The Final Selection: Picking Your Perfect Partner

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Looking for a fair deal and a great breeder
  • Concerning your Pom’s important health issues
  • Finalizing the deal: Green bucks and red tape
  • Making it official with the registration
  • Pursuing the alternatives of rescue and shelter adoptions
So far, so good. You’ve found a good breeder (or two or three), seen a bevy of Poms of all ages up close and personal, and you’re still certain you want a Pomeranian. Terrific! (If you haven’t read Chapter In Search of Your Soul Mate, it’s loaded with ideas for getting to this point.) But as visions of all those bouncing Pomeranian puffballs dance in your head, how do you narrow the choice to the one (or two) that will be coming home with you?
Funny you should ask. This chapter eases you through all those steps — from setting eyes on your dream Pom to signing on the dotted line. I give you background info on fair prices, interactions with the breeder and her pups, and the all-important health questions. The last few sections cover the red tape: payments, paperwork, and registration. I also include the info you need to feel comfortable dealing with an alternative source — rescue programs and shelters. (Please read Chapter In Search of Your Soul Mate for an introduction to these two resources.) At last, the best part is about to begin!

Knowing the Right Price: A Quick Guide

Talking money and filling out papers isn’t nearly as much fun as playing with your new Pom, but it’s a necessary part of buying a purebred Pomeranian. A good breeder knows all the procedures, but you’re wise to have some knowledge of the basics as well.
When’s the right time to ask about price? That’s difficult to say. If you make price the first question on your list, the breeder may get the impression you’re just out for a bargain puppy — a big turnoff for good breeders looking for good homes. On the other hand, talking for hours or making multiple visits only to discover the puppy is out of your price range sounds pretty silly.

Tip

The best time to bring the subject up is before you visit but after the breeder tells you briefly about the puppies — and perhaps after you tell the breeder about yourself. Be upfront; you know good-quality Poms can be costly, so you want to make sure you can afford one from this breeder before taking up any more of his time — or yours.

Although I can’t tell you specifically how much you’ll pay for a Pom, I can give you an idea of what factors affect the price:

Region of the country where you live (or buy your Pom from): More urban and affluent areas charge more. (No shocker there!)

Age of puppy: Younger puppies tend to bring more than older puppies or adults that may not be considered as cute unless, of course, the older puppy is show quality (See Chapter In Search of Your Soul Mate). Then it goes for quite a bit more than the others because its show prospects are more certain; see the next bullet.

Pedigree and show quality: Puppies from parents with titles or health testing (veterinary tests to show they are clear of various hereditary health problems — see Chapter Doctoring Your Dog) generally cost more.

A show-prospect puppy may range from $900 to $1,500. An older puppy that is definitely show quality ranges from $1,500 on up.

Who you buy your puppy from: Usually puppies from pet stores cost the most, followed by hobby breeders, then backyard breeders. (Refer to Chapter In Search of Your Soul Mate for info on all these Pom terms.) Newspaper ads by backyard breeders in your area can give you a good idea of low-end prices, and local pet-store prices represent the high end.

  • Pet-store prices range from $1000 to $1,500.
  • Breeder prices for a healthy puppy range from $300 to $900.
  • Rescue prices range from $100 to $300, with less expensive dogs coming from shelters and slightly more expensive ones coming from rescue groups.

In general, the lower prices are for older dogs or dogs that require neutering or spaying.

Tip

In the long run, the dog from the hobby breeder is the best bargain because it’s been screened for hereditary health problems and brought up under healthier conditions. But the rescue dog gives you the most love for your buck!

If the breeder has a waiting list, she may require you to place a deposit to save your spot. This step is customary, but be sure to get a receipt that spells out any agreements (like the sex and health of the puppy) and guarantees your money back if no puppies become available within a specified time period.
A deposit is also necessary if you’ve selected a puppy before he’s old enough to go home. Be sure you have some way of identifying that pup when you go back to pick him up! Take a photo — you’ll want one anyway. If the puppies all look alike, ask the breeder to paint some of your puppy’s toenails with some nail polish you’ve brought along.

Visiting the Breeder

After you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can make a visit to the breeders on your list.

Remember

Most breeders are not large-scale kennels and aren’t set up for visitors to just drop in. Breeders may have a small kennel or raise puppies in their home, and they may work out of the home during the day. So trying to visit as many breeders as you can just for the fun of it isn’t a good idea. As much as they love talking Poms, breeders do need to attend to their dogs and other responsibilities. Narrow your choice breeders down to just a couple of contenders; then expand your list only if those don’t seem right.

In order to prevent your being the Typhoid Mary of the Pom world, breeders prefer you don’t visit one kennel right after another, and you certainly shouldn’t stop by the dog shelter on the way. Wash your hands before you visit the kennel and be prepared to leave your shoes outside.

Taking a look around

The visit to a kennel allows you to see how the breeder is raising the puppies, how the other dogs in the household look, and last but not least, how you get along with the breeder. Be sure to pay attention to the following:

Are the facilities clean, with sufficient room for the dogs? A good breeder doesn’t keep his dogs in cramped, dirty cages. This applies to every dog on the property, not just the puppies.

Do the puppies have time outside and access to grass? Puppies raised entirely inside may imprint (learn to prefer) the surface they’re forced to relieve themselves on, making housetraining difficult.

Do the puppies have access to people? Puppies need some time in the house so they get plenty of socialization. If they’re in a separate kennel, ask whether they get to come in the house or how the breeder socializes them.

Are all the dogs friendly and healthy looking? They don’t have to love you, but you don’t want them snarling at you either. Are their coats well groomed?

Tip

When it comes to appearance and demeanor, make allowances for any old dogs and for the dam, whose coat has probably fallen out after whelping (giving birth). Ask to see pictures of her before she had puppies. She may not be thrilled with you around her puppies, but she should be comfortable with the breeder. Note: Don’t expect to see the sire, which may live elsewhere.

Getting personal: Specific questions to ask

When you’re on the premises and looking at the pups, here are a few more questions to bring up:

– What was the purpose for breeding this litter? Good breeders mate specific dogs to bring out the best qualities of both, and they’re delighted to explain their reasoning. They can point to the good health of the parents, their exemplary temperaments, or their conformity to the breed standard. If the breeder is evasive or the answer sounds off, then beware.

Can I see photos of both parents and other relatives? Good breeders may have you regretting you asked this question as they proudly pull out photo album after album of Trixie’s ancestors. Bad breeders — Camera? Photos? Huh?

How do the parents compare to the Pomeranian breed standard? That is, can the breeder point to a dog and say this one has the correct foxlike expression, but her ears are a little too large and her skull is a little too domed? A breeder who says her dogs are perfect or advises you to ignore the standard is no longer a good candidate.

How soon can I take my puppy home? No puppy of any breed should leave its breeder before 8 weeks of age. Pomeranians, like many toy puppies, are generally held longer; the breeder often insists on keeping them until they’re 10 to 12 weeks old.

Warning!

The Poms’ small size, along with their susceptibility to hypoglycemia (see Chapter Eating Out of the Pom of Your Hand), makes early placement somewhat risky. In addition, puppies pick up valuable lessons about being dogs by staying with their littermates and mom. Puppies separated too early can have problems relating to other dogs for the rest of their lives.

The Big Test: Interacting with Potential Pups

After you’ve selected and visited your breeder (see the previous section), he may want to choose a puppy just for you based on your previous discussions. (The breeder knows the puppies better than you possibly can during your short visit, and a good breeder tries to match puppy to person based on personality.) But if you have a choice (and even if the breeder has chosen one for you), you still need to make sure this is the right puppy for you.
This section gives you helpful hints on setting the stage for this all-important interaction and carefully selecting the new love of your life.

Getting the ground rules right

When you’re at the breeders and ready to interact, keep these suggestions in mind as the breeder brings the puppies to you:

Sit on the floor with the puppies. This arrangement encourages them to come and see you and allows you to interact more freely with them. It also eliminates the chance of tripping over, stepping on, or dropping one of them!

Wait for them to come to you. Make note of which puppies come up to interact with you by climbing in your lap or playing with your fingers. Put those pups on your yes list. Don’t chase or grab at the puppies. Nobody likes that.

Give every available puppy a fair shake. Just because one isn’t the sex or color you initially had in mind, don’t write it off. You may lose out on the best dog for you.

Tip

If all the puppies look alike, you may get one confused with another. If you know you’re definitely not interested in some of them, ask the breeder to take them out of the mix. Or have the breeder put different-colored ribbons on them or on their collars.

Try to visit the breeder more than once before the puppies are ready to go. Puppies often act and look very different from one visit to the next. The breeder may want you to bring your children just to see how they interact with the dogs. If you bring young children, bring another adult to supervise them. Note: If you can’t keep your children under control for a couple of hours, the breeder may decide yours is not a safe home for a small puppy.
What if you change your mind? It’s possible you could lose your deposit unless you have a valid reason. Of course, if the breeder changes his mind, he is obliged to return any deposit.

Finding love at first sight

Of course, just as with people, a puppy temperament that suits one person may not be the best for another. If you have a quiet household and a patient personality, yours may be just the home for that hesitant puppy; if you’re an adventurer, you may find your match in the wildest puppy. But for most people, the middle puppy, neither quietest nor wildest, is the best choice.
As you observe these little Pom prancers at the breeder’s, note these personality traits:

Confident: Pom puppies are generally confident. They should carry their tails high and be eager to interact. Beware any puppy that hides in a corner, keeps his tail tucked, cringes at sudden noises, or growls when you approach. This puppy will need special training and is not for the novice owner.

Independent: Take each puppy that’s on your yes list into another room, away from its littermates. The puppy should take the separation in stride, and you should be able to get her interest.

Tip

While still separated, see whether the puppy tends to follow you. That bonding is always nice, but don’t discount the puppy who gets distracted exploring all the new stuff. Regardless, you don’t want the puppy that huddles on the ground, too scared to move. He may grow out of it — but not without a lot of work.

Playful: Is the puppy interested in toys? Will he fetch? This quality is important if you like to play or if you have children. (It can also help you figure out which kinds of toys to buy!)

Affectionate: Will the puppy allow you to hold her for a few seconds? Give her a couple of chances. You’re asking a lot of a pup to pluck her from the middle of playing with her brothers and sisters and then expect her to snuggle calmly in your lap.

Still can’t decide? Having a hard time saying No to the little puppy who seeks you out, tumbles into your lap while playing, and promptly falls asleep? Maybe letting your dog choose you really is the best approach. The only problem is that you may find yourself with an entire lap full of Pom pups! If you can’t take two, maybe it’s time to ask the breeder to make the final choice for you.

Screening for Good Health

Like all popular breeds, Pomeranians have their own set of hereditary health concerns. Small breeds, for example, tend to have patellar luxation (knee problems), and Poms develop this problem more than any other breed. They also tend to have alopecia X, a coat problem where their hair falls out. No one can guarantee these conditions will or won’t appear, but puppies from parents without these problems are less likely to develop them. That’s why testing the parents for various disorders is important.

Relying on the breeder’s expertise and integrity

Good breeders are aware of these hereditary problems and do their best to avoid producing them in new litters. Ask the breeder whether any of the following health concerns are in a particular Pom’s ancestry:

Alopecia X: This condition is one of the Pom’s most common breed predispositions. No screening test is available, but ask the breeder whether it’s common in the line. Because the condition is more common in males than females, some researchers believe it’s sex-linked (passed from mothers to sons).

Eye conditions: Poms can suffer from entropion (the eyelid turns in on the eye) and progressive retinal atrophy (the light receptive cells die, and the dog becomes blind). Neither problem is especially common in the breed. Screening tests are available, and you have some assurance if the parents have been examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist and registered in the Canine Eye Registration Foundation database.

Patellar luxation: Also known as slipping kneecaps, this condition affects a large percentage of Pomeranians — in fact, a higher percentage than any other breed. Although the mode of inheritance is unknown, all breeding stock should be examined.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) maintains a registry (available online) of Poms that have been checked and recorded with them. Go to their Web site at www.offa.org, click on Search OFA Records, and then choose Pomeranian and Patella. Breeders are not required to register their dogs with the OFA, but they should have a veterinary report attesting to the condition of their dogs’ knees.

Patent ductus arteriosus: This is the most common heart problem seen in puppies and is particularly common in Pomeranians. Researchers believe it is caused by the interplay of several genes. Ideally, the parents, the parents’ siblings, and other relatives should be screened by a veterinary cardiologist.

Other conditions like tracheal collapse (the windpipe can’t stay open when breathing) and epilepsy have no screening tests or clearance registry, but you’re wise to ask whether the litter’s line has a history of them.

Remember

No hereditary line is totally disease free. A breeder may not know or may not want to tell, but that’s one good reason you take the time to select a reputable, experienced breeder in the first place.

Checking up on a puppy’s health

Checking up on a puppy’s health Healthy puppies are chipper little nippers. They play hard and they sleep hard. If they’re awake, they should be bouncy, even if they’re still pretty clumsy.
None of the puppies in a litter should have signs of potentially contagious diseases. (If one puppy’s sick, you can be sure the rest are on their way.) Signs of common illnesses that you can check for yourself include

– Diarrhea or signs of recent diarrhea, such as a reddened or irritated anus

– Vomiting (excuse the occasional regurgitating that can happen when playing too hard right after eating or drinking)

– Dehydration, which can indicate a recent bout of diarrhea or vomiting

Test for hydration by gently picking up a fold of skin and letting it go. It should snap back into place instead of forming a tent.

– Repeated sneezing, sniffling, gagging, or coughing

– Extremely runny or gooey eyes

– Snotty nose

– Dirty, smelly ears, or head shaking, which can indicate ear mites

– Pale gums, which can indicate anemia from heavy parasite infestation

Healthy gums are bright pink.

– Thin with a potbelly, which often indicates intestinal parasites

– Dirty, crusted, or reddened skin

Now check out the individual puppy you’re interested in:

Teeth: Are his teeth straight? Do they meet with the front top teeth just in front of the bottom teeth?

This detail isn’t that important if you don’t want show quality. However, some puppies’ occlusions (the way the teeth meet) are so off that the pup may have difficulty eating. Other puppies’ bottom fangs are too narrow and stick into the upper gums or the roof of the mouth when the puppies close their mouths. Both of these problems often require expensive dental work for the puppy to be comfortable.

Eyes: Check again for irritation. Do the lids fold in on the eye? That condition may be entropion (see the first bullet list in this section). Although many puppies grow out of it, the problem may require surgery if it persists into adulthood.

Limbs: Check for signs of limping. Puppies are always throwing themselves around and falling, so some limping may be excusable. But limping at an early age may also indicate severe patellar luxation (see the first bullet list in this section), which will probably require surgery. If the puppy of your choice is limping, ask to come back another day and check on him or request that a veterinarian check him out.

In males: Check to see whether both testicles are descended into the scrotum. Okay, this isn’t easy. You probably can’t feel anything there until at least 8 weeks of age or so. But by that age, the tiny testes (which may only be the size of a BB) should be in or almost to the scrotum.

Gently run your hand backward from around the penis and you should feel the slight lump that is the testicle. Most testicles are completely descended by 10 to 12 weeks of age, although some late bloomers may take as long as 5 or 6 months. Neutering a dog with undescended testicles is a more involved surgery than neutering one with normally descended testicles.

Remember

Any purchase should be contingent on getting a clean bill of health from a veterinarian within 48 hours of taking possession of the puppy. (Chapter Prepare to Be Pomerized! tells you how to find a good vet and schedule the first appointment, and Chapter Starting Off on the Right Paw: The First Few Days gives you a rundown of what to expect at that appointment.)

Paying for Your Pom and Handling the Paperwork

When you’ve made your choice, you probably can’t wait to crack out the cash and start signing the papers to make him all yours! But this process takes some time, so sit down and try to concentrate on paperwork, not puppy play.

Money matters

By this time you and the breeder have reached an understanding about price. Few breeders accept credit cards, and most prefer cash or a money order instead of a personal check. Some breeders accept installment payments, usually keeping their name on the registration papers until you’ve paid in full.

Paperwork you receive

When you pay for your Pom, the breeder should give you the following:

– AKC registration slip

– Bill of sale

– Copy of the pedigree

– Record of the puppy’s medical information

– Any contract or health guarantee

– Contact information in case of future questions

– Care instructions

Other paperwork you can buy

When you buy a registered puppy, the registration is part of the price. However, the pedigree isn’t necessarily included. Most breeders include one (and I hope you got to see one before you made your purchase), but it’s usually typed or handwritten and not certified. This copy of the pedigree is just fine for almost every need you will ever have.
However, you can still buy an official certified pedigree from the AKC. You would need it only on rare occasions, like trying to register your dog in a foreign country.
You can also purchase a DNA profile for your dog. Upon request, the AKC will send you a swab to collect cells from the inner lip of your dog. Send the swab back in the provided envelope (along with a small fee). A few months later you’ll receive a certificate suitable for framing that shows the pattern of several marker genes used in verifying parentage. The genes don’t tell you whether your dog has a particular gene-causing disease, but they can identify your dog as well as any fingerprint . . . or paw print . . . or nose print.

Registering Your New Friend

Most AKC puppies are sold as part of a registered litter, and because you’ve gone through the trouble to buy a purebred dog, the next step is to register each pup from that litter. (The breeder seldom registers the individual dog unless you’ve chosen an older dog.) Registration costs $20 but goes up by $35 if you take longer than a year after the litter is registered.
Include the following information on the registration form, which the breeder provides (see the bullet list in the previous section):

1. Your name

2. Your address

3. Your dog’s name

Usually you get to select a name for your puppy. But often the breeder requires that the kennel name (only its first name usually) be part of the registered name.

Some breeders also use litter identifiers; they request that you name your puppy starting with a certain letter or theme. That way other breeders — for example, if you were to compete with your dog — know that all the puppies whose names start with a D or with a name of some songbird, for example, are littermates.

Tip

Registration is a bargain. It comes with a free 60-day trial healthcare policy, a free first visit with a participating veterinarian, a puppy-care brochure, e-mail certificates for deals at dog.com, and of course, a registration certificate. Registration also enables your dog to participate in AKC events.

Transactions of a Different Bird: Adopting from Rescues or Shelters

Rescued Poms have had their hearts broken, and they need secure, permanent homes where it won’t happen again. That’s one reason rescue groups are picky about where these dogs go. They don’t want you adopting a dog only to have it or its offspring turn up in the shelter again.
In contrast with shelters that may not have the staff to get to know every dog individually, rescue groups often send their Poms to live in foster homes while they’re awaiting forever homes. This extra attention gives the rescue group an advantage over shelters when matching you with the right Pom. Rescue groups tend to incur more expenses per dog on average because these groups are more likely to save dogs that need medical attention. Expect to pay a slightly higher adoption fee compared to a shelter.
Rescue groups do most of their initial screening and matching through the internet or by phone, whereas shelters tend to rely more on personal visits. If you visit a Pom at a shelter, remember these tips:

– Ask whether you can take her outside or to a quiet room, away from barking dogs.

– Plan to spend a long time getting to know her.

– Remember, she’s probably a little shellshocked from being in the shelter situation. Her full personality will take a while to blossom after she comes home with you.

Most rescue groups begin the adoption process by having prospective owners complete an application. Applicants may be asked to provide veterinary references, and the rescue group or shelter may schedule a phone interview or in-home visit. Although this process may seem invasive, it is intended to ensure the best match of Pom, owner, and circumstance. Here’s what you can expect:

– Expect to provide proof of home ownership or permission from your landlord to have a dog.

– Expect to wait for the dog to be neutered or spayed; this is often done only after the dog has found a home.

– Expect to pay a reasonable fee that covers the dog’s surgery, vaccinations, and board. Your adoption fee helps the shelter or rescue group recoup their expenses and be ready to help the next dog in need.

– Expect to be asked the following questions:

  • What happened to your last dog?
  • Do you have experience with small dogs?
  • Who will take care of the dog?
  • How often are you home?
You should ask questions, too, which will help you get to know a dog:

– Does this dog have any medical or behavioral problems?

– Why was she given up for adoption?

Rescued Poms’ vaccinations are brought up to date by the adoption group, and the Poms have a complete medical examination. They may be microchipped, meaning they have a tiny chip with identification permanently embedded under their skin.
Many rescue groups and shelters provide temperament testing, basic training, and behavior consultation. Also, adopting from a rescue group provides you with a safety net if problems arise.
Many groups provide you an opportunity to become a club member, to participate in rescue reunions, and even to become part of a rescue team.

Remember

When you rescue a dog, you also clear a place for another dog that otherwise may not have a chance. And you bring home a very lucky dog to an even luckier home.

by D.Caroline Coile,Ph.D.

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