QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE CONSIDERING AN IWS
If you're considering possibly getting an Irish Water Spaniel, there are several questions that you'll need to answer honestly both for yourself and for the breeder. These are just basic questions, but all of them are very important for the health and well being of any dog, especially an IWS.
These are questions that you should honestly ask and answer for yourself before you pursue getting an Irish Water Spaniel or any other animal. Remember that this dog will hopefully be a part of your life and family for a long time. Animals are special beings -- NOT disposable commodities. They are lifetime commitments who deserve the best that we have to give them.
Questions to Ask a Breeder Before Buying a Puppy
1. What are the congenital defects in this breed? The breeder who says "none" or "I don't know" is to be avoided. That's a person who's not screening for what she doesn't know about, and you don't want to pay the price for her ignorance. A good breeder tells you every remotely possible problem in the breed, from droopy eyelids to dysplasia to epilepsy. Common responses from an IWS breeder may be hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, coat problems, thyroid problems, and cancer.
2. What steps have you taken to minimize the chances of defects in your dogs? You want to hear words like "screened" and "tested" and "certified." In breeds with the potential for hip dysplasia and that includes the IWS, look for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification. These are expert, unbiased evaluators who know exactly what to look for. You can also go to www.offa.org and run a search on the parents of your puppy. This is the best resource as it will not only give information about hips but also other tests that were conducted on the parents such as elbow, thyroid and CERF (eye).
3. Do you have the parents on site? May I see them? This is a bit of a trick question. You should always be able to see the mother, unless she died giving birth, but reputable breeders often don't have the father on hand. That's because the best match for any particular dog may be owned by another breeder, and the female was sent away for breeding. This is especially true for IWS as there is a small breeding pool so the sire may be across the country or even in another country. As for the mother, she may be a little anxious with strangers around her puppies, but on her own you want to see a well-socialized, calm and well-mannered dog. So, too, should be the rest of the breeder's dogs. If you don't like the temperaments of a breeder's grown dogs, what makes you think you'll get a good temperament in one of the puppies?
4. What are the good and bad points of the parents and what titles do they have? You may be looking for a pet-quality purebred, but you still want to buy from someone who knows what top-quality examples of the breed are and uses such animals in a breeding program. You want to see show and working titles all over that pedigree. It doesn't matter if you go home and throw that fine pedigree in a drawer. Recent titles on both sides of a pedigree are the sign of a breeder who's making a good-faith effort to produce healthy dogs that conform to the breed standard.
5. On what basis was the sire chosen? If the answer is "because he lives right down the street" or "because he is really sweet," it may be that sufficient thought was not put into the breeding. You want an explanation as to the temperament and conformation type of the sire and how it complements the dam.
6. Where were these puppies raised? How have you socialized them? "In the house" is the best answer to the first question. You want a puppy who knows what the dishwasher sounds like, whom you don't have to peel off the ceiling when a pan drops, who has set a paw on linoleum, carpet and tile. Environmental socialization is important, but so, too, is the intentional kind. The best breeders make sure puppies have been handled by adults of both genders and by children.
7. What guarantees do you provide? You want to see a contract explaining the breeder's responsibilities should the puppy develop a congenital ailment. In most cases, such contracts state either replacement with a new puppy or refunding of your purchase price. The contract also states your responsibilities, such as neutering your pet. You may also be required to return the dog to the breeder if you can no longer keep him. Such language is the sign of a concerned and responsible breeder. Read and discuss the paperwork with the breeder before you agree to the purchase. The best breeders offer contracts that protect not only the buyer and seller, but also the most vulnerable part of the transaction: the puppy.
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