1. Written Guarantee: Good breeders provide written guarantees against genetic disease. It is essential to get a guarantee on the hips and eyes of your pup, given the epidemics of hip dysplasia and various forms of progressive blindness among the nation’s dogs. The guarantee entitles you to a refund of the price of the puppy or a replacement puppy should there be a problem. The guarantee should also allow you to take your new puppy to your own vet within a certain period of time in order to have its good health independently confirmed before the sale is considered final.
Beyond the guarantee of your pup, you want to see copies of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certificate on the hips of both parents, plus the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (GERF) certificate on the eyes of both parents. Do not take the breeder’s word that the parent animals are so registered. Good breeders will not be troubled by your request.
However, you must be prepared to run into the occasional breeder whom will not want to comply with your request. You are almost sure to run into “prominent” breeders who don’t believe in having their dogs’ hips and eyes checked, even if they are from seriously afflicted breeds.
Both in a personal quest for a dog and in researching this information I had this experience again and again. For instance, there is a dog breed about which Michele Lowell says in Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer’s Guide, “He is susceptible to hip dysplasia and serious tumors.” She urges: “Buy only from OFA-registered parents.” A leading breeder of this breed, a person who sits on the national club’s breed standard committee, told me she didn’t have her animals OFA-certified because “I’ve never had any hip problems. If I ever start, I’ll have my dogs checked.” Even in the midst of a plague of canine hereditary disease, this ton-of-cure-is-worth-an-ounce-of-prevention attitude is still common. Be ready to decide for yourself if you find it acceptable.
2. Restricted Transfers: Responsible breeders are answering the distress call of America’s dogs by trying to minimize inappropriate breeding. One way to do this is with “restricted transfers.” These can involve a contract between the new owner and the breeder stipulating that the dog will not be bred until it is old enough to be tested for inherited disease and has been certified disease free. Some restricted transfers require that the animal be spayed or neutered at six months of age, with AKC papers not passing to the purchaser until this is done. You may not be interested in acquiring a pet under such conditions, but you can be sure that breeders imposing them are deeply committed to improving the quality of their breed.