Buying Your LGD
Now that you've completed all your homework and research, visited farms with working LGDs of the breed you have chosen and talked to the farmers there, you're ready to acquire a dog, right? Almost. You really should decide if you want (need) an adult, an adolescent, or a newly weaned puppy.
Just owning an LGD does not guarantee your stock won't be ravaged by predators. Owning a puppy certainly won't. You'll need to balance your need for immediate protection against the increased cost of an adult guardian. Adult guardians are somewhat more difficult to find just when you need one and many people opt for the puppy on that basis alone. At this point, let's assume you're starting with a pup.
To locate a breeder, we recommend asking people you know who use that breed to refer you to a breeder they trust. You can also locate breeders on the internet and through breed clubs. However you locate one, here is a list of questions we feel you would do well to ask:
- "Do you guarantee your dog's working instincts?" Remember, you're buying your dog to work, no matter what else there is about the dog, if it won't work, it's worthless to you. Most buyers try to satisfy themselves by buying only from working farms. This is a good method but a respected show breeder with a long list of good working placements will also work. Either way, ask for references and see what other customers had to say about this breeder's dogs. References combined with the guarantee should keep you from being stuck with a non-working dog.
- "Do you guarantee the dog's health?" If the dog is ill when you buy it, even if you don't know it, all you'll get will be problems. If you spend the money for a good LGD, you deserve to start with a healthy one. Most breeders will recommend you take your new pup to a vet and have it checked in the first couple weeks you own it to insure you're starting with a healthy dog.
- "Do your breeding dogs have OFA certification?" Large and giant breed dogs are subject to joint problems, primarily hip dysplasia. Through x-rays and OFA certification of the sire and dam you can reduce the possibility of getting a pup that is genetically inclined to these problems. OFA certification is definitely no guarantee but it does give an indication both of the joint health of the breeding dogs and the care the owners give their dogs.
- "Do you guarantee your dogs against genetic defects until they reach maturity?" Many problems that are genetic do not show up until the dog reaches maturity. These breeds usually do not mature until around two years of age. A working dog that can't see due to entropian (a condition where the eyelid turns in toward the eye) or that can't move due to joint problems is of little use to a stock raiser. There is no sure way to avoid these problems but buying a pup from a breeder who knows the line is free from these defects and will guarantee it, can increase your probability of owning a healthy dog in the future.
- "Are these guarantees in writing?" "How do you plan to satisfy the guarantee if it becomes necessary?" "Is this in writing too?" "What do I have to do to satisfy the requirements of your guarantee?" Don't be afraid to demand a written money-back guarantee. All the soothing guarantees in the world are meaningless if you can't show later that they were actually given.
- "Do the puppies all have the appropriate shots for their age?" "Do the sire and dam have the appropriate shots?" If the breeder doesn't care enough to spend the time and money to keep the dogs and their pups healthy, go elsewhere.
- "How do these pups differ from each other in behavior?" Not all pups in a litter have the same personalities. Some may be more aggressive than others, some may better problem solvers, and occasionally, some may not like either humans or stock animals. It is a good idea to pick a pup that is moderate in its behavior, neither aggressive nor docile. A bright-eyed pup that is outgoing but not overly so is what you're looking for
- "Will you be available to help me through problems if they arise during the time we own this pup?" "What is your experience with working LGDs?" These dogs are neither machines nor robots; they are all individuals and, especially as juveniles or adolescents, may act in unexpected or unsettling ways. Although their instincts may be solid, they may need to be taught what is unacceptable behavior. Rough play and dominance behavior with the stock are the most common adolescent behaviors which cause problems. This behavior can be upsetting and costly to you if you do not know how to treat the situation effectively.
- "Do you expect specific actions from me in regard to this pup after I take it home?" What are they?" Most responsible breeders will expect you to care for the dog and keep it healthy. They'll be glad to talk to you about how to do that as well as asking for a promise to take care of the dog.
- "How do I get the dog to my house?" Hopefully you can just drive over and pick it up on the day the breeder releases it. Maybe you did virtual visits on the web or even via telephone. Before you commit to a particular purchase price, find out what it includes. Is shipping included? Usually not. We sell our dogs FOB our farm and shipping is the responsibility of the purchaser. We will work with the buyer and transport the dogs to the airport at no extra charge as will most reputable breeders.
If you think about it, you may be able to come up with more questions that you'll need or want answered. Do not be embarrassed or hesitant. Ask questions until you are comfortable that you know all you need to know at that time. If the breeder resents the time and effort you're asking for, go elsewhere. Most breeders we know will talk all day long about their dogs and be happy to find someone who'll listen.
When you're comfortable with the breeder, you've agreed upon a purchase price, and all that's left for you to do is to wait until your pup is old enough to leave its dam, you're ready to move to the next step: preparing for your LGD to arrive.