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what you need to know first

Havanese have developed their wonderful qualities and type due to years of careful, selective breeding by dedicated, knowledgeable breeders. Be wary of internet and newspaper ads, pet stores, puppy farms, breeders mass producing or mix breeding, creating so-called "designer dogs". These people are only breeding for profit. They do not invest the time, thoughtful choices and money necessary to provide proper socialization, safe housing, nutrition, vet care and health testing. 

There are increasing numbers of Havanese in puppy mills and being produced by people solely for profit without regard to health. Puppy mills, brokers, backyard breeders and the neighbor down the street usually do not belong to their local or the national breed clubs. They do not want to draw attention to themselves or be regulated in any way, and clubs have a tendency to ask too many questions. Make sure you read all this information before contacting any breeders.


is it a puppy mill?


You've decided you want a puppy and will use the Internet to help you find the perfect dog for your family.


How do you know if you're looking at a responsible breeder's web site or a possible online puppy mill or broker's web site?


Keep in mind, commercial breeders (puppy mills) treat their dogs as livestock and are breeding for the sole purpose to make a profit. It is the focus on profit, not quality dogs, that is the distinguishing feature of a puppy mill. There are two ways to increase profit - increase production or cut costs.

"Every year in Ameica, it's estimated that 2.11 million puppies are sold that originated from puppy mills."


Tips to determine if you are looking at a mill or a broker's web site instead of that of a responsible breeder.


* Multiple breeds are the first indication. A good breeder rarely has more than two or possibly three breeds on which they focus their attention and energies. A lot of work goes into a well-bred dog.


* Availability of puppies. A responsible breeder rarely has puppies immediately available. If you find a site touting "Many puppies now available," think twice before deciding to buy. The only place you find multiple puppies on hand most or all of the time is a puppy mill or a pet store.


* All responsible breeders sell with a contract. If you are buying a pet, the contract should be for limited registration with a spay/neuter agreement. The contract protects not only you but also the dog. Good breeders are always watching out for their dogs. They are concerned about the pet population. They know the work and commitment that goes into raising quality dogs. They feel responsible and do not want to risk their puppy or its future offspring in less than reputable breeding practices. A good contract always specifies that in the event the owner cannot keep the dog, the breeder is to be notified so that arrangements can be made to take the dog back.


* The number of breeds available. If a site tells you they work with many different breeders, think twice. Good breeders do not sell their puppies through other people. They want to know who will be purchasing their puppies. They want to make the best decisions possible for their dogs' offspring. Multiple breeds and breeders on a web site suggest a broker is at work or that you've come upon a mill operation.


* Location says a lot. A reputable breeder NEVER sells to a pet store, auction or flea market. If the person selling the dog didn't breed it, do not buy it.


*Advertisement of mixed breeds, particularly when they're touted as being healthier simply because of their mixed breed heritage, is a sign of a commercial breeder. Hybrid vigor is an old and flawed argument!! Mixed breeds are just as likely to have genetic impairments as purebred dogs. What is important is the health testing done for the parents prior to breeding.


* Age matters. A good breeder never allows their puppies to leave their mother before at least 8 weeks of age. Even if a puppy is weaned, they are learning about social behavior from their mother. Bite inhibition is an important lesson missed by puppies in a pet store or from a backyard breeder that takes puppies away from their mother before 8 weeks of age. Puppies need to be with their mother to learn about the world.


* No information on health testing or a simple statement that all puppies are "healthy and guaranteed" is a sign of a possible mill or broker. Ask for specifics on what the guarantee means. Never trust somebody who tells you their breed has no problems. All breeds have genetic predisposition to some diseases and/or congenital conditions. What is important is the health testing done for the parents prior to breeding. Information on testing should be stated and the results made available to you before purchase.


* The registry used tells you a great deal about a breeder. In the U.S., puppies should be registered with AKC (American Kennel Club), UKC (United Kennel Club), the ARBA(American Rare Breed Association) or the foreign registries - the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationally). These registries do not guarantee a good breeder or a well-bred dog, but unlike many other registries, they represent stricter standards. Many registries were started after the AKC instituted the Frequently Used Sires (FUS) requirement which requires DNA certification of a male dog used to sire more than 7 litters in his lifetime. Some litters have been turned down by the AKC because of violation of this requirement and many other breeders are boycotting AKC as they cannot, or will not, meet AKC's more stringent requirements for breeders.


Some alternative registries that should set off alarms that you are not dealing with a responsible breeder include:

ACA (American Canine Association)      APR (American Purebred Registry)    APRI (America's Pet Registry Inc.)
ARU (Animal Registry Unlimited)          CKC (Continental Kennel Club)          FIC (Federation of International Canines)
USKC (United States Kennel Club)          WKC (World Kennel Club)                  WWKC (World Wide Kennel Club)


Please note that some of the registries have similar or the same initials as the older and well established registries. This can cause confusion for consumers. Don't be fooled.


* Does the breeder breed to the breed standard? The breed standard is what makes a Pug a Pug or a Miniature Schnauzer a Miniature Schnauzer. A good breeder knows the standard and participates to some degree in the conformation world (dog shows) to know where their dogs stand in relationship to the breed standard. Do your research to see what the breed standard is for the breed in which you're interested. Don't be fooled by a web site's claim that they are selling a rare color, size or marking. Standards are there for a purpose. Advertising of dogs that fall outside the standard is a ploy utilized by those who are not able to meet the standards defined.


We hope this information has been helpful to you in determining whether you are looking at the web site of a responsible breeder or a possible commercial breeder (puppy mill) or broker.


Copyright 2003 Lu Wyland Used with permission

what to ask a breeder - before you fall in love with a puppy

Health Testing
Prospective new owners need to be aware that health issues do exist in the Havanese. Keep in mind that very few (if any) pedigrees are clear of all health issues. A responsible breeder conducts numerous health tests and makes the results of those tests available to buyers and on the OFA website. If a breeder tells you they don't send in the results, or can't find them, don't be fooled! OFA only charges a nominal fee for registering results so if the tests have been done they will be registered.  Be sure you see PROOF that the health testing was completed. The health tests currently recommended by the NSHC in accordance with the Havanese Club of America are: Baer test-hearing, CERF test (annually)-eye disease and cataracts, OFA certified Hips and Patella's (knees) and Cardiac. Many breeders also test for Elbow Dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes, Thyroid disease and Liver disease.  


What is OFA? The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in a national registry and has developed and maintains database for a number of genetic diseases in canines.

BAER hearing test performed by a Board Certified Neurologist

Their mission is, "To improve the health and well being of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease." Breeders and potential puppy buyers can use this database to research and verify health information.

You will need the AKC or CKC registered name of the sire and dam to run your OFA search. Please note the color coding and all other pertinent details.

Click here to see templates of the official OFA health certificates 


The Waiting List
Many breeders have a waiting list for puppies. It is possible that a person may have a wait of six months to a year. You may want a puppy "today", or have an "ideal" time in mind to bring your puppy home, keep in mind that finding a puppy from health tested parents, a puppy who has been given a good start in life, is far more important than the time you bring the puppy home.  It is fine to be on the list of more than one breeder, but let everyone know you are on multiple lists and notify the "non-selected" breeder)s) if you decide on another.  Most responsible breeders will not send puppies home until they are at least 10 weeks old, many closer to 12 weeks.

 Sales Agreement
Before you buy, make sure the breeder gives you a written sales agreement to be signed by both buyer and seller. Review the contract before you sign it. Most problems arise due to misunderstandings with the wording of a contract or the lack there of. You MUST understand what you are signing. The sales agreement should include the registered and call names of the sire and dam, as well as their AKC registration numbers.  It should include and a brief description of the puppy (sex, color, pet or show conditions). It should also contain the names, addresses,email and phone numbers of the buyer and seller. Breeders should require you to have the puppy checked by their veterinarian within a week of pickup, and should set forth terms and a reasonable time period for returning the puppy should there be any previously unidentified health problem. A health guarantee covers any hereditary problems along with a realistic timeline and outline the breeder's and buyer's responsibilities.  Know that a breeder cannot control all conditions and genetic occurrences no matter how many tests are performed on the puppy's parents.  A good breeder does health testing to make informed decisions and to reduce the likelihood of passing down genetic weaknesses by choosing not to breed those dogs with known health issues.  As is true in humans there are no perfect dogs.

If an advance deposit is required by the breeder, be sure you understand the terms, including any refund policy or conditions. The deposit may be handled as a separate written agreement.

Before you leave with your new puppy:

You should receive at a minimum before you take home your puppy the following:
1.  Copies of the current CERF certificate for BOTH parents. This is an annual test, to be done annually until the dog reaches the age of 7. Copies of the exam may be altered, be sure to see the actual certificate from CERF or receive a copy of the OFA health registrations for both the sire and dam.
2.  Copies of BAER, hip and patella certificates from OFA on the parents.
3.  A copy of the contract.
4.  A 3 generation pedigree.
5.  AKC registration papers, unless otherwise agreed to in writing. Contingencies in the contract 
may include proof of spay or neutering.
6.  Copy of the puppies vaccination records.
7.  Written recommendation as to feeding, general care, housebreaking, training, feeding, medical 
care, and grooming.

Not all breeders are created equal and neither are the puppies they produce.  By definition, anyone who owns a female dog at the time it gives birth is a "breeder." It is not always easy to tell the difference between a responsible hobby breeder and an unknowledgeable "backyard breeder" or a commercial "puppy mill" breeder.


Also, don't avoid show lines because you just want a pet and don't want a dog to show.  In every litter there are pet puppies, they come from the same gene pool as the show puppies. Responsible breeders will do all they can to avoid health and temperament problems by researching pedigrees and screening parents for certain inherited problems before breeding.


Things to look for as you search for your breeder:

Do you show your Havanese in AKC events?

Both the sire and the dam should be good examples of the breed. Those who actively compete in dog events tend to have an overall higher commitment to the breed. A breeder breeds for a purpose. They never breed for money or because they just “like the breed.”  If parents are not AKC champions, consider finding another breeder.


How many breeds do you have?

Ideally, someone will have a special interest in only one or two breeds. Be careful if a breeder has more than 3 breeds of dogs.


How many litters a year do you have?

A good breeder may breed one, two, possibly three litters a year, or may not breed at all for a year or more between litters. More is never better. Anyone who seems to have puppies all the time is probably doing it at the expense of quality.


Are you a member of the Havanese Club of America and/or any local kennel clubs?

Good breeders are active members of their local breed club and/or national breed club. If the breeder is not a member of the HCA or a local kennel club beware. Unethical breeders do not want to draw attention to themselves or be regulated in any way, and clubs have a tendency to ask too many questions. It is possible that a goodbreeder may be an active member of the national Havanese club and may not have the time to be a good member of any further clubs. 


What are your dogs strengths/what do you like about Havanese?

 A really good breeder will go on and on about their own dogs, giving examples of things that the dogs have done that illustrate a particular breed characteristic. Watch them - you can tell if a person is enthusiastic about their subject.  If they’re just giving a speech and don’t care, you might want to consider walking away.  Look for evidence of loving the breed and wanting to improve it.


What are your dog’s weaknesses/what do you dislike about Havanese?

 There is no correct answer – but pay close attention on how a breeder answers. Do they see faults in their own dogs? There is a phenomenon known as kennel-blindness, where people think their dogs are perfect (or have only minor faults) and dogs owned by others have all sorts of faults.  Ask them about someone else’s dogs and see how they respond! 


How long have you been involved with Havanese?

Beware of someone who has jumped on the bandwagon to make a fast buck. They may not have the best interests of the breed nor buyer in mind.  A breeder should be familiar with the historical origins of the Havanese. They should be able to educate you about genetic predispositions to health problems, temperament of the breed and general day to day care of the breed.


What health testing has been performed on both parents?

Assessing the health testing of the puppy's parents is probably the easiest way to avoid a "backyard" breeder.  The MINIMUM requirements of the Havanese Club of America are that both dam and sire be OFA-certified free of hip dysplasia, OFA-certified for their patella, OFA-certified free from deafness, and annually CERF-certified free from genetic eye diseaseseach year.  Many breeders also do cardiac, thyroid, LCP and elbow testing.  Always verify the results of health tests. Don’t take their word for it. Only a board certified specialist can determine if a dog has hip dysplasia, eye issues, is deaf, has cardiac disease, etc. Their regular vet is not qualified.


Can I see a copy of the health test results?                      

A good breeder will be glad to offer the requested information. Beware of anyone who is defensive, has excuses for not doing the testing or can’t find their health certificates.  You can look up results online by visiting  Look for CHIC numbers. These numbers indicate that the breeder is doing the extra health testing recommended by the breed club. Don’t believe them if they say their vet gave the okay to breed. Only a board certified specialist can determine if a dog has hip dysplasia, eye issues, is deaf, etc.

May I see the contract stating all of the conditions that are involved in the sale of this puppy? 

You should be able to view this contract before you give a deposit. Look for a contract that protects the buyer as well as the seller, and the puppy first and foremost. A good breeder will always take the dog back if you are unable to care for it for the life of the dog.

Do you provide a written health guarantee? What does your written health guarantee include?            

Breeders may offer anywhere from a 1-2 year genetic health guarantee. Most will offer a replacement puppy or refund some of the purchase price if your puppy manifests a serious life-threatening genetic defect. Read this carefully. If your puppy should end up with a genetic aliment, your breeder should never demand the dog back before giving you a refund.


What are the requirements in regards to spaying or neutering?

Concerned, responsible breeders will insist that you neuter your pet puppy as soon as it is old enough. A pet puppy will be placed on a limited registration. If there is no spay/neuter contract or they offer full registration if you pay more…this is a warning sign.  Many back yard breeders or unethical breeders do this. It is against AKC rules to offer full registration if you “pay more.”  Not having this inclusion may indicate that the breeder does not care what happens to the puppies after they leave the breeder’s home.

Are the parents available for me to see?

At a minimum you must see the mother of the puppies, and it would be ideal to see both parents, but sometimes the bitch is sent to a stud dog at another location. You should be able to see any other dogs on site when you visit. If the breeder hesitates, you should wonder why. Are the dogs kept in clean, healthy conditions? Are they calm and friendly?

How old is the mom and how many litters has she had? 

Bitches should not be bred until they are at least two years old and have passed at least the minimum recommended health tests. Hips and elbows will not be fully certified until the dog is 2 years old.  Breeding on "pre-liminary tests" is practiced but not preferred or recommended. 

How do you socialize your puppies?

Socialization is so important to getting a well-adjusted, well-mannered dog. Ideally, you want the breeder to have raised the puppies in the house, around the normal daily activities of a household.  A breeder who allows their puppies to experience different sounds, surfaces, etc. and meet different people is trying hard.  A puppy raised without this important social interaction can be shy, fearful, aggressive, or have other problems as they get older. Dogs need to know how to play, how to handle new situations, how to relate to people.


When can I take the puppy home?                                                                                         

Puppies usually go home between 10 and 12 weeks. Avoid any breeder who wants to send home a puppy younger than eight weeks. Puppies sent home too early don't have the chance to develop healthy interactions with other dogs, to develop the social skills to be a confident member of the family and maybe sickly or have problems eating.

Will you be available in the future to answer any questions I may have on raising and training my puppy? 

When you buy from an ethical breeder, you are buying that persons knowledge, experience and commitment to the breed. You should feel comfortable calling the breeder with questions at any time throughout the life of the dog and the breeder should be happy to respond to your questions.  The breeder should also be willing to help, should something happen to you and the dog needs a new home. 

Do you have a waiting list for your puppies and how does it work? 

Many breeders have a waiting list. If a breeder asks for a deposit, be sure it is a refundable deposit and you have that in writing.

How do you screen potential puppy buyer homes, and do you have a questionnaire for me to fill out?

A good breeder will be very interested in who you are and somewhat choosy about whether you are able to provide an adequate home for one of their cherished pups.  A breeder who wants to meet you,  your kids, your spouse, your other pets,  or talk to your veterinarian is simply trying to make sure that you will take good care of their pup. Do not resent this.  


Avoid breeders who take credit card orders over the internet and ship puppies to anyone who wants them or tells you they don’t need to interview you and learn about your family and lifestyle.

be observant

 Is the home clean and orderly?  Are the breeder’s dogs healthy in appearance?  Are they clean and groomed?


It can be a messy proposition to raise a litter of puppies, but puppies should not be wallowing in waste, covered with fleas, or otherwise appear neglected.

Keep in mind that many longhaired bitches will shed their coats heavily during this time, so if the puppies’ mother appears a little ratty it is not necessarily inappropriate or unusual.

Do you like the temperaments of the puppies' parents? 

Remember, temperament is genetic! Avoid puppies from bitches that demonstrate any aggression or shyness.  Don't be afraid to ask the breeder to demonstrate the bitch's good temperament to you.


Often overlooked, but important - do you like the breeder? 

Will you feel comfortable relying on this person as a resource to help you if you ever run into problems with your pup? If you feel that the breeder is abrasive, rude, ignorant, or otherwise disagreeable, look elsewhere to buy your puppy. One of the greatest advantages of buying from a breeder is the support and assistance they can offer you throughout your dog's life.

Does your breeder respect veterinarians, trainers, groomers, breeders, and their peers in the dog world? 

Beware of breeders who are paranoid or hostile towards other professionals. In general, good breeders are socially well-networked. They are liked, like others, and respect competent professionals in their field. A good breeder should make the effort to know other good breeders (especially of their own breed and in their geographic area).

It is important for a breeder to strive to improve their knowledge and understanding of their breed and submit to peer critique, even if it is not necessarily formalized (as in the show ring).

Have the puppies been raised in a nurturing environment amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life?

Good luck in your search for a breeder, but if all this feels overwhelming visit 

Havanese Rescue Inc 

and find out about giving one of their special Havanese a second chance at a wonderful life.

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