May the Best Breeder Win: Finding the Dachshund for You

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Taking action to find the right breeder for you
  • Distinguishing the good breeders from the not-so-good
  • Understanding why you need a contract
  • Choosing your pup from the breeder’s litter
  • Developing a relationship with your breeder of choice
  • Considering buying from a pet shop

Ready to go hunting? Whoa there, put away that orange vest! This kind of hunting is all about locating the very best Dachshund breeder you can find. Because Dachshunds are popular, they’re pretty easy to find — but a quality breeder is a different story. Unfortunately, for-profit breeders often churn out dogs with quantity in mind rather than quality, resulting in pets with health and/or temperament issues.

The good news is, great Dachshund breeders also abound, if you know where to look. A good Dachshund breeder is absolutely crazy for his or her beloved breed and is working in whatever way possible to ensure that Dachshunds get better and better with each new generation — in health, looks, and temperament. How do you know the good breeder from the not-so-good breeder? Well, that’s what this chapter is all about. (If you’re more interested in rescuing a Dachshund from a shelter or rescue group, skip to Chapter Rescue Me! Adopting a Dachshund.)
The point of this chapter is to help you remember that just seeing an adorable Mini Dachshund for sale doesn’t mean your search is over. You have some more work to do, and this work is important. It’s time to track down the right Dachshund for you — and that hunt starts with the right breeder.

Finding the Right Breeder

So how do you find a breeder who loves Dachshunds and devotes his or her life to making Dachshunds stronger, healthier, and more beautiful? You do a little research, and you ask for help. Many local and national Dachshund clubs will be happy to provide you with referrals to breeders they’ve found acceptable. For instance, you can contact the Dachshund Club of America (DCA), which is a great resource for Dachshund information and of reputable member breeders who have signed a strict code of ethics about breeding practices. Check out its Web site at www.dachshund-dca.org and click on Breeders/Puppies, or you can go straight to its list of breeder referral coordinators by state at www.dachshund-dca.org/breederreferral.html. Also, check out www.dachshund-dca.org/clubs.htmlfor a list of local branches of the national club. A branch in your area may be able to give you the most relevant information.

Tip

Another great way to find a breeder is by visiting a dog show (see Chapter Advanced Training and Competing for Fun). Dog shows bring many breeders to one place for your browsing convenience. Ask around and see what names you hear over and over. What kennel names have a great reputation? What breeder seems to be great in your area? Dog shows are full of people who probably have some pretty strong opinions about who the best breeders are. Be friendly and ask questions (but wait until the breeders or handlers are done showing and have a minute to relax). You can also ask breeders at a dog show any Dachshund questions you may have — from inquiring about the suggested price of a healthy pet to the best diet for a Miniature. But beware: You may get bitten by the bug and want to buy a champion and start showing!

In other words, you want to go where the Dachshund people go. You’ll get the low-down.

Remember

You may think a “fancy” show breeder will charge a paw and a tail for a good Dachshund, but think again! Pet stores typically charge at least as much or more for their purebred dogs, and you won’t be able to get much after-care advice, let alone see the parents or talk to the breeder about breeding priorities. And when you buy a dog from the newspaper or online, you may find a cheaper price, but how much support are you going to get? What kind of guarantee will you get? What happens if something is wrong with the dog? Will the breeder you find really know what he or she is doing? A hobby breeder who shows his or her dogs will definitely be your best investment and the most likely source of a healthy, happy Dachshund. 

Visiting potential breeders

After you obtain some breeder names through your research, you can start talking to breeders and evaluating their breeding programs. Visit several kennels (even if you think you’ve found your dream Dachsie at the very first place you visit). Ask questions (see the following section for some possibilities). Look at the puppies, the parents, and the surroundings. Watch how the puppies interact with each other and how they behave toward you and the breeder. You can learn a lot about a breeder just by paying attention.
The following list presents a few red flags to watch for when visiting a breeder:

– The puppies shy away from the breeder.

– The adult dogs other than the mother don’t seem approachable, or they act nervous.

– The surroundings are very dirty.

– The breeder avoids certain questions or refuses to let you see the parents of a litter.

– The breeder is eager to have you take home a Standard Dachshund puppy younger than 8 weeks or a Miniature Dachshund puppy younger than 12 weeks.

– The dogs look too thin or sickly, have bare spots in their coats, or have bloated bellies.

If you notice any of the red flags in the previous list, keep looking for better breeders. You may feel sorry for those poor puppies, but buying one just supports bad breeding, and you’ll likely be in for a lot of expense and heartaches. The wait to find a really good breeder is worth it.

Warning!

Some breeders aren’t worth your time, no matter how cute the puppies are. If a breeder tells you one thing on the phone (or at a dog show or other meeting) but you find that the opposite is true when you visit; if the terms of a sale change when the breeder learns more about you (perhaps the dog suddenly becomes more expensive when the breeder sees your sports car, or the dog you want suddenly isn’t available but a smaller, sicklier-looking pup is conveniently on sale); or if you get any kind of bad feeling about the situation, trust your intuition and move on. No matter how fetching and/or bargain-priced the puppies are, dealing with a disreputable or irresponsible breeder isn’t worth it.

Remember

Good breeders, on the other hand, aren’t out to make a profit. A “high” price on a Dachshund from a good breeder only seems high to someone on the outside. A good breeder probably just barely covers expenses, and many don’t even do that. Plus, most breeders find that setting higher prices helps to screen out impulse purchases and people who aren’t really committed to pet ownership.

Putting a breeder checklist to use

You need to ask a potential breeder plenty of questions, and a good breeder will ask you plenty of questions, too. But what do you ask in order to figure out whether he or she is breeding responsibly and producing healthy, happy, well-adjusted puppies? You don’t have to be a pet detective. Just bring along this checklist to every kennel and dog show you visit, and don’t be afraid to ask the breeders you meet every question. You can learn a lot from their answers and from what they don’t — or won’t — tell you. Here are some things to ask:

What do I need to know about Dachshunds in general and about your Dachshunds in particular? You’ve probably done plenty of research by this point (or will if you continue with this book!), but you still want to know what the breeder has to tell you about the breed. Listen for a couple of things:

  • Does the breeder seem very knowledgeable about Dachshunds, or does he or she tell you only very general things you already know?
  • Does the breeder only tell you the good side of the breed, or does he or she let you know about the challenging aspects of Dachshund ownership?
  • Can the breeder give you a good idea about the specific dogs and lines of his or her kennel? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his or her particular dogs?

– How long have you been breeding Dachshunds? Find out how the breeder got started. If the breeder has been in it for decades, you’ve probably found somebody established and very knowledgeable. A breeder new to the game may also have great intentions and be producing great pups. But plenty of people try breeding and give it up quickly, so a breeder who has stood the test of time may be a better bet.

How often do you breed? A breeder in it for 20 years who has bred only a handful of litters won’t have “20 years of experience.” On the other hand, a breeder in the business for only a few years who has already bred 100 litters probably is going for profit, not quality; chances are, the dogs he or she produces aren’t kept in very good conditions. Your best bet: an experienced hobby breeder who breeds one or two litters every year or two.

What’s your philosophy of dog breeding? Asking this question gives you a little insight into what the breeder is all about. No breeder will say, “Oh, well, you know, I’m just in it for the cold, hard cash,” But responses that sound ill-informed, vague, or don’t have anything to do with health and temperament — or no response to a question at all — should raise red flags. Breeders who seem passionate about improving the health of the breed and enhancing the Dachshund’s friendly and agreeable temperament — who say things like, “All my dogs would make great pets because, to me, pet quality means the highest possible quality” — are probably sources for excellent pets.

Have any of your dogs suffered from canine intervertebral disk disease? What are the chances my dog will get it? Disk disease is a serious issue for Dachshunds, and you need to get the straight poop. (Also check out Chapter Handling Dachshund Health Problems for more on the issue.) If a breeder answers that yes, he or she has had dogs with disk disease, that’s no reason to run. In fact, that means the breeder is being honest. Although some breeders are able to keep their lines largely free of this disease, the condition is so common in Dachshunds that most breeders who have been in the business for a long period of time have experienced it. Look for a breeder who’s straightforward about disk disease. Honesty is much more important than waiting for a breeder to tell you, “In 35 years, none of my Dachshunds have ever had back problems.” Chances are, if you hear that, you aren’t getting the whole truth.

Remember

Breeders shouldn’t breed Dachshunds that experience canine intervertebral disk disease. Sounds like a clear-cut rule. However, because disk problems typically don’t manifest themselves until the average age of 4 years, and because no test can determine which dogs will suffer from it, Dachshunds are sometimes bred and then later develop back problems through no fault of the breeder.

– May I call your veterinarian for a reference? A breeder who won’t give you the number of his or her vet either doesn’t want you to know something or doesn’t visit the vet very often. Both are bad signs. Better to have a breeder who takes puppies and dogs to the vet often than to have a breeder whose dogs are “so healthy they don’t need a vet.” All dogs need periodic, regular vet visits, and good breeders make sure they get them. 

When you get the vet’s contact information, call the vet and ask about the health and temperament of that breeder’s dogs. The vet has no personal stake in whether the breeder sells a puppy, so assuming that the vet is a good one, you should get an unbiased review.

What kind of health guarantee do you offer? Good breeders require that new owners take their puppies to the vet right away — usually within three to seven days, and more often within a day or two. If the veterinarian finds a serious health problem, the breeder should be willing to refund your money or replace the puppy. Of course, you may not want to give up your puppy, and you may be willing to do whatever it takes to get your puppy through whatever health crisis has arisen. But the breeder should make amends if you so desire. Get an agreement in writing.

What vaccinations does the puppy have already, and what will I need to do in terms of future health care? The breeder should’ve given his or her puppies at least one set of standard vaccinations and should give you a schedule of vaccinations to be administered by your vet. Also, be sure to get the name and number of the breeder’s vet so that your vet can call to find out what has been given so far.

Warning!

Puppies need vaccinations, but overvaccinating isn’t good for a puppy. If a 7- or 8-week-old puppy has already had three rounds of vaccines, that’s too much; the breeder may be using vaccines to try to cover up poor health.

I plan to keep this puppy forever. If something comes up, however, that makes it impossible for me to keep the puppy in the future, will you take it back? Not all breeders will do so, but many will because they care about their puppies finding and remaining in good homes. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a refund ten years later, and you shouldn’t expect it. But most good breeders who truly love their Dachsies will want them back rather than have them end up in shelters or rescue programs.

Remember

Of course, you do plan to keep your puppy forever, don’t you? A commitment on your part is as necessary as a good health guarantee. A breeder will be looking for signs that you’ll be a responsible and committed puppy owner, not somebody looking for future opportunities to get rid of a canine inconvenience.

When can I take the puppy home? Most good breeders won’t let you take a puppy home until it’s at least 8 weeks old; most Miniature breeders prefer to wait until at least 12 weeks. Those 6-week-old puppies in the pet store are simply too young, especially for a small dog. Between the 9th and 12th weeks, puppies learn to interact with their littermates; during this time, they build a healthy foundation for future interaction with other dogs. This development may even facilitate future socialization efforts on your part.

In addition to the benefits of sticking by their littermates, puppies get important nutritional benefits from nursing longer. Reserve your puppy, put down a deposit, and wait it out.

What sizes are your dogs? Because Miniature Dachshunds are popular, some less-reputable breeders try to pass off tweenies, or small Standards, as Miniatures. Technically, a Miniature is a dog that weighs 11 pounds or less at 1 year of age. Because you’re probably buying a puppy, you can’t know for certain that your dog will grow up to be a true Miniature. However, experienced breeders can usually tell whether a puppy is going to be a true Miniature. (For more on dog sizes, see Chapter The Long and Short of Dachshund Varieties.)

Tip

The best way to tell that your puppy will be a true Miniature is to see both parents. Ask to have them weighed in front of you. If both are true Minis, chances are good that your puppy will be, too — especially if the puppy’s pedigree has many champions. Champions in your puppy’s pedigree means the line is probably breeding true, and your puppy will be more likely to look like its parents.

May I see some of your other dogs? A breeder should be proud to show you his or her dogs. Look for good health and friendly temperament. The dogs should be approachable and easygoing. The breeder should be able to take any of the adult dogs out on a lead, and you should be able to go up to a dog and pet it without the dog displaying any growling, shying away, or nipping. These are serious signs of temperament problems in healthy adult dogs.

Remember

One important exception: A part of the breed standard says that the Dachshund should be bold to the point of brashness. This characteristic makes new mothers pretty protective, so if the mother of the litter you like doesn’t seem to want you to get within six feet of her precious babies, don’t be alarmed. That’s just nature in action.

There’s no dog like a show dog

Think you’re buying a show Dachshund? Technically, if a breeder sells you a “show dog,” he or she is guaranteeing that your dog won’t have any disqualifying faults (see Chapters Defining the Dashing Dachshund and Advanced Training and Competing for Fun). But Dachshunds don’t have many disqualifying faults. In fact, they have just one: The front legs shouldn’t knuckle over. Now, a show dog with potential to win a championship is something else. If you want a show dog with winning potential, you need to do a little more research on what constitutes a winning Dachshund. Talk to your breeder and consider apprenticing with someone who’s experienced with dog shows before choosing your potential champion.

Tip

Don’t be too quick to ask about cost just yet. Just as you don’t want to buy a puppy from someone breeding only for profit, a breeder doesn’t want to sell to somebody just looking for the cheapest thing on four legs. When you determine that you’re working with a good breeder, you can start talking dollars and cents. Dachshund prices can vary by geographical region, as well as by how closely a Dachshund pup fits the breed standard (see Chapter Defining the Dashing Dachshund). Expect to pay between $400 and $800 for a well-bred pet.

Wait a minute . . . the breeder isn’t through with you yet. Don’t think that you’ll be doing all the interviewing! A good breeder should screen you just as carefully as you screen him or her. Expect to be asked where you plan to keep your dog, why you want a dog, and if you can afford a dog. And get ready for a lecture on the responsibilities of pet ownership. A buyer who has done research and is open to instruction, and who truly seems to bond with a puppy, will look like a good prospect to a breeder.

Getting the Real Scoop on Contracts

Any lawyer would cringe if you buy an $800 dog without a contract; however, not all breeders use contracts. Breeders get a sense about buyers, and vice versa, and if everyone feels good about the purchase of a pet, both parties may feel a contract is an unnecessary formality. I admit that I’ve bought expensive things without a contract — I even leased a house without one (don’t tell my lawyer). And perhaps you don’t want to bother with the legal mumbo jumbo. But a lot of people don’t make purchases or sell dogs without contracts in place, and that’s sensible. However, contracts protect both you and the breeder and can simplify matters if any issues come up later — like a health issue, a bounced check, or any other dispute. Sure, contracts can be broken, but if they’re legal and well-written, you have recourse if you suffer a loss.
The contract should state, in very specific terms, what will happen if something goes wrong and what kinds of matters the buyer or breeder must take responsibility for. For instance, the contract could state that if your dog is injured while in your care, the breeder isn’t responsible; however, if the dog gets sick with something like parvovirus that she contracted under the care of the breeder, or if she has a serious genetic problem, the breeder is responsible.
The contract should also mention the following:

If something goes wrong, the responsible party should have a specified amount of time to correct the problem. This setup prevents either you or the breeder from rushing to sue the moment something happens to someone’s dissatisfaction.

What laws will apply. If you and the breeder live in different states, the contract should specify which state has jurisdiction should a conflict arise.

What constitutes correction of the problem. Will you get your money back? Will you get a replacement puppy? Will the choice be up to you? If you want to keep the dog and pay to have a genetic problem corrected or an illness treated, will the breeder help you with the costs?

Remember

In general, asking for a contract isn’t a sign that you don’t trust someone, and no good breeder should be offended if you ask for one. Most probably already have contracts they always use.

Picking the Best Puppy for You

When you pick a breeder, develop a relationship, and set the terms of the purchase from your chosen breeder, all you have left to do is pick a puppy. But how do you know which one to pick? Dachshund puppies are all so cute (see Figure 4-1). Is one as good as the next?
Yes and no. All the puppies up for sale in a well-bred litter probably will make great pets. In some cases, however, the temperament and tendencies of a particular puppy will turn out to be best suited to you. Who knows the litter best? The breeder, of course.
Figure 4-1: Which of these puppies is the pick of the litter?
The breeder can be an invaluable resource in helping you pick the puppy that will best match you and your situation. Good breeders get to know their puppies as they care for them, socialize them, and teach them the ropes of life in a human world. The breeder should know which puppies tend to be more boisterous, which are quieter, which love to fetch, which seem fond of cats, and which seem to adore kids. Let your breeder help you pick based on your needs, situation, and desires.
Of course, you may focus on one particular puppy and just know that she’s the one. Or perhaps the puppy will choose you! You can’t argue with chemistry. If you bond with a particular pup, and she seems healthy and well-bred and the breeder agrees that the match would be a good one, go for it. You’ve found your friend for life.

Tip

Wondering how to spot a healthy Dachshund puppy? Look for the following characteristics:

  • A healthy coat with no bald patches
  • Bright, shiny eyes that don’t run
  • Clean, white, sharp puppy teeth
  • Clean ears that are free of parasites
  • A clean rear end with no encrusted feces
  • Free and easy movement with no limping
  • A healthy display of energy and curiosity

Warning!

Tempted by that shy or incredibly sleepy puppy — the one that’s smaller than all the rest? You may be able to nurse the little one back to boisterous health, but excessive fatigue, lack of energy, extra-small size, or unusual shyness may be a sign that your puppy isn’t thriving. You may be asking for heartbreak. Let the breeder handle that puppy and choose a healthy one instead.

Forming a Good Bond with a Dachsie Breeder

Finding a good breeder is like finding gold in the creek bed (okay, it’s probably easier than that). Not only do you benefit right now, but you and your Dachshund benefit for the rest of your lives — if you play your cards right, invest in your breeder, and proceed wisely. When you find a good Dachshund breeder, forge a partnership. Good breeders should be happy to provide you with all the information you need, and most are excited to continue the relationship. If a problem comes up, the breeder can guide you. If your dog gets sick or develops a problem, the breeder can tell you what course of action to take. And most breeders just love getting holiday cards with photos so they can see how their little puppies have grown up!

Remember

I’m not saying that you should harass your breeder with constant questions. Breeders have lives — usually pretty busy ones. Because responsible dog breeding isn’t a profit-making venture, most breeders are in it purely for the love of Dachshunds, so they have to hold regular jobs, too. They may have families, take their dogs to dog shows on weekends, and have a tough time getting a full night’s rest when they have litters of puppies in their homes. Your breeder won’t have time to talk to you on the phone every day, nursing you through your Dachshund’s puppyhood trials and tribulations. That’s why doing your research (like reading this book!) and becoming fully prepared for the responsibility of puppy ownership is so important.

But the breeder you choose does need to know about health problems that arise — especially genetic ones that could influence his or her breeding program. The breeder can help you out, and you can help out the breeder, too, by keeping in touch and sharing information about your Dachshund’s health and behavior.
The following tips can help you maintain a good relationship with your Dachshund’s breeder — ensuring that you, the breeder, and, most importantly, your Dachshund receive the maximum benefit of your commitment:

Don’t call the breeder early in the morning or late at night. That’s just rude!

When you call, be polite, not demanding. Express your awareness that you’re taking up the breeder’s time instead of taking the attitude that the breeder is there to serve you.

Don’t mistake the breeder for your vet. If the problem involves pain, bleeding, broken bones, or drastic changes in habits, appetite, activity level, or behavior, please call your vet first — and fast.

Don’t assume that the breeder is at fault for a medical problem. An accusatory tone puts a person on the defensive. Simply explain what’s going on and get some feedback.

Remember

Make sure, before you buy, that you have in place a health guarantee that makes arrangements for what will happen in the event of a health problem. (See the section “Getting the Real Scoop on Contracts”.)

Recognize that your breeder loved your puppy first and helped to bring it into the world. The breeder is more family than business associate.

How Much Is That Dachsie in the Window?

Warning!

I don’t generally recommend buying a Dachshund from a pet store for many reasons:

– You usually can’t see the puppy’s parents.

– You can’t visit the breeder’s breeding facility.

– You can’t ask the breeder questions.

– Most pet store employees don’t know much about individual dog breeds.

– Pet store puppies often are taken away from their mothers and siblings earlier than most breeders and canine behaviorists recommend.

– The price to purchase from a pet store usually is significantly higher.

The problem with not being able to see the dog’s parents, the breeding facility where it was born, or even the breeder is that you can’t get a sense as to whether the adorable little Dachshund was socialized at all, raised in healthy conditions, or bred to minimize health problems (like disk disease). That Dachsie in the window may turn out to be a wonderful pet, but your odds for securing a pet with good health and temperament are better if you buy from a breeder.
However, if you simply can’t resist that Dachshund puppy at the pet store (you’re only human, after all), and you’re willing to pay more money for a dog that comes with less background information, take a few very important precautions. You won’t be able to tell everything about a dog from looking — not even a vet can do that. Health problems like disk disease may not become evident for several years. The following list presents some advice if you insist on buying a pet store puppy:

Try to get background information. Your pet store puppy probably won’t have parents on the premises, but the store should have a written record of the shots and wormings the puppy has already had. Don’t expect to learn much about the puppy’s temperament from the pet store, however. The puppy probably hasn’t been in the store very long, and pet store employees usually aren’t trained to determine things like temperament.

Give the puppy a once-over. Is the coat clean and shiny? Are the puppy’s eyes, ears, nose, and rectum clean? Does the puppy act happy and energetic? Red flags include small bald spots; “hot spots” (red, itchy places); dry, scaly patches; runny or crusty eyes or nose; dirty ears; a dirty rectum; and tired, slow, low-energy behavior. The puppy could be napping, of course, so come back later in the day to see if the puppy perks up and shows interest in you.

Get a guarantee in writing. Most pet stores will guarantee their puppies for a certain amount of time, but that time period often is pretty short (a day or two or a week or two). Take the puppy to your vet immediately after purchase with the (written) understanding that, should the vet determine the puppy is in ill-health, you can bring it back for a full refund. If you know and accept exactly where the pet store’s responsibility begins and ends in terms of a health guarantee, you won’t run into misunderstandings later.

– Make a commitment. A pet store puppy, like any other puppy, may suffer from health problems later on. The dog will need plenty of socialization, attention, and training. Please make the commitment to care for your Dachshund and give it the training and love it deserves

by Eve Adamson

Comments on Facebook