Purchasing a Sheltie Puppy General Concerns
We in animal rescue work often see the results of purchasing a cute puppy from a pet store or ad in the local paper. Though these decisions can work out well for the dog’s health and a lifetime of devotion between dog and family, the new owner is frequently responding on emotions, especially during the holidays or because a child wants that puppy so much. Despite the best of intentions on the part of the new owner, a few months later, possibly because the owner didn’t do the necessary homework to understand the breed and the importance of knowing the breed standards, or because the dog was not carefully bred, the half-grown or mature dog, now perhaps with behavioral problems and health issues, may end up in a rescue program. To assist both the dogs we love and the families who frequently write us about purchasing Sheltie puppies, we offer these guidelines based on our experiences in years of rescue work with Shetland Sheepdogs.
As rescuers know, and as exposed in recent Dateline episodes, most puppies you see at pet stores are from puppy mills where they were bred in deplorable conditions for profit only with no regard for either the breeder pairs or the puppies; or from non-professional private breeders who are not recognized by the national breed organizations and who aren’t careful about their breeding programs; or from “backyard breeders”– people who just want to breed their own dogs and may not understand the importance of genetic and health issues. These puppies can be healthy, but they often are not because of where they’ve come from and the stress they’ve been through; some have Parvo or kennel cough contracted in the breeder’s environment or in the pet store itself. Parvo is frequently fatal; Kennel Cough is not to be taken lightly: it is a disease that is mutating, becoming more severe, and in our experience often leading directly to pneumonia. We’ve also seen an increase in distemper, heartworm disease, orthopedic, liver, heart, kidney, and other ailments in the dogs we have rescued from these breeding programs. The result of indiscriminate dog breeding is that most dog breeds have been experiencing increased genetic, behavioral, and health problems; and rescue groups are proliferating all over the country to save and rehabilitate these dogs when they are abandoned (see our Before and After page). Also, when you see ads in the papers for Sheltie puppies, understand that most of these are posted by breeders who are not sanctioned by the national breed organization, or by people who have puppies they are unable to work with, possibly because the pups have genetic and behavioral problems due to poor breeding. Of course, never buy a Sheltie puppy, or any animal, from people selling them on the roadside or at tent sales. Living creatures should never be sold like this, and when animals are available in such conditions, one should think carefully about the breeding issues we’ve raised in this document as well as the reasons why these people are doing so.
We strongly advise that you purchase a Sheltie puppy from a professional breeder listed on the American Shetland Sheepdog site, from where you see the conditions the puppy was bred in and the parents of the litter. Professional breeders always provide the puppy’s full pedigree and health guarantees (including proof of x-rays of the parents’ hips) in addition to AKC papers for that dog. These breeders hand-raise the puppies in a clean environment within their home so that they are healthy, friendly, confident, and affectionate; they further carefully advise about the breed, including both the assets and ‘faults’ of the puppies. They obviously know the breed and know what they’re talking about, advising about feeding, training, breed standards, and what books to read. They also provide a health guarantee and will replace a puppy with severe health problems; they will want an ill puppy returned to their breeding program so they can further assess what problems have developed. Professional breeders care about their puppies, their breeding program, and the families who come to them. They do not want to contribute to any problems in their breed, and many work closely with rescue programs.
Making the Decision
Of course, as a rescue program, we feel that there are already too many dogs who need homes, and we advocate adopting them from rescue groups because they come to the new family with vaccination, spay/neuter, and health records; plus they are wonderful dogs we have carefully trained and who are so grateful for their new homes. Based on their experiences with these marvelous Shelties, most of our own volunteers would only adopt from rescue from now on. But we understand the attraction of adorable Sheltie puppies: if we do not have puppies in the program when you are looking, and if you want to purchase a Sheltie puppy, first read books and Internet sites about the breed and about house training and obedience training (review our Adoption Tips Site); then consult the breeders listed with the American Shetland Sheepdog Association. Talk carefully with all family members about the care of the puppy, making sure that everyone in the family will be devoted to the dog. Though it is so tempting, never bring in a new puppy or even mature dog during the major holidays, which are generally too stressful for the dog already trying to adjust to a new environment. It’s always best to purchase or adopt a puppy or dog well before or after holidays so that the family is focused on the puppy’s/dog’s well being and training without the distractions.
Lifespan of Shetland Sheepdogs
Finally, given everything else looking well for purchasing a puppy or adopting a rescued Sheltie, because they want their precious new companion to be with the family for many years, many of our applicants ask us about the average lifespan of the Shetland Sheepdog. Given the above breeding concerns, though no one can predict an individual dog’s true lifespan, Shelties from a good breeding program and/or who have received good health care and lots of love after rescue live 12-15 years, some living longer.
ASSA Breeder Lists
Here is a list of the breeder networks for Texas from the American Shetland Sheepdog Association site. If you want a referral to a reputable Sheltie breeder in Texas, please choose from among the following:
Above all, please be careful about impulse purchases from pet stores for the kids:
"Take One Home for the Kiddies"
By Philip Larkin
[20th-century English Poet–1922-1985]
On shallow straw, in shadeless glass,
Huddled by empty bowls, they sleep:
No dark, no dam, no earth, no grass —
Mam, get us one of them to keep.
Living toys are something novel,
But it soon wears off somehow.
Fetch the shoebox, fetch the shovel —
Mam, we’re playing funerals now.