking so much about?
[The MSPCA Website offers a Breeder’s Directory you may consult in locating a breeder of a registered Miniature Shar-Pei. Members of the MSPCA have the opportunity to place an ad in this location for your convenience to easily locate them. Individuals placing ads are solely responsible for the content of representations and claims made for their dogs, products, and services. Another way to locate a breeder is through MSPCA dog shows. Upcoming shows are listed on the main page of the website. Under NO circumstances should you purchase any puppy from a pet store.]
While you may pay more for a puppy from a professional breeder than you would from a local mating, you may be able to see several generations of your dog’s ancestors at the breeder’s kennel. This should give you a good indication of what your puppy will look and act like when it grows up. Make sure you see both or at least one of the puppy’s parents.
In the case of a show-quality puppy, it is best if you visit more than one breeder and evaluate as many litters as you can find, even if you think you’ve found the right dog. If you are looking for a true top-quality specimen, you should attend some dog shows and talk to the exhibitors. Some may have puppies or young dogs for sale or know of some people who do. At the very least, these breed enthusiasts can acquaint you with the finer points of what to look for and give you inside information on how to proceed, where to go, and what to pay.
Once you have selected your puppy, arrange with the owner to allow the dog to be taken to your veterinarian for a health examination. Most breeders will let you return the dog within a few days if she should fail the health exam for any reason. Get this in writing, and be sure of the terms. Some owners will replace the ailing dog with another dog and some will return all your money. This agreement, however, generally does not apply if you have a change of heart; it applies only if the dog is certified, by the vet, as being physically unfit.
Before you take the puppy home, be sure to ask the breeder for all the puppy’s inoculation and health records. The breeder also may be able to familiarize you with some of your puppy’s habits or personality traits. Did he have a favorite toy or blanket that you could take home with you to help ease the transition to his new home? Ask what and how often the puppy has been fed. Try not to vary this diet very much once you have gotten him home, to avoid possible stomach or bowel upset. Some thoughtful breeders often give the new owners a few days’ supply of the puppy’s food so that he can continue eating the same food in his new environment.
At the time of sale, arrange with the breeder to furnish you with your purebred puppy’s registration papers from the national kennel club [Miniature Shar-Pei Club of America]. Depending on the age of the dog, you may be given the registration application or the completed registration certificate, if this has already been received back from the registering body. Once a litter is born, the breeder generally applies to register the litter, specifying the names of the sire and dam and stating the number of puppies. The governing kennel club then issues a registration application for each of the qualifying puppies. If you are purchasing a six-to-ten-week-old puppy, this application will most likely be what you receive. With this, you will give the dog a his official name and transfer ownership of the puppy from the breeder to you. The breeder will have to supply some of the information on the form, so discuss this application procedure with him or her if you are not sure how to proceed.
If you are purchasing a slightly older dog, he may have been registered with the national kennel club and a registration certificate may already been issued.
Occasionally a breeder may purposely withhold the puppy’s registration certificate from the new owner. This is generally done because the dog has a fault that is disqualifying, according to the breed or dog-show standards. This does not mean that the dog will not make a good pet, rather that the breeder is striving to eliminate the disqualifying traits from his dog’s future offspring. He may stipulate that the only way he will sell such a pet-quality animal is if the new owner agrees not to breed him. Once the puppy has been neutered, the breeder usually will render the registration material, should the owner still want the dog registered. Through the actions of such conscientious breeders, the overall quality of purebred dogs is enhanced for future generations.
Reprinted with permission from The Chinese Shar-Pei, TFH Productions, Neptune City, N.J