You've done your homework and have chosen a boxer as the breed for you (See Owning a Boxer ). Now your task is to find the right breeder. A reputable breeder seeks to improve the boxer breed producing puppies that adhere closely to the breed standard (the blueprint on how a correct boxer should look and act). The puppies are of sound temperament and are as genetically and physically healthy as possible. A breeder socializes the puppies, vaccinates, and deworms them. They feed a high quality food and keeps the puppies and their area spic and span. Breeders screen the perspective homes for their puppies very carefully and remain a contact for the new owners for the lifetime of that puppy.
Once you've decided on a boxer puppy, don't make a hasty decision. It's just as easy to fall in love with a well-bred puppy from a good breeder as with a poorly bred puppy from a puppy mill, pet store, or backyard breeder.
A breeder will usually charge more for a puppy. He or she has a lot more invested in a healthy litter. And although you may feel sorry for the puppy from an unscrupulous breeder, buying from them only encourages them to keep breeding. The few bucks saved may come back to haunt you in a dog who has a lot more vet visits over its lifetime. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best puppy you can afford from the best breeder you can find.
1) Expect a lot of questions from the breeder such as... Why do you want this particular breed of dog? Where will the dog live? How many hours will the dog be alone? and on and on... Beware of a breeder who asks no questions. Do they care about what happens to their puppies?
2) A spay/neuter contract on pet puppies. Faults keep a puppy from winning in the show ring. They can be something as simple as being 1/2 inch too short or having too much white. These faults that do not adhere to the breed standard, however, should not be passed on to future generations, hence the requirement that the puppy be spayed/neutered usually between 6 - 12 months old.
3) AKC Limited registration on pet puppies. Limited registration is a secondary precaution against pet puppies being bred. The puppy is registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club) and can participate in any of the performance events such as obedience and agility, but any resulting offspring from that dog can not be registered.
4) At least a four generation pedigree. This is the puppy's family tree. It includes the dogs' registered names and titles. Many times unscrupulous or uneducated breeders use the term "champion bloodlines." Nearly every registered dog has a champion somewhere in its background. The first two generations, the parents and grandparents, are the most important. The further back the champions, the more likely the puppy will deviate from the breed standard.
5) Health testing on both parents. This is a BIGGIE!!! Boxers, like all breeds, are prone to certain genetic conditions. Ask to see proof of the testing on both parents prior to buying a pup. Don't take any excuses for a breeder not testing. Simply move on to the next breeder. It may save you loads of heartache and money down the road.
Responsible boxer breeders test for the following genetic conditions prior to breeding:
Boxers have two heart conditions that are hereditary: ARVC (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy) and SAS (Subaortic Stenosis). ARVC is a malfunction of the electrical system of the heart. An afflicted boxer may be playing ball one minute, faint and die the next. SAS is a malfunction of the valves of the heart. Blood rushes through a valve between beats causing a heart murmur to be heard. Both conditions significantly reduce the life expectancy of your pet.
To help ensure they are not producing puppies with these problems, responsible boxer breeders test the parents prior to breeding. To check for ARVC, the dogs must wear a holter monitor for 24 hours. This device records the dog's heartbeats. A board certified cardiologist reads the tape looking for abnormalities or VPCs. The lower the number of isolated VPCs the better with 0 being the best.
For SAS, a board certified cardiologist, not an every day vet, listens to the heart for murmurs. This is done when the dog is a year or older. This process is called auscultation. No murmurs should be present. Some breeders are even having echocardiograms done for further assurance that there is no problem. In this process you can actually see the function of the valves of the heart.
Hip dyplasia is a moderately heritable condition. It is about twice as common among littermates having a dysplastic parent. The normal ball and socket function of the hips is impaired or destroyed. A shallow socket and loose ligaments of the hip allow the ball to work free and eventually causes a great deal of wear on the joint. This is a crippling condition. Both parents should have their hips OFA'd or have a PennHip evaluation prior to breeding.
With OFA, a vet x-rays the dog's hips and vets at the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals read the x-rays. They then rate them on the condition of the joints from poor to excellent and assign the dog an OFA number.
With PennHip, the dog's hips are x-rayed and the joint laxity (looseness) is measured and assigned a number. Dogs with a DI (distraction index) of .3 have tighter hips and are less likely to develop HD. Dogs with a DI of .7 or greater are at a greater risk of developing HD.
6) A guarantee and contract. A responsible breeder will have in their contract a window of 48-72 hours for you to take your puppy to your veterinarian for a physical. If anything is found unsatisfactory, this allows you to return the puppy for a full refund.
Because responsible breeders care about they puppies they produced and have done everything possible to ensure the genetic health of the puppies, they will offer a health guarantee in their contract. These guarantees protect you, the buyer, from purchasing a puppy with inheritable health problems. No breeder can guarantee that every puppy they produce will be healthy their entire life and die of old age, but health testing, is the best predictor breeders have for the future health of the puppy.
A typical guarantee will ask for verification of the disease diagnosis from a qualified vet. The breeder typically will refund the purchase price or replace the dog with one of equal value, whichever is preferred. Return of the dog should be optional. If the owner has abused, neglected, or bred the dog, it typically renders the guarantee null and void. For the guarantee to remain in effect, many breeders state in their contracts that the dog must receive annual vet check-ups and treatments when necessary.
7) The breeder will provide you with the names and phone numbers of people they've sold puppies to in the past. These are references you can use to check the honesty and integrity of the breeder. You may want to ask how their dog is doing and if they would recommend that anyone buys a dog from that breeder.
8) The breeder will take back the puppy at any time in its life if the owner can no longer keep it. The puppy they produce will not be given away or surrendered to a shelter or Humane Society.
9) The breeder will remain a contact for the new owner for the lifetime of that puppy and beyond. The breeder will be there to answer questions, hear concerns and brags on the puppy they produced, and offer advice on any issues. Many times long friendships between the breeder and owners are formed upon the purchase of a puppy.
Attend dog shows, do your homework, and ask lots of questions. Remember, fancy websites and advertisements don't guarantee someone to be a responsible, reputable source. It's ultimately up to you to make the right choice.
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