This is my least favorite question, so I'll get it out of the way up front!
First, I often wonder whether someone should own a large breed dog like a Swissy if the cost of buying/adopting a puppy is a major concern. The purchase price of the puppy is a small drop in the bucket compared to the cost of taking care of that dog over the course of its life. Of course this is not a valid reason to overcharge for Swissy puppies. This is anything but a money-making venture for me, though some people do breed for a living. Therefore, this is a very valid question because prices for Swissy puppies seem to run the gamut. I've seen them advertised on the internet for $1000, and also for as much as $3000.
All Aegis puppies are the same price, whether companion or show. The reason? I want all of my puppies to be valued equally, as pets first and foremost. Just as I would not charge more for a show puppy, I would also never charge more for puppies that I believe to have the best temperament for a companion home, or the most working drive for a performance home. Puppies are placed strictly on their suitability to a home, not who is willing to pay more for them!
All Aegis GMSD puppies are $2500.
WHAT ABOUT A HEALTH GUARANTEE?
I will have done my utmost to breed and produce only physically and temperamentally sound GSMD of the correct overall type required by the breed standard. However, I have no control over the genetic makeup of the puppy and therefore cannot guarantee against recessively inherited defects such as hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and epilepsy, nor other potential disorders such as GDV/bloat or splenic torsion, which are not evident at the time of sale. Furthermore, I have no control over environmental circumstances and management practices once the puppy has left my home. All of my puppies are placed with the hope they will be healthy and live long, happy lives.
I will guarantee that the puppy is in good health to the best of my knowledge when the puppy goes to its new home. It will have had veterinary check ups, been de-wormed and started on permanent inoculations. I do have a health guarantee extending 72 hours from the time a puppy buyer takes possession of the puppy. I urge all puppy buyers to have the puppy examined by a licensed veterinarian within this guarantee period. Should the veterinarian find anything seriously wrong with the puppy, I will exchange it for another puppy of equal value either at once or when another litter is available, or refund the full purchase price of puppy, on the condition that the puppy buyer's veterinarian provides the necessary proof of the puppy’s illness and the puppy is returned within the above-mentioned seventy two (72) hour time period. I STRONGLY URGE ALL FAMILIES TO PUT THEIR GSMD ON A HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN. Costs of vet care continue to rise, and they can be even more expensive for large and giant breed dogs. No family wants to be in the position where they can't afford to give their Swissy the care they need, and a good health insurance plan will offer that umbrella of protection.
WILL I BE ABLE TO MEET BOTH PARENTS?
In most cases, I do not own both the sire and the dam of the litter. First, I never keep more dogs than I can adequately care for in my home as companions. I do not have a kennel full of breeding animals at my disposal, nor would I desire to have that. Second, the dogs in my house may be totally inappropriate choices for the female I am breeding. In fact, the best choice of stud dog may be on the other side of the country, or in some cases (thanks to the advances made in reproductive science) the stud dog may no longer even be alive.
Convenience is the last factor that enters my mind when selecting a mate for a potential breeding. Before that, I consider the dogs whose strengths best offset any weaknesses in the female I am breeding. I also hope that my bitch may adequately compensate for any weaknesses in the stud dog. I not only consider the two dogs themselves, but the strengths and weaknesses of the dogs in their pedigree and what they may be contributing to the genes in this particular breeding. Ideally, we also prefer to make decisions not only based on the actual dogs, but what they have produced in previous breedings. There are absolutely beautiful, sound dogs who for whatever reason (often weaknesses or lack of depth in their pedigree) never go on to be great producers. That said, I will use "unproven" dogs, as all dogs have to start somewhere. But I will only take a chance on an unproven dog if I believe there is great strength and consistency of quality in their pedigree.
Health also plays a critical role in my choice of stud dog. I have to consider any health concerns in my bitch's pedigree and find the dog who has the best chance of offsetting those issues. This involves not only looking at the strength and depth of health clearances in the pedigree, but also considering problems such as epilepsy, cancer, and general longevity.
And finally, temperament too is a factor. If I am breeding a dog who has a particularly soft temperament with low working drive, I will seek to find a mate that may have a higher drive, as it's my goal to not only produce wonderful companions but also dogs who have the temperament (as well as breed type) of the true working Swissy.
If you would like to meet the stud dog I have chosen, I will make the appropriate introductions between you and the stud owner. I would never breed to a dog whose owner is unwilling to let people meet him, should you choose to make the effort. If there are other offspring of this dog whom you may be able to meet, I will endeavor to help you meet them as well.
Finally, I would caution puppy buyers not to put so much emphasis on meeting both parents if that means ultimately looking for a breeder who owns both the dam and sire. Ask yourself, in that situation, if the best possible mate for that female just happens to be the male dog living under that roof...or if the choice of stud dog may have been driven instead by cost and convenience.
WHEN CAN I BRING MY PUPPY HOME?
I do not let puppies go to their new homes until they are at least 8 weeks of age. This not only gives the puppies adequate time to learn the beginnings of pack behavior from their mother and littermates and develop other social skills, but it gives me a chance to evaluate the puppies' temperaments and structure so I can make the best match between each puppy and their new home.
At approximately 7 weeks of age the puppies will have their temperaments evaluated. This process takes place in an unfamiliar place and the tests are conducted by someone the puppies have never met. This gives the evaluator a chance to observe how the puppies respond to various situations and stimuli. At this point, we can determine which puppies may be more confident, which are more submissive or reserved, which are more curious, etc. All this information is very useful in identifying which puppies may be more appropriate for homes with children, which may be better suited to homes that intend to do competitive performance events such as obedience, etc.
At 8 weeks of age, give or take a few days, the puppies' structure will be evaluated by someone who is experienced in evaluating young puppies and objective where the litter is concered. Neither I nor the stud dog owner can be totally objective when evaluating puppies, as we may already have hopes and dreams for these puppies. Therefore we seek the opinion of someone who can be brutally honest. This process not only helps determine which puppies may have potential as show/breeding stock down the road, but also identifies structural faults that might make a puppy less suitable for rigorous working and performance activities.
For these reasons, I do not let puppy buyers "pick out" their puppy. With all the information we gather from these evaluations, we have a much better chance of picking what will ultimately be the puppy who is the best possible fit for your family and lifestyle. Only in a very rare situation, if there are two puppies who have basically identical temperaments and no structural issues that would preclude placement in your home, would I consider letting someone choose between puppies.
I will not "ship" puppies via airplane, although you are welcome to pick up your puppy and fly with him/her under the seat. Puppies are typically around 15 pounds or so and can happily ride under your seat in a soft-sided "sherpa bag."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CO-OWN A DOG WITH YOU?
"Co-ownership" in the simplest definition means that both the puppy buyer and the breeder will own the dog together. Beyond that, it's really up to the breeder to define what the terms of that co-ownership are. Some breeders require that the owner of the dog will give them breeding rights to the dog (as in, the breeder may take the bitch back and breed her, or require you to breed her). This may mean even GIVING a puppy back to the breeder. If you consider the value of a Swissy puppy, that is like paying for your dog twice! That is NOT the way I work.
I sell ALL show/breeding potential puppies on a co-ownership contract merely for the purposes of mentoring and seeing to it that the dog will not be bred until it has finished its championship and has all its clearances. And then, if the dog passes all clearances, finishes and we agree the dog should be bred, to help guide HOW the dog is bred. This may seem limiting or controlling on my part, but please understand that I expect nothing back and am only trying to insure the best futures for my puppies and their owners, and to preserve the legacy of health, soundness and temperament we are working so hard to achieve. I simply do not want to see the puppies I have worked so carefully to produce go on to contribute to the careless breeding that is becoming rampant in this breed. The day that I see my puppies wind up in the pedigrees of pet store and puppy mill Swissies is the day I know I have failed terribly as a breeder.
Quite often, I will also place show potential puppies under a co-ownership agreement in pet/companion homes, if they are willing to work with me -- in other words, allow me to show their puppy to its championship if the puppy grows into its potential. In these circumstances, I do everything in my power to minimize any time that the puppy spends away from home...showing locally whenever possible, and only when I think the dog is truly competitive. One such puppy from Moxie's second litter finished his championship in five weekends of showing.
Please understand that breeding a bitch can put your dog's life in danger. Therefore I will NEVER require you to breed your bitch. That is something we both must agree is in the best interest of the breed and something we both want to see happen. AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO I RETAIN THE RIGHT TO BREED YOUR GIRL (beware that some breeders do expect to be able to take your female, breed her and profit off her themselves or expect puppies back should you breed her). If we both agree that a breeding will take place (pending passing ALL required health clearances and agreement on the stud dog), I will not expect anything in return except the right to PURCHASE a puppy from you. I will help select the stud dog, I will help screen and approve homes, I will answer questions and share everything I know with you, but it will be up to you to do the real work. That not only means caring for a pregnant bitch, whelping and raising a litter, but also being there for the owners of YOUR puppies for the life of those dogs. These are all things to consider carefully before deciding you want to breed.
Breeding is certainly not for everyone, and only a fraction of those people who enjoy showing their dogs even go on to breed. So if you ultimately decide that while the showing was fun, you have no desire to breed your girl, I will happily sign off completely when she has been spayed.
In the case of co-owned male dogs, assuming the dog has finished his championship and passed his clearances, I only ask that we discuss and agree on all breeding decisions. Other than that, I will leave it to you to take the lead role as stud owner -- which means dealing with bitch owners, taking your dog to the vet for various evaluations, collections, etc. The rule is, you do the work, you should get the stud fee. Some owners, however, have no desire to deal with all this nonsense but are willing to let the dog be "used" if they don't have to do all the work. In that case, I will faciliate the breeding of the dog if at all possible. In this case, we will split stud fees, 50/50.
It will be totally up to you whether you decide to collect and freeze semen, and your expense should you take that route. However, I will also retain the right to collect and freeze a limited amount of semen for my use only, with bitches owned or co-owned by me.
Of course, should the dog not be capable of finishing his championship or doesn't pass all required health clearances, or if we decide for another reason that he should not be bred, I will happily sign off the dog once he has been neutered.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PREPARE FOR MY PUPPY?
The most important thing you will need in advance bringing your pup home is a crate/kennel, where you puppy will sleep and spend downtime/naps periodically through the day. A crate is essential for house-training a puppy, and it is also a safe space where you puppy is unable to get into trouble during the night (so you can get a good night's sleep too) and during the day when you are otherwise occupied or have to leave your house for some period of time.
Dogs come to think of their crate as their "den" -- a safe and secure place where they sleep (and possibly eat), and therefore they also don't want mess where they sleep and eat. It's important that their den not be so large that they can pee over there and sleep over here! Therefore, if you opt to purchase just one crate, for the life of your dog, be sure to get a wire crate that is at least 42" in length but also comes with a divider that allows you to shrink the space during those first few months and gradually enlarge the space as your puppy grows.
As I mentioned, feeding your puppy in his crate is also a way to associate this space with all positive experiences! The crate should never be used as a punishment. Eating in their crate also allows them to feel confident and secure while they are eating, which can help prevent the development of food/resource guarding behaviors. It's always a good idea to give your puppy a treat when they happily go into their crate. Higher value and longer lasting treats like bones and "moo tubes" are a also a great way to keep them busy when they are first put into their crate.
As the puppy grows, they will EARN more free time, but most of my Swissies sleep in their crate for the first year of their life.
FOOD, SUPPLEMENTS, TREATS and TOYS
My puppies are weaned onto a raw diet, and they also continue to nurse from their Mom as long as she will tolerate (sometimes as they're walking out the door to their new homes!) At around 7 weeks of age, I transition the puppies to a kibble diet, and I will send you home with a small bag of their food. That said, I urge everyone to purchase a bag of kibble to have on hand when their new puppy comes home. At 8 weeks of age, they typically eat about 2.5-3 cups of food per day, spread out over three meals. If you are interested in feeding your Swissy a raw diet, let me know and I will keep your puppy on raw until he goes home.
The only supplement I give my puppies, as a matter of course, is Sodium Ascorbate, which is a pure form of vitamin C. I send a small bottle of this home with every puppy, so you'll have some to get started with and you'll know what to buy. This version of vitamin C, which comes in a white powdered form and is simply sprinkled on their food, is the easiest on their system (better than ascorbic acid) and also the most bioavailable. The Vitamin C has many of the immune health benefits you're probably already family with, but it also supports the formation of collagen, so important for cartilage growth in a developing large breed puppy. I typically start them on the Sodium Ascorbate at about 3 months of age and keep them on it until they are at least a year old. Other supplements you may consider having on hand, to help with loose stools or occasional upset stomachs include canned pumpkin (the 100% pure pumpkin, not the pie filling!) and a good probiotic. I do not give these to my dogs on a daily basis, however, but as needed. A quality, scientifically formulated dog food should have everything most dogs need -- with the exception of the Sodium Ascorbate, of course.
As for treats, Swissies are not very picky -- they pretty much love anything you give them. Even a piece of kibble can be an effective treat for most purposes. It is, however, always nice to have some higher value treats on hand. Usually I give my puppies either dried meat treats on those occasions, or some of my delicious homemade dog cookies!! Then there are also longer lasting "treats" like "moo tubes" and cow ears. For these, just make sure you're buying American made products. I no longer give bully sticks to puppies, because I have had the occasional puppy who sword swallows large pieces of these, which can be a choking hazard, and also may cause GI issues if they sit in the stomach for too long. AVOID rawhide at all costs. Knuckle bones are great for Swissies, and given periodically, will keep your dog's teeth nice and clean. Marrow bones are off limits here, however, because these extra hard weight-bearing bones can be problematic and cause cracked teeth, leading to some expensive dentistry. And the small pieces of marrow bone, that are ring shaped, can dangerous if a puppy gets their lower jaw stuck inside the bone...again, an expensive vet trip.
Toys are great -- with a few things you want to avoid. For example, don't let your puppy play with rope toys unattended, as these can unravel over time and if a puppy ingests the strings it can cause a nasty intestinal obstruction. Avoid purchasing toys with parts that could easily be removed and swallowed for the same reason. And pretty much any toy can be "disemboweled" by a puppy or dog, so if you find that your puppy is hard on his toys, stick to the tough toys made for powerful chewers.
COLLAR AND LEASH
Your puppy will come home with a flat buckle Lupine collar that fits him. This is much easier than your having to guess what size you may need to buy, etc. And then once your puppy is home, and he grows out of this collar, your family can pick out a collar together for his next one. I recommend flat buckle collars for the first several months. Once a puppy gets a bit older, you can also consider using a martingale type collar, which can be helpful for training. www.lupinepet.com is a great brand of collar for both styles, and many pet stores care Lupine, but they can also be ordered online. You will need a leash! I recommend a 5-6 foot leash for young puppies.
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