Breeders of Retrievers

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Three questions to ask when looking for a reputable breeder.

Finding the right quality breeder is vital. There are several things to consider to ensure you are getting a healthy, happy puppy and that your puppy is coming from a nurturing, loving place.

Contrary to popular belief, reputable breeders are not the reason shelters fill up. Most shelter dogs are not coming from breeders. Instead, shelters are filled with mixed-breed dogs. Breeders tend to breed purebred dogs. However, genetic tests performed by the University of Arizona have confirmed that less than 5% of shelter dogs are purebred and that 5% are usually the first to be rehomed.

Another factor in filling up shelters is the different types of mixed breeds. The majority are mixes that have inherent behavior problems. So a reputable breeder that is breeding purebred labrador retrievers is being ethical.

The place where breeders can help is by being very selective with temperament and with whom they place a puppy.

Rocky River Retrievers is a breeder located in Utah. They’ve carefully selected only the whitest puppies for their breeding program. So when they advertise “English White Labs,” they mean it. But they also choose for temperament and genetic health.

“Our labs are strikingly white and have minimal, if any, cream, even on the tips of their ears.” So says Ben Tanner, owner of Rocky River Retrievers. “But what’s more important is, are they healthy, and are they safe to have around children and other dogs.”

The American Kennel Club recognizes “English White Labrador Puppies” as yellow Labrador Retrievers because they are yellow labs bred to be as white as they can be. Most White labs have a little cream color on the tips of their ears, and some have cream down their backs and on the ends of their tails.  

  1. Tell me about the breed; what do you know about it?

The “English” in the name is also essential. Dogs have been bred to bring out critical, valuable traits. For example, there are two distinct families in the Labrador retriever breed. One is American, and the other is English. American Labs are built for hunting. They are fast, full of energy, and love to swim and retrieve even in icy waters.

English Labradors are made for the show ring. They have a very calm and sweet disposition. They are a more blocky build and don’t have the energy of the American labrador. The mild nature is by design because they are just about the perfect household pet or service animal.

Understanding your breed can help you have the right expectations for your dog. In addition, reputable breeders can help educate families, so they know what to expect. With that said, here are three things you can ask a breeder to ensure you are adopting from the right source.

  1. Do the parents have all of the necessary health tests and clearances?

Each breed comes with its list of common health problems. For example, common issues with the Labrador Retriever would be Hip and Elbow dysplasia, Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC), Centronuclear myopathy (CNM), and Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration (PRA-prcd), to name a few. Reputable, ethical breeders will have done the proper genetic health testing and OFA testing on their breeding dogs to ensure they are not passing down these issues to their offspring.

Some problems mix nature and nurture; for example, Hip Dysplasia is influenced by genetics and lifestyle. So the best OFA testing can detect dogs that have the problem and advise the breeder not to breed those dogs. It can’t say whether or not the Dysplasia was from genetics or lifestyle. But reputable breeders assume it’s genetics to err on caution.

Your breeder should know what clearances are essential for the breed you are looking at, and they should have already tested their dogs.

  1. What are the living conditions of your dogs?

Understanding the living conditions of your breeder’s dogs should be a given that is of paramount importance. But it may not be quite as obvious what those conditions should be for the breed you want.  

For example, most people need to learn that Labrador retrievers have double coats and are made for cold weather. They were initially bred to retrieve fishing nets in the icy water of Canada. Labs are not only ok in the cold weather but also thrive in it. But that doesn’t mean they are ok in unsanitary, uncomfortable situations day in and day out.  

They need warmth and shelter, adequate food and water, good health care, exercise, social stimulation, mental stimulation, and overall quality of life. So take the time to ensure you are getting a puppy from a breeder who loves and cares about their dog’s quality of life.

Finding a reputable breeder will help you find the right puppy for your family. Taking the time to ask these fundamental questions can set you up for a successful adoption process. And it can help support the best breeders in the industry.

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