Selecting a Puppy

Things you should look for in selecting a puppy

Does the puppy appear healthy? A good healthy puppy will have clear, shiny eyes that are free from discharge. Its coat will be glossy with a minimum of flaking skin. It should be alert and playful. How about its littermates and the dam? Look around at others in the litter, all should appear healthy and well fed. It is also wise to consider the cleanliness of the puppy’s surroundings. Look around for any fecal matter that may not have been removed yet. Is the stool well-formed or sloppy? A clean environment and robust family of dogs are very good signs!

How is the mother’s temperament? If the sire and dam are present, how do they behave? A surprising amount of behavior is inherited. Also, the puppies’ environments have a great deal to do with their personalities. The parents may be one of the best indications of the future temperament of your new puppy.

Have the parents’ hips and elbows been radiographed (X-RAYED)? Hip and elbow dysplasias are potentially crippling abnormalities of joint formation that, unfortunately, do occur in this breed. While there are several factors involved in joint dysplasias, it is well known that these are at least partly inherited. It may take several years for the painful arthritis associated with hip and elbow dysplasia to become apparent, but the joints can be checked by x-ray examination before breeding. Making sure that both parents, and as many of their relatives as possible, are radiographically free of hip and elbow dysplasia will help you to avoid this sad condition.

Have the parents had their eyes examined? Unfortunately, again, some Labradors may have inherited eye defects that could lead to vision loss. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a disease in which blindness will gradually develop. Subtle changes in the appearance of the retina (part of the inside of the eye) can indicate that tendency. Retinal Dysplasia is generally a non-progressive eye disease that causes varying degrees of poor eye-sight, but rarely total blindness. Juvenile Cataracts are spots of abnormal coloration deep within the lens. They generally do not affect vision and are non-progressive. Only veterinarians with special training (Ophthalmologists) and special interests in eye diseases may be able to give an authoritative opinion on the health of the eyes of your puppy’s parents.

If interested, does this puppy have show, field, hunting, or obedience potential? Even with outstanding pedigrees, not every puppy will have the qualities sought after in the show ring, field or obedience ring. If you’re not sure, ask other breeders for opinions and advice. Check the pedigrees for the blending of lines that will produce the best possible animal.

Ask the breeder for a certificate of vaccination stating what vaccines it has already received and when, and by whom. For adequate protection, puppies need a series of vaccinations. Check with your own veterinarian for advice.

If the puppy was dewormed, what was the drug used and when was it given. If the puppy was not dewormed, was a fecal exam done? The breeder can answer whether or not the dam or other litters have had problems with worms.

What type and brand of food, how much, and how often? The breeder will usually recommend a food and feeding program. It is important not to over-feed nor under-feed a growing puppy!

Heartworm is spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. The puppy should be placed on heartworm preventative at an early age, and maintained on this medicine each year throughout mosquito season.

What are the terms of the guarantee (if any)? Have your new puppy examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible after you pick it up to assure its good health.

These organizations have tests breeders use for screening their breeding stock

Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFFA), evaluation and certification of hips and elbows. The dog must have x-rays taken by a veterinarian of its hip and elbow joints. The x-rays are taken according to OFFA protocol and submitted to OFFA for evaluation.

Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER), issues registration numbers for the results of eye examinations performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist accredited by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO), The examination must be done within one year of any breeding. Owners of breeding bitches and stud dogs should continue to have an annual CAER exam for late onset hereditary eye disease.  The CAER database is maintained by OFFA.

Optigen, assesses the genetic predisposition for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a genetic condition which will render a dog blind. This is a DNA test to determine if the dog is genetically clear, a carrier, or potentially affected with PRA. This is a blood test that many breeders use as part of their screening process. Blood can be drawn, prepared and shipped by your veterinarian according to Optigen protocol.

Be a responsible dog owner, for more information, please read the article posted on the American Kennel Club website at