Finding a Breeder
If you've done much research at all into finding a dog, then you've heard that you should only buy from a responsible breeder. The reasons to do this versus getting a dog from a pet shop or an ad in the paper are many, and you've probably heard them a thousand times. Just in case you haven't, here's a link to a quick refresher:
Where NOT to buy a Dog
So, you've decided you should buy your new English Springer Spaniel puppy from a responsible breeder. Congratulations, you've made a wise decision. Now, where do you look to find good breeders? And how will you know if the person you talk to is a responsible breeder or not? Never fear, help is here! First, finding some breeders. The person you get your puppy from needs to be someone you trust and feel comfortable with, as you will hopefully be establishing a positive relationship that will last for the lifetime of your dog or beyond. For that reason, you want to be very, very careful when deciding on a breeder. Here are some suggestions on where to make contact with good breeders. You can use the links below to go directly to the individual sections, or read straight through for a lot of information . If you already have some breeders in mind, but want info on how to make sure they are reputable breeders, you can skip directly to Choosing a Breeder. You can also check out the ESS Puppy Help website for more valuable info on finding a breeder.
|ESSFTA/Other Clubs||Dog Shows||The Internet||E-mail Lists||Other Possibilities|
ESSFTA or Other Dog Clubs
A good place to start looking for a breeder is the ESSFTA breeder referral service. The ESSFTA (English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association) is the AKC parent club for the English Springer Spaniel. That means it is the club designated by the AKC to develop the breed standard for the breed. In addition, the ESSFTA is the central clearinghouse for information about Springers in the United States. They are a club for both field-bred and bench-bred ESS. The ESSFTA has a very good website with a lot of information about Springers in general, and it is a good place to begin looking for information about the breed. You can visit their website at www.essfta.org. One of the services provided by the ESSFTA is a breeder referral service. (The link for this is on the left of the ESSFTA home page). Most responsible breeders of English Springer Spaniels are members of the ESSFTA. When you contact Breeder Referral, they will provide you with a list of ESSFTA member breeders who have asked to be available to people looking for puppies. As members of the ESSFTA, these breeders have agreed to follow the ESSFTA Guidelines for Responsible Breeders of English Springer Spaniels. Those guidelines can be viewed here. Even if you don't use the ESSFTA breeder referral service to find a breeder, these are guidelines that all breeders should be adhering to in order to be considered reputable, responsible breeders of Springers. There are also many local Springer clubs who can provide breeder referrals for your area. There is a list of local Springer clubs on the ESSFTA site as well. All-breed kennel clubs may also be able to help you with locating ESS breeders near you. Keep in mind that even if a breeder is part of a referral service, it doesn't automatically mean they are completely reputable. The ESSFTA (and other clubs) do not really police the breeders on their referral list, and even though a breeder has agreed to follow the guidelines it doesn't necessarily mean they do. So be sure to screen any breeder carefully, no matter where the referral comes from.
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Another good way to meet Springer breeders is to attend a dog show (or field trial, if you are looking for a field-bred ESS). Most breeders are very happy to talk with people who are interested in the breed. They will usually have one or more of their dogs with them at the show, so you can meet those dogs and get a feel for what that person breeds. You can then exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses with breeders from whom you are interested in getting more information. Visit the "Activities" page here at Kalwa for more information about dog shows, including how to find a show in your area. One important thing to remember is that before they go into the ring, the people showing dogs are generally very focused on the upcoming competition. If you try to talk to someone just before ring time, don't be surprised to get a bit of a brush-off (although rude behavior is inexcusable at any time). You might try just quickly introducing yourself and asking if the person will be available to chat a bit after the breed has shown. Once the showing is done, you can often follow the breeder back to their set-up (grooming area) and have a long conversation about their breeding plans and what you are looking for.
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Searching the internet can be a good way of finding a breeder, but you need to be very careful as there are many puppy mills and irresponsible breeders who have begun to use the internet as a way to mislead people about the dogs they sell. It is very easy for someone to put up a website and misrepresent the dogs they are breeding or their breeding practices. There are even quite a few people with websites out there that have stolen pictures of dogs from other websites and are representing those dogs as ones they have bred (or their breeding stock). For more information about checking out websites when looking for a dog, check out "Where NOT to Buy a Dog." By all means check out the websites of Springer breeders, as it can be a good place to start getting information. If you like what you see, then contact the breeder, but be especially careful about getting as much information as possible from him to be sure he is being honest with you. And don't be surprised if he wants to ask you a lot of nosy questions, too, as the anonymity of the internet works both ways!
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Another way to use the internet (or at least e-mail) to connect with responsible Springer breeders is through the use of e-mail lists. There are several Springer-related lists out there, populated with many responsible Springer breeders as well as lots of other people who own (or are just interested in) Springers. These e-mail lists are a very good way not only to connect with local breeders, but to get all sorts of information about Springers in general. One very good list, with a mix of Springer breeders and people who participate in all types of performance venues, as well as plain old pet owners, is the ESS-L2 list. To get more information about this list and to join if you are interested click here.
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There are many other ways you might find a Springer breeder. One is word-of-mouth. Do you know anyone with a Springer you particularly admire? Ask them from whom they got their dog. If you run into a Springer at the pet supply store, or the park, or anywhere, ask the owner where they got the dog. They might be able to point you to a good local breeder. Asking your veterinarian (if you have one) or local obedience instructors might also be a way to find a breeder. Still, be sure to carefully screen any recommended breeders, no matter who recommends them.
A newspaper ad is the first way many people think of to acquire a puppy. Generally this is not a good idea, however. Most of the people advertising in the paper are what is referred to as "back-yard breeders" or BYBs. For more info on BYBs, and why not to purchase a dog from them, see "Where NOT to Buy a Dog." There are some responsible breeders who occasionally advertise in the paper, however, when they have more puppies than expected, for example. Some breeders (and dog clubs) also put informational ads in the paper, and these can be a very good starting place. If you do decide to answer a newspaper ad, be extremely careful about screening the breeder to make sure you are getting what you want.
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Choosing a Breeder
Use the links below to jump directly to different areas in this section if you like. Or read straight through for a whole lot of information on what to look for in a breeder, and what he/she will want from you.
Once you have made contact with a breeder (or several) it is time to decide if this is someone you really want to purchase a puppy from. First of all, it is important to know that you will not be able to call up a breeder, say you want a puppy, and take one home that day (or even that week, or probably that month). Most breeders have a waiting list of people interested in puppies before a breeding even takes place, and if they are not reasonably certain they will have homes lined up in advance for all the puppies they will not breed. Expect that once you decide on someone you would like a puppy from you will be waiting probably several months, or longer. However, responsible breeders who know they do not have a good chance of having something available for you in a reasonable period of time will be glad to refer you to somebody else who may have puppies available sooner. If a breeder says she will have nothing available for several months or more and is unwilling to make a referral for you, that is probably not a breeder from whom you should be interested in getting a puppy.
When you contact a breeder, what sort of things should you be asking? One thing to be aware of is that very few breeders are favorably impressed by a person whose first question about the dog is price. This suggests to him that you are more concerned about money than acquiring a quality animal. If you have done your homework you should have a general idea about what Springers typically sell for in your part of the country, and you should expect to pay something in that range. It is perfectly acceptable to inquire as to the price of a breeder's puppies, but it is probably wise to wait until you have gotten some other information and established yourself as a serious, responsible buyer before doing so. As a general guideline, prices for quality Springer puppies are usually in the $800-$1200 range, with prices being slightly higher on the coasts and a bit lower in the middle of the country. This is just a rough generalization, but if the price you are quoted is much lower or much higher than the suggested range it should raise a red flag and you should be asking about how the breeder determines what he will charge for puppies. Lower prices generally suggest that the breeder has cut costs on health testing or other care, because breeders generally want to charge enough to at least break even on the costs of a litter. Higher prices may suggest that the breeder is more concerned with making a profit than the welfare of the puppies. These prices are for pet puppies; if you are looking for a show prospect, prices may be higher or there may be co-ownerships involved. Be sure to ask the breeder exactly what the terms for a show puppy will be, and get everything in writing with a signed contract.
As far as what things you should ask, here are some
suggestions. The following is a list of questions developed by Anita
Wheeler, of Shelley English Springer Spaniels, located in Georgia. Anita
was a long-term Springer breeder (and a very good and responsible one) who passed away
in 2007. She
suggested that this checklist of questions may be helpful in finding a
conscientious breeder whether you are looking for a show dog, performance dog,
or a good companion (or all three!).
For The Prospective ESS Puppy Buyer: Questions To Ask A Breeder (AND SOME GUIDELINE ANSWERS)
1. How long have you owned ESS?
The answer should be a few years at least.
2. How many litters have you bred?
The answer could be one, if all other answers are good. If the number of litters is too high and the number of years owned is too low, then you should worry.
3. What dog clubs do you belong to?
Most responsible English Springer breeders will be pleased to tell you that they belong to a local Springer Specialty club as well as an all-breed club. I would be concerned if the breeder did NOT belong to the NATIONAL PARENT CLUB for our breed in the U.S.: the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association, Inc.
4. On the average, how many litters do you breed a year?
Should be an average of 2 litters a year or less (IMO).
5. What other breeds do you own? Do you breed these other breeds?
The answer should be one other breed, at the most. No one can responsibly breed more than two breeds (IMO). Even when a person has two breeds, for info about the secondary breed, the responsible breeder usually relies on a mentor who is an expert in that breed. People who breed several breeds of necessity breed without having the requisite knowledge and current information.
6. Do you compete with your dogs in conformation, obedience, field trials, agility,
tracking, spaniel hunt tests? Are you involved in pet therapy, breed education,
There should be some area of competition or TESTING, which indicates breeding to a standard, breeding to improve the breed, not just breeding to sell for a profit.
7. What are your criteria for breeding a bitch?
Basic criteria should be the following:
a) show champion (or titles--indicating excellence--in other areas)*
b) outstanding quality animal who can contribute to the improvement of the breed (not all champions or titled animals are of the quality to be bred)
c) at least 3 years old
d) sound, stable, correct temperament
e) hips certified normal by OFA
f) eyes (recently) certified normal by ACVO (board-certified ophthalmologist)
veterinarian (CERF exam)
g) little if any known epilepsy in dog, sibs, or parents
h) few other serious problems--debilitating allergies, skin problems, heart problems, elbow dysplasia.
*There are a few good reasons for breeding a bitch who is not a champion. Make sure the reason makes sense to you.
8.What criteria do you use in choosing a stud dog?
Basic criteria should be the same as those for the bitch, except that the male should also be able to compensate for the bitch by being strong where she is weak. A breeding should never double up on a fault.
9. How many titles (and what titles) have you put on your dogs?
Breeder should have put several titles at least.
10. What genetic problems are there today in ESS?
A knowledgeable breeder will cite hip and eye problems (specifically Progressive
Retinal Atrophy), epilepsy (perhaps #1), dominant aggression (temperament). Allergies and hyperactivity may also be cited. A Springer breeder who lists rage syndrome (as a primary problem in our breed) is NOT a knowledgeable breeder. A Springer breeder who says there are no specific genetic problems is also NOT a knowledgeable Springer breeder.
11. Do you have a mentor?
If so, who? Try to contact the mentor.
12. What references from previous puppy buyers and other Springer breeders can you
They should be able to give more references than you would ever want to contact!!!
13. What guarantees do you give with your pet/show pups?
Guarantees vary widely. They should always be given in writing--so everyone
understands clearly what they are.
14. What on-going support do you give to your puppy buyers?
All these questions may make you sound like someone who wants a guarantee that his pup is perfect, and that you are seriously considering returning the pup if he isn't perfect. You might emphasize to the breeder that you know that breeding is not an absolute science, and that it is the breeder's COMMITMENT to the animals he breeds that you are inquiring about. You need to emphasize your own commitment by saying that you WILL follow the breeder's guidelines about crate training and giving correct training discipline to your pup. Whether you think so or not, your breeder probably DOES know best about how to raise a healthy, well-socialized puppy. Most responsible breeders will take back any dog they have bred, at any time, for any reason, whether it is convenient or not.
Copyright Anita Wheeler, January 2000.
For a printer-friendly version of these questions, which you can take with you to talk to breeders, click here.
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The Next Step
If you are happy with the answers you have gotten to the above questions (as well as any others you think of), the breeder is happy with you (more on that later) and the breeder will have puppies available in the not-too-distant future, then the next step is to visit the breeder's home, if at all possible. You will want to check out the facilities where the dogs are kept. Some breeders keep their dogs in their house, and others use kennels. Either is acceptable, as long as the dogs and facilities are clean and well cared for. Meet the dogs, and make sure that they are animals you would feel comfortable owning. Especially be sure to meet the puppies' dam and any other very close relatives. You may be able to meet the sire of the litter as well, but many breeders frequently breed to dogs they do not own (who are sometimes located very far away) in an attempt to find the best possible match for their bitch, so do not be concerned if he is not on the premises. If the dogs are kept in a kennel, find out if they are kept there all the time or are also house dogs sometimes. Find out where puppies are raised and what kind of socialization they get. You probably do not want to bring home a puppy who has never seen the inside of a house if that is where your dog is going to live. You also want your puppy to have been exposed to a wide variety of people and circumstances. Nothing is more important to a dog's well-being than good socialization as a puppy. While you can certainly continue the socialization process after bringing your dog home, a good start at an early age is invaluable in ensuring that your dog is well-socialized as an adult.
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What if the Breeder is not
If you are interested in acquiring a puppy from a breeder who is located a long distance from you, then visiting the breeder's facilities may be difficult or impossible. Most people looking for a pet (as opposed to a show or top-level performance dog) can find a breeder located within a reasonable drive of their home. If this is not the case, however, there are still things you can do. It becomes imperative at this point to talk to the breeder a lot, and be sure to get all your questions answered. Also ask for references, like Anita Wheeler suggests. Especially references from people in your area whom you might be able to meet in person. Ask the breeder if any of her dogs have been placed in your area so you might meet them. You can also ask for pictures and perhaps video of the breeder's home and facilities, as well as her other dogs, and of course the puppies. And if it is possible for you to make a trip to the breeder's home to pick up the puppy; that is highly recommended (some breeders require this when selling puppies to distant homes). It is possible to successfully purchase a dog from a breeder located very far away (I've done it twice, and sold puppies to many distant homes), but it does take more work and a little bit of faith on both your part and the breeder's.
Speaking of faith on the breeder's part, you may know what you want in a breeder, but you need to be aware that the breeder is also going to have some pretty definite ideas about what she's looking for in a puppy-buyer. Some people report that after being screened by a breeder, they feel like they've been interrogated. For some people this can be an upsetting experience, as they feel that the breeder is demanding much more information than seems reasonable. Remember, though, that the breeder has invested a lot of time, effort, emotion, and money into raising this litter of puppies, and she is not going to let them go to just anyone! In fact, if a breeder doesn't have just as many questions for you as you have for her, that should be a red flag for you that she may not be picky enough about where she's selling her puppies. And a breeder who isn't picky about where her puppies go is one you want to stay away from.
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What a Breeder Will Ask You
There are many questions a breeder might ask you (but in any case, expect a lot of questions!). They will differ from breeder to breeder, but some of the common ones include:
Why are you interested in getting a Springer?
Have you owned Springers before?
What other dogs (or other animals) have you owned? What happened to them?
If you have other pets, what type, breed, age, are they spayed/neutered? If they are not spayed/neutered, why not?
If you have owned other dogs, what activities, if any, have you and your dog been involved in?
Do you have children? How many/what ages?
Do you own or rent your home? If you rent, do you have permission from your landlord to have a dog? (The breeder will probably want to contact your landlord to be sure it is all right for you to have a dog).
Do you have a fenced yard?
Will someone be home with the puppy?
How many hours a day will the dog be home alone?
How will you train the dog? How much/what kind of training will it get?
How will you discipline the dog?
Are you willing to have the dog spayed/neutered? (If you are not purchasing a conformation/breeding prospect, the breeder will most likely require that the dog be spayed/neutered).
Who will be primarily responsible for the dog?
Do you have a vet? (Many breeders will ask to contact him if you do. If you don't they will want you to find one and provide them with the name of the vet you plan to use).
There are many other questions that a breeder will probably ask, but these give you some idea about the kinds of things she might want to know.
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Something Very Important to
When interviewing a breeder, if you do not get answers that you feel comfortable with then walk away from that breeder. You are never under any obligation to purchase a dog from a breeder. Even if you have said you want a puppy, and have put down a deposit, if something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable about that breeder then don't hesitate to change your mind. The worst thing that will happen is that you will lose your deposit, and that is far better than ending up with a dog you are not happy with or a breeder with whom you are not comfortable. The most important thing to remember when looking for a breeder is that you need to find someone with whom you feel comfortable, and whom you feel you can trust. And the breeder needs to be equally certain he can trust you. If this is the case, then you have a good chance of establishing a good relationship which will last for the life of your dog and beyond. The breeder you acquire your dog from should be the person who can give you the best advice about raising your dog and help you most if there are any problems; the one who is the most excited to hear about your dog's accomplishments and the cute things he does; and the person who will cry with you when you call (hopefully many years later) to tell him that your dog has gone to the bridge. If you can find such a breeder you are very lucky, and not only will you likely end up with one wonderful Springer, chances are good you'll already know where to go when it's time to add another Springer to your family.
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