By Dr Laura van Dalen.
Buying from a reputable breeder is your best bet for a mentally and physically sound puppy. Producing good dogs takes time, hard work, and a little help from God. When you purchase a van Dalen puppy, you purchase our time, experience, and support for as long as that puppy remains in your life.
The breeder's motive with each breeding should be to try to maintain the breed's unique characteristics, referred as Type, and produce dogs that are very close to the AKC standard while always considering the health and temperament of the dogs he or she produces. Each generation should improve the one before.
Good breeders are actively involved in the dog fancy. While not every breeder breeds for show, there have to be a purpose. Ask what activities they do with their dogs. Show breeders should be regularly showing their dogs in conformation, as that is how good breeders know they are on the right track with their breeding program. A breeder may be involved in obedience, hunting, agility, therapy dog competitions among others. Pay attention to the titles a particular puppy has in its pedigree as all these titles are the result of a huge effort made by the owner or breeder of that particular dog, and it shows that besides a good conformation, the dog also has a good temperament. A good breeder will always use the best stud available for each breeding. Any abnormal or out of the standard characteristic should be out of the breeding program. Only the best dogs should be bred and that means that only sound, mentally and physically, dogs that have good breed type should be bred. Even when temperament can be molded or improved with training, it is a 100% inherited trait. Ask to see the parents, play with them and make sure they have the temperament you are looking for. Excessive shyness, aggressiveness or hyperness is not admissible in any Labrador breeding program.
A reputable breeder has the health of the dam and sire checked before they are bred. Labrador breeding stock must have OFA certification for the hips and elbows, heart clearance, PRA clear, and eyes checked by an AVCO specialist. We also do DNA for EIC, CNM, and do OFA on Patella’s. You should get health records that show all medical treatments the pup has received, including vaccinations and de-worms. The puppy should be sold with an implanted microchip. You should be required to sign a contract for any puppy you buy. This contract should include a health guarantee for at least 1 year. The breeder should be willing to supply a copy of this contract ahead of time, so you may read it to be sure you agree with the terms.
A good breeder will be willing to help at any time; even years after the puppies are placed.
There are things that only experience can give. A breeder that has been breeding for just a few month or a few years can make huge mistakes which may be reflected in the puppy that you are considering buying. It is not only good intentions that are needed to have a good breeding program. A reputable breeder is well informed about the breed health issues, routinely tests for them, and informs prospective puppy buyers of any problems they have found. A reputable breeder will tell you about the breed's temperament and needs. Breeders should be able to show a 3 or more generation pedigree of the litter, and they should be willing to explain any titles on the dogs in their pedigrees, the more titles, the better.
Breeding dogs consume time. It is a 24/7 job. No holidays or weekends. There will be always someone needing help or a matting to be done when you are about to go out for vacation or for just a dinner. Puppies need to have plenty of human contact from day one. They need to realize humans are their best friends from an early age. Early socialization is extremely important for all puppies. A good breeder is willing to show you their facilities, but if it is a private house, please respect their privacy and don't just show up without calling first. You should be able to meet the dam. There will probably even be other dogs: aunts, uncles, cousins, of the litter available. Well-seasoned breeders are usually very proud of their dogs and love to show them off! The sire of the litter may not be available, as often the best match for a particular bitch is a different kennel's dog that might be hundreds of miles away, but there should be photos, pedigrees, and health test results of the sire for you to see. He will ask you many questions. He will ask about your family, lifestyle, previous dogs you have had, your experience, your yard, and your plans for your pup: show, breeding or pet. He cares about the pups he has brought into this world and wants to place them in the best home possible.
The AKC is just a registering organization. AKC registration papers do not guarantee quality, only that the pup's parents were also registered. It is up to you as a consumer to do your homework when deciding where to get your puppy. Don't be an impulsive buyer. Be willing to wait for a pup that has the best chance of living a long happy and healthy life. The purchase price is only a small percentage of the money you will spend on a companion you will have for years. Increase your chances of a healthy pup by following the above guidelines when choosing a breeder.
If you are not allowed to see the mother of the puppies, most likely, it is a broker. He or she buys puppies from other people and resells them for a higher price. Never ever buy a puppy from a pet shop or puppy mill. These puppies have been abused, their parents have been abused, they have been bred indiscriminately, they have been kept in the most horrible conditions, any papers that you may receive are very questionable, they don't have any health clearances, and these puppies are not necessarily cheaper than a reputable breeder’s puppy. I know is hard not to feel sorry for these puppies that have been in a small create since they were born, but If you give your money to these people, you are contributing to their business. It would be a better option to go to a shelter and get a puppy or dog that is in need of a forever home.
Silver and other rare colored Labradors
Beware of breeders that sell silver, Brindle, charcoal, or Champagne Labs. There are only 3 colors accepted by any official Labrador club in the world, Black Yellow, and Chocolate. Any breeder that breeds away from the standard is very questionable. Also, all these diluted genes are linked to diseases that will most likely make your puppy’s life very painful and possibly will not live too long.