If you have researched the Norwegian Elkhound, read everything you can find on the breed, and you feel certain that this is the breed for you....it's time to move to the next step.
As you begin to interview breeders, searching for those you feel comfortable with,
you may quickly find that responsible breeders are VERY concerned with the welfare of their puppies. You may come away from conversations thinking that these people want to know more about your personal life than the IRS does.
In order to purchase a quality puppy from a good private breeder you need to be willing to submit to what I like to refer to as....
It is because of the responsibility that good breeders feel for their puppies, that they tend to do so much poking and prying into the private lives of each potential buyer. Respectible, concerned breeders feel that they brought these precious lives INTO the world, so it is up to them to make sure that their puppies are safe, healthy and happy.
Expect to be asked for details about your home, your family, your reasons for wanting a puppy, and what your expectations are for your new pet. Being honest and open with your answers will go a long way toward establishing a good relationship with the person you may ultimately choose to be "YOUR" breeder.
A good breeder will only sell to buyers they feel comfortable with, and the buyer has the right to feel satisfaction with the breeder as well.
Breeders tend to have a close-knit network, and can usually ferret out those prospective buyers who are being less than honest with them....or those with the wrong reasons for wanting a dog in the first place. Expect your breeder to "check you out" within the breed community, and please don't be insulted by this. It simply part of the process of acquiring a quality pet from a quality breeder.
Some potential puppy buyers feel that once they have paid their money for a dog, the breeder should not have any further say in what happens to it. This attitude may often call a halt to all further negotiations if you are dealing with a responsible breeder. Their puppies are their "babies", and "adopting" one to a stranger is a serious issue with them.
On the other hand, if the breeder doesn't appear to care what you do with the dog....if he or she only wants your money....you would be wise to walk away. If you want a breeder who will stand behind their puppy and be there for you if you need any support later on...find a breeder who cares enough for the future welfare of their puppies to put it above an easy sale.
A buyer should be willing to listen openly to the breeder's concerns, and the breeder should give the same consideration to the buyer.
Breeders are usually ready and willing to answer your questions about their dogs, or at least they SHOULD be. If you ask pointed questions [about health issues, breeding practices, ect.]....of any breeder and get a feeling that you are not being dealt with honestly....make the questions harder. If you make the breeder defensive by asking them to back up claims, or if he or she simply refuses to answer your questions, you need to look elsewhere.
Among the ranks of the highly respected breeders are a few who are 'elitists'...breeders who have a holier-than-thou attitude, and will not be approachable. These breeders do not represent the much larger number of exceptional breeders who will take the time to answer your questions in a friendly and helpful manner. Keep looking....you'll find one you like.
Here are some questions to ask a breeder you are considering purchasing a puppy from:
Do they OFA or PennHIP their breeding stock to rule out hip dysplasia? Can they show proof of certification or evaluation? [Don't just take the breeder's word for this....there ARE breeders advertising on professional-looking web sites that their stock is OFA'd when they are NOT. If a dog IS OFA'd, it's number can be found on the OFA site on the internet. If the breeder claims to use PennHIP ask for a copy of the evaluation report.
Are their breeding animals CERF'd or at least screened for eye diseases by a board certified opthamologist? If they claim they are...again, you have the right to ask to see copies of the paperwork.
What kind of contract is offered? Warranty? "Guarantee"?
If the breeder "guarantees" that their puppies will never have problems, they are not being realistic. There are NO guarantees that genetic problems won't occur, and if you find a breeder who claims to have no genetic defects in his or her line....run the other way.
Look for a good warranty that protects the buyer, the seller AND the puppy.
You may find flashy web sites that claim to have DNA tested all of their dogs. This sounds like a responsible breeder until you realize how little this may affect you as a puppy buyer. DNA testing consists of swabbing the inside of a dog's mouth, sending in paperwork to the proper organization, and getting certification back stating that a particular dog is who the person submitting the swab SAYS he is. DNA testing has many good uses, but be wary of breeders who use this test as their claim to respectability.
Some of these same web sites offer "guarantees" that nothing will go wrong with your puppy for a WHOLE YEAR. This is a pretty good guarantee....for the SELLER! Many serious problems that occur in elkhounds don't show up in the first year, so the seller may have effectively gotten out of standing behind the genetic health of their puppies.
Check and see if a web site has an on-line reservation application. Does it ask only for your name, address, phone number and sex of puppy you want? If you want to buy a puppy with no questions asked, and don't care about future customer support and a good warrantee, this may be just the breeder for you. No matter how good they talk, these people have a bottom line...and it's green. If you want a breeder who will be there for you throughout the life of the dog, keep searching. They're out there.
More questions to ask:
What shots have been given? At what age? What wormings?
Have the puppies been socialized?
Where are the pups raised?
Are the parents available to meet?
If the breeder isn't willing to show you the mother....you may wish to walk away. Sires are often residing somewhere else, but the mother SHOULD be available so that the buyer may access her temperament. If the mother [OR the father, for that matter,] cannot be approached without fear of losing a digit.....say "goodbye" and move on.
Please remember, though....this mother dog has been through a process that naturally causes her to not only lose most of her coat, but takes at least a temporary toll on her "girlish figure". Mama may look dreadful, so don't expect her to look like a Best In Show winner when she has just finished weaning a litter of puppies.
Before, after or during the time that you are asking YOUR questions, a good breeder will be asking many questions of his or her own. I've already covered this....but it bears repeating.....if you contact any breeder, and all they want from you is your name, address, phone number, sex of puppy desired....and your MONEY...think long and hard about what you really want. A nosy breeder who cares for not only the puppies well-being, but for your satisfaction and happiness for many years to come....
....or a breeder who makes no commitment to either.
The breeder who doesn't ask you ask you many of the following questions is probably NOT a breeder who cares what happens to their puppies once they have the money in hand.
Expect to be asked:
Have you ever had an elkhound before? Male or female? Where did you get the dog? Do you still have this dog? If not, what happened to the dog? Was it spayed or neutered?
If you have NEVER had an elkhound....what research have you done on the breed? Have you had any experience with someone else's elkhound?
If you have had NO experience with the breed, what made you decide this was the breed for you?
Where do you live? Do you rent or own?
Do you have a securely fenced yard? This is almost always a MUST with an elkhound, unless you are willing to keep the dog in the house and walk him on a lead in any weather. If you feel that confining a dog in this way is inhumane, expect a lengthy discussion on the merits of a properly constructed fence.
Invisible fences are NOT an option with any sane elkhound breeder! They simply do not work on a tough, strong dog that is bred to hunt, and is an independent thinker. Ask any good breeder what they think of underground fencing and you will hear all the bad points. Basically, there are no good points.
Are you willing to allow the breeder to arrange for a home visit to "check you out"? Can you supply references from other breeders? Your vet?
Will your dog be an inside or an outside dog? Combination of the two?
Do you work? Are you gone all day, or is there someone who can be home with the puppy? Can someone at least come home at lunch to let the puppy out?
Are you familiar with crates and do you plan to use one to help housetrain your dog? If your answer to this question is that you don't plan to crate-train because you think it is cruel....expect a lengthy discussion about the merits of using a crate. You might wish to wait to form an opinion until you have read the article on crate training linked to the front page of this web site.
How many hours a day will your puppy have to spend in a crate while you are away? Do you have a vehicle that can accommodate a crate for travel?
What are your expectations of a young puppy? Will you be able to deal with normal puppy issues such as chewing your furniture? digging up your yard and flower beds? accidents in the house? soiling his crate if you are gone too long? Will these problems all be new issues for you, or have you raised a little puppy before? Are you willing to accept the help offered by 'your' breeder with training problems, and to try their methods?
Stating firmly that you already know ALL ABOUT how to train a DOG, when you have never had an ELKHOUND, WILL get you a lengthy discussion on training! Training an elkhound can be a whole different ballgame. There are several articles linked to the main page which can be of help in understanding some of the training methods that work best.
Is your household loud and rowdy, or quiet and calm? Does EVERYONE in the family really WANT a dog? Especially the WIFE? No responsible breeder will sell a puppy as a "surprise" gift, and the wife must ALWAYS want the dog. No matter what promises are made, the wife usually gets the lion's share of the puppy-care!
How many are in your family? Children? How many and what are their ages? Are any of them afraid of dogs? Allergic to dogs?
Do you have other pets? What kind? If there are other dogs....what breed[s]? age[s]? sex? spayed or neutered? If you have had other pets that are dead now, how did they die and how old were they?
How do you plan to contain the dog?
What are your ultimate plans for the dog? [i.e. WHY do you want an elkhound in the first place?] Pet/companion only? Show/Performance sports? Search & Rescue? Therapy? Breeding?
Are you familiar with "Limited Registration"? [dog is registered but AKC will not register any puppies from the dog]. Do you have an problem with this concept, or with spay/neuter contracts? If so, what are your concerns?
If you are interested in a pet, is a puppy your only option? Have you thought about adopting an older dog? Many breeders occasionally have an older, "retired" champion that they would like to place in an individual home. These dogs may be perfect for a prospective owner who would like to avoid some of the puppy "issues" listed above.
Have you considered RESCUE!! There are usually Rescue Organizations for any breed, and the Norwegian elkhound has a hard-working crew of dedicated fanciers. If you qualify, these people can help you find an older puppy, or an adult that needs a new forever home. [Check out the Rescue link on the front page for a place to start.]
MOST BREEDERS ARE SATISFIED WITH HONEST ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ABOVE....BUT...SHOULD YOU EXPRESS A DESIRE TO BECOME A BREEDER........YOU MAY THINK THOSE EARLIER QUESTIONS WERE ONLY MILDLY IRRITATING!! :-)
If you never have any intentions of entering the world of breeding dogs, and your dog is to be your [altered] pet and companion, you need not read any further. When you are ready, start contacting breeders...and go from there. Good luck!!
So!! DO You Want An Elkhound Because You Want To Breed??
Here comes the REAL inquisition!!
The most obvious place to start is...if you plan to breed...WHY?? [You may be asked to go into great detail here.]
Are you already breeding? How long? What bloodlines have you used in your breeding program?
Are you an experienced exhibitor? Are you showing your dogs? If you have never shown before, do you plan to begin a show 'career'? Are you willing to do what it takes to prove the quality of your dogs in the show ring? Do you have the time and money to pursue conformation titles for your dogs and the fortitude to stick it out in what can often be a frustrating, political and time-consuming sport.
If you are not already an established elkhound breeder, have you ever bred any breed before? What breed[s]? Do you know where all the puppies are now? Were you able to place them all in good homes? Were you able to sell them, or did you have to give them away?
Whether or not you have ever bred before, do you understand the risks? Can you deal with the heartbreak of losing puppies, and possibly losing the mother? Are you prepared for situations such as an emergency c-section, a mother with no milk, euthanizing puppies with problems that can't be resolved, etc.? Do you have a relationship with your vet that would allow for you to call him or her in the middle of the night in case of an emergency during whelping, or with the puppies afterward?
Are you aware of all the testing that should be done before breeding your bitch?
Checking hips for abnormalities? Eyes, kidneys, etc? Getting written clearances on all the above? Making sure the intended sire has all the same clearances as well? Having proof of these clearances available on demand for puppy buyers? Having brucellosis testing done on both the sire and dam prior to breeding?
Are you willing to breed only animals of excellent quality and health and willing to spay or neuter any breeding prospect that doesn't measure up at maturity? In other words, if you've put 2 or 3 years of time, money and love into a prospective show or breeding animal, and it's hips or eyes don't clear, can you resist the temptation to breed it ANYway?
Are you willing to abide by the advice of those more knowledgeable than yourself? Do you belong, or plan to apply to belong to your National Breed Club? Are you willing to abide by their Code of Ethics?
What are your plans for your puppies? Are you willing to keep all your puppies until you find proper homes for them? Are you willing to take back any puppies that don't work out in their new homes? For whatever reason? Will you refund money on returns, or replace the puppy, if the circumstances warrant it? Are you willing to stand behind the genetic health of each and every puppy?
In your search for a breeding animal, are you looking for the "perfect" dog...[i.e. goals too high]...or do you understand that no breeder can 'guarantee' that any puppy won't have some conformation flaw, genetic defect, or medical problem in the future?
Or....are you just looking for a dog to breed, regardless of quality? [i.e. goals too low.]
Do you feel that you must 'get back' the money you spent on your dog? Or do you realize that, [if you do things right], the only "MONEY IN DOGS" is what comes OUT of your pockets...NOT what comes back INTO them!?
There are some of the many questions you may have to face when first initiating contact with a breeder, if you wish to BECOME one. If you are insulted by the attitude of one breeder you have the right to move on to another.
If the breeder is insulted by YOUR attitude, you may have no choice but to move on!
Some breeders [the 'elitists' I mentioned earlier] will cut you off at the knees if you approach them about wanting to become a breeder before you get a second sentence out of your mouth. Others will give you a chance to explain your thoughts and feelings first. Then, if they don't particularly like what they hear, they will attempt to discuss your reasons for your position and give your their reasons for disagreeing. I hope to stay in that second catagory and never shut the door on a prospective buyer until I have had a chance to get to know as much about them and their goals as possible....and to give them a chance to get to know about me and mine.
Quite often I have found that those things that have sent up red flags for me, or for another breeder, were simply due to misunderstandings or misinformation and are easily explained or resolved.....as long as the lines of communication are kept open. I try to judge prospective buyers the same way I would like to be judged....not on first impressions or past mistakes...but on the end result of a candid discussion of our respective viewpoints. I would like to give people a chance to learn from my 30 years of experience, and I'm always willing to learn something new from them. One of the great breeders of our future may very well be the person who approaches us today...knowing nothing about breeding, having no clue of how to approach established breeders for information, and desparately needing a mentor. I would hope someone would take the time to give them help and advice before shutting them out.
On the other hand, some of the wisest and greatest breeders among us, [in any breed], have been blindsided by the occasional buyer who had all the right answers, but all the wrong motives, so forgive us if we are aggressively protective, and 'unreasonably' cautious while we are conducting our "investigations".
Of course...if a prospective buyer decides they don't want to listen to us "old timers", with our years of experience, and think they already have all the answers....I can get you in touch with one who only wants your name, address, phone number....and MONEY!
Good luck in your search.