Here are some things to consider when you go to buy your puppy. The breeder, whether someone who owns one bitch and breeds an occasional litter, or someone who runs a large kennel with several litters a year, must run the same type of operation. The place, whether family room or kennel, must be clean and the puppies well maintained and contented. You should be able to see the mother, or receive a convincing explanation of why the mother is not with the puppies. Most breeders have the dam on the premises with the puppies, although occasionally the puppies were born elsewhere. This is acceptable, unless the puppies were bought commercially for resale. You may see the sire, but most often the sire is not present, as breeders go far afield to find the perfect mate for their bitch.
See proof of AKC registration
You should see a copy of the pedigree of the puppies, plus pictures of the sire, if he is elsewhere. You should be given proof that the puppies are registerable with the American Kennel Club.
Learn about genetic health problems and testing
There are some health-related problems in the breed, as there are with all breeds and mixed-breeds, too. Among them are hip dysplasia, PRA (an inherited eye disease) and epilepsy. You should ask if the sire and dam have had their hips X-rayed and are free of this crippling disorder and if either the sire or dam are known to have had epilepsy or if they have produced it in other litters.
A test is now available to determine absolutely whether a dog is clear of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), an inherited eye disease. Buyers should inquire whether the sire and dam have had the DNA test for PRA in Irish Setters and what the results of that test are. Breeders often check their dogs' eyes and register them with CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation). (This does not mean, however, that the dog will be clear of all eye problems for life.)
In addition, the Irish Setter Genetic Registry maintains a list of all test-mated and genetically clear dogs. This list is available from the Genetic Registry. There is no 100% guarantee against PRA, or any other known genetic problem. Breeders can only decrease the chances of any or all of them occurring by careful breeding practices.
You are entitled, as a prospective buyer, to an honest evaluation of the litter. Ethical breeders produce puppies which they hope will improve the breed. They may be breeding for certain characteristics which they hope-to achieve. Some may be looking for the ideal show champion, others may be breeding for the best field potential, still others may look to combine all the attributes of show, field and obedience. Others may be interested in producing the best pets with stable temperaments and adequate looks. Whatever the goals are of the breeder, he or she should honestly convey them to you.
A word to the wise
Here are a few caveats: Do not accept the word of a breeder who guarantees you a champion when the litter is eight weeks old. Even though the puppies may look wonderful at that age, too many variables are possible for a breeder to honestly sell puppies on that basis. Do not be pressured into buying a puppy if you have any doubts about the condition of the litter, the dam, or the breeder. Look around. Once you find a line that you like you may have to wait for a puppy. Don't take the first puppy that you see unless all the conditions are right.
Almost every litter contains dogs of varying quality Depending upon the lineage, some may turn out to be show stoppers, while others may have minor faults which in no way precludes them from being excellent pets. A puppy from one of these litters is a very good bet because you are pretty well assured that the breeder has done his or her best to produce top quality in looks, temperament and health.
Take your time selecting
If you are in an area in which dogs shows are held, or in which a local Irish Setter club is represented, take the time to go to a show or a match and see the puppies. Meet the breeders and exhibitors and get a feel for what is available in your area. Take your time. Remember this puppy will be part of your family for a long time, so you want to make the best choice possible.
A good breeder asks you questions
Don't be surprised if the breeder asks as many questions about you as you do about the puppies. In fact, be happy that the breeder is concerned about where his or her puppy is going. Responsible breeders put an enormous amount of time, energy, emotion and money into a litter. They want to make sure the puppies are going to appropriate homes where they will be happy and well cared for their entire lives.
Breeders who sell pet puppies whom they do not consider of top breeding quality may require a spay or neuter agreement from the buyer. Or they may sell a puppy with limited registration papers, which would preclude any offspring of that puppy from being registered with AKC. Most people who buy a pet are happy to have it altered and this has no bearing on whether the puppy will be a good pet.