More Questions To Ask A Breeder
As I said on the previous page, the most important question to ask is, "Are you a member of the Newfoundland Club of America?" If the answer is "yes," the chances are very good that you will be dealing with a breeder who will treat you fairly, and who will be there to help you when you need advice about raising your new puppy.
If the answer is, "no," then it's all the more important that you question the breeder carefully and thoroughly. Remember: even though you're almost certainly dealing in a seller's market, you still have an obligation to yourself to be absolutely sure of the breeder you're dealing with.
There are plenty of web pages with lists of questions to ask the breeders that you contact. I'd recommend that you read and digest what I've written here, then go look though the other examples I'll point you to on the links page, and come up with your own core list.
Keep in mind, though, that the bottom-feeders of the dog world have lots of practice in telling hopeful purchasers the things they want to hear, especially over the phone. Asking one of these people, "Why do you breed dogs?" as many sites recommend, is a waste of breath. Of course they are going to answer, "Because I love Newfies and want to improve the breed."
Do you really think they're going to reply, "It's a great way to make a quick buck?"
With that in mind, I'm going to give you my own list of suggested questions. Most of these reflect my philosophy that you are not so much shopping for a dog- you’re shopping for a breeder. Work with the right breeder, and the rest falls into place.
Four Key Questions
First thing about the breeder: I'd want to find out if they show their dogs, or participate in other competitive activities. Yes, I know- you're only looking for a pet, and you're not interested in a show dog. That's not the point. Showing dogs in the ring, or participating in events like water rescue trials or draft competitions are the way that breeders establish their reputations. If they're not doing this, there's something wrong.
Question two is another one to help screen out the puppy farmer: at what age do you let your puppies leave home?
A responsible Newfie breeder will not separate a pup from its mother before 9 weeks of age; 10 is more common. This should ensure that the pups are fully weaned and have been properly socialized before leaving for their home. A puppy farmer wants to cut expenses and get the puppies out the door as soon as possible. (The breeder who carelessly allowed our Abbie to become pregnant mentioned in conversation that she sends her puppies off at five weeks... that gives an idea of her standards of care!)
This is one where you will have to do some homework. Go to the Canine Health Information Center page and read up on Newfie health issues.
At a minimum, the parents should have been x-rayed for potential hip and elbow problems, and certified by the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals or the Genetic Disease Control; their hearts should have been checked; and they should have been screened for cystinuria. If the breeder tries to dodge this question, walk away.
Question number four is somewhat unorthodox: Somewhere in the conversation, I'd tactfully try to find out what the breeder - or his/her spouse- does for a living. If you get the slightest hint that this person supports him/herself by selling puppies -- "Well, the kennel takes up most of my time, but I also sell Newfie coffee mugs and tee-shirts on eBay" -- cross them off your list right now. This is the indelible mark of a puppy farmer.
The answers to these four questions ought to help you get a picture in your mind of what sort of breeder you're dealing with. But even if you like what you hear, you're nowhere near finished asking questions.
Even More Questions Worth Asking:
Experience is important, and all other things being equal, it's best to deal with a breeder with a long track record. However, longevity alone is no guarantee: I know of one notorious Midwestern mini-mill that's been churning out puppies for at least 28 years.
If a breeder has one -- or maybe two -- varieties besides Newfoundlands, I wouldn't let it worry me too much. If they listed off several breeds, I'd definitely be concerned. (If the answer involves an unrecognized crossbreed like "labra-doodles" or "cock-a-poos," that's a great big red flag right there.)
There's no right or wrong answer to either of these questions, but the answers you get can help give you a picture of the operation you're dealing with. An unusually large number of dogs, continuously producing litters? Not a good sign at all for a small breeder.
Now... one last, crucial issue.
Next: The All-Important Paperwork