In This Chapter
- Researching the puppy’s family and history
- Making sure your puppy is healthy
- Getting everything in writing
The best place to buy a healthy Chihuahua is from a breeder. Beware of puppies being sold by middle-people. For example, no matter how clean the pet shop seems, that appealing pup in the window may have been born in a puppy mill (an overcrowded and filthy facility that breeds and sells hundreds of puppies of various breeds). The combination of poor breeding practices and lack of human attention during the formative weeks can cause lifelong complications. I concede that may not always be the case, because the pet store could be getting its pups from a caring breeder. But you may not be able to tell for sure. So, buyer beware — and buyer be sure to get answers to all the questions in this chapter to ensure that the seller is reputable and cares about the breed.
When dealing with a rescue organization, chances are employees won’t know where the dog originated, but the person fostering the dog can tell you the circumstances of the rescue and everything that’s known about the dog’s health and temperament. Chapter Choosing Your Ideal Chihuahua goes into much more detail about buying from breeders and adopting from other organizations.
How Many Litters a Year Do You Breed?
Okay, you’ve found some potential Chihuahua breeders. But how do you recognize a good one? For one, the best breeders specialize in only one or two breeds, and they never breed more puppies than they have time to care for. And that means plenty of individual attention. Good breeders adore their pups, give prospective owners the third degree, and may exhibit their stock at dog shows. Their facilities are clean, their puppy play areas contain toys, and their dogs enjoy being handled.
When a breeder houses more puppies than he or she has time for, it usually shows. Two of the surest signs are spooked, unsocialized puppies and dogs living in unclean quarters.
Can You Tell Me All about This Dog’s Personality?
Some breeders are more talkative than others, so if the seller you visit needs some help getting started, ask about a prospective pup’s position in the litter or how she’s been socialized. Good breeders know all about each and every one of their pups, and most of them will be happy to fill you in on a particular puppy’s life story. Beware if the breeder hesitates when asked whether the pup is dominant or submissive with its littermates, or hems and haws about how she was socialized. Caring breeders can tell plenty of stories about puppies no more than a few weeks old because they’re observant when the puppies play together and make time to give each one individual attention.
May I See the Pup’s Family?
After you’ve found a puppy or adult dog that twangs your heartstrings, it’s time to meet your prospective pet’s family. Expect to see at least the dam (that’s mom in dog lingo) and the pup’s littermates (siblings). With luck, you may also see an aunt or uncle, and maybe even a grand-dam or an adult brother or sister from an earlier litter. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the sire (papa). He may live far away, but his picture and pedigree will probably be available. There may not be any aunts, uncles, or older sibs on the premises, but buyer beware if you don’t at least meet the puppy’s dam.
May I Test This Pup’s Temperament?
If the breeder believes that you know how to hold and handle a tiny dog (see Chapter Welcome Home, Little Amigo), he or she will likely be willing to let you test the puppy’s temperament. This involves taking the puppy away from its dam and littermates, and possibly out of sight of the breeder — for example, into another room or around the side of the house. You can take this book with you; easy instructions for temperament testing are in Chapter Choosing Your Ideal Chihuahua.
May I Have a Copy of the Chi’s Schedule and Records?
Many breeders give new owners a copy of the puppy’s feeding schedule and health record. If the breeder only offers to tell it to you verbally, write down all the information. Making sudden changes to a dog’s diet can be dangerous (see Chapter What’s on the Chi Menu?). Also, your veterinarian needs to know what vaccines your dog has already received and when they were given so he or she can set up a vaccination and worming schedule (see Chapter Visiting the Vet).
What Kind of Health (Or Show) Guarantee Do You Offer?
Most reputable sellers offer some type of health guarantee with their pups, giving you a certain amount of time (usually 24 to 48 hours) to take the dog to your vet for a complete physical. When buying a show-potential puppy (one you plan to exhibit in dog shows; see Chapter Training Your Chi for Canine Events, Tricks, and for Show), find out if the breeder will offer a replacement pup if the dog isn’t show quality at adulthood.
Is This Pup Eligible for Full or Limited AKC Registration?
A filled-out and signed registration application should accompany every breeder’s AKC registrable dogs. The form also has a section for you to complete when you purchase a pup. Do it ASAP, enclose the required fee, and send it to the American Kennel Club (the address should be on the form). A registration certificate will soon arrive in the mail. Then, and only then, do you own a registered dog!
If your puppy has limited registration, that means it isn’t a show dog (although it can still compete in obedience, agility, and other sporting events) and its offspring won’t be eligible for AKC registration (see Chapter Choosing Your Ideal Chihuahua for more).
Will I Receive a Registration Application When I Buy?
If you want an AKC-registered dog and the seller doesn’t have a registration application ready to go with your puppy, proceed with caution. Yes, it’s possible that the paperwork is still at the AKC offices and will arrive soon. If you trust the seller enough to take the puppy with papers pending, you should request a bill of sale signed by the seller that includes your dog’s breed, date of birth, sex, and color — as well as the registered names and AKC numbers of the dog’s sire and dam, and the full name and address of the breeder. If the important paperwork doesn’t show up in a week or so and you want to contact the AKC, you’ll be able to identify your dog with all the information from the bill of sale.
Most breeders automatically offer a copy of the puppy’s pedigree. The pedigree is the Chi’s family tree, and it gives more information than just names. If any of her ancestors were illustrious in the show, obedience, or agility ring, abbreviations of their titles may be included, too. For details, check out Chapter Choosing Your Ideal Chihuahua, or ask the proud breeder to decipher the mysterious letters.
What Dog Clubs Do You Belong to and Recommend?
Most (but not all) good breeders belong to a dog club or two. For example, Chihuahua breeders often are members of the Chihuahua Club of America, and possibly local all-breed dog clubs as well. Membership in a dog club is a good sign that you’re dealing with a serious breeder, but not everyone is a “joiner.” So, don’t pass up a puppy that makes your heart sing just because its breeder didn’t join a dog club.
May I Call or E-mail You for Advice After We Get Home?
Make sure the breeder you choose is willing to be a source of information after the purchase — someone who can give you advice about the breed, its training, and so on. A caring breeder may ask you to keep him or her posted on the puppy’s progress. Steer clear of any that hem and haw when you ask if you can use them as resources to help you raise your new puppy.
by Jacqueline O’Neil