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FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

Do you sell pet puppies or just show dogs?

I sell pet puppies, show/breeding puppies and performance puppies (obedience/agility).   "Pet" puppies are sold with Limited (non-breeding) AKC Registration on a spay/neuter contract.  Prospective show/breeding puppies are most often sold on co-ownership with a show/health testing contract that must be completed before the dog is used for breeding (a serious effort must be made to achieve a dog's Championship title and the dog must pass it's hip and eye certifications before being bred).  With appropriate references, I do occasionally sell a show prospect outright.  Full registration (breeding) performance puppy prospects are sold with a performance/health testing contract similar to a regular show dog contract (a serious effort must be made to pursue performance titles  and the dog must pass it's hip and eye certifications before being bred). 

All show and performance prospects are thoroughly evaluated before sale to assure that they are as structurally sound as possible.  I do everything I can to assure that these puppies will have successful careers in their future rolls as show/performance/breeding dogs.  Pre-purchase exams by a licensed veterinarian or professional handler (at buyers expense) may be arranged for ANY puppy. 

I encourage all owners of pet puppies to have their dogs health tested (hips and eyes) and to report these findings to me in the same manner as the puppies sold for breeding.  Hip exams (x-rays) for hip dysplasia are performed at 2 years of age and eye exams to check for hereditary eye defects may be performed annually or, at a minimum, every 2 years until the age of 8, by a licensed veterinary ophthalmologist.  This testing can often be done at a special rate at area dog shows or local kennel club "clinics".  Hip dysplasia exams may range in cost from $50 to $200 (or more depending on your veterinarian) and eye exams are generally $20 to $30 (this can also vary somewhat depending on your location and access to a qualified veterinarian). 

Having your dog health tested and reporting the results of these tests back to me will help me keep accurate health records on ALL the puppies in a litter.  Complete health records on each litter can help me identify genetic defects or other issues within a particular bloodline and this knowledge will allow me to address and work to eliminate that health issue from my breeding program.  By helping me to identify problems within the gene pool, you are actually helping me assure that future generations of this wonderful breed live longer, healthier lives! 

Are your dogs healthy?

I do my best to assure that every puppy I produce is as healthy as possible.  I provide all of my dogs with the best food, care and medical attention I possibly can.  I do appropriate health testing of my breeding stock.  I screen all dogs (my own and others that I do not own but may use for breeding) for general health concerns that might be hereditary and I do my best to avoid breeding to dogs that have been proven to produce specific hereditary defects or other health issues.  I firmly believe that the puppies I produce are as healthy as I can possibly make them. 

Please keep in mind when looking for a puppy, that breeding dogs is not like manufacturing parts or products on an assembly line.  There are no guarantees that ANY dog will be perfectly healthy its entire life and will die of old age after 15 years of frolicking through sunlit, fragrant meadows.  Dogs are living, breathing creatures and as such are subject to the laws of nature.  No breeder has complete control or understanding of the multitude of genetic variables present within a particular dog or dogs.  Nor can a breeder predict with any level of accuracy what impact some of these genetic variables and other natural or environmental factors may have on a particular dog or litter. 

Frankly, breeding dogs (or any living animal) is often a crap shoot.   Sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not.  Every puppy that a breeder produces is at some risk for defects or other health issues due to naturally occurring birth defects, environmental factors, genetic mutations or anomalies and the influence of hidden genes within each breeding dog.  It is not possible for anyone to eliminate the majority of these risk factors.  (Even we humans, with our incredible research into genetic engineering, leaps in medical technology and advancements in human pre-natal care cannot be assured that every baby born will be perfectly formed; will never be diagnosed with a serious disease or illness; or will never suffer from another type of serious health issue.)   These are the realities of life and an inescapable truth. 

However, while we must accept that luck and chance play some role in the big scheme of things, let me explain what responsible breeders do to ensure that each puppy has the best chance of living a long and healthy life.  Responsible breeders learn to try to stack the deck in their favor.  A good breeder can learn to produce more consistently healthy puppies by studying their breed's genetic history, making a serious effort to minimize the risk factors for each litter they produce, having their breeding dogs health tested and by providing the best food and care they possibly can.   This is what I try to do with my dogs. 

Unfortunately, puppy buyers must keep in mind that my, or another breeder's, best efforts may not always be enough to prevent a problem.  The laws of nature will eventually catch up with everyone and the bottom line is:

  •  No breeder can produce 100% perfect puppies, especially if they are involved in dog breeding for any length of time. 

The longer a breeder is involved in breeding and the more puppies he/she produces, the more problems the breeder is likely to become aware of within his/her kennel.  EVERY breeder will eventually face the disappointment and heartbreak of puppies being born or diagnosed with a genetic defect or serious health issue. 

How a breeder deals with these issues will divide the responsible breeders from the riff-raff.  A really good breeder will meet challenges and disappointments head-on, will learn from these experiences and will work to overcome and defeat these set-backs.  A poor breeder will ignore health problems within their kennel, may try to hide or dispose of these animals to unsuspecting buyers and will often and loudly proclaim that they have NO health problems within their own dogs.  (It's easy to claim your dogs have no health issues when you don't do health testing to prove this one way or another!)  These breeders are also often the first to point out the problems in another breeder's kennel and to disparage other breeders' dogs or breeding practices. 

Why are your puppies more expensive than other puppies I've looked at?

My pet puppies can be more expensive than "backyard" or "puppy mill" puppies because it's MUCH more expensive to produce a litter of quality, healthy puppies than it is to just throw any two dogs together and let them have some pups in the garage, laundry room or under the back porch. 

Unlike back-yard breeders and puppy mills who will breed any 2 dogs of the same breed, my breedings are carefully planned with the expectation of producing puppies that exhibit the physical and mental traits that enable a Cocker to perform in the show ring, in the field or as a loving family companion.   Before I actually breed my dogs, I compare the structure, genetic traits, temperament, health and pedigrees of each dog to ensure that every litter will conform as closely as possible to the AKC breed standard.  To ensure that all of my puppies have the best possible chance to develop up to their potential, all breeding stock are constantly monitored for illness, disease, parasites or injury and they are fed, housed and cared for with the best products. 

All animals used for breeding in my kennel are tested for genetic defects and many are shown in conformation competition.  (Which is, by definition, a competition to evaluate breeding stock.)  I also will only breed to dogs outside of my kennel that are of the same quality, that have been health tested and are cared for in a manner similar to my own dogs.  Every puppy I produce, and in turn every puppy buyer, benefits from my research, testing, preventive care and strict adherence to breeding only dogs that I believe can improve the next generation of Cocker Spaniels.  I back every puppy purchased with a written health guarantee and I will ALWAYS take one of my puppies back, whether it's 6 months or 6 years after the purchase. I will never let one of my pups be abandoned or put in a shelter if someone has a crisis or problem that prevents them from keeping the dog.

People who purchase my puppies also receive a pretty major fringe benefit.  In addition to getting a wonderful puppy, my puppy buyers also get me.  (Well, in a manner of speaking!)  What I mean is that I am always available to answer questions and will gladly help new owners if they are having a problem with training or adjustments.  Additionally, I continuously spend time working on this web-site so that my puppy buyers will have breed, care, training and other important information available when they need it. 

My breeding and care practices are costly and, while I do not breed to make money off of my dogs, I do have to make something back to compensated for some of the expenses I incur in this endeavor.   This is only fair and I believe my dogs are quite reasonably priced when one considers the quality and benefits that come with each of my puppies.  Keep in mind that the old adage "You get what you pay for" is true even when purchasing a pet.  You can take your chances with a cheaper puppy, or you can spend a little more up front to purchase a puppy that you know has been breed to be the best it can possibly be.

What's the difference between a pet and a show quality puppy?

The difference in a show quality and a pet quality puppy is generally a minor variation in some part of the puppy's structure or coat.  This variation may be very minor and almost invisible to anyone but the breeder.  A pet puppy might have a less-desirable coat texture or I might feel that a puppy lacks sufficient coat to be competitive in breed competition.  A puppy could also have incorrect coloring - too much white or white in the wrong place on an otherwise solid-colored dog; or the dog's color may not be a "legal" show color. 

Sometimes a female puppy may be too large or may appear too masculine; or a male puppy might be too small or appear too feminine.  Male dogs must have 2 testicles descended for breed competition, so a male with a slow descending testicle or with a testicle that is retained (a cryptorchid or monorchid) would be placed with a neuter contract as a pet or performance dog.  Some dogs may also not have a suitable temperament for showing (may be too timid or shy), so these puppies would be placed as pets.  Cocker Spaniels also have a bite disqualification in their breed standard.  If a puppy's bite appears to be incorrect, I would consider this puppy a non-breeding pet puppy.  

Of course, the fact that a puppy is available as a pet does not always mean the dog in question is not show quality.  It's not always possible to find a good show home for every show quality puppy, so puppies may be sold as pets even though their quality is such that they could finish a championship title. 

Are your dogs good with kids?

Temperament is a major focus in my breeding program.  I do not breed adult dogs with temperament issues and I evaluate my puppies repeatedly to determine each puppy's personality.  Being familiar with each puppy's temperament helps me to match you with the right puppy for your family's unique structure and routine.  (Matching each puppy's personality to its new family is one reason I tend to ask a lot of questions about your family.)

Most of my puppies will do well in homes with children.  However, each puppy is different and there may be an occasion where I prefer a home without children for a particular puppy.  I may also suggest an older and/or more outgoing puppy over a very-laid back, quiet puppy if your family has very young or especially active children. 

I feel it is important to point out here that no matter how sweet a puppy is when it leaves my home, improper handling and a lack of training can lead to a dog that is unpleasant to be around and that is not respectful of humans.  To help avoid these problems, I recommend reading my Training articles and enrolling your puppy in a puppy kindergarten class while he is under under 6 months of age.  I also believe a basic obedience course when the pup is over 6 months of age is vital in establishing good manners and teaching the dog to respect humans.

What's the best way to house-train a dog?

Two word answer - CRATE TRAINING!  Using a crate is the quickest, safest, least-stressful way to train your puppy.  This includes potty-training and teaching your puppy not to eat the kids toys, the furniture and everything else in his vicinity.   I have in-depth information about this on my Training page, so I will not go into detail here.

How do I reserve a puppy?

To reserve a puppy, I ask that you first complete my Puppy Request Form.  I admit, it's time-consuming and rather involved, but I want to be sure you are the right home for my puppy just as much as you want to be sure you are getting the right puppy.  After I receive your request form, I will let you know what puppies are available or are expected.  From there, we can discuss which puppies you like and we can talk until we are both comfortable about each other and the situation.  (If you are close enough and would like to visit and choose your puppy personally, you may make an appointment to do so.)  

Once you decide which puppy is right for you and that you definitely want a particular puppy, I will ask that you send a deposit to reserve your future puppy.  This reservation guarantees that, when the puppy is old enough,  you will get the puppy you have chosen OR, if the reservation is for an upcoming litter, that you will receive a puppy of the sex, color and quality (show/performance/pet) that you have asked for.  If the puppy you choose is ready to go and will need to be shipped, then I will ask that you send the price of the puppy and the shipping expenses instead of just a deposit. 

I ask for a deposit so that I am guaranteed that you are serious about wanting a specific puppy.  The deposit is non-refundable.  If, for some unexpected reason, I am not able to send you the puppy you made a deposit on and I do not have another puppy of the sex and quality that you were looking for, then you will have the option of selecting another available puppy within the same litter or from another litter or you may wait for a future litter to be born.  I can not guarantee anyone a puppy without a deposit.

How do I know which puppy is mine?

Once a puppy is selected and a buyer places a deposit or payment on that puppy, it belongs to that person.  I immediately mark a puppy as sold in my books and this is generally sufficient to identify each individual puppy.  (My records contain information on size, individual markings, etc. so that each puppy can be individually identified within the litter.)  If the litter that you have chosen a puppy from is all one color and/or sex, or is otherwise confusing and hard to distinguish a particular individual within, then I will mark your puppy with fingernail polish, a collar or some other identification that will make it impossible for that puppy to accidentally be confused with another. 

Once you have chosen a puppy and placed your deposit, I try to keep owners updated with pictures and information regularly.  This way you will get to see the puppy grow up and you will know how he/she is doing.  If you have placed a deposit on a puppy and you are close enough to visit as it grows, you are welcome to do so. 

In some instances, I may not be able to tell you exactly which puppies will be available from a litter until they are ready to leave.  For instance, if I am planning to keep a buff female to show and there are 3 buff females in the litter, then I will probably not make a decision on exactly which puppy I am keeping until they are structurally evaluated at 8 weeks of age.   Something along these lines may also occur if I have sold a show puppy of a particular color or sex and there are more than one of these to choose from in the litter.  Which puppy will be selected for an owner that is looking for a show prospect will usually not be decided until puppies are at least 8 weeks old. 

How do I get my puppy?

I prefer that new owners drive to pick up their puppy, but I realize this is not always possible.  I have shipped puppies with great success over the years and I do not have a problem with doing this.  There are some weather related issues that must be taken into account when shipping dogs, so keep in mind that extremes of heat and cold must be avoided at BOTH ends of the trip.  Additionally, I prefer to ship on direct, non-stop flights if at all possible as this is less traumatic for the puppy.  (This could mean that you will need to drive to the closest major airport instead of your local one.)  I ship from the Tulsa International Airport. 

What is a puppy mill?

This is a question with no easy answer.  Most people seem to have their own unique definition of a puppy mill.  Some people believe a puppy mill is anyone that has more than one or two litters of puppies a year.  Some believe that if any animals are kept caged, it must be a puppy mill.  Others believe that anyone with "X" number of dogs is a puppy mill.  Still others base their definition of a puppy mill on the care and condition of the dogs. 

My personal definition of a puppy mill is someone that does not provide adequate food, water, shelter, exercise or care for their dogs.  I also believe that a good breeder must have a working knowledge of the breed standard for their particular breed or breeds and that they should strive to produce puppies that meet the written breed description.  (Please keep in mind that the fact that 2 dogs happen to be registered does not mean they are good examples of the breed standard and they should be allowed to reproduce!) 

Many people are unable to pinpoint an exact point at which a person drops into the puppy mill category, but believe that they would recognize it if they saw one.  Of course, many of us have seen a story on TV or in the news that seems to leave no doubt that the party in question was definitely a puppy mill.  Unfortunately, the animal abuse cases on TV & in other news venues do not always tell the whole story and many are sensationalized or slanted to promote someone's own personal opinions and beliefs.   In fact, these stories are often used to drudge up support and funds for animal rights organizations who would like to see ALL animal ownership and breeding banned!!

Since it is hard to pin down one specific thing that makes a breeder a puppy mill, I thought I might share some general information and opinions that I have gathered from talking to other breeders and owners over the years.  Hopefully this information will help you, the prospective puppy buyer, to evaluate breeders and make your own determination of whether a particular kennel is a responsible breeder or a puppy mill. 

Most breeders I have spoken with seem to agree that the following points will generally indicate that you are working with a reputable breeder:

  • Clean, well-lighted facilities with room for each dog to have daily exercise. 
  • Dogs should be reasonably clean and should look as though they are groomed regularly.
  • Animals should appear well-fed and have access to fresh, clean water.
  • Animals should be parasite free and without untreated medical problems. 
  • Breeders themselves should exhibit a reasonable level of knowledge concerning the breed, the breed standard and health concerns within the breed.
    • Look for a breeder that can quote the breed standard (ask for a copy!) and that can use the breed standard to point out the good and bad points in their own dogs. 
    • A good breeder should be able to discuss the problems that a particular breed is known to be at risk for - in Cockers this can include cataracts, PRA, epilepsy, thyroid issues and skin disorders, among others.
    • Ask to see the test results for any health exams the breeder performs on breeding stock.
  • A responsible breeder should be willing to provide on-going support for puppy buyers and should be interested in the long-term well-being of the dogs. 
  • A good breeder should provide you with training and care information and should be willing to answer your questions and concerns about any aspect of pet ownership.  

In general, puppy mill operators will have no working knowledge of the breed standard for a particular breed and cannot identify what makes a particular dog a better example of the breed than another.  Most of these breeders couldn't care less whether the puppies they produce are reasonable representations of the breed, let alone an improvement over the parents, so they have no interest in learning the standard for the breed or how to apply it to evaluate their dogs.   These operations frequently breed their dogs too early and too often with no consideration of whether a particular dog is actually a reasonable representative of the breed.  (If it has a uterus or testicles, it's a breeder!)

Puppy mills rarely test for genetic problems and, in fact, obvious health issues are many times ignored so that breeding dogs can be used to continuously produce puppies.   Puppy mills rarely have any interest in the life or problems of owners or the dogs they produce once they have cash in hand and the dog has gone to its new owners.  This means that many of these dogs end up abused, neglected, abandoned and/or put to sleep. 

Preventive measures to reduce or limit the spread of disease are rarely part of a puppy mill's operating procedure.   Many of these operations also keep the dogs in small cages with minimal or no regular exercise for the life of the dog.  The breeding dogs in a puppy mill are often dirty, ungroomed, parasite infested and may have skin sores or other untreated health issues.  These dogs are often fed poor quality food and/or may have inadequate supplies of food and water.  The facilities of a puppy mill are often dirty, poorly ventilated and may not provide reasonable shelter from hot, cold, wet or otherwise inclement weather.

To top off the horror of life in a puppy-mill for a breeding dog, the puppies that are produced most often go to homes with little or no screening (beyond ascertaining whether the buyer has ample cash in hand!).  The puppies produced may also be "harvested" from their mothers and then be packed, stacked and loaded in freezing or overheated semi's for delivery to a distribution facility.  From this facility, the puppies will be parceled up and shipped off in another semi to pet shops across the country.  Here again, the puppies will be sold indiscriminately with little or no screening and there will not be anyone available to help the new owners if they should have questions or concerns on how to raise, train or solve a problem with their new puppy.  

Remember that puppy mills can come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are worse than others and many may look quite presentable and the breeders may appear quite knowledgeable even to an educated buyer that asks the right questions.  The key to avoiding buying your puppy from a puppy mill is to do your research!  And please, do not support puppy mills by buying that poor little dog just because it looks so sad.  Buying from a puppy mill or pet store only encourages these people to breed more dogs! 

Can I breed my female to one of your males?

I do occasionally allow my males to breed females that are owned by other breeders.  All such breedings are arranged by Private Treaty. (My stud dogs are NOT available to the general public.  Private arrangements may be made for the breeding of a particular bitch if the owner and I both agree to specific terms.)  Females accepted for breeding must:

  • Be a quality representative of the breed - physical structure AND temperament.
  • Be clean, groomed & free of parasites
  • Be current on necessary vaccinations, worming and heartworm preventative
  • Have a current CERF (eye certification stating the dog does not have any hereditary eye defects)
  • Have an OFA number (the dog has been certified as being free of hip-dysplasia)
  • Have a veterinary health certificate showing general health and results of a pre-breeding exam - including a negative brucellosis exam - a form of doggy VD.  Brucellosis results must be dated within 30 days of breeding. 

I also insist that puppies produced by my males be sold with limited registration unless they are sold to known show/breeding homes that have breeding/showing/health testing programs similar to my own. 

There are NO exceptions to any of the above requirements.  These are the minimum requirements for contracting a breeding.  Other restrictions/requirements may apply.

 

If you have any questions or would like more information about our Cocker Spaniels,
please
E-MAIL ME.    Thanks,

Cindy

Copyright Sandcastle Kennels 2004044

Last revised: January 01, 2006