“You may have many best friends but your dog only has one.” Before you buy a puppy, please ask yourself the following questions: Do all the members of your household want a dog?Are you prepared to make a 10 to 15 year commitment?Do you have a secure, fenced-in area for a dog?Have you considered the expenses associated with proper veterinary care, including immunizations, routine preventative care, surgeries, and the treatment of unexpected illnesses or accidents? Have you considered the cost of a pet sitter or doggie daycare during the work week, and a boarding kennel when you are on vacation? Are you aware of the cost of good quality dog food, dog crates, an assortment of safe toys, and one or more obedience classes?Do you have the time and patience needed to raise a puppy? Are you willing to learn about proper canine care and correct training methods? Are you and your family prepared to provide a dog with several hours of exercise and companionship every day throughout their life? Little puppies need many brief outings throughout the day. Teaching a young and adolescent puppy proper manners and behaviors can be challenging and frustrating. Puppy kindergarten and obedience classes are usually wise investments. Patience, persistence, and frequent training sessions are needed until your dog is about 2 years old. Are you willing to take the puppy to many different places for socialization during the first year?Are you prepared for extra chores? Labradors shed and they drool. Your dog may track mud into the house on rainy days or dig holes in your favorite flower garden. Young Labradors chew all sorts of things other than their toys. Choosing a Breeder Is the breeder involved with the breed? Is the breeder a member of a dog club? Is the breeder involvement with a canine activity such as agility, conformation, field trials, obedience, rally obedience, rescue, or tracking?Is the breeder knowledgeable about the breed? Does the breeder seem to be primarily interested in the betterment of the breed or a financial profit?Does the breeder focus solely on one or more of the 3 approved Labrador coat colors? Labrador Retrievers coat colors are black, chocolate, and yellow. Any other color is a disqualification, and that includes silver, charcoal, and champagne coat colors. Is the breeder involved with more than 2 breeds of dogs? It’s very difficult to stay current and involved with more than 2 breeds.Is the breeder happy to answer your questions? The breeder should be able to give you detailed answers to questions about their goals and breeding decisions. Ask to see the pedigrees of the sire and dam.Does the breeder encourage new owners to seek their advice and assistance for as long as they have the dog?Is the breeder willing to provide you with references? What health clearances have been done on the sire and dam? CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) recommends testing Labradors for hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disorders, EIC (exercise induced collapse), and the dilute gene. Dogs must be at least 2 years old to get the final OFA hip and elbow clearances. This organization considers advanced cardiac testing and genetic testing for CNM (centronuclear myopathy) and PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) optional clearances. Some breeders have additional health testing done on their dogs, including one or more DNA tests for genetic disorders. The risk of a Labrador developing hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and tricuspid valve dysplasia can be reduced but not eliminated. However, with DNA testing, many recessive genetic disorders in Labradors can be prevented.Ask to see the documentation of the clearances done on the parents. The breeder may tell you about the clearances of the grandparents and other relatives of the puppies. Are the puppies raised in the house or in a kennel? Do the puppies seem to be clean, happy and healthy?Do the puppies have frequent daily interaction with the breeder as well as occasional interaction with visitors?Are the puppies exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, and surfaces? Do they have a variety of toys to play with? Puppies raised in a kennel setting may not receive adequate human contact or exposure to a variety of sights and sounds. Does the breeder provide the puppies with appropriate veterinary care, including immunizations and treatment for parasites? Is the litter temperament tested? Characteristics like independence, training attitude, confidence, dominance, shyness, touch sensitivity, and sound sensitivity are evaluated during the standardized testing procedures. Will the breeder help you select a puppy that will be a good match for you and your family? Common Procedures and Policies of Reputable Breeders Responsible breeders ask prospective dog owners questions. Why do you want a Labrador Retriever? Do you own or rent your residence?Do you have previous experience with dogs? Do you currently have pets? What happened to your previous dog?Can you provide a Labrador with hours of daily exercise, activities and companionship?Does your household include children? The breeder may discuss the age-appropriate roles and responsibilities for your children with you. The breeder will require the primary caretaker to be an adult. Will all members of our household be able to visit at least once?Do you have a fenced-in yard or an enclosed dog run? If not, the breeder may ask about your plans to keep the dog safe.Do you plan to take your puppy to obedience classes? If not, the breeder may ask about your training plans for the puppy.Are you interested in breeding the dog? Many reputable breeders place their puppies without breeding privileges. Others may be willing to discuss future breeding plans. Who will care for your puppy/dog when you will be away from home for more than a few hours or during vacations?Many breeders place their puppies with a spay/neuter agreement and AKC limited registration.Breeders often have a written guarantee covering health disorders.Can you return the puppy for a full refund if your veterinarian diagnoses a serious problem shortly after the date of purchase?Does the health guarantee for serious inherited disorders cover at least 2 years? Are you required to return the dog to the breeder? Responsible breeders have a return policy if you can no longer keep your dog for any reason. Responsible breeders do not want a dog from their breeding program in an animal shelter.