by Karen J. Brittan

There are good, reputable breeders all across the country. A good breeder never has to advertise his pet-quality stock as people are standing in line waiting for them to become available. Those dogs offered through the newspaper (and now even the Internet) generally might not be the quality animal you might want and often are from people who don't know anything about breeding dogs or placing them in the proper homes. There is nothing worse than getting a dog that is too dominant or too submissive for your own personality/temperament. A mismatch definitely not made in Heaven.

Some of these so-called breeders breed their poor bitches every heat cycle, thus turning them into "puppy factories". Their only purpose for this is to make money off of the unsuspecting public. A puppy mill isn't necessarily comprised of forty or more dogs; it can even be a place with only three dogs if their only purpose for being is to make puppies to sell. Ask how many litters a bitch has had, and when her last one was. Most breeders only breed their bitches once a year, if that often, thus allowing them time to recover from the strenuous task of carrying, whelping, and raising a litter of puppies. Beware of any place that always seems to have puppies available.

Visit the breeders in your area (if you can), and when you find one that you feel you can do business with and who has dogs that you would like to take home for yourself (you know---under your coat---they'll never miss that one!), then put down a deposit and get on that breeder's waiting list so that you can get a dog as nice as the one you wanted to sneak home. Be prepared to wait for your perfect little puppy; a puppy is rarely available precisely when you are. Don't rush into a purchase just because you have found a puppy that can go home today. Use your waiting time wisely by reading up on the breed and finding out how to properly care for and train your new puppy. Once the expected litter is on the ground and old enough for visitors, most breeders would love to have you come over every week or so to visit with the litter and to help socialize the puppies. After all, one of them will be yours!

Expect the puppy to be between 10-12 weeks old. The tail, dewclaws, and ears should already be done. One or two inoculations should already have been given (depending on puppy's age), and you should expect to give 3-4 more. (i.e. I myself vaccinate at 8, 12, 16, 20 weeks of age with a 5-way vaccine, followed by rabies at about 6 months--each breeder has his own shot schedule.) You should be REQUIRED to take your new puppy to the vet after bringing it home--within 2-4 days is fairly common. This is for your own protection, as well as the breeder's. You should receive a 3-4 generation pedigree, a written contract guaranteeing health, etc., and registration papers (or some type of bill of sale if the paperwork is "in the works" with AKC--which can be slow sometimes). You should be able to meet at least one of the parents, and possibly both. Try to determine beforehand just how much the breeder is willing to work with you if you should have any questions or problems with your puppy. Answering questions that your breeder should be answering wears a little thin after awhile for some of us. I, for one, don't mind answering questions *to a point*, but if you want me as a life-long reference you need to have one of MY dogs!

Puppies need lots of supervision, with good quality time from you. When he can't be watched, he should be confined in a crate. This is his personal safety zone. If you have nothing for him to get into (shoes, etc.) and are watching him so that he doesn't start chewing furniture or woodwork, chewing shouldn't be a major problem. Just keep him focused on his own toys and praise him when he plays with them.

A puppy at this age is still a baby and can generally only survive four hours at the most between trips outdoors. If your work schedule is too long and you can't find someone to come over at midday for a few weeks and exercise your puppy, you should possibly consider getting an older puppy or an adult who could handle having you away for longer periods.

The puppy should have been well-socialized by its breeder, and you should continue this by hauling it everywhere you can. Try puppy socialization classes, and obedience classes, by all means. Learn how to properly communicate with your dog so that he will grow up into a happy, obedient dog that is a joy to be around. A dog must have a pack leader in his life; it should be you. Never forget that he is above all a dog first and foremost--not a cute little person in a fur coat. (Although I'm the first to admit that I can often be found down on the floor playing with the crew and always have a 4-legged something or two sharing my bed and pillow at night.) Dogs are canines after all--and most every move they make is quite deliberate. Many of their "games" and behaviors revolve around "am I pack leader or are you"? They may not talk in words but they speak volumes. You should learn to recognize what your dog is saying to you.

Grooming should be done every 6-8 weeks, and the first grooming may already have been done by the breeder. This is something you may want to try learning yourself. Possibly your local schnauzer club has classes or even the breeder might be willing to instruct you.

One of the most important things to know about schnauzers is that they are very territorial, and along with this also very sight- and sound-sensitive. What this means is that if they see it, smell it, or hear it, they will bark at it. They were bred to be watchdogs, and watchdogs they are. Teach your puppy to "be quiet" and do not allow him to bark senselessly and excessively. He must learn that, yes, he is allowed to tell you when something unusual is happening, but now he can be quiet because you are aware of what is going on, and you, as pack leader, will take care of it. A schnauzer should NEVER be left to his own devices. This is a very intelligent breed and a bored dog can think of lots of ways to get into trouble. All a schnauzer ever really wants is to be with his people.

Welcome to the wonderful world of schnauzers--a decision that can easily become an addiction!


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