I bought my dog Nali in 2016 after visiting about seven breeders. It was fun to learn about labs and talk with other people that shared similar interests. I plan to buy a second dog this spring and have been searching for the right match over the last few months. This blog explains a few keys to finding the right pup and setting yourself up for success.
Health is Wealth
Focus on health above all else when buying a dog. It doesn’t matter if the dog has great drive and a good nose, injuries can end a season or even a career. Try to find a breeder that has records of elbows, hips and Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) in the preceding generations. OFAs may seem like another language in the beginning, but taking the time to understand results will pay off later.
Understanding OFAs and Pedigrees
The pedigree is the dog’s family tree. Most breeders will have a copy on their website. If not, ask to see it. Check the pedigree over for any dog’s with the same names. Some breeders do more line breeding than others. There may also be an inbreeding coefficient (CoI) on the website. Avoid dogs with related ancestry.
Each dog should have an OFA number for both elbows and hips. Vets won’t give out numbers to dogs with issues, or they’ll note the ailment. Each dog on the pedigree will have their breeder’s name listed as well, which can help in finding other litters in the area. Check out HuntingLabPedigree.com to get an idea.
Meet the Parents
The sire and dam (father and mother) will give you the best prediction of the pup’s temperament and build as an adult.
It’s a deal breaker if a breeder won’t allow me to see the sire and dam. It’s unfortunate that some breeders want people to come fall in love with a pup and make a decision based on emotion that will impact their life for the next decade. If the breeder lives too far away, ask for videos or talk with nearby trainers and kennels for reference.
OFA certifications are done when the dog is roughly 2 years old and a lot can happen in the years following. Meeting the parents will give you a better idea of how the dog will age.
Speak with as many people as you can during the process. RetrieverTraining.net, HuntingLabPedigree.com, and EntryExpress.net each have classifieds for pups. Vets and outfitters can also point you in the right direction. Some breeders will allow you hunt with them or come watch training days.
Despite what people claim, no dog is perfect. But, you’ll learn to love whatever one you end up with. Take your time, do your due diligence and let the cards land where they may.