Buying a Puppy
If after researching the breed thoroughly you still want a Great Pyrenees, take your time and resist impulse buying. Obtain the names of reputable breeders in your area, call them to talk about the breed and ask lots of questions.
Before you call breeders, read the Breeding and Sales sections of the GPCA Code of Ethics, which should give you some idea of the kind of things that can be expected from reputable breeders. These are some questions you may want to ask:
- Which of the following genetic clearances do you obtain on all breeding stock? GDC Hip Certification; OFA Hip Certification; Other?
- What dog clubs do you belong to and what offices have you held?
- What requirements do you have that all puppy buyers must meet?
- What types of homes have you placed your dogs in? Show; Pet/Companion; Working?
- How do you temperament/aptitude test your puppies?
- How do you decide which puppy goes to which buyers?
- At what age do puppies go to their new home?
- Will you be available to answer questions and give advice should problems arise after the puppy has left your home?
- Have the puppies received all the appropriate inoculations and wormings for their age? Have they been checked by a vet?
- Please explain why you chose to breed these two particular dogs to each other?
- Please describe the physical characteristics and personality traits that you expect from this breeding?
- Anticipated date of birth? Placement date?
- Price? Pet/companion quality; Show/breeding quality; Working?
- Do you require that pets not intended for competition or breeding be neutered?
- Can you give the names of previous puppy buyers for references?
- What guarantees do you give with a puppy, and are these guarantees in writing?
- Are the sire and dam free of any hereditary defects?
- Please indicate whether you offer a money back or a replacement puppy guarantee and any conditions that the buyer must satisfy.
If possible, visit the breeder personally and see the puppies even if this means a long drive. This will enable you to meet the breeder and see the conditions in the kennel. Although elaborate equipment is not necessary, the facilities can and should be clean. To be healthy, the puppies should be kept clean with a warm, dry pen and a clean bedding area. See the mother of the puppies and the father, if possible; and as many relatives as you can. This will give you some idea of what to expect in terms of appearance and personality. Ask if the parents have been certified clear of hip dysplasia and ask for a copy of the certificate.
While it may be the best choice to purchase your companion pup from a breeder who is within driving distance, many wonderful pups have been purchased sight unseen and arrive by airplane. If you are interested in buying a puppy from a breeder who you cannot visit, be prepared to spend a lot of time talking on the phone. Request written information from the breeder and a copy of the contract that you will be expected to sign. Also ask for referrals to prior puppy buyers and references from other breeders. While magazine ads and the Internet can be excellent places to make initial contacts, remember that you must still do all the proper investigation and ask the same questions.
Look for a pup that is sociable, strong, sturdy, and healthy. Make sure that you have the right to take your new pup to your own veterinarian for a check up and the right to return it for a full refund if it is not healthy. And be sure that you do this within the first few days after you get your pup. A small investment in a vet visit could save a large investment in future care. If you are purchasing a family companion, you are entitled to a sound, healthy dog with a good temperament. If you are purchasing a dog for show or breeding, you are entitled to an animal of superior quality and that is fully guaranteed to be so. The visit to the kennel also gives the breeder the opportunity to get to know you.
No one knows the puppies better than the devoted breeder who has spent countless hours with them, and this person is the best person to pick the puppy that best suits your personality and will fulfill your "wants" and "plans" for it's future. You can expect that a good breeder would also ask you about your plans and your own facilities for your Great Pyrenees. In fact, buyers should be cautious of breeders who do not ask questions. It often indicates that the breeder is not very concerned about the future of their pups. Other questions that they might ask are:
- Do you have a well-fenced area? Pyrs are roamers and MUST be kept either in your home, confined to a securely fenced area, or on leash. Underground or invisible fencing is not appropriate for Pyrs. Very often it will not keep them in; if they want out badly enough they will routinely withstand the shock to do so and even if it does keep them in, it will not keep other animals or people out. Remember, Pyrs are guardian dogs.
- Do you have neighbors who may complain about a barking dog? Pyrs are barkers, especially at night.
- Do you have the time to give your dog regular discipline, basic obedience training, proper socialization, and grooming? All dogs, but most especially large livestock guardian dogs, need regular day-to-day discipline, basic obedience training, companionship, and attention to ensure that they become a pleasure and not a problem. Pyrs do shed a lot and need regular brushing and nail clipping to keep them in good condition.
- Do you own other dogs? If so, what breeds and sexes? Pyrs are territorial dogs. Male Pyrs will seldom tolerate another large male dog in their territory, and females sometimes will not tolerate another large female in her territory. If you should have this experience, do you have the ability to keep the dogs separated for the rest of their lives?
- Can you afford to own a giant breed dog? While adult Pyrs are not big eaters, growing pups require more, good quality food. And while basic routine vaccinations may not cost more for a large dog than they do for a small dog, a large dog does require a higher dosage of medications and anesthesia than a smaller dog and this can add considerably to your vet bill. It also costs more to board a large dog.
- Do all family members want this pup? It is a mistake to buy a dog for the kids when it requires the management of responsible adults to care for a dog. It is also unfair to the pup if a family member resents his presence in the home.
A puppy from an AKC registered litter is eligible for registration with the American Kennel Club. When buying a puppy one should be given either the AKC registration application with the litter number on it, or the AKC registration certificate with the individual dog's name and number on it, and these should be properly signed. A puppy may, for good cause, be sold without papers if this is understood and agreed to in writing by both parties as specified by the AKC.
The AKC has two different types of registration certificates. Regular AKC registration allows the dog to compete in all AKC events and for it's offspring to be registered with the AKC. Limited registration papers are used by the breeder for puppies they do not want to be used for breeding or shown in conformation. No offspring of a dog for which Limited registration has been granted is eligible for registration. If for some reason, the breeder cannot provide the AKC registration application at the time of sale, get a promise of these papers in writing. The breeder should also provide such pertinent data as whelping date, sire, dam, pedigree, immunization and worming records, and the recommended diet and feeding schedule. (Please see Section 8 of the GPCA Code of Ethics, located in the Club Info section of this website, to see the specific guidelines required of GPCA members.)
AKC registration in no way indicates the quality of the puppy. Quality is usually roughly graded on three levels: pet/companion quality, show, and breeding quality. A dog deemed to be pet/companion quality very often may have some very minor fault which may not even be visible to the novice person, and that in no way diminishes the attractiveness of the dog or in its ability to live a long, normal, healthy life. If you are buying a pet/companion pup, do not be surprised if the breeder requires that this pup be neutered. This is a requirement that most responsible breeders have in their contracts. A show prospect puppy is one that meets the breed standard approved by the GPCA and the AKC, exhibiting virtues of the breed with the absence of faults. Such show prospects may or may not eventually make good breeding stock. A breeding quality dog should generally be a superior representative of the breed as well as being free of all serious hereditary defects or faults (even if the faults are not visible in a show ring).
The AKC does require that all breeders keep full and accurate records of their litters. Any breeder should be interested in the progress of all the puppies he sells. If for some reason you are unable to keep your Pyr, the first person you should contact is the breeder. Most responsible breeders will specify this in their contracts and will often request that the dog be returned to them.
Again, we urge anyone planning to buy a Great Pyrenees to research the breed carefully, and to be patient and cautious. The first available puppy or the lowest price may not be the best choice. Well-bred Pyrs are not constantly available, and purchasing the right pup may mean being willing to wait a while. Well-bred Pyrs are not inexpensive, and the price may vary somewhat depending on what area of the country you live in. Please be sure you are willing to make a commitment for the next 10 to 12 years to meet the physical and emotional needs of a Great Pyrenees. These dogs are living, breathing, sensitive creatures who should not be discarded simply because they have become an inconvenience, or your living arrangement or personal life has changed. Any number of Great Pyrenees end up in rescue each year because people did not research the breed thoroughly or did not take this commitment seriously. Don't let the Pyr you buy become one of the statistics — THINK BEFORE YOU BUY.
A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, Inc. 1997