ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Choosing a New Puppy

Note from ClickerSolutions editor: This post was written in response to someone specifically asking about purchasing a Bichon puppy. However, the information is applicable to any breed.

Suzanne is considering a Bichon and writes:

I have found one breeder in my home state of FL but am also wanting to know if there are any closer to me, I live in Melbourne on the Space Coast, that is close to Cocoa Beach and about an hour from the Orlando airport.

Suzanne, this is one of the most important decisions you will make, so it will be worth the effort to find a really responsible, ethical breeder who can offer you the most well socialized, healthy pup possible, and who will be there with you through thick and thin for the next 15 years of that dog's life.

It's a bit like choosing a husband, when you think about it. There are a lot of nice guys, but not all of those nice guys are guys you'd want to live with. Some are couch potatoes, some are sports nuts, some are athletic and some are not.

So, if, for example, you're a more low energy person, you wouldn't probaby want the most effervescent pup in the litter. If you're an outgoing person, who likes to do things, go places, you won't probably want the shy, reticent dog who doesn't enjoy that kind of interaction on a constant basis.

Within each breed, there is an enormous variety of "personality" in puppies within a litter. Working with an experienced breeder is well worth the effort, as they can help choose a pup who will be most well suited to your personality and lifestyle.

My suggestion would be to bypass the breeder if it was a newspaper ad, or if the breeder is not actively involved in the National or regional breed club and showing her animals. This is not to say that all people who advertise in the newspapers are not good, but your chances are much slimmer of finding a healthy, well socialized animal if you go to someone who has not been working to produce dogs who meet the standard on a regular basis. There are a alot of people who breed pet shop dogs to their neighbor's dogs and sell the puppies for profit. They haven't a clue of the genetics, the problems that may creep up down the road, though they may be lovely people and very well-meaning.

Also, if the breeder does not use a spay/neuter contract, run the other way. Responsible breeders make certain their dogs do not end up being bred indiscriminately, and that progeny doesn't end up in pet shops and commercial breeding farms. The conscientious breeder will grill you within an inch of your life, find out everything about you that will affect the life of the puppy, and will not offer you registration papers until you have neutered or spayed your pup. Or, they will not sell the pup to you until they have altered it.

Point your browser to the parent club, The Bichon Frise Club of America, at, and find out all you can about the problems inherent in the breed (all breeds have some health problems), and find out what your chosen breeder tests for, and how often. Be sure to read "Before You Buy Your Puppy" as it contains some very important information you'll want to know.

Read all about the health issues--in Bichons, the problems most often seen are

  1. skin and allergy;
  2. dental (tartar and early tooth loss);
  3. bladder infections and stones;
  4. patellar (knee) luxation;
  5. ear infections;
  6. eye disease.

Research all these, and find out what your breeder is doing to breed dogs genetically not predispositioned to these problems. Your puppy's parents should be CERF'd and OFA'd.

Not all breeders are teriffic. Some don't ever bother socializing or properly preparing their pups for new lives. A sheltered dog who has not been exposed to a rich array of experiences, sights, sounds and people will be a dog can lead to real problem behaviors you'll have to deal with down the road. Check out the articles on the Clicker Solutions website by Denise Nord and Wendy Dryer about what really conscientious breeders do to prepare their pups to greet their new lives with confidence.

Read the papers by David Appleby on early learning and stimulation/habituation (do a websearch to find them, or email me privately and I'll send it to you)--these will give you a very good guideline for helping establish if the breeder you have chosen is doing what is in the best interest to help those puppies become superdogs.

Good luck and keep us posted! Bichons can be lovely, elegant, most delightful companions, and they DO love humans very much, prefer to be around them all the time, if they can. They are very trainable, love clicker training, are smart, alert and lively. Of course, a lot of this depends on the breeder. The most well-bred Bichon can still be a behavioral disaster if the breeder did not do a thorough job with the puppies.

The breeder is your KEY to a great pup. And finding that perfect companion sometimes means stretching out your search geographically. It's worth it. The next 15 years of your life this dog will be your friend. Find the dog who is most suited to you and your lifestyle, and who has been bred for good health, structure and temperament.

Last, join the Bichon Club and get involved!

Debi Davis
copyright 2000 Debi Davis


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