Apex Boxers, New Zealand

Choosing a Pup

The Apex Boxers
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    About the Breed

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  • Choosing a pup
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    Rosie and Mieke at 3 weeks Redman, Buster, Storm and Buddy at 3 weeks

    Had you considered helping a dog looking for a new home?

    There are Boxer Rescue groups looking for great homes for great Boxers. If you can't 'rescue' a dog yourself, please think about helping your local Boxer Rescue with a donation. Here are two of the rescue organisations in Australia I recommend: Boxer Rescue Victoria and Boxer Rescue Perth . Take care only to adopt only through an organisation that is experienced with assessing and placing dogs - you want it to be a match that works for both you and the dog.

    How do I locate breeders?

    I don't recommend just waiting for an online or newspaper advert for a litter. Start looking well ahead of when you are ready for a pup as the best pups will have homes arranged long before they're 8 weeks old. This dog will hopefully be part of your life for 10-15 years. Make sure it's going to be a healthy dog with a good temperament that will suit you - find breeders you trust with dogs you really like and see when they're likely to have litters. It should be worth waiting for the right dog.

    It is a good idea to contact as many breeders as you can to increase your chances of finding a good quality boxer that is right for you. To locate breeders, a good strategy is to ask local vets if they know of good breeders, and/or ask people who have elderly, healthy boxers where they got theirs. If you're not having luck with that approach, kennel clubs will give you contact details for boxer breeders and/or boxer clubs - contacting the clubs is a very good way to get information on serious breeders (or at least those that happen to be members of that club!).

    In Australia, each state has its own Canine Council - start at the Australian National Canine Council and choose 'Contact Us' to find links to your state's website (how easy it is to find breeders depends on how good each state's website is). In New Zealand, the NZ Kennel Club Boxer Contacts page has the breeders and clubs listed. Remember that on most sites (in both NZ and Australia), only the breeders who pay to advertise are listed. Commercial sites like Dogzonline (Australia) or Dogzonline (NZ) or can also give you names of breeders who pay to advertise.

    How do I choose which breeder?

    There are many breeders around, many good, some bad. Puppy buyers often make the mistake of assuming that anyone who has bred lots of litters, must breed good dogs - quantity has nothing to do with quality. Also, don't assume that a breeder who enjoys success in the show ring, is necessarily breeding responsibly in terms of health and temperament - reputable breeders are not always responsible breeders sadly. A few well known breeders produce Boxers that routinely die young from hereditary health problems and they continue to resist health testing.

    The genetic background of your pup is important. The way a pup is raised in its first weeks of life is also crucial. To increase your chances of getting a healthy well-adjusted pup, you need to do some homework. Make sure you ask lots of questions, eg simply asking why a breeder selected that particular dog and bitch to breed from can tell you much about their objectives - does their answer cover health, temperament, and looks?

    Assess any breeder carefully - Does the breeder have their dogs assessed at breed shows? Are the pedigrees of the parents well known? Does the breeder know about the dogs in the pedigree (not just sire and dam) - their characteristics, health and temperament? Where are the dogs a generation or two back now? - are they still alive? ...and if not, what happened to them? Have the sire & dam been hip scored, heart tested, and had general health checks? How often and how young do bitches get bred from and how long does the breeder let the poor bitch recover between litters? Is the breeder knowledgeable about health issues in the breed (see Health Checks below)? Have the pups been properly reared with top quality food, good socialisation, and an environment unlikely to lead to behavioural problems in later life? Many 'show' breeders have little understanding of dog behaviour or appropriate socialising of young puppies. Here are some sites that will help you to understand what type of activities are important for young dogs.

    Take note also of what questions the breeder asks you. If you loved your dogs and wanted the best possible homes for them, what would you be asking prospective buyers? If a breeder doesn't seem to care about how you will raise the pup you take home, how much care do you think they took in raising the dam and caring for the pups in their critical first weeks of life?

    It is a shame that I need to say this, but I am aware of some breeders who are very good at 'spin' - they will say all the right things, but most is not 100% true. You need to check facts carefully. An example to illustrate: A few years back a woman who is still breeding boxers in the North Island was copying and pasting material from my website into emails she sent to people who contacted her about puppies and pretending the words and knowledge were her own. She now has a website full of half-truths and doctored photos to fool unsuspecting boxer lovers. The truth is clear to anyone who reviews how long she has been in the breed yet how many litters she has produced. You as the 'buyer' need to read between the lines.

    Sites with useful advice for puppy buyers about knowing which breeder to go to:

    What Health Checks?

    Remember, all dogs, like people, could potentially suffer from health problems - the fact that breeders should check for a small number of conditions does not mean the whole boxer breed is going to be susceptible to them. You can learn about the health of the breed on The American Boxer Club's Site. The Genetic Diseases section is a nice summary of the conditions that breeders need to be particularly careful of. I have provided guidance about health test and further links to health information on my Health Page.Sadly many breeders don't appear to place a high priority on breeding healthy long-lived Boxers. If a breeder is not keeping genetic disorders in mind when planning their breeding programme, then they are, in my opinion, playing Russian roulette. It is important for you to assess whether a breeder is knowledgeable about the conditions they should be seeking to avoid in their breeding program.

    Unfortunately there are some dodgy breeders who claim to health test, but in fact check for only a small number of conditions, don't use proper testing methods, or test only selected stock. What is particularly disturbing is that some very experienced breeders are advertising dogs in boxer club websites and magazines with comments like "clear of heart disease" when their dogs have not been tested fully. It is a matter of 'buyer beware' - you should try to find out what tests have been done and what the results were (my Health Page gives guidance on questions to ask). if a breeder is reluctant to answer such questions... run! There are also breeders who put forward a raft of excuses about why they don't need to be testing for health problems - this website covers the most common excuses you'll hear from irresponsible breeders of any breed: Breeder excuses. The best idea is for you to educate yourself and be confident about asking for details of health test results and/or the longevity of the lines if those things are important to you.

    Papers or no papers?

    Maybe you don't want to show or breed. That shouldn't make any difference when it comes to choosing a breeder. Perhaps you had in mind that it would be cheaper to buy a dog without papers?

    No matter what you intend to do with a pup I recommend going to a breeder who is knowledgeable about the breed and is working to breed the best possible Boxers. That pretty much rules out anyone breeding dogs without papers.

    Papers are proof of pedigree. If a breeder can't be bothered getting papers, just how much trouble are they likely to have gone to with investigating pedigrees and checking the health of their dogs? Papers give you some evidence that the breeder took an interest in planning the litter to some extent and didn't just take the nearest male dog and use him on their bitch, and is also more likely to also have bothered looking after the pups properly as the litter was organised rather than an accident or whim.

    Watch out though, papers in themselves are not enough proof of a breeder who has done their homework. Within the world of dogs with papers there is still a huge variety in the quality of the breeders & pups you may come across. Remember to do your homework - read the tips on the sites I've given you above.

    How do I choose a pup?

    People often say firmly: "I want a red & white bitch", then come & see a litter and fall in love with a totally different pup. It really does seem to be best to let the pup choose you - the personality is the most important thing & within one litter it can vary hugely. You want the right pup for you.

    From a young age you can see what kind of personality a Boxer is likely to have. Some pups are more outgoing or more independent. Some pups have a higher 'prey drive' than others. While you should steer clear of any timid boxer, do not believe the old myth that the pup who rushes over to you first has the best temperament. For a house full of boisterous activity that pup may be the right one. But, for some people the pup that stands back and checks things out before leaping in, the one that is a little more reserved and a little less likely to chase everything that moves may be better suited.

    Think carefully about what kind of dog you want and find a pup that will suit. A good breeder should be able to help you make that match.

    There are some good tips on the Dog Owner's Guide: Picking a puppy Web page.

    What can I expect to pay?

    I truly hope that price is not a big deal to you when you are considering which pup to make part of your family for the next decade. Prices vary hugely - you might pay $800 to $1200 for a good Boxer pup in New Zealand, and in Australia $900 to $1500 is not unusual (beware of breeders who try to charge well over the usual price - I know of some who do no health testing yet charge ridiculous sums).

    You should keep in mind that price doesn't equate to quality. Eg, some breeders may charge at the lower end of the scale but balance that with screening potential homes very carefully, whereas other breeders work on the principle that a high price will put off less desirable homes. Unfortunately some breeders are simply trying to make money out of breeding their dogs and don't take a lot of care to breed good Boxers but do charge a lot for their pups. (The questions you ask about health tests should help you work this out).

    When thinking about price, remember that if you save a few hundred off the purchase price, you might be spending that same amount on vet bills. What's important is to find a good quality pup that will suit your situation.