When you buy a working dog, you often find yourself looking in a hurry so you can get on with your day to day activities.
Although you may be feeling pressure to purchase a new dog quickly, a little patience and time may save a lot of heart ache in the long run.
During the decision process you should consider the type of dog you want to take on. Will it be a pup, a half-broken dog or a fully trained working dog? Factors that influence your choice may include your budget and the amount of time you have on your hands. Regardless, there are a few health checks you should always do prior to purchasing your next team member.
If considering investing in a pup it’s a good idea to make sure both parents have been checked out by a vet. Some breeders do not think about the health repercussions when deciding to breed. Here are a few recommended things to look out for in your pup:
Have the parents’ hips and elbows been checked out for dysplasia – this is a one very important step breeders can proactively take to ensure breeding genetics are free from this debilitating disease. Check for cleft palates (openings in the roof of the mouth) for no openings. Make sure that the puppy has been fed a good quality puppy food. This will have implications on bone growth and strength for the rest of its life. The puppies’ skin and coat quality should look healthy, their eyes should be clean and clear, and they should have no nasal discharge. Ask the owner about their worm, flea and vaccination status.
If you are looking at a dog that has been provided with the training basics you will need to find out exactly why the current owner is selling it. Will you end up taking on a young dog with behavioral issues? You may be experienced enough to turn this dog around, just be cautious as some behavioral issues are difficult to rectify.
Taking on an experienced dog may get your team back up to speed more quickly, but age is another factor to consider. Older dogs may start to show signs of arthritis. Make sure the dog is examined properly, bend the carpus, does the paw reach the back of the leg? Can you extend each back leg without any reluctance to do so? What about putting slight pressure over the spine, does the dog dip away at the pressure? These can all be signs of arthritis. Most NZ working dogs have some form of arthritis by the age of 5. Always keep this in the back of your mind.
Ask the seller some important questions: Has this dog ever had surgery before? Is it prone to soft pads? Is it stiff in the morning when coming out of the kennel? Reluctant to jump? Is it a dominant dog? Asking the right questions will help you determine the type of behavior associated with the dog and how well it may fit in your existing team.
Although colour and sex are not the most important factors, you may have a preference with regards to fitting into your team. A dog with white around their nose and eyes will be more prone to skin cancer considering the hours spent out in the sun. Remember also that speying is a very cost-effective way to prevent dog fights, and unwanted pregnancies!
If you can, it’s a good idea to get your vet to perform a pre-purchase examination on the dog to eliminate any obvious concerns regarding any other health issues which you may not be aware of.