Finding a Breeder
Educate Yourself Before Buying
Because the demand is high and there are limited reputable breeders, the "Puppies For Sale" signs are starting to show up in pet stores and Internet puppy selling sites "stocked" by the volume puppy mills. These are often the same puppy mills you've read about and seen exposed on television disclosing some horrendous housing conditions and inhumane treatment.
Beware of ads that promise to ship your new puppy as the sale and transport of puppies in the US and from other countries is big business. No reputable breeder will ship to you after an email conversation and foreign breeders do not send their quality dogs to the US. Do not ship/fly your puppies - it's just too dangerous and traumatic! Our new puppy parents drive or fly to us and take the puppy with them in the cabin if they must fly home.
Unfortunately, there are many scams to fear.
Please be sure your breeder is a member in good standing with their national club and has a proven track record of producing quality champions and family pets.
Ask for references and follow up.
Ask for pedigree and health information.
Visit the dogs and ask how they are raised from birth through their adult life.
Run - don't walk - away from breeders who confine their dogs in kennel runs for their lifetime.
Our Berners and Clumbers are people dogs and crave exercise and socialization so be sure the breeder is demonstrating this to you. You will learn much about how the dogs are raised by seeing them in their environment and by asking these questions.
The genetic background is what made your puppy. This knowledge takes years and years of breeding experience from particular genetic lines. Breeders with less experience and pedigree (family history) knowledge should be mentored by an experienced breeder with the genetic knowledge in your puppy's pedigree.
"I just want a pet, why worry about the rest?" Well, your pet comes from the same litter with the same genetic background as the very few select pups graded to go on to conformation showing and potential future breeding stock. You want the same qualities that you find in a show dog. Even show dogs should always be pets first with a little more refinement in conformation, type and markings.
A Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT) is a must for a breeder to determine which puppy to select for you that matches up with your lifestyle. This test is done at 7 weeks and even the most experienced breeder can be surprised at the results. Nothing is more miserable than trying to live with a puppy that is not suited for your family. It is not the sex of the puppy that is important, but the puppy's individual personality/temperament to fit in with your family. The most important thing you can do before getting a pup of any breed from any breeder, is to read the books. Make sure you are given a copy of the test along with an explanation why this particular pup is the right pup to join your family.
I have been fortunate with the dogs I keep and raise in my home as they have lived lengthy lives. I have not found the average life span of seven years to be factual for my Berners. To this end, I do not stress the auto-immune system with over vaccinating (dogs develop immunity from the vaccinations just like people and do not need yearly vaccinations). I do not use heartworm, lyme vaccination or any toxins such as flea/tick frontline, advantage, chemical baths,dips or sprays. Rabies vaccinations have been proven to be a direct link to cancer in our dogs and our dogs have immunity after the first vaccination.
I feed a raw natural diet combined with a quality kibble: Orijen and Verus and Holistic. I use natural and non-toxic products to protect my dogs from harmful pests. For example, Avon's skin-so-soft diluted in a spray bottle of water sprayed on your pet does the same thing as the toxic flea/tick/mosquito chemicals applied to your pet.
Early neuter/spay has been proven to cause bone/joint problems in large breed dogs due to lack of hormone growth and taking nutrients from the bones. Wait until after a females first heat cycle and at least a year or longer for a male for a healthier family pet. My personal dogs have been living to 11-13 years of age by following these tennats, and a reputable breeder will share similar philosophies.
Sometimes things can go wrong. You need a reliable, knowledgeable source to contact for help - your breeder or your breeder's mentor. Why? They might have had a similar problem before; know of a litter-mate with a similar problem and how it was solved; work with you and your veterinarian to best resolve the problem. (As a rule, veterinarians know dogs in general; but your breeder should know specific problems particular to their breed.)
A puppy is an emotional as well as a financial investment, so "how much?" is difficult question to answer. If you find the "right" breeder the initial cost of the puppy will pay for itself many times over. That right breeder should be successful with a proven track record, years of experience, knowledge to share (good and bad) and be available to you for the life time of the puppy. The real value to you is in the breeder you select. You can't put a price on experience and knowledge. You never know if or when your breeder's help might be needed! At the very least, your future veterinarian costs will be greatly reduced getting a healthy puppy from a reputable, responsible, knowledgeable and ethical breeder.
The Monks of New Skete book, "The Art of Raising Your Puppy"
The "Sirius Puppy Series" by Dr. Ian Dunbar, along with other books by Ian Dunbar.