Having sound parents and coming from a long line of healthy dogs are the best guarantees of a sound puppy that a breeder can offer. No one can provide a 100% Guarantee that your puppy will never develop a health problem, BUT good genes from a healthy line of dogs, with clear eyes and sound joints, goes a long way to assuring you are buying a healthy puppy.
Today, there are many rare, and some more common, genetic disorders that have been identified in breeds of dogs. Some breeds are more prone to health problems than others. Labrador retrievers, the world’s most popular companion dog, have fewer problems than many breeds, but buyers should be aware of some more common ones. Hip and elbow dysplasia are unfortunately common in all large-breed dogs. Making sure your puppy has parents with sound hips and normal elbows is essential, because sound parents are far less likely to produce puppies with hip and elbow problems. Both parents should have joints certified by OFFA (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals).
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) is an inherited eye disorder that leads to blindness. A test was developed to detect carriers of the trait. Although carriers are not affected, their puppies can have PRA, if both parents carry the gene. Make sure your puppy’s parents are PRA-negative (not carriers). Other eye disorders are detected in an annual eye examination that is reported to CERF, the Canine Eye Research Foundation. Both parents should have current CERF certificates, showing clear eyes. Parents with clear eyes are much less likely to produce puppies with eye problems.
Puppies rearing conditions play a large role in their health and soundness. Puppies should not be forcibly weaned at an arbitrary age. It is far better for them to remain in contact with and nursing on their mother, as long as she is willing. Mothers at Aloha Labradors nurse their puppies frequently from birth to 5 weeks (when they have teeth and eat well on their own) and continue to nurse them once or twice a day until they leave at 8 weeks of age. Contact with Mom and littermates is critical to puppies’ proper socialization.
Diet after 3 weeks of age, when they begin to eat solid foods, is another important factor in puppies’ soundness. No matter what the bag of puppy chow says, those kibble nuggets are primarily starches, which is not the food a baby carnivore needs to thrive. At Aloha Labradors, puppies are fed raw ground beef and beef heart, mixed with raw eggs and a little yogurt to begin. When they can chew, they get raw chicken wings and necks and an assortment of muscle meats, organ meats, and meaty bones. These foods supply all the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients young puppies need to develop into sound youngsters.
Human contact is absolutely critical to socialize puppies into happy companions. Puppies should be reared in the house or very close by, to assure they have lots of human attention. They should have contact with children and adults, men and women. They should be accustomed to household sounds, sudden loud noises, laughter, television, vacuum cleaners, and so forth. By exposing puppies in the first four or five weeks of life to a lot of human contact and normal household sounds, puppies are unlikely to be fearful or shy. Without a lot of handling and attention in the early weeks, puppies do not develop into trusting, happy companions.
Finally, meet the puppy’s parents! Do not buy a puppy if you are not allowed to meet the mother and the father, if he is on premises. Look critically at the parents: Do they look healthy and well-exercised? Are they friendly? What is their diet? Look critically at the puppies: Are they calm and happy, are their coats shiny, or are they restless and unkempt? Is this a crowded kennel that produces a lot of litters (often called a puppy mill), or is this a spacious, well-kept kennel that produces only a few litters a year and takes pride in each one?
All of these factors contribute to buying a healthy, sound, well-socialized puppy, who will be a great companion for many years.