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Imelda McDonald
& Tony Moores


Buyer Beware

Written by Wade Sutton, Onarock Labradors

Adding a new puppy is certainly a huge commitment and there are many things to consider before adding a new member to your family. Included in your considerations would be the following listed below. This is certainly not a complete list of things you might want to consider before deciding to get a puppy but are some important considerations.

- Do you have the time and desire to care for a new puppy?

- Is your entire family in favor of getting a new puppy?

- Do you have the financial resources to care for your puppy? There are expenses like regular vet care, food, bowls, leashes, etc. and unexpected vet bills can occur!

- Do you have young children?

- Do you have other pets and will this create a problem?

- Will there generally be an adult home at most times to care for your puppy? Will you be able to arrange your schedule to give a puppy the time he/she needs or do you have family and friends willing to assist?

- Is a Labrador Retriever the breed for you?

- Have you properly researched for a reputable breeder and asked that breeder all the right questions?

Once you have decided that you are definitely interested in a Labrador Retriever puppy, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you do careful research to ensure that you get the puppy that you want. Failing to research to find a QUALITY puppy can result in heartache and great expense in the future as well as pain and suffering for your puppy. Be careful, research, and ask ALL THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!



Ask if dogs bred have had appropriate health clearances completed! All breeds have their issues and with Labrador Retrievers, 3 of the more serious issues are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) eye disease!

Ensure that the sire and dam of ANY litter has:

1. HIPS CLEAR OF DYSPLASIA - X-rays should be taken by the breeder's vet and submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) in the United States OR The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in Canada. After submitted the radiographs, the OFA or OVC will issue a certificate stating that an animal is either clear of hip dysplasia or affected. Affected dogs should NOT be bred! OVC clear or OFA excellent, good, or fair dogs have normal hips and make good breeding stock!

Remember, a veterinarian CANNOT say if a dog has clear or affected hips. Veterinarians do not have the expertise or equipment to accurately diagnose such a condition. This can ONLY be diagnosed or cleared by a orthopedic specialist such as those with the OFA and OVC! DO not let any breeder misinform you by claiming otherwise because it is FALSE!

2. ELBOWS CLEAR OF DYSPLASIA - X-rays should be taken, submitted to the OFA or OVC and sires and dams cleared in the same manner as hips! Again, ONLY A SPECIALIST AT OFA/OVC can clear or diagnose a dog! An affected dog should not be bred!

Affected dogs have a significant greater probability of passing on this genetic disease! If a sire and dam have not been cleared, a buyer must assume that such dogs are dysplasic since breeding a dog where the condition of the hips and elbows are unknown is as dangerous as breeding a failed dog! DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT ANY SIRE/DAM IS NORMAL BECAUSE HE/SHE DOES NOT LIMP OR THAT THEIR VET HAS CLEARED THEIR DOG(S)! MANY DOGS DO NOT SHOW SYMPTOMS INITIALLY BUT ARE LIKELY TO DO SO AS THEY GET OLDER!

OVC clearances can be obtained by a breeder when a dog is 18 months or older. OFA clearances can be obtained at 24 months of age or older! Puppies or younger dogs can obtain preliminary clearances. Be sure that a puppy from ANY breeding has parents with OFA or OVC clear hips and elbows. If not, there is significant risk of problems with the puppy that can include dysplasia, a crippled dog, thousands of dollars spent on surgeries, much pain and suffering for the dog, and tremendous heartbreak if a dog has to be euthanized!

3. EYES CLEAR - Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an eye disease that can present blinding symptoms as a dog matures. Any dog bred should be PRA clear. This information can be obtained in 2 ways ONLY. A dog can be evaluated by a registered American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist (ACVO) and receive a "clear" if the dog has no signs of PRA! Such a dog can also be registered with the Canine Eye registration Foundation (CERF). As well, blood can be collected and submitted for Optigen testing in the United States, A genetic test can be completed and if "Clear", there is NO risk of such a dog producing a PRA affected puppy! Remember, a vet CANNOT clear any dog of PRA! ONLY A SPECIALIST CAN DO SO! Be sure that a puppy from ANY breeding has parents with either ACVO or CERF clearances or have been Optigen tested! If not, there is significant risk of puppies from untested parents developing PRA eye disease and eventually becoming blind!

ALL dogs we breed have hips, elbows, and eyes clear!



Without a "true" Labrador temperament, you have nothing! A properly bred and socialized Labrador puppy should be loving, crave attention, and certainly not be aggressive! As well, he/she should be active and energetic but NOT hyperactive! Be sure that puppies are from sires and dams with proper temperaments and that puppies are raised and socialized in an effective manner!

ALL dogs we breed have proper temperaments and puppies are born and raised in the home. At 8 weeks old, they are ready for their new homes with great attitudes and ready to be new additions to families!


Another important question potential buyers need to ask themselves is "what do I want my Lab to look like"? A properly bred Lab should be conformationally correct; that is, he/she should conform to the CKC breed standard. He/she should have such characteristics as a broad head, thick otter tail, dense Labrador coat, short coupled body, etc. (See the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) website).

You might have heard terms like "British and show type" or "American and field" type of Labradors! These are terms used by some breeders to distinguish conformation. "British or Show" type are dogs from Show Champion Labradors who have the big broad heads, otter tails, are shorter in body, and have heavier bone. The "American or field" type are from field working dogs who tend to be slighter in bone, slighter build, and often there tends to be less regard to overall conformation. These are terms that I do not like to use since it seems to suggest that a "Show" type with proper conformation cannot do field work, be trained, etc. However, a properly bred Lab should have proper conformation and still should be trainable and do field work. Mine certainly can!

Ask about titles! Here are a few:

CH = Show champion (countries may be added. ex. US CH)

BIS = Best in Show

BPIS = Best Puppy in Show

BISS = Best in Specialty

BOSS = Best of opposite sex in a specialty

CD = Companion dog (the 1st level of obedience)

CDX = Companion dog excellent (the 2nd level of obedience)

UD = Utility dog (the 3rd level of obedience)

OTCH = Obedience trial champion (CD + CDX + UD)

CGN = Canine Good Neighbor


Avoid puppy mill, backyard breeders, and pet store pups! Such pups are not from reputable and responsible breeders!

A responsible and reputable breeder:

- Is motivated by the love of their breed and not by profit, is eager to share detailed breed information and will be honest about the best and worst aspects of their breed.

- Will ask you a lot of questions and expect questions from you.

- Is willing and able to educate and build a relationship with their puppy buyers.

- Supplies inoculation records, pedigrees, and care information.

- Explains genetic defects in the breed.

- Welcomes visits to see sires, dams, and puppies (except when unvaccinated puppies are in residence).

- Questions the buyers ability to care for the dog and will try to determine if their breed is right for you, and may steer you in another direction if they think their breed is not right for you.

- Offers health guarantees.

- Talks about training and development

- Cares about each and every pup.

- Maintains sanitary, clean quarters for the dogs and pups.

- Tests all breeding stock for genetic problems.

- Breeds to improve the gene pool of their breed.

- Is active in showing/obedience/hunting/agility, etc.

- Has spent a number of years studying and learning about their breed and has the knowledge and qualifications to breed responsibly.

- Is active in one or more breed clubs or similar groups and thus is in regular contact with other breeders and fanciers.

- Considers temperament to be VERY important.

- Is knowledgeable about the breeding and whelping of dogs so as to minimize injury or death to the breeding dogs.

- Is extremely concerned with the quality of homes for the puppies.

- Never has more dogs of their own than they are properly able to care for.

- Uses spay/neuter contracts and/or limited registration to prevent the casual breeding of their puppies.

- Is ALWAYS willing to take back a dog of their breeding if a puppy buyer cannot keep it for any reason.

- If there are any issues, the breeder is there to help and not to abandon the situation.

NO RESPONSIBLE BREEDER WILL EVER sell puppies through a pet shop.

A puppy mill breeder:

- Only purpose is to sell dogs at a profit.

- Will sell to anyone including wholesalers or brokers.

- Does not do health checks on parents (OFA, OVC, CERF, etc.)

- Does not care about temperament, genetics, conformation, or health.

- Operates as cheaply as possible to maximize profits.

- Facilities can be clean, but more often are not.

- Dogs show little to no socialization.

- Pedigrees are not available.

- Health Guarantees, if they are available, are usually misleading! For example, they might guarantee conditions without actual clearances! Guarantees are important but only mean anything if actual official clearances have been done on the sires and dams! Otherwise, they are guarantees without confidence and the buyer has a significant risk of serious problems in the future, perhaps AFTER the guarantee period! Also, guarantees of less than 18 months mean little since hip dysplasia cannot be entirely ruled out until the dog is over 18 months old.

A Backyard Breeder:

- Thinks "purebred" = quality and health. This is a common MISCONCEPTION! A registration from the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) or American Kennel Club (AKC) only verifies a puppy has registered parents. IT DOES NOT ENSURE HEALTH, CONFORMATION, OR TEMPERAMENT. Parents do NOT necessarily have proper health clearances, pups are NOT necessarily socialized properly, nor have proper temperaments, look as Labs should look conformationally, etc,!!! NEVER ASSUME!!!!

- Breeds for reasons such as, "I wanted the kids to see the miracle of birth." "She's purebred, and I thought I could make some money."

- Backyard breeders usually hope to make some money, but they are not purely profit minded. They are just ignorant in the true sense of the word! Again, there are no titles in conformation or obedience, no pedigree offered, no knowledge or thought of genetics or testing for genetic defects in the sire or dam.

- Some backyard breeders can be educated.

Avoid any breeder when:

- The breeder asks you no questions. He/she is willing to sell to anyone!

- The breeder is offended by questions you ask.

- The breeder cannot offer proof of genetic testing of sire/dam.

- The breeder does not want you to see his/her kennel.

- The sire/dam have no titles (Ch., obedience, tracking, agility, etc.)

- You can smell the kennels as you get out of your car.

- There are many breeds available to choose from or cross-breeds are available. (labradoodles, etc.)


Like most things you buy, you usually get what you pay for! If a puppy is available for significantly less than a puppy from a reputable breeder, you have to ask yourself why? Without exception, you will discover that "bargain puppies" will be anything but bargains since they will be from sires and dams without official and proper health clearances, may not be CKC/AKC registered, may not have proper temperaments and conformation, and/or may not be properly socialized. Often guarantees are missing and breeder knowledge is limited or missing altogether!

Reputable/responsible breeders spend thousands to get the quality they have! These pups obviously cannot be sold as cheaply as pups without any of the variables that make them quality! Expect to pay between $800 - $1000 for a quality puppy!

The "bargain" is often not such a thing when, within a year or two, there is serious hip or elbow problems requiring thousands in surgery or needing euthanasia, the dog goes blind from PRA or if there are temperament issues including aggression!

BE CAREFUL!!!!!! Do your homework!!!!!!! Research!!!!

If you have any questions, want information or clarification re: anything mentioned here or on any part of the web page, please contact us! There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there and we would be happy to clarify anything you have questions about and discuss our qualifications to give such advice. We have a lot of knowledge pertaining to Labrador Retriever but that is not to suggest we know it all! However, if there is an appropriate question we cannot answer, we have access to national and international breeders, national and regional clubs, and many of the Canadian and American veterinary specialists as sources of information and will get the answers!