(Picture is courtesy of one of our very kind customers)
The first step if you would like to have one of our puppies is to give either myself, or my husband Graham, a call on (01598) 741105 (after 7pm is usually best). We will happily have a good chat first, but we then encourage people to come and meet us and the gang before a puppy is born. We call this a 'farm visit' and as well as giving us a chance to chat to you and ensure your suitability, it gives potential puppy owners a good chance to come and meet all our dogs and get to know the personalities of potential parents.
We only allow people who have already visited us at Hallslake to reserve our puppies when they become available.
The reason we encourage a farm visit is that you get to see everything here. This includes our kennels, runs, where the puppies live and play before they are ready to leave for their new homes. You will meet ALL of our dogs, and see what they do, and experience on a day to day basis. All these things are VERY important for you too see when visiting any breeder (even if you don't end up having a Hallslake puppy). Looking at a lovely clean puppy, in a lovely clean home, perhaps on a white sofa or cream carpet, may all seem great at first appearance, but always look for signs that a dog actually lives there. If there is no dog hair, mud, no bowls, no chewed toys, or the dog/puppy isn't looking relaxed there, ask where it lives when not in the house. Don't be shy to ask probing questions, a good breeder should have nothing to hide, and if you don't get the answers you need then always walk away. Often unscrupulous breeders will try to conceal the actual living quarters and conditions of their animals, and will be reluctant to show you where they live on a regular basis. Seeing a puppy with his mother is also very important, sometimes a bad breeder may even present a mother that isn't the puppy's real mother, so make sure you see the puppy and mother/litter mates playing and interacting as you would expect. Mum may growl and snap at puppies trying to suckle after 7 weeks of age, but she will still show an interest in them, sniffing bottoms and licking and cleaning them. She may quite often play chase with them or tumble them over. If she has recently been separated, she may even regurgitate some of her dinner for them to eat, this is a bit YUK-but normal motherly behavior. Socialisation is also absolutely crucial to investigate. Socialisation is the term used to describe the experiences that a puppy encounters and becomes comfortable with from birth to around 16 weeks old. After this age it is almost impossible to change the attitude and fear reaction in a dog, so proper handling and interaction from day one is absolutely crucial. At 8 weeks old when you collect your puppy, a puppy from a top class breeder, or one from the worst of puppy farms, would both look identical. You need to have compete confident that your chosen breeder will be doing everything possible to give your puppy the start in life it needs to make it ready and confident for the day you collect it and take it home. He should already be used to household noises, sudden or loud sounds, doors slamming, ideally they should have experienced children and other animals, dogs which are not the mother & preferably different breeds, cars coming and going, indoor or outdoor space, freedom to roam and play at liberty in a garden or yard, being confined in a kennel or crate on occasion (only with company before 8 weeks), he should be confident to run over to you for a stroke, and he should have seen as much of 'normal life' as possible. At 8 weeks old they will still have a lot to learn and experience, but they should be ready and open to seeing and learning new things. It's our job as good breeders to ensure that this is how they are. An unsocialised puppy will be fearful and reluctant to experience new things and you will always have a much harder job trying to normalize him before his learning window closes. Another unseen thing to ask about is health testing. And not just the normal PRA-prcd (inherited progressive blindness) & FN (fatal kidney failure). Although these are absolutely crucial tests, most breeder will do these tests as a bare minimum. Often just the dad is tested, not the mum, which is just about acceptable so long as you are not considering ever breeding from your pet in the future. But always ask if a breeder has taken any of the extra measures available. Full health testing is available to everyone. It is expensive, but hip scoring, annual eye testing and glaucoma testing are all readily available through the British Veterinary Association, and is a way of ensuring the best possible health prospects for any puppy born. If a breeder isn't willing to health test both parents, and doesn't care if it's puppies are likely to inherit hip dysplasia or cataracts, ask why not, and consider if they are really the breeder you wish to buy your future family friend for the next 15 years from.
Anyway, sorry for the long ramble.... but these are reasons we like people to come and meet us here at Hallslake. We like to do our best to find the best owners for our puppies, show you what to expect from a good breeder, put your mind at rest that if you do have a Hallslake puppy in the future that we will have given it the best start we can possibly manage, and we also try to educate people how to accidently avoid fueling the puppy farm trade if you don't end up having a Hallslake puppy.
Once this is all said & done though, and if you do decide we are the breeder for you, we are still not able to guarantee you a puppy.
We have tried everything possible to find a fair way to offer our puppies to good potential owners. We started offering a simple waiting list. This list went to 6, but after having a litter of 4 born, number 5 & 6 on the list were very disappointed so wanted to become 1 & 2 on the next waiting list. Sounds fair, except that the existing 1 & 2 on that second list didn't really like becoming 3 & 4, and 5 & 6 were very unhappy about being bumped off the waiting list all together! Next came a question of sex and colour... If you do decide to offer a waiting list, how do you score the desired colour and sex of the puppy? A lot of people are very specific about what they are looking for. Do you make a waiting list for each individual puppy option? For example if a potential litter had the possible litter options of; gold girl, sable girl, red girl, black girl, and the same colour option for the boys, and realistically you allow the potential for 4 to be born of each colour & sex, so put 4 people on each waiting list, then what would you do when a bitch (Coco has recently done exactly this) has a litter of 8 girls (1 gold, 2 red, and 5 sable) and 1 sable boy? If I had had a waiting list of 4 people for each colour in each sex, I would have had 32 people on the waiting list, and 26 of them would have been disappointed not to get their chosen sex/colour, and there would still be 1 sable girl unreserved. In short we have found the waiting list system completely impossible. If anyone has a better idea of how to offer one fairly and easily managed though, we would be very glad to hear about it!
So, what do we do?
Its a little bit like getting Glastonbury tickets.... we keep the website News page & Planned Litters page up to date with details of litters born, & when the puppies are around 10 days old we announce a time and date that we plan to make the puppies available to reserve, and then on that date we will post photographs and descriptions of the puppies and give an exact time that people (only people who have already visited us) are allowed to call us on our landline and ask to reserve a puppy. We do not answer early callers, we do not allow pre-reservations, & we do not take bribes (although we are often offered them!) and its very insulting to us if people suggest otherwise. The call in system is totally fair, and everyone has an equal chance to reserve a puppy. When we speak to you on the phone, we take your details for our reservation forms, and we will update the online list with your initials. We don't ask for a deposit at that point, that can come later, it is done on trust.
At the end of the reservation process when all the puppies are spoken for, there is almost always disappointed people who haven't been able to get through on the telephone in time. This sadly is just something we can't avoid. We only breed a certain number of puppies. Often there will soon be another litter coming up, but sometimes there isn't, and it's very hard for us to console a family who has been down with their children and they all have their hearts set on a puppy, only for us to have to tell them that they are too late for that litter. But it is just unavoidable for us. If we offered preference to families with children, or following a bereavement or other upsetting or emotional circumstances it would not be fair to other people who have taken the time to do their homework and come and visit us. So please, if you don't manage to reserve a puppy, be patient in waiting for another litter to come up, and don't be too hard on us. We really do try our best to be fair.