Pet Points: Expect a good breeder to ask lots of questions

A good friend of mine was interested in purchasing a Wheaton terrier and called a breeder. Before the breeder was willing to discuss her litter, she had some questions for my friend.

“Have you ever had dogs before?” Experienced owners are well aware of the cost and time it takes to care for and train a puppy. New pets are an at least 15-year commitment that a prospective owner must consider. Having had many dogs over the years, my friend is experienced with a number of breeds.

“Dogs require a lot of exercise,” the breeder noted. My friend lives on a farm with active older grandchildren. He knows that a dog who doesn’t get enough exercise can be a problem. Dogs are often placed for adoption because owners have not anticipated the need for regular exercise. 

“Do you understand that this breed must be professionally groomed on a regular basis?” the breeder continued. My friend responded that his daughter is in the grooming business and is quite experienced.

Finally, the breeder asked if he was aware of the medical issues typically seen in Wheaton terriers. At this point, my friend told her he that he had been a veterinarian for 42 years and is aware of the medical needs of this and many other breeds.

Some might think that the breeder’s questions were intrusive, but I would argue that this is a sign of a good breeder. Good breeders want to produce quality dogs with good temperaments, minimal health problems and that conform to the standard of the breed.

Many breed clubs recommend that breeding dogs undergo health screening, which may include x-rays to identify any inherited orthopedic issues, cardiac examinations to identify potential heart problems and eye examinations to spot defects like cataracts or retinal atrophy. Good breeders will provide the certificates from these health tests for the pup’s parents.There are additional breeder expenses in checking for inherited problems and some testing requires the expertise of a specialist.

Irresponsible breeders rarely ask these kinds of questions. They breed puppies as fast as possible and sell them just to make money. Prospective owners should visit the breeder and demand to see at least one of the parents. Facilities should be clean and breeding dogs should be well-socialized family pets. Kennels with multiple breeds of designer dogs in cramped cages indicate a commercial, high-volume breeder and should be avoided.

Responsible breeders have their puppies examined by a veterinarian who will certify they are healthy prior to purchase. New owners should also have puppies examined by their veterinarian soon after purchase and review their pet’s needs.

Animal advocates suggest looking for a new pet first at shelters and rescues, which provide an economical and heartwarming way to become a pet owner. Other people prefer a purebred puppy with a desired size, appearance, characteristics, instinct, ability and disposition. Since breed rescue groups rarely have puppies available, that requires vetting breeders carefully.

Dog clubs provide a social outlet and activities for dogs and their owners. Obedience training and other competitions provides hours of enjoyment for owners with their pets. Having attended dog club meetings as a speaker and owner, I can tell you the camaraderie among club members and their dogs is genuine. Everyone benefits, especially the new puppy.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you’d like addressed in Pet Points, email Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.