Note: The following was written for people looking for Labrador retriever puppies, so the medical issues raised are specifically for Labs. Learn about any medical conditions in the breed you’re interested in and find out what, if any, health clearances are appropriate.)

Remember you are adding a new member to your family for the next 10 to 15 years. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BARGAIN HUNT!

Prepare to spend at least $1,500 to $2,500 or more for a well-bred puppy. Before you fall in love with the first adorable Labrador retriever face you see, take the time in an initial phone call to the breeder to ask the following questions. You may not find a breeder who fits 100 percent of these criteria, but don’t settle for anything less than one or two negative responses. You should feel comfortable with the answers to the majority of your questions before moving forward with a given breeder.

You or someone you know may have purchased a “backyard” bred dog or a pet store or puppy mill dog and had great success. However, the high number of serious problems seen in these breeds today makes it likely that a problem may occur. 

Chief among these problems are temperament issues ranging from aggression to shyness to hyperactivity. Hip dysplasia, eye problems causing blindness, heart defects that can severely shorten life span, exercise induced collapse (EIC), auto immune disorders, and cancer are also becoming prevalent.

Responsible breeders will do all they can to avoid these problems by researching pedigrees and screening parents for certain inherited problems before breeding.

Where did you find out about this breeder? Responsible breeders usually have a waiting list of puppy buyers. They usually don’t find it necessary to advertise in newspapers or with a sign out in the front yard.

Keep this checklist by the phone when you make your calls and good luck!

Don’t be offended by breeders who indicates that they will pick the puppy for you. Everyone wants “pick of the litter.” A good breeder has spent a lot of time with the puppies, and although you may want that quiet resting one you really think would be mellow, the breeder knows that’s the puppy with not much of an off switch and he’s only mellow right now because he’s been rampaging with his litter mates for the last four hours, and will be up and at it again before you are down the driveway in your car.

Do you feel comfortable with this person? After all, you are entering into a decade-long relationship. Are you feeling intimidated or pressured? If so, keep looking!

Questions to Ask Yourself

Are you prepared to:

If you answered yes to ALL of the above, you are ready to start contacting breeders. Start early because most reputable breeders have a waiting list ranging from a few months to a couple of years. Remember, the right puppy or adult dog IS worth waiting for!

A word about rescue dogs: they may or may not be responsibly bred. However, since they are often adults, we are able to evaluate them for any signs of a problem before you fall in love, something that can’t be done with a puppy. We consider this only one of the many advantages to adopting an older dog!


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