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
Knowing the Right Price: A Quick Guide
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.
– 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.
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!
Visiting the Breeder
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.
Taking a look around
– 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?
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
– 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.
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
Getting the ground rules right
– 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.
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.
Finding love at first sight
– 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.
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.
Screening for Good Health
Relying on the breeder’s expertise and integrity
– 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.
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
– 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
– 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.
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
Paperwork you receive
– 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
Registering Your New Friend
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.
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
– 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.
– 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?
– Does this dog have any medical or behavioral problems?
– Why was she given up for adoption?
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.