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How to choose a Havanese Breeder.

How To Choose A Havanese Breeder

You are investing thousands of dollars and perhaps 15 years of your life. The diligence you exhibit as you select a breeder, and then a dog, will have profound implications for your enjoyment of your new pupppy and the dog’s long-term well being. To help you make an educated decision we are publishing a comprehensive list of ‘red flags’ written by Heather Andrews of Caché Havanese.

Red flags to look for when selecting a Havanese breeder

By Heather Andrews

  • “Our puppies come from champion lines”. This is basically meaningless. I’ve seen this to mean everything from one great-great-great grandsire having his championship in an ‘oops’ breeding to a handful of championed dogs in a pedigree. A breeder claiming champion lines does not mean that you will have a better or healthier dog.
  • “My dogs are health tested” or “my vet has thoroughly checked them over”, but there is little or no health testing documented at offa.org. The dogs are probably not health tested. A lot of back yard breeders (BYB) love their dogs, but are usually not breeding to help better the breed, they typically do not complete health testing that is submitted into the OFA http:www.offa.org. They believe that health testing consist of taking their dogs to the vet for a routine checkup – this is not health testing!
  • A reputable Havanese breeder will conduct and can provide proof of the following genetic health tests on their breeding animals, and will require them of the sire (father) should they ‘hire’ a stud dog for the litter:

BAER (hearing)
CERF (eyes) yearly
OFA (for hip displasia & elbows), a onetime deal done at or after age 2
Patella (knees) done at or after age 1
Cardiac (heart) done at or after age 1

  • Beware of breeders who scoff at genetic testing and say their particular breed/line is problem-free.
  • Similarly to #2, “My dogs are health tested, but I couldn’t afford to pay to have all the results posted on OFA’s web site.” The major expense is in getting the tests done! The fee to submit the results is pretty minimal. If the breeder could afford to do the health testing, there is no reason they couldn’t shell out the nominal fee to have the results posted.
  • Claims that there have never been any health issues in their lines, without qualification that the reality is that they could crop up and that this was an issue the breeder was actively conscious of.
  • They won’t email you a copy of their standard puppy owner contract, even when asked for this several times. A reputable breeder provides a written contract with the sale of the pup. This will vary from breeder to breeder, but it usually spells out the rights of the seller and buyer, health information, genetic health guarantees (should be at least 2 years), required altering, and buy-back/return policy.
  • A reputable breeder requires that “pet-quality” animals be spayed or neutered and sells them on Limited Registration. Be wary of breeders who do not mention spay/neuter.
  • A reputable breeder shows passion, love, and tremendous knowledge about the breed. He or she cares about placing puppies in excellent homes and will often interview potential buyers thoroughly, will make referrals to the local Havanese rescue group, ask for references and will refuse to sell a dog if the home is not appropriate for the breed or for a puppy.
  • A reputable breeder recommends the local Havanese rescue organization to potential homes, explaining that these dogs make wonderful family pets and companions.
  • Breeds more than one type/breed of dog. Be VERY careful of this. It is hard enough to properly raise and know all you need to know about one breed. The more breeds you have, the less quality they can produce.
  • Has many litters available, more than 1-2 at a time. A breeder who has more than a couple of litters a year. Think about it by the number of puppies: 4 litters in this breed is often 15 or so puppies per year! That’s a lot of dogs being brought into the world in a short time. Also, each breeding should be a masterwork of research and planning; it’d be hard to appropriately research and plan more an a handful a year
  • The environment (typically a home) in which the breeder keeps the dogs should be clean and well-maintained. Do not agree to meet the breeder off site. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS ON THIS! A breeder that is not reputable discourages or won’t allow you to come to their home for visits, and/or won’t let you meet the parents or other dogs.
  • Breeder’s dogs don’t live in their home. This is a very social breed, they love and need to be with their human contacts, they do not and should not be living outside or in kennels.
  • Doesn’t stress puppy socialization.
  • Have a backyard, garage (or acreage) filled with kennels.
  • A reputable breeder typically has a waiting list for the unborn puppies and does not advertise in the newspaper classifieds.
  • Be wary of breeders who sells puppies online on commercial type web site like PuppyFind, NextDayPets or advertises on Craigslist or grocery story bulletin boards, or in newspapers. Most  reputable breeders do not need to use sites like these; if you are looking for puppies on site like these, chances are the puppies are coming from puppy mills, brokers, and BYB.
  • A reputable breeder will not typically breed dogs under the age of 2.
  • A reputable breeder will hold on to puppies as long as it takes to place them in the right homes and will continue to recommend rescue even though they have puppies available.
  • A reputable breeder is willing to provide answers to questions you may have and is willing to provide names of others who have purchased pups from them.
  • A reputable breeder will allow you to meet the puppies parents if available and, if the father isn’t available, they will show you pictures and provide you with the information on how to contact the owner of the sire (father).
  • A reputable breeder follows up on puppies. He or she is interested in how the pups develop physically and mentally, difficulties in the owner/dog relationship and health problems.
  • Most reputable breeders will not let puppies leave their home prior to 10 weeks of age and often not until 12 weeks of age.
  • Reputable breeders have American Kennel Club (AKC) or Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) registered parents and pups. Be careful of the breeders that don’t.
  • Tells you that you have to PAY EXTRA for registration.
  • Claims championships that are not from AKC or CKC.
  • Doesn’t offer a no questions asked return policy (i.e. a breeder should require you to return the puppy to them if you can no longer care for it).
  • Offers to ship your puppy – not always a huge red flag, but I personally don’t like this. There are several ways to get your puppy without it having to go into the cargo hold of a plane.
  • Doesn’t promptly return phone calls and emails. Doesn’t necessarily mean a bad breeder, but if you’re a new puppy owner you are going to have questions and the breeder should be there for you to give you answers.
  • Charges too little. In my opinion, under $1500 – but do remember, an expensive Hav doesn’t mean it comes from a GOOD breeder, but usually reputable breeders are on the pricier side. In other words, finding a bargain may not turn out to be the bargain you thought it would be.
  • Watch out for the breeder claiming to have “rare” colors or “teacup or toy sized” Havanese.
  • Breeder does not show their dogs. A reputable breeder is actively involved in the dog fancy, including showing and/or breed clubs. While there are exceptions such as a retired individual who has shown dogs for 20 years, a person who is not involved with others in the breed can be suspect.
  • Any breeder who thinks everything they have ever produced is Show Quality! Sometimes you might luck out and get a whole litter of show quality puppies, but more often than not, you get one or two if you’re lucky. Sometimes you don’t get any. I guarantee you no one has ever produced all show quality dogs – they are just not being honest (to you or more likely, to themselves!) about what they have.
  • REMEMBER: A “back yard breeder” might only breed one litter per year, raise it with love in their kitchen, and try to find a good home for each pup. But they don’t do any or enough health testing; they don’t have a solid knowledge of trying to preserve or improve the breed; they don’t have that strong sense of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for the breed and for each individual!
  • REMEMBER: Pet stores know people know about puppy mills. I’ve seen lots of well meaning people buy from pet store because the pet store said, “Don’t worry, we buy from breeders.” But I assure you, no GOOD breeder sells a puppy anywhere without knowing exactly where and to whom it is going, and they if something goes wrong they will get it back!
  • A bitch that is bred after age 6 or so; depending on her health, how many litters she’s had in the past, a year or two later might be ok.
  • A bitch that is bred every heat cycle (2x a year) for more than one year on, one year off. NOT ACCEPTABLE!
  • A good breeder will interview you right back! If they are happy to toss a pup in your car or on a plane because you wanted one, seemed nice, and could pay, it’s a red flag. If they ask you about your life style, hours you work, members of the household, what your expectations and plans for the dog are – great! Don’t be offended by this. They are trying to decide if you have a realistic expectation and ideas about owning a dog, if this breed is a good match, and what personality will best suit you. Of course, they shouldn’t be rude to you, but you should get the idea that they really, really care about where their puppies are going.
  • A breeder who not only loves their dogs and cares about their puppies and where they end up, but feels they are a guardian of their breed. They bear a massive amount of personal responsibility to preserve and improve the look and function of their breed, to ensure each dog they bring into this world has the best possible temperament, the least possible likelihood of developing genetic disorders, and goes to the best possible home. You just can’t do that in high volume.
  • A reputable breeder is always available to answer your questions and to help you out with problems that you may have. The breeders involvement with you and the puppy should not end with the exchange of monies.

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About Heather Andrews

Heather Andrews has been raising, showing, and loving dogs for over thirty years. She has been exhibiting and breeding Havanese since 2003. Heather owns Caché Havanese in Winnemucca, NV. Click to email Heather.

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  1. Avatar

    I want to know if you can recommend reputable breeder in Florida

  2. Avatar

    We don’t know each other. I’m Bill Burns of The Kennel at Burns Gardens in Port Ludlow, Washington. http://www.burnsgardens.com.

    I was doing a background check on a prospective puppy buyer on the internet and decided to wander a bit and accidently found The Havanese World website and then discovered your article about how to choose a breeder.

    For the most part I agree with you. I want to suggest that perhaps you might want to revisit three areas however. First, I would add Thyroid testing – preferably at Hemopet – to your list of required tests. While Baer tests are hard to accomplish for most, anybody can do thyroid testing. And because most are not, we are seeing more and more heritable autoimmune thyroiditis in the breed.

    Second, a long, long time ago I attended a seminar by Dr. Hutchinson the famous repo Vet at one of our Nationals. I personally asked him how many times should a bitch be bred. He said that if you have a good dog and do not breed her back to back after she has passed all her health tests you are wasting eggs and the chance to improve the breed. Unlike humans the hormones cause the same damage to the canine uterus with each heat cycle whether bred or not. Accord: Dr. Threlfall, Ohio State, Dr. Billinghurst’s book “Grow your Pup with Bones” and my experience the past thirteen years. I also asked him how you will know she is done. He said mother nature will tell you. She will fail to get pregnant, she will reabsorb puppies, she will have unusual number of deaths at whelping, she will have unusual (for her) difficulty during whelp, she will have smaller than normal (for her) litter sizes. When they are done, spay them and thank
    them for their glorious contribution to the breed.

    Finally, I am one of those people who have no problem shipping dogs as cargo in airplanes. I have dogs quite literally from Hawaii to Orlando and from New York to Palm Springs as well as in Alaska. I also have dogs all over Canada. You would be surprised how many people are really good potential owners who simply cannot come all the way to Port Ludlow to meet me, examine the kennel, examine my dogs including mom and dad, pick up the dog and return home with it at twelve weeks. I’ve never had a puppy not arrive safely and I’ve never had a report of the dog being ill or traumatized or anything but happy upon arrival. I know it is scary if you haven’t done it. But to transition from Golden Retrievers (which do not fit under the seat in front of you) to Havanese, I had to obtain my original dogs sight unseen by way of air cargo. (Indeed I was lucky to be in dogs long enough to know how to find reputable breeders with quality dogs that I could trust, but it worked out just fine for me. In fact my first dog arrived as a six month old and he quickly became an American/Canadian Champion and turned out to be a wonderful stud dog as well.)

    Your article is being read. I hosted a couple yesterday for about three hours as we went over my dogs and talked about how I raise them and things they need to consider before they get their dog. (They are at the end of my reservation list so will not see their puppy until the summer of 2018). After I read your article I now understand where they got the information that formed the basis for a couple of their questions. So it is helpful to the puppy buying public. If it was mine however, I would consider the changes discussed above.

    Thank you for your contribution.
    Bill Burns

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