It is all about Minimising Risk
Finding A Breeder
Victoria, AustraliaIn Victoria, Australia, if you contact the Labrador club puppy line 1900 931 099 you will get phone numbers of people (Lab club members) who currently have litters who do have hip scores, but it will not tell you the colour of the puppy - you will need to ring and ask. Also ask about elbow scoring.
(Other states in Australia: look here. Not in Australia? - go to Google and type "labrador club" your country.)
Good and caring breeders will be checking you out just as much as you are checking them. You may have to wait for a suitable pup to be available (getting a dog is not an impulse buy) .
Find breeders and ask lots of questions:
1. Are the Sire and Dam Hip & Elbow scored and what are the scores?
Hip Scores that add up to less than 12.5 (the breed average), are good.
Educate yourself about hip and elbow problems and the scoring systems and what it all means, so you can ask intelligent questions (same goes for the breeder so they can give intelligent answers). Ask your Vet to explain it all in simple terms if the information is too "medical" for an average persons understanding.
Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Resources
Australia-UK BVA rating compared to the USAs OFA scheme
2. Are the Sire and Dam checked each year by a Veterinary Ophthalmologist?
(see http://www.labbies.com/eye.htm for more information)
3. Have either the Sire or Dam ever produced any pups with any of the hereditary diseases?
The problem with this question is getting a straight answer. Breeders who say they have never had any problems are either (a) very new to breeding, (If they are new to breeding, are they aware of the potential for problems?) (b) don't care and don't know - ie they have not kept in contact with the owners of their pups, or (c) lying.
If the answer is yes, ask what has been done about minimising the risk of it happening again.
4. Does the breeder have a contract of sale that protects the pup, acknowledges the chances of hereditary problems, and reimburses you in the event of a problem occurring?
If yes, this is a strong sign that the breeder knows their breeding lines and takes responsibility for any "bad" outcomes.
Example of a Health Warranty: http://www.labbies.com/warranty.htm
5. When looking for a Chocolate pup, and you are after a dark coat, and hoping to show the Labrador, it would be best if the pup is the result of a Chocolate to Black OR Black to Black breeding. With Chocolate to Chocolate or Chocolate to yellow parents, the coat colour might become too light to please the show judges (but would still make a very wonderful and loving pet). (See Chocolate Genetics page.)
6. Visit the home of the breeder that sounds good:
- can you trust this person and can go back to them for help if problems occurs?
- check the mother dog (and the sire if possible)
- look for clean, loved and well cared for pups
- look for pups that are not over fed - ie the breeder is aware of minimising the chances of hip and elbow problems through diet.
Please do not consider pet shops or puppy farms - they can be a really bad scene and they should not be encouraged. Look at http://www.labbies.com/petstores.htm for more info (quite distressing in parts).
It would be good to buy a pup from a long term breeder who is very strict about hip and elbow scoring and has been practicing a "scientific" method of breeding for may generations.
This will lessen the chance of the hereditary diseases, BUT nothing can absolutely guarantee that your pup will have no problems.