How To Decode Puppy Ads
We've all seen them, we've all read them, we've all wondered what it all means! Ads can be deceiving if you don't know how to 'decode' the meanings. What may seem like a giant red flag to one person, may not be so obvious to others. We're here to help! We've taken some of the most frequently used phrases in puppy ads and tried to break it down into a more user friendly format.
"Furry Little Stocking Stuffers"
Beware of breeders that tend to have puppies available specifically for holiday sales! What happens when that cute little fluff ball is no longer cute, or little anymore? That furry little stocking stuffer you got at 8 weeks, could turn into a 65+ pound unmanageable nightmare at 6 months. Especially if the breed doesn't fit your family's lifestyle. Are you prepared for the caring and development of an exuberant puppy that needs consistent training, socialization, and lots of exercise?
A responsible breeder generally will not have 'Holiday Puppies', of course we can't always schedule our females to avoid holiday availabilities it should not be a primary goal behind the breeding. A responsible breeder will, also, encourage you to do your homework and should be willing to explain not just the positives but also the potential negatives to the breed. They don't want their puppies to go to just any home, they want their puppies to go to their FOREVER home!
"Full Blooded No Papers"
Buyers Beware! These "breeders" tend to be so inexperienced that they don't know the correct terminology to refer to purebred, pedigreed, registered puppies. It is very likely the breeding was an accident or was planned because the dogs would make pretty puppies or to give the kids the experience of seeing a birth, not because they would actually contribute anything to the health and stature of the breed. These breeders also tend to be unaware of any of the predisposed health concerns with their breed and have not had any health testing done on the parent dogs prior to breeding.
Also know that "Full-Blooded" only 'probably' means the parents are of the same breed. However, it could be an attempt to characterize puppies of mixed parentage. An example for instance, two cocker-po0s do not produce a purebred litter. A cocker-poo is the result of breeding a cocker spaniel to a poodle. In layman's terms, a mixed breed. The only thing that is 'full-blooded' about this dog is that it's a dog. Even though the parents may be referred to as a 'breed' they are not. It takes generations of careful, purposeful breeding to produce a new breed.
The term 'papers' in an ad could refer to a pedigree or to just a registration certificate. Know the difference! A pedigree is a family tree that tells something about the quality of the parents, grandparents, and great grandparents of the puppy. It can help to trace the dogs in the background to find out if the puppy may be a carrier or a potential victim of several genetic disorders. A registration certificate allows the owner to register the puppy with the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, a rare breed registry, or an independent kennel club or breed registry. Eligibility for registration does not affect the health or genetic fitness of the puppy. It only affirms that the puppy comes from registered parents of that breed.
If you are tempted to call the folks who placed this ad, be sure to ask them why they produced a purebred litter that could not be registered. Find out about prices before going to see the puppies -- don't assume that the lack of papers means the price quoted is less than the price for a comparable registerable puppy of the same breed.
If the ad reads "papers available," find out if the papers include both a pedigree and a registration form. Don't pay extra for the pedigree, and only pay the registration fee to reimburse the breeder for registering your puppy if the breeder asks. Breeders who register the puppy for the buyer usually do so as part of the cost of the puppy. A registration form is given to the breeder by the AKC when the litter is registered; don't be suckered into paying extra for it.
AKC - registered refers to the American Kennel Club, a registry that depends on breeders to keep accurate records of the sire and dam of each litter and to forward that information to its North Carolina office whenever a litter is born. Thus AKC registration means that the dog is likely to be purebred, but it makes no guarantees as to the health, quality, or temperament of the dog.
"Pups OFA registered" or "Good hips."
Puppies cannot be registered with OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of America). The quality of their hips can be guesstimated based on the OFA certification of their parents, but this certification is given only upon examination of radiographs (x-rays) taken after the dog is two years old. If one or both parents are less than two years of age, they can have preliminary x-rays that indicate the absence of hip dysplasia, but they cannot be certified free of this debilitating, inherited bone malformation until they reach two years of age. Always ask to see the physical certification!
Be wary of the 'breeder' who claim to health test but will only provide proof to 'serious buyers only'. These health certifications are easy enough to verify through www.offa.org and any reputable breeder will be proud to produce these records for your viewing.
Be cautious as some unscrupulous breeders have forged these documents. Often forging the exam paperwork off of templates found online. What they cannot forge is the official electronic registry entries.
This photo shows one such forgery (top) that was found on an irresponsible breeder's page- verified false by the vet who's logo was also falsely used. The vet who was misrepresented here by the breeder was not an ACVO veterinarian, the only type of veterinarian who can perform and submit the official exam to CERF/OFA. If you have any doubt the paperwork you can easily search the OFA database using the dog's registered name, or the kennel name. As you can see from this forgery, the fakes can be quite convincing if you aren't sure what you are looking at!
Below the forgery is what an official certification of eye exam from OFA will look like. The paperwork should include the registered name of the dog that was evaluated, the registration number of the dog, sex of the dog, the date of birth, age in months at the time of evaluation, and the official OFA certification number in the box. The certificate will have an official watermark as well, this is very difficult to duplicate.
**We wish to note there are working line Siberian kennels that are trail proving their hips vs OFA clearing. We support kennels who are legitimately putting adequate mileage on the trails with their dogs to prove the structural soundness of the dog. Often these kennels will only have CERF/SHOR eye exams on record. We do not support the 'hobby' or 'photo op' kennel that puts the recreational couple of miles on their dogs once in a while use 'trail proven' over actual OFA evaluations.
"Both parents on premises."
Although we always recommend that potential buyers see, more importantly meet, the mother and father of the litter, the presence of both parents is not a guarantee that the puppies were thoughtfully produced. It can also mean that these are backyard breeders with a bitch that is bred every time she comes into heat (or whenever the family needs a few extra bucks). The parents may have good temperaments and be genetically healthy specimens of their breed, or they may not. So, investigate further if the breed is one you are considering; a few questions should ascertain if this is a source you can rely upon. Many responsible breeders choose mates for their bitches from other kennels in order to diversify their breeding program. If so, the sire of the puppies may live across town or in another state. The absence of the father of the litter should not influence selection of a puppy if all questions are answered satisfactorily by the breeder.
"AKC champion background" or "CH Bloodlines"
These are terms that get thrown into a lot of ads. But when you start looking at pedigrees it's a treasure hunt to find these CH titled dogs. Champion bloodlines can be 'diluted' or ruined in a single careless breeding. What to look for is how far back the champions are and how many there are in the four generation pedigree. A champion great-great- grandmother means little to the value, health, or genetic fitness of the puppy born today. If you don't see a single Champion listed in the 4 generation pedigree, the 'tag line' is not relevant. Don't overpay for false advertising. A breeder active in conformation will have Champion Certifications, show photos, and a solid knowledge of the merit of their lines.
We're A "Working" Kennel!
With the recent changes to the USDA/APHIS Animal Welfare Act it is becoming increasingly more 'fashionable' amongst irresponsible breeders to claim there kennel is a "working" kennel. Yet their dogs have never been in harness nor have they seen the inside of a conformation ring. If a kennel is active in working or showing they will have dogs who's conditioning reflect the work and activity they perform. Compare these sites to proven working dog sites and we're guessing you'll see the difference too! If the only 'working dogs' on the site come in 'clip art' form walk away.
What About Prices?
"Prices higher or lower than the local average for the breed." The average cost of a particular breed can be determined by talking to several breeders of similar quality, not by looking at pups in a pet store, or online. Pet stores get their supply largely from puppy mills and charge highly inflated rates for puppies that are often sick. It is not uncommon to see Pet Store Siberian Husky puppies sold for over $2,000! What you won't get in that price is any sort of known lineage, a breeder that stands behind their breeding, or insight to the health of the lines behind the puppy.
On the flip side, Back Yard Breeders may be selling their puppies for equal or far less than reputable breeder prices. As discussed earlier in this topic, back yard breeders may not have the most experience or knowledge behind their breeding. Purchasing a severely discounted puppy may save you up front, but could cost you in vet visits in the long run.
RARE Colors or Patterns
Another buyer beware situation is breeders that advertise "rare colors" or 'saving a color'. Some classified ads tout "rare colors" that are actually different labels put on common colors or are unacceptable colors or patterns for the breed.
Officially Siberians can come in any color from pure white to pure black and everything in between, the only absolutely unaccpetable color/pattern is MERLE. The Siberian Husky does not carry the Merle gene, therefore cannot be purebred and merle. The irresponsible breeders that are breeding these dogs are registering them falsely as piebald. This so-called rare color/patterns is a disqualifications in the breed because of a genetic association with health problems, particularly deafness and eye problems.
Dogs of so-called rare colors and patterns should not be bred. If color or pattern is important, a buyer should choose a breed in which merle is acceptable. If color is not that important or is outweighed by the dog's other characteristics, a dog with a disqualifying color should not be purchased with the idea of eventually producing more dogs of disqualifying colors or patterns. All such dogs should be sterilized in order to maintain the integrity of the breeds.
There's a new term floating around the BYB/Puppy Mill world and that is the romantic idea of preserving a specific trait, gene, or color. Often these traits are not desired and actually faults of the breed standard, or 'saving' a gene that is in no way 'rare' or in danger of being lost. These are just fancy 'catch phrases' to lure unsuspecting buyers into purchasing from them instead of reputable breeding programs.
The latest of these seen in the Siberian Husky community is the "Agouti Preservationist". The Agouti gene is in no way, shape, or form in danger of being lost in the Siberian Husky breed. Another is the "Woolie Preservationist", which as we know is not a desired trait in the Siberian Husky. Do your research before you buy! Where one red flag lies, there are surly others.
General Common Phrases for older dogs
If you're looking for an older dog, beware of folks who advertise...
"Needs room to run." Don't even consider this one unless you have a securely fenced yard and intend to do some obedience training.
"Friendly." Could also be overbearing, untrained, undisciplined, obnoxious, destructive.
"Protective." Read "overprotective." Otherwise the appropriate words would be "good watchdog."
"Free to a good home." Could mean "get him out of here before he drives me crazy."
Buying a puppy is not as simple as it seems. The chances that you will get the right dog for your family increase with the amount of work you put into the selection of a breed, a breeder, and a particular puppy. So, study the classifieds if that is your choice of a source. Don't simply call the ad with the cheapest price or the closest telephone number. Or call a veterinarian, a training club, a kennel club, a groomer, or a boarding kennel for the name of a responsible breeder in your area.
Good Things To Look For!
"Interested parties only need call." These breeders don't want to talk to people who aren't serious about their breed and this particular litter. They are interested in placing their pups in families that already know the breed and its strengths and weaknesses.
"Parents OFA, eye-tested." These breeders are serious about producing healthy puppies from healthy adults.
"Puppies home raised." These puppies have lived in the house, not in a kennel, and have had human contact from the time they were born. Kennel-raised, unsocialized puppies are often shy or fearful and have difficulty relating to people, and, often, to other dogs.
"AKC champion parents." These breeders are generally serious about producing healthy puppies. However, if OFA and eye-certification are not available, the puppies are not raised in the house, the mother has a lousy temperament, etc., championship means nothing.
"Health guaranteed". These breeders stand behind their puppies. They do not guarantee that the puppy will never get sick, but they do offer replacement puppies if the one you buy is a victim of a genetic disorder. **This guarantee is not voided if you do not feed the same food your breeder does or if you don't buy their supplement plan, and does not expire at a select age.
Growing up in Montana my love of the Siberian Husky started at a young age. It has been quite a journey so far. There has been much to learn and still a lot more yet to learn! I truly believe that we are never too old, too experienced, or too full of ourselves to learn something new. I also believe that knowledge is useless unless we are willing to share it with others.