What to Expect From ReiMur Labradors
I breed when I am ready for my next generation and therefore am breeding first and foremost for myself. I reserve the first few picks (generally a male and a female) for myself and evaluate puppies within a few days of 8 weeks old for structure and temperament. I may know prior to that which way I'm leaning, but no final decisions will be made before the litter is formally evaluated. Any puppies that do not remain at ReiMur are placed into pre-screened, loving pet homes on AKC Limited (non-breeding) Registration and spay/neuter contracts. Puppies will not go to their new homes prior to 8 weeks of age.
Because I spend a lot of time observing and evaluating puppies from birth until the time they go home, I feel I am best suited to determine the homes that are the best match for both the puppies and their new families. Everything else being equal, I do try to take the puppy family's wishes into consideration, but not when it would conflict with my personal plans or with the best interests of the puppy. Because I guarantee that I will take back any puppy I breed for the lifetime of the pup, I try to make sure the puppy will get placed into the best environment up front.
Because we strive to reduce the risk of heritable health issues in our Labradors, we ensure all breeding pairs have had appropriate health screening/genetic testing prior to breeding. We do not breed dogs before the age of 24 months, not because this is a "magic age" but because the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) will not certify hips and elbows prior to 24 months ("prelims" are not final certifications). Another reason is to give our dogs time to come into themselves and prove themselves worthy of breeding - proving them in the show ring and/or field, as well as evaluating their temperament over time, gives us a good idea of what traits they have to contribute to the breed. This also includes waiting a minimum amount of time for heritable issues such as epilepsy, juvenile cataracts, etc. to present - these are issues for which no genetic test is available and the mode of inheritance is unknown - the only known way to reduce the risk of producing the issue is to ensure the parents are not affected. Many of these issues present between 2-5 years of age.
There are two primary types of health clearances:
1. Health screenings for issues where the mode of inheritance is unknown (i.e., there is no genetic test available) - the screening "certifies" the sire or dam is not affected with a particular disease, which reduces (but does not eliminate) the risk of producing affected offspring. Examples of health screenings typically done for Labrador Retrievers are:
Hip and Elbow Clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Final evaluations are done at 24 months or later, and hips clear of dysplasia are rated Excellent, Good or Fair. Elbows free of dysplasia are rated Normal/Clear. Any other ratings will indicate the specific level of dysplasia. We only breed dogs with Good or Excellent Hips and Normal Elbows. While Fair is a passing hip clearance, the dog would have to have other outstanding qualities for us to consider breeding to Fair hips. Here are examples of Final Passing OFA Hip and Elbow Certificates.
Hip Clearances from PennHIP. Final evaluations can be done at 12 months or later and results are listed as a percentile or as a distraction index. The higher the percentile or the lower the index, the better. The recommendation is to only breed dogs whose hips are in the 50th percentile or higher (or a distraction index of 0.5 or lower). Each hip will be given a distraction index; both hips overall will be given a percentile. PennHIP results listed as Good or Excellent are bogus, and any breeder claiming those PennHIP ratings should be questioned. Always ask to see the certificate and make sure the registration number listed is the registration of the dog being bred. It is important to note that PennHIP does NOT evaluate elbows, so any dog with a PennHIP evaluation should also have an elbow certification from OFA. Here is an example of a PennHIP certificate.
Heart Clearances: Heart screenings done at 12 months or older by a veterinary cardiologist. A passing clearance will be rated as Normal. Clearances can be done via auscultation or by echocardiogram/color doppler (which includes auscultation). More and more Labrador breeders are leaning towards ECHO as providing better info. We have used ECHO for the last 10 years. Here are examples of passing heart ratings via auscultation and echocardiogram.
Eye Clearances: Eye screenings done by a veterinary ophthalmologist at ~7 weeks of age and then every year thereafter. Breeding stock should have had a normal/clear eye exam in the last 12 months. This is an example of an eye clearance that has been sent to OFA for their database and here is one that was reviewed by a veterinary ophthalmologist but not sent to OFA (either is acceptable).
Other issues such as epilepsy - there are no established screenings for this (i.e., the dog is usually evaluated after the issue has presented); it is up to the breeder to ensure that both dogs in the the breeding pair are not affected or have not previously produced the issue.
In addition to evaluating the breeding pair, it is also prudent to research the pedigree and view clearances of siblings and relatives on both sides. There is often more risk in breeding to the only unaffected dog in a pedigree filled with affected dogs than in breeding to the only affected dog in a pedigree that is mostly clear of a particular issue. It is also important to note that while health screening is very important, it is impossible to ensure that every puppy will be free of all genetic issues. The more information we have, the better able we are to make sound breeding decisions, but risk will never be altogether eliminated.
2. Health screenings for issues where the mode of inheritance is known and there are genetic tests available to ensure affected offspring are never produced. Only ONE of the breeding pair must be tested CLEAR to ensure the offspring are not affected. Genetic testing can be done at any age. Examples of genetic issues typically tested for Labrador Retrievers are:
Copper Toxicosis: There is a relatively new test out for this disease; however, because it is a dominant gene with incomplete penetrance, it is difficult to use test results to make breeding decisions. "Dominant" means that having a mutation in just one of the two copies of a particular gene is all it takes for a dog to have a trait, such as an increased risk of developing Copper Toxicosis. An important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that they can have variable expression. This means that some dogs have milder or more severe symptoms than others. In addition, the age at which the disease starts can vary, even within the same pedigree. Another important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that in some cases, they can have reduced penetrance. This means that sometimes a dog can have a dominant mutation but not show any signs of disease.
Based on test results for Copper Toxicosis, dogs are either at risk (carrying either one or two copies of the ATP7B mutation) or they are not, but there is no way to know whether "at risk" dogs will ever be symptomatic or whether they will produce symptomatic offspring. Creating more complexity is the belief that this disease is 42% genetic and ~58% environmental. Pawprint Genetics states that "as of July 2017, approximately 37% of the dogs tested have been carriers of a single copy of the mutation (ATP7B) while approximately 4% have inherited two copies." In addition, a dog can also carry a protective mutation (ATP7A) that is inherited via the x-chromosome (females can inherit 0, 1, or 2 copies and males can inherit 0 or 1 copy). Unfortunately, it is unknown how much protection this mutation provides and it could depend on the individual dog. For more information, see The Labrador Retriever Copper Toxicosis Test- Interpretation, Breeding Strategy, and Monitoring on the Pawprint Genetics Blog.
Other Testing: There are other genetic tests often done by breeders that are not truly health screenings but help breeders avoid certain traits or give information about what traits to expect. For example, testing for the long coat gene, coat color inheritance and the dilute gene.
Always ask to see evidence of health screening/genetic testing done on both the sire and dam. Any reputable breeder should expect and honor this request. Some breeders submit all of their info to OFA for storage in their database, and they may refer you to the dog's page on the OFA web site. Anything listed there has been verified by OFA. Because it costs money to submit to OFA (and OFA will not always accept results from all testing facilities), many breeders will maintain hard copies of clearances. They may upload and store them on their own web site. The certificates may vary depending on the testing facility; if sent to OFA, OFA will issue their own certificate, otherwise the certificates will be unique to the testing facility. Either way, the breeder should always be willing to provide you with copies, and those clearances should match the dogs being bred.
Click on the link for more information on Labrador Health Clearances
While I will keep a list of interested puppy homes once a litter is bred, I do NOT take deposits until the litter is born and I know I can provide the home with a puppy (i.e. desired color or gender). Once the litter is born and I know I will have a puppy for the family, I do ask for a $500 non-refundable deposit to hold the puppy.
Why non-refundable? Because my main priority is to give each puppy the best start in life, and that includes ensuring it has a loving home when it is time to leave the litter. When screening prospective puppy homes, I try to make sure I believe it is a good fit for all parties: the puppy, the puppy home and myself - it is important because this relationship should last for the lifetime of the puppy and I want everyone to feel it is a good match. I usually tell my prospective puppy homes to keep their options open (meet and get to know a few breeders that might be a good fit) until a litter is born, and at that time, they should commit to a particular breeder and litter. At that point, I want to know which of my puppies still need homes, and I do not want to turn away a great family because another family ahead of them on my list is continuing to look at multiple litters. A deposit tends to eliminate impulse buyers and "litter shopping". If you do not want to put down a deposit, that is fine, but until a deposit is placed, I will not reserve a pup and will adjust my prioritization list accordingly. That said, if a deposit is placed and I later determine none of the puppies is a good fit, or if the pup develops a serious health issue before I send it home, I will refund a deposit.
It is important to remember that this is my home, not a kennel. It is a hobby, not a business. Raising a litter is a lot of work (in addition to managing a day job), and once the litter is born my priority is the puppies.
If I were looking for a puppy, I would not put down a deposit on a litter before it is born as there is no way for a breeder to guarantee there will be a puppy at that point. While some breeders require a deposit to be put on a list, I would not consider that unless the deposit is fully refundable - being on list guarantees nothing and in my opinion is not in the best interest of the puppy buyer or the breeder. Most breeders do not like to guarantee a puppy until they have had a chance to get to know the prospective home and know they have a good potential fit for that home. Most puppy homes do not like to commit to a breeder/litter until they have had a chance to get to know the breeder and meet their dogs. I do keep lists to track who I need to get to know/who is waiting and to establish priority once the litter is born. It is further refined once deposits are placed and puppy personalities develop. If you really want a puppy from a particular breeder and they require a deposit to be put on a list, please take the time to read the terms and conditions prior to putting any money down to make sure they seem reasonable for your situation.
My puppies are all sold for the same price. The typical range of puppy prices for puppies bred by hobby breeders in the Seattle area are anywhere between $2,000 - $3,000, depending on the breeder and what went in to the breeding. This is truly a hobby for me; I have a day job that provides my livelihood and I breed when I am ready to focus on the next generation of my Labradors. My goal with litters is to break even, and most (if not all) of the proceeds go towards paying the considerable expenses related to breeding and raising the litter; the rest, if any, will go back into the dogs.
There will always be puppies that are sold off of Craig's List or various puppy sites for lower prices, just as there will be puppies sold for large price tags under the pretense of being "rare". It is important to do your research and determine what you are looking for in a breeder and a canine companion. It may be that the less expensive pup was raised in lower cost of living area (which is fine), or it may be that the breeder does not do adequate clearances or invest the same quality of care in their litters/dogs. On the flip side, beware paying exorbitant prices for "rare" colors, etc. That generally means the breeder is not breeding to a breed standard or may be mixing breeds to produce a desired "look". For example, Labradors are either black, chocolate or yellow, none of which are rare. The shade of yellow can vary from light cream to fox red, but they are still yellow Labradors. By contrast, dilute forms of these colors ("charcoal", "silver" or "champagne") are not acceptable as the dilute gene does not exist in purebred Labrador Retrievers; in addition, this gene often introduces health issues not inherent in this breed. Please do your research and be aware of what you are really purchasing.
Some good articles to read:
How are our puppies raised and socialized?
All of my dogs live in the house and my litters are no exception - they are born and raised in my home. During the 8 weeks they spend here, they are handled regularly, learn how to have their nails clipped, are introduced to potty training and are exposed to various stimuli and challenges. Some of our socialization includes:
Introduction to "Puppy Sounds": We expose our puppies to a sound conditioning and puppy habituation CD from the time they are born to 8 weeks of age; this is primarily meant for working and show puppies who will be exposed to a more rigorous life, but the conditioning benefits any puppy. The CD is 72 minutes long and contains 25 tracks of collected, real life sounds that puppies may be exposed to in their future. It focuses on the extra stress dogs encounter with more travel/exposure to the broader world and includes sounds of sheep, ducks and geese, dogs barking, kids, guns, fireworks, thunderstorms, airplanes, lawnmowers, along with many others.
Early Neurological Stimulation: Our puppies are exposed to early neurological stimulation based on the bio-sensor program developed by the U.S. Military to improve the performance of their dogs. For more information on the program and its benefits, click here.
Rule of Sevens: Pat Hastings, a long time breeder, AKC Judge and professional handler, along with her husband Bob, developed a puppy evaluation system for breeders known as the "Rule of Sevens". This program recommends that by the time a puppy is 7 weeks old, it should have:
Been on 7 different surfaces, such as: carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl, grass, dirt, gravel, wood chips, newspaper, etc.
Played with 7 different types of objects, such as: big balls, small balls, soft fabric toys, fuzzy balls, squeaky toys, metal items, wooden items, paper/cardboard items, milk/soda jugs, etc.
Been in 7 different locations, including: front yard, backyard, basement, kitchen, car, garage, laundry room, bathroom, crate, kennel, etc.
Been exposed to 7 challenges, such as: climbed a box, climbed off a box, gone through a tunnel, climbed up steps, climbed down steps, climbed over obstacles, played hide and seek, gone in and out of a doorway with a step, etc.
Eaten from 7 different containers: metal, plastic, cardboard, paper, china, pie plate, frying pan, etc.
Eaten in 7 different locations: crate, yard, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bedroom, x-pen, etc.
Met and played with 7 new people, including children and the elderly.
Exposure to mini agility courses and puppy adventure boxes. See a video of the Bogie x Margie litter with their adventure box.
What We Send Home with our Puppies:
1. We send each puppy home with a notebook containing information on the sire and dam, records on your pup (eye exam results, worming and vaccination dates, health check results, etc.), a copy of our signed contract, information on food, helpful articles, some early puppy pictures, etc.
2. All puppies will be sent home microchipped.
3. All puppies will be wormed on a regular schedule, generally every two weeks starting at 2-3 weeks of age. All puppies will be vaccinated according to protocol. Just prior to breeding, we take a blood sample from the dam and send it to the the Ronald D. Schultz Lab at the University of Wisconsin, which will produce a canine nomograph. This will give us a good estimate of when the maternal antibodies should wear off and will no longer neutralize viruses (puppy vaccine can be blocked and not able to immunize). This also helps us avoid over-vaccinating due to being unsure of when the maternal antibodies will break down.
4. All puppies will receive a wellness check from a veterinarian between 7 and 8 weeks of age. All puppies will be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist at ~ 7 weeks of age; results will be included in the puppy packets.
5. I will register each puppy with AKC and provide the registration within a reasonable time after the puppy goes home. We will go over this with each puppy family at the time they come to collect their puppy. Because the registration requires a formal name for the puppy (which must begin with my kennel name, ReiMur), I will wait until the puppy family has selected a name before registering the pup.
6. We usually send the puppy home with a small toy that has been with and scented by the litter.
7. Contact Information - I am here for my puppy families for the life of the puppy.