Many people that are new to the breed wish to find a trustworthy and responsible Kooikerhondje breeder. You might be one of them and you might be asking yourself:
- “What questions should I ask my future puppy breeder?”
- “How can I find out if my breeder has sound knowledge about the specifics of this breed?”
- “How can I make sure that my future puppy will be healthy and coming from quality lines?”
- “How would I know that my breeder is not in for the money?”
While researching for a good Kooikerhondje breeder, make sure that there is a good way to connect in person, either by phone, email or for example Skype. If possible you want to see their Kooiker(s) in person.
Kooiker Traits, Health, and Personality
You might want to ask some of the following questions regarding:
- The typical personality of a Kooiker: “What is his/her temperament like? His he/she reserved or open and friendly to strangers? How does he/she react to other dogs? Are there any situations when he/she is anxious or uncomfortable and how do you manage those situations?” Ask the breeder if he/she knows what their personality is like typically for the breed and where those traits came from historically. Kooikerhondjes are naturally a little cautious and reserved which can come across as anxious, insecure or distant. They are sensitive to noises and usually have a strong bond with their owners. They used to work one on one with their handler in the duck “kooi” in the Netherlands. This is a quiet and secluded place.
- Health: “What health tests have you performed? Can I see the results of the CERF eye exam, the OFA patella exam, the Von Willebrand test and ENM test? Have you done any other health testing and why? What health issues do you see potentially in your dog’s pedigree? How do you balance them out? What health tests and results does the mating partner have? What do you know about ENM? What do you know about other health issues in this breed and how common are they?”
- The activity level and areas of performance: “What types of training have you done with your dog and what results can you show me? How does a typical day with your dog/-s look like? For how many walks are you taking your dog/-s for?” This will give you an idea what relationship the breeder has with their dogs and what he/she considers important and necessary for this breed. Some family pet Kooiker is probably used to less exercise compared to a performance dog who is participating in agility or search and rescue.
- Show or conformation results: “Have you ever shown your dogs at a dog show? Did he/she compete against other Kooikerhondjes? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your dog compared to the standard?” Again, this will give you an idea about the breeder’s knowledge and experience as well as honestly. This is also an opportunity to understand the decisions that your breeder makes when it comes to choosing breeding pairs.
- Knowledge of the breed: “Please explain to me what the breed was used for in the past? Have you been to the Netherlands or have you seen a working duck kooi? Have you been to any Kooikerhondje shows in Europe? Did you get the chance to visit any breeders in Europe in person? How many Kooikers have you seen/trained in your life?” Some very involved breeders are in close contact to European kennels and stay on top of show results in Europe. A knowledgeable Kooikerhondje breeder should have seen this breed ideally outside the USA as well.
- Kennel specific questions: “How often do you have a litter? Are you whelping the litter or do you co-own and do the dog lives somewhere else? Do you breed other dog breeds? What is the minimal age of a stud/bitch used for breeding? How often is a female Kooiker mated in their lifetime? What is the recovery time between litters?” This will give you a good idea if the breeder has a financial interest in breeding dogs and if they have knowledge about other breeds. Many dogs are co-owned these days and live in families that work with the kennel owner and whelp a litter under their name. In my opinion the dog should have reached a minimum age in order to have a fully developed body and personality. There are different opinions out there but I feel that a bitch should have gone through two heat cycles and should have at least one normal heat cycle between litters. Some health issues won’t show up within the first 2 years of life and it is worth taking that time. I am also a strong believer that a bitch should not have more than 3 litters in a lifetime but others might disagree with me.
“How do you intend to socialize the litter and what training will the puppies receive?”
The first weeks of life are so essential and the breeder can make a true difference in the life of any puppy. A breeder who is interested in performance dogs might take that extra step and do a puppy aptitude test which will give a first impression on the temperament and drive of an individual puppy in a litter. Some breeders are devoted to socialize their puppies early around children, noises, other animals and new environments. It is even possible to start house and crate training at such a young age. Answers to those questions will give you an idea how invested the breeder is into raising your puppy.
Let’s stop here before I am getting carried away. As you can see, there is so much you can ask and what you should know about before deciding on a specific breeder. Please remember that this article reflects my personal opinion and is – by no means – considered to be a general approach for everybody. I would also like to encourage you to ask questions that go beyond the ones above – the ultimate decision where you are getting your new companion and friend from is still yours. I am happy to answer any other questions.