Irish Wolfhound Club of America, Inc.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Puppy

Where NOT to find an IW Puppy

Are you looking to buy an Irish Wolfhound puppy or adult? You can find them easily enough on the internet! All it takes is a click of the mouse and you'll be flooded with places to shop. A recent search on Google using for "irish wolfhound puppies for sale" returned 51,900 results in 0.28 seconds.

Beware internet "for sale" websites!

Some of these places are commercial "puppies for sale" websites, some are personal websites created by an individual. Some are YouTube videos. Some of these sites are quite nice-looking, some offer "buyer protection" (What about "puppy protection"?), some websites have lots of "good information" that the company and advertisers themselves don't follow and don't expect people to read anyway. One of the most popular of these commercial sites will not allow the IWCA to place its own paid advertisement containing basic breed information - even though the site "helpfully" provides "buyer tips" and states that the company wants you to choose "the right puppy and the right breeder.”

It's easy to put a lot of "the right words" in an ad to look good: "love the breed", "breed for longevity", "certified breeder", "USDA licensed", "vet checked", "forever home", "breeding for 'XX' years", "incomparable" "outstanding" "wonderful" "excellent" pedigrees and bloodlines. The advertisers assume potential buyers won't ask too many questions, and unfortunately they are usually right.

After all, they say they are "breeders" so you naturally figure they must (should) know all about their chosen breed.

Some of the commercial websites assure you that they list "accredited breeders" (but "accredited" by whom?) and that "finding a puppy has never been simpler" and so "convenient", and that you can "select and purchase from the comfort of your own home". This is not a GOOD thing!! A puppy is a commitment for its lifetime and adding a puppy to the family requires some effort on your part. Puppies are not "simple or convenient" in real life - don't fall for this lure of E-Z buying. You need to know that the breed you have chosen is really right for you and your family, and a responsible breeder will help you make that decision so everyone - puppy, family and breeder - is happy.

As the parent club of the Irish Wolfhound, we are dedicated to protecting and advancing the interest of the breed and to guard against commercial exploitation. A responsible breeder doesn't breed puppies for the sole purpose of selling them.

We love Irish Wolfhounds! We'd much rather be helping you enjoy yours than to hear of a sad phone call when problems arise and your "breeder" is nowhere to be found, or tells you they can't help you because they are "no longer breeding" (which has no bearing on the situation - It is still a dog they are responsible for), or tells you that since THEY never had any problems, this must be something YOU did wrong so now it's your problem, goodbye.

You need to have a good rapport with your breeder. Keeping communication open for the lifetime of your hound is so important.

Deconstructing the "4sale" Ad
A little research goes a long way!
Don't be misled by ad hype.

"Sire is [ xx ] inches tall and weighs [ xxx ] pounds": Height and weight should never be the main criteria of an ad. The Irish Wolfhound is one of the giant breeds - it is indeed a very, very large dog! But height and weight measurements are often exaggerated, and even when accurate don't really give a true picture of the dog. A dog of above-average height may be lacking in proper structural formation (which can cause orthopedic problems) and a dog packing substantial pounds may just be overweight. And, "own the biggest dog on your block" is no reason to buy a dog.

The Pedigree - "Breeding the best", "rare bloodlines", "excellent genetics", "outstanding", "world class": According to whom (besides the advertiser, that is)? How is the breeding stock "the best" if the dogs aren't shown, or compete in any performance events, or receive any health testing ("Vet checked" is NOT health testing)? What makes the bloodlines "rare" or "world class" if a look at the pedigree shows numerous dogs common to many "breeders" of the same persuasion and only too well-known to Irish Wolfhound rescue? Pedigrees are not "champion" or "excellent quality" just because the seller wishes they were, or thinks they are because one dog in the Nth generation has a title.

"Championship bloodlines": This should mean that a majority, if not all, of the dogs in a 4-generation, 30-dog pedigree are AKC Champions, but too often one or two titles in the entire pedigree are the entire "claim to fame" of the advertiser's "champion bloodlines.”

"DNA Tested": The AKC has several DNA programs (see "DNA and the AKC"). When you see "DNA Tested" in an ad, it's important to know that an AKC DNA Profile DOES NOT provide any information about the conformation of the dog or the absence of genetic diseases or any other indication of health or longevity, and in fact may have been done only because the AKC required it ("Frequently Used Dogs" is one reason).

"USDA Registered": The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Act "requires the humane care and treatment of dogs sold as pets at the wholesale level, transported in commerce, and used in research or exhibits. Individuals using or working with such animals must be licensed or registered by USDA.” Unfortunately the USDA does not have nearly the manpower to enforce its own regulations, and inspections are few and far between. The report "Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dealers" released by the USDA in May 2010 bears this out (Warning: the report contains graphic photos). Example, out of 8,289 inspections, over half of the operations showed at least one violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Nearly half of those were repeat offenders with over a third violating the same subsections of the law - and most of the time, the inspector recommended "no action" in their reports, even when there were major violations.

A responsible IW breeder does not mass-produce puppies in such numbers as to require a USDA license, and does not broker puppies, wholesale or otherwise, via third parties. Ask the "USDA breeder" for results of health testing and certification on the sire and dam, and their records of conformation and performance events. Chances are you will receive nothing. ("Vet checked" is not a substitute for health testing.)

"Member of [insert organization name]": The breeder should at least be a member of the breed's parent club and their local IW club, and possibly an all-breed club as well. You should be wary of claims of "USDA registered" or "licensed and inspected" or claims of membership in some commercial "breeder" organization. While the inspection, licensing and "breeder organization" may in some cases be legitimate, the fact that the breeder needs to have an inspection done may indicate large numbers of puppies produced for the sole purpose of sales.

"We are not a puppy mill": If they really feel they must tell you that they aren't a puppy mill, they probably are not responsible breeders, either.

"Waiting List": Most responsible breeders often have a waiting list, and it is recommended to stay in close contact. Some advertisers may also claim to have waiting lists, yet you will see their ads for past, current and future litters running continually on commercial "for sale" websites in an attempt to generate sales.

"Breeding for health and longevity and temperament": Every breeder should have these goals in mind. But breeding "for" something doesn't mean "succeeded.” Can the advertiser back up these claims with proof that his/her dogs are healthier and live longer than the breed average? If the advertiser claims his/her dogs are free of cancer, heart disease and so on, ask to see health information on every dog in the pedigree and records of date and cause of death on every dog he/she has produced. They should be willing and able to provide this documentation to back up their claims.

"Full breeding rights": Some ads state a higher price for "full AKC breeding registration" versus "limited registration.” In most of these instances the difference in registration is not based on an evaluation of breed type but whether or not the buyer will spend more money: paying a couple of hundred dollars more will magically transform the "limited registration" puppy, regardless of conformation, into a "full AKC breeding rights" puppy.

Price: Irish Wolfhounds are expensive to buy and to maintain. "You get what you pay for" is often true, but an inflated price does not always mean quality. Beware of prices that vary greatly from the norm in your area. Also beware of advertisers who drop their prices as the puppies get older. "Moving the merchandise" isn't what responsible breeders do.

"XX Years of Experience": Experience is of course a desirable thing. But just as "AKC Registered" doesn't necessarily mean quality (see the AKC's own explanation about "AKC Registration and Quality" on their "About Registration" page), many years of breeding dogs doesn't necessarily indicate a responsible breeder.

"Sales Contract" and/or "Guarantee": A responsible breeder will have a sales contract. Some irresponsible breeders will have one as well. Read it carefully and ask questions. Some advertisers use contracts to appear responsible, but when one of their breeding goes into rescue and they are contacted, they are not interested in taking responsibility for their dog. The primary goal of a contract should be to protect the puppy. This means there will be adequate protection for both the breeder and the buyer if the best effort has been made to protect the puppy.

AKC Online Breeder Classified Advertising: The AKC accepts paid advertising from those who are in good standing with the AKC, have a currently registered AKC litter and agree to provide new owners with AKC papers. The AKC also has a great deal of good educational information on the Breeder Classified pages. Unfortunately, information is only useful if potential puppy buyers take the time to read it. A majority of Irish Wolfhound advertisers on AKC Breeder Classifieds do not meet the basic requirements of a responsible breeder.

Letters of Recommendation, "Testimonials" and Reviews: Take with a grain of salt and consider the source - a "recommendation" from an advertiser's veterinarian is a statement from someone in the employ of the advertiser. Besides confirming that the advertiser's dogs are seen regularly for routine care (good to know), what can the average veterinarian say about the advertiser's "breeding program" other than what the advertiser has told him/her? "Reviews", especially on websites, are often solicited from buyers by the advertiser - and at least one popular commercial site allows advertisers to remove negative reviews.

What About those "Alternative Registries"?

There are quite a number of organizations that will register your dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) are probably the most well-known in the United States, and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is the main registry body in Canada.

There are many other "alternative registries.” A few have well-designed websites and a lot of text explaining how ethical they are. Most of them will register dogs without any kind of paper trail, using photos and a signed form instead. One "alternative registry" justifies this practice by stating that many such dogs "are good examples of their breed and worthy of contributing to the gene pool for their particular breed.” This ignores the entire health and temperament history that is missing: something no responsible breeder would do.

It is common for individuals who are suspended from the AKC privileges to sign on with one of these "alternative registries.” Even individuals convicted of animal cruelty appear to have no problem obtaining "registrations" from them.

It would seem, though, that many users of these "alternatives" are not very proud of their chosen registry. Often, a response to an ad which asks for a pedigree of the litter (a common and legitimate request to make of a breeder) receives no reply, or a reply stating they're sorry but they don't have one, or a reply which ignores the request and reiterates price and how cute the puppies are, or even tells you that if you are asking for a pedigree you don't want one of their dogs (apparently figuring if you are knowledgeable enough to ask for a pedigree you are knowledgeable enough not to buy from them once you see it!).

This page was last updated 04/15/2014.