Cost is no guarantee of a quality dog Private hobbyists may be best source

February 22, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Buying a dog can be compared to buying a diamond. Unless you're an expert with years of experience, you must depend on the seller to give you good quality.

Purebreds from quality producers have the edge over mixed breeds because their adult size, appearance and temperament tendencies are predictable.

There are no bargains in pets, yet high prices may not mean high quality. Commercial establishments have big overheads and charge accordingly. The source of their animals is usually a mass breeder. Pet store dogs (including those from establishments called "kennels") have not been socialized from birth to bond to humans. Sires and dams are not certified free from genetic problems.

In general, private hobbyists, those who show in competition, are a better source. They sell purebred animals for about the same price as commercial establishments, and because they are from sounder parents and have a better start in life, these animals usually generate lower vet bills and have fewer problems through the years.

The price of a purebred can vary greatly. Governing factors include rarity or popularity of the variety, the animal's age and area of the country. A Cavalier King Charles spaniel costs $600 to $1,000, even an inferior pet shop specimen, whereas a pet miniature poodle might be $75 or $500. Cute and cuddly specimens about 8 weeks old cost more than adolescents. A good golden retriever priced at $400 ($300 after 12 weeks

old) by a top breeder on the East Coast might be had for $150 in Ohio.

Pet shops in the East are asking $400 to $500 for golden retrievers from puppy mills where animals are kept in appalling conditions. They come from inferior, often sickly stock that has not been screened for genetic diseases. Pet-shop cocker spaniels are running about $300. Yorkshire terriers run up to $500, but in one store we checked out a 5-month-old Yorkie was marked down to $200.

A new source of purebred dogs are the many "rescue services" operated by breed clubs in all parts of the country. They take specimens of their breeds from shelters or private owners who cannot keep them, "resocialize" the dogs in their own homes and provide veterinary care and spaying.

For addresses of rescue services for various breeds, call the American Kennel Club library, (212) 696-8348.

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