Buyer's Guide

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Belle, Owned by Sally Chamberlain

For years, we have been working to develop a quality line of dogs that are stable, intelligent, and that reflects the natural qualities and abilities of the breed, as well as good looks. We feel that has been achieved. Rarely, if ever, is there a complaint. When there has been, we do honor our guarantee, and we are willing to spend time with you to solve any particular difficulty that you may encounter. We recommend that you purchase a puppy with AKC "Limited" Registration. This type of registration ensures the pedigree of your puppy, although it does restrict you from breeding and showing your dog in most AKC-sponsored events.

Often enthusiastic people will purchase a very young puppy with hopes of breeding and showing in the future. With a Limited registration, you can still participate in AKC Puppy Matches, which will give you a feel for the dog show world, then you can decide if you like it or not.

In breeding Elkhounds, be aware that they are not a very well-known breed, and it is often difficult to sell the puppies, simply because most people have no idea that the breed even exists. Also, to breed the dogs responsibly requires time and expense – and often more time and expense than you may have. We encourage you to go slowly, to get to know your dog, especially if you have never had an Elkhound before. If you do decide that showing or breeding is for you, the registration can be changed to Full status later.

Like human babies, there is no real way to guarantee how an eight-week-old puppy will be when it becomes an adult. We become disheartened when we hear of breeders who make such promises.

The procedures for changing the type of registration are dictated by the American Kennel Club. In brief, what you have to do is to go back to the breeder, who is supposed to decide, in his or her opinion, that the dog is worthy of the status. You have to pay the breeder the difference in price plus incidental AKC processing fees. All of this takes about two months, from start to finish.

At Castlebar Elkhounds, to change the type of registration, this is what we need: a veterinarian's statement of good health, which would include hip x-rays, although they do not have to be OFA certified; photographs (or a visit here) to determine size and coloration. If photos are used, a standard 12" ruler must be included in the photo so that we can gauge the size of the dog. That, and payment of the additional cost is all that's required.

Why you should stay away from the pet store in the mall!

We have investigated how pet stores obtain the puppies they sell. Here's what happens:

Most pet shops in shopping malls are franchises – part of a chain of nationwide stores. There are puppy mills, usually located in the central part of the United States, that buy litters of puppies from breeders as soon as they are weaned--this means as soon as they begin to eat solid food. It's the first moment in a puppy's life when it can physically survive without its mother. Dog-brokers are employed for this purpose, and currently, they buy up litters for about $50-$150 per puppy, depending on the breed. After the litter is purchased, it is shipped to one of the puppy-mills where it receives food, veterinary care, and whatever else it needs. Essentially, the puppies are warehoused for a few weeks until they are old enough to sell.

After that, the pups are sold to pet stores all over the country. They are shipped out in semi-tractor trailers that are set up with cages. So the store in your local mall may have placed an order for, let's say, ten puppies. The owner gets ten puppies of different breeds, and sells them for a mark-up that is seven to fifteen times what the puppy-broker initially paid.

While there is no crime in mass-marketing puppies this way, this does present problems for you. On occasion, we take in "rescue" dogs and find homes for them, if we have available space. Every single dog that was brought to us as a rescue came from a pet shop--every one that was brought to us was given up because of behavioral problems. The reason for this is because the puppies were separated from their mother at a very young age. Before your puppy can be a well-mannered member of your family, it needs to learn how to be a well-mannered dog. Your puppy's mother teaches her litter the rules of being a dog in that precious few weeks, and those lessons then translate into the things that enable you to train your dog. Puppies which are deprived of this time often become difficult, very aggressive, stubborn, and a training problem for all but experienced handlers.

Regardless of the breed of dog that you prefer, you should be wary of buying any puppy from a pet store. Also, be certain, when dealing with a pet store, that you demand to see the puppy's pedigree before you hand over your credit card. Do not purchase a puppy without an AKC pedigree. These are distinctive – blue and white in color with a gold seal. All puppy mills will provide a pedigree, but if it isn't an AKC pedigree, you can not be certain that the bloodline is true.

Wolf Hybrids

Elkhounds, because of their stable temperaments, are often used to breed with wolves, to create the hybrids that are gaining popularity. Wolf-hybrids may be "cool" but they are inherently dangerous, and in many states are prohibited, or strictly regulated. New York is one such state. The reason for this is because of the number of dogs (even ordinary pets, not just wolf-hybrids) that are turned out and abandoned. When left to roam, dogs (and wolves) form packs that can be dangerous to our society. The US Government is carefully reintroducing the wolf population into the United States. Wolf-hybrids are like a wild card here, and they are often bred illegally.

We encourage you to understand the distinction between domestic dogs and wolves. Norwegian Elkhounds are domestic dogs, a breed that is over 6,000 years old, and a well-known companion of man. Wolves are wolves, temperamentally and physically different.

Sometimes a wolf-hybrid is bred back into an Elkhound line and is passed off as an Elkhound. We have seen this happen with so-called "pedigreed" dogs that came from pet shops, with another pedigree other than AKC. One came to us as a rescue, because it was uncontrollable for an unsuspecting family that simply wanted a pet. It was a shame, because these people paid $800 in 1996 for the dog, from a pet store.

The clearest indication of a compromised pedigree is this: any other face mask color other than pure black (older dogs may have a gray muzzle); any brown tint to the dog's coat. Norwegian Elkhound puppies usually don't show the bright colors of the adults.

Training and Housebreaking

If you decide to purchase one of our puppies, we will provide you with written housebreaking, training, and feeding guidelines. We are in the process of writing a short book to cover everything – but it's not finished yet. Until then, we encourage you to call us if you have a problem or need some advice. The important thing to remember about Norwegian Elkhounds is that they respond to love and affection – which they will return a thousand-fold. If you do need to correct some behavior, all you need is a stern voice.

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