Let Them Tell You What You Need to Know

The key to getting information you need from a breeder is to ask unspecific questions. Asking, “You don’t keep the puppies outside, do you?” will only yield what the breeder thinks you want to hear. Just ask, let them tell, and most importantly, listen.

How long have you been breeding?

A good starter question is to ask how long they have been breeding. A long history isn’t as important as what this question leads into. If this question does not lead into it on its own, good follow-up questions are: Why did you get into breeding? Who primarily takes care of the puppies and mother? How long do you plan on continuing your breeding program? What is your breeding philosophy? What are your breeding goals?

If you are speaking to a Master Breeder, you will determine that they have a productive breeding plan, focused on health and temperament, and raise the puppies in the home, never leaving them alone.

May I contact current owners of your puppies?

Another good question that quickly reveals a bad breeder is asking for references. These could be from people who have recently purchased a puppy or their veterinarian. A bad breeder will explain how his veterinarian and past clients do not have time to be hassled by perspective buyers. I’ve gotten this before and it’s just silly. People love talking about their dogs and many of my past puppy purchasers have offered to be a reference. Any  good breeder has at least two, more likely three veterinarians who will bend over backward for them.

Do you have kids or other animals?

Asking about other animals or kids will help you learn how well the puppies are socialized. Doberman puppies need to be socialized from day one and no one is better at this than loud birds and children, pesky loving cats, and small yappy dogs. This question can also reveal if anyone is kept outside or isolated in a basement, if there are certain behavioral problems in the parents, and how friendly the household is in general.

During most of of my litters I had two cats, Pumpkin and Calliope, and a Chihuahua named Juan. Upon entry into my home, you would immediately know it was happy and safe by my two loving fearless cats, often freshly covered in Doberman saliva, and a 2 ½ lb Chihuahua tap dancing around the Doberman’s feet.

Pumpkin and Calliope were good with the Doberman puppies, even when being pulled in five different directions. The puppies never knew what to think of Juan. He was fun though. Juan is all black, so once when I had some people coming over to see a litter of Doberman puppies, I put him in the baby pen with them. After some puzzled looks appeared from visitors, I pointed to Juan and said, “We think that one might be sick.” We all got a good kick out of it.

How do you socialize your puppies?

This question is similar to the last one. A breeder not understanding what you mean by ‘socialization’ or a breeder that explains puppies can’t be socialized until they are older should be avoided. Doberman puppies should be handled from the time they learn to breathe air and introduced to all kinds of noises and sights right away. A good breeder will do this in a closed home. In other words, the puppies will not come in contact with anything from outside the home that could carry germs, only resident people and animals.

If the breeder explains that the mother will not allow resident people (her owners) or resident animals near the puppies, turn around and run fast and don’t look back.

May I see the parents?

A breeder's unwillingness to allow you to meet the parents is bad sign. It could mean they have behavioral problems which means the puppies are likely to have behavioral problems. Understand however, if the breeder is using an outside stud for the litter you are considering, he will likely be unavailable. Also, if the mother is close to delivery, or currently has a litter, she will not be herself and the breeder may not want to stress her.

What are your blood lines?

Asking a breeder what their blood lines are can reveal their interests and motivations. A good breeder will talk about the longevity, health, and beauty of their lines before they start spouting off complicated names.

Are their tails docked, dews removed, and ears cropped?

Asking about the tail dock, dew claw removal, and ear crop can easily show the aspiring Doberman owner’s ignorance. Tail docking and dew claw removal must be done at about two or three days of age, so the breeder ought to have had it done. So, the question should be asked, “Do you dock tails and remove dew claws?”, and not, “Have their tails been docked and dew claws removed yet?” Likewise with the ear crop, which is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age.

It’s usually a bad sign if the breeder has not docked the tails and removed the dew claws. These are necessary procedures for the Doberman puppy. Ear cropping is a whole other issue. If the breeder is not cropping the ears, you will have to get the puppy at around eight weeks old and find a veterinarian who can perform a good ear crop. Many Doberman owners prefer getting the ears cropped themselves so they can choose the style. If the breeder is cropping the ears, the puppy will cost a few hundred dollars more. There was a time when most Doberman puppies came with cropped ears. Currently, however, it is becoming more and more popular to go ‘natural’ with floppy ears.

How are the puppies weaned?

Generally, Doberman puppies are weaned from their mother’s milk to regular dry puppy food that has been soaked in water. The process should begin around 21 days old, or as soon as the puppies start licking. With healthy Doberman puppies, this process includes little more that setting the food down and allowing them to vacuum it up. The hard part about weaning is doing it consistently throughout the day and keeping control of the ravenous group enough so that one puppy won’t be pushed out while another puppy overeats.

Bad breeders will simply allow the more than willing mother to nurse the puppies, even into five and six weeks as the puppies start to show sharp teeth. This is bad because the puppies must learn to disassociate food from their mother's nipples. If they don’t, they can easily injure the mother. It can also prevent her from making the proper transition from nursing the puppies to her next job of socializing and teaching them.