Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Comments Q & A

Here are a few more of your questions (from your comments) answered. I'm only covering two here this time because the questions require longer answers. Again, so sorry for not replying to each of you individually right now... it's a little busy here -- hehe.

1. Do the pups get quieter as they learn to hear themselves (or do the sounds they make change as they gain their hearing)?

Yes, to both. Now that the pups can hear, their vocalizations are less "noise" and more "communication." The sounds coming from the whelping box/puppy pen are far more controlled and deliberate since their ears unsealed and since they've learned to control their voices more effectively. That does not mean it's always quiet here (ha!). When Elsie walks by, we hear the appropriate whines for Momma Elsie to nurse them. They growl as the play fight with each other. They bark if something frustrates them (like a ball rolling under the litter box where they can't reach it). They sometimes "fuss" before they settle down to sleep (a soft whimpering, or soft cry, kinda like human babies do before they settle). And they clamor to see us when we're near (lots of soft whining). They really howl or yelp (quite loudly) if another pup bites an ear or private part too hard (with those sharp teeth). And they vocalize in their sleep (bark, yip, whine -- all very softly).

2. How do we place puppies (or how do our buyers know which puppy they're getting if they can't see the pups in person until they're six weeks old)?

FYI, six of the nine pups are sold already, that is, we have deposits and approved questionnaires in hand for six of them (and they're only coming up on five weeks old). Three were sold before they were born, and three more since.The remaining three have all been asked about (and we're told we're receiving deposits on them but haven't as yet). Obviously, these buyers haven't seen the pups yet since we don't do visitations until the pups receive their six-week-old immunizations to protect the health of the litter and to minimize the stress for Elsie and pups with strangers around.

So here's how we handle puppy placement:
  • First, we ask interested buyers to complete our Puppy Placement Questionnaire, which is found at our Stoney Ridge Labs web site (asks all kinds of questions about the living situation into which the pup will be introduced, as well as about what kind of Lab they're looking for -- color, gender, intended use, etc.).
  • Then we ask them to submit the Questionnaire along with a deposit. We reserve pups on a first-come-first-served basis based up our approval of the questionnaire and having their deposit in hand (we can't hold pups for just a verbal expressed interest -- that's just too nuts to keep track of and people aren't always serious in their verbal expressions).
  • Then we read over the questionnaires very carefully to see what each buyer is looking for (some want males, some females; some want cream-colored coats, others want fox-red; some want companion dogs, others want hunting dogs; some want higher energy level, some want lower; some want more confidence and independence, others want more reliance).
  • From Day 1 we observe and take notes about each pup (by color ID).
  • Once we start receiving applications, we start watching the pups more carefully for their aptitudes, temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses, and then try to match those with the buyers' requests. We really can't make final decisions about each pup until they're six weeks old because their personalities and such don't really emerge until their fourth and fifth weeks.
  • The bottom line is that we do our best to honor buyer requests but ask them to trust our evaluations of the pups to match the pups to their wants/needs.
Our buyers right now are waiting with baited breath to find out which pups will be theirs (at least those I've heard from). For most we have it narrowed to deciding between only two or three of the pups by now, some we're pretty sure we know who's the best match already, but are waiting to confirm that as we observe the pups this week. We'll let the buyers know for sure which is theirs after the six-week vet check (just to make sure all the pups are cleared by the vet first), and then they can start coming to visit their pups as often as they'd like over the last two weeks the pups are with us (from six to eight weeks of age).

I know it sounds odd, but we don't just let a flock of buyers come in and pick puppies. We've learned that allowing us to match pups to buyers is by far the best way to go for all concerned (pups included). We know the pups' strengths and weaknesses (and they all have both) better than anyone. And we work very hard to make the right placements. We DO give heavy weight to the buyers' stated preferences on their questionnaires, so they are in essence getting what they ask for. And if we can't match their preferences, we'll refund their deposit.

Not all breeders work this way, but our goal is to make life-long, life-enriching placements in forever homes, and matching the pups to their buyers is the best way (we feel) to accomplish that goal.

Our buyers also know that, beyond guaranteeing the pups, we're committed to the pups for life (meaning that if for some reason down the road -- a move, a job change, unexpected health crisis, death, etc -- they can no longer care for a dog they bought from us no matter how long ago, we'll take the dog back and find a proper home). At no point in time do we ever want any of our pups to end up in shelters, rescues, the pound, or abandoned. They can always and forever find a home here if need be.

So that's the deal. Again, not everyone works this way, but it's the most responsible way we know to handle puppy transactions. We feel we're called to be wise and careful stewards over these fragile lives, and we're doing the best we know how (we're still learning, though, and welcome your input).

I'll answer a few more questions over the weekend. Does this clear things up for you?

'Til next time,


JuliaR said...

Thanks for answering my questions!
And I am so pleased you put that much work into placing your puppies.
And all those new pictures! What a treat. Especially Mr. Blue's hind feet in that last one. So cute!

L^2 said...

That sounds like the best, most logical way to match puppies to forever homes to me (and it's very similar to the usual process of matching guide dogs to blind partners). No one knows them better than you who are with them 24/7.
I've done the whole "visit the litter and pick your favorite" thing, but you just can't tell which pup is actually right for you unless you really get to know them. And there's no way you can do that just from brief visits.

I'm really enjoying reading your answers to these questions. Thanks for sharing!

Meesh said...

I wish more people would see how you take such great care to raise and place your puppies. I hear too many people who just like "to have puppies around" or think they have a perfect dog without even knowing breed standards or all the details of socializing to make them ready for their new home. I think breeding should be left to people like you who are willing to invest the time, energy and knowledge of raising healthy, happy-for-a-lifetime dogs. Kudos to you for being a responsible breeder. Chester's Mom