Placing Puppies in Pet Homes
By Kayla Miller
One look was all it took for Tracey Johnson and her family to fall for a handsome, sweet Beagle puppy. Ironwood Beagle breeder Edy Ballard of Morristown, IN, is credited for bringing together “Jasper and the Johnsons of St. Louis.
Tracey and her husband, Jack, were seeking a pet for their 11-year-old daughter, Taylor, and 9-year-old son, Aiden. When Tracey, a Purina employee, met “Uno,” the 2008 Westminster Best in Show winner, she was smitten with the dog’s merry disposition. Years later, when the family decided they were ready for the responsibility of owning a dog and that they wanted a Beagle, a breeder referral led them to Edy.
An American Kennel Club (AKC) Breeder of Merit, Edy takes seriously matching the right puppy with potential owners. She breeds one or two litters a year, though not every year. Referrals have resulted in a waiting list for an Ironwood puppy.
“I’m meticulous about determining the best dog for a family,” Edy says. “I spend a lot of time exchanging emails with puppy buyers to learn about their lifestyle, where they live, whether they have other pets and what they are seeking in a dog. The more I know about a family, the better job I will do in placing a puppy.”
Originally, the Johnsons wanted a tricolored male with a loving temperament that could easily adapt to their active lifestyle. Edy thought the docile nature of a male called “Donnie” would be a suitable match, and the Johnsons agreed.
“Not long after we decided on Donnie, Edy was concerned that as he developed, his personality wasn’t as good a fit for our family as she initially thought,” Tracey recalls.
Although Edy tries to match a puppy’s coat color and sex with what her clients want, temperament is often a better guide. Reevaluating the litter, Edy sent Tracey a couple of photos of puppies she thought would be more appropriate for them.
Jasper, a blue tricolor male, immediately captivated the family with his striking looks and warm personality radiating through the computer screen. Upon first glance, daughter Taylor burst into tears, exclaiming, “That’s our dog!”
To help prepare puppies for their new homes, socialization begins early for Ironwood Beagles. Edy takes young puppies on car rides and familiarizes them with walking on surfaces such as wood, carpeting, concrete and tile. They are introduced to household sounds such as crinkling plastic grocery bags and running a vacuum cleaner.
“Puppies also need to have boundaries,” she explains. “I encourage owners to use a crate for housetraining and to enroll in puppy classes and obedience training.”
This past July, the Johnsons drove to Edy’s house to pick up eight-week-old Jasper. Like other new owners, they were given a packet that included Edy’s articles about puppy care, information about Beagles, medical records, feeding instructions, a copy of Puppies for Dummies and a Purina Puppy Starter Kit, with a sample of Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Puppy Formula. A soft, fleece blanket with the dam’s scent and favorite toy with the littermates’ scents also helped to ease Jasper’s transition to his new home.
Now six months old, Jasper has blended seamlessly into his new life. Daily rituals include a belly rub from Tracey before his morning walk and hugs from Taylor and Aiden followed by a brief play session before school.
The family continues to turn to Edy with questions or concerns about Jasper to ensure they make careful, responsible decisions. “Buying an Ironwood Beagle was the start of a new relationship,” Tracey says. “Edy is an extension of our family, too.”
“Success is placing a puppy in a permanent home with a happy, loving family,” Edy says.
Wildrose’s Special-Order Retrievers
Sporting enthusiasts often know exactly what they want in a dream hunting dog or field trial competitor. Such was the case for Bill Behnke of Anchorage, AK, when a decade of upland and waterfowl hunting with sporting dog-owning friends sparked his desire for a finished hunting companion.
“It became obvious that the hunters who enjoyed the outdoor experience the most were those who brought their own dogs,” says Bill, who began perusing the Internet for breeders with fully trained Labrador retrievers. Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS, repeatedly populated the search results.
Wildrose is renowned for producing gentleman’s gundogs with superb temperaments and natural game-finding abilities from imported British and Irish lines. Having recognized Wildrose from sporting magazines, Bill was confident a dog with solid marking, quartering and retrieving skills would complement his lifestyle.
The process in obtaining a Wildrose “dog of duality” begins with potential clients sending Mike a description explaining what they want in a dog. “The more specific they are, the better I can do my job,” Mike says.
The Wildrose team includes a veterinary technician and support staff who work together to facilitate requests. Several litters per year help to fulfill a six-month to one-year waiting list for puppies.
All puppies are trained “the Wildrose way,” a method pioneered by Mike in the 1970s, in which puppies learn through positive reinforcement, gentle repetition and imprinting of basic behaviors. During the early “super learning” and “super scent” training phases, puppies are introduced to whistles, decoys, tunnels and mazes.
New owners picking up their seven-week-old puppy stay for a half-day orientation to tour the facility, review basic commands and learn about health care, nutrition, housetraining and socialization. They take home a Purina Puppy Starter Kit with a sample of Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Rice Formula and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora canine nutritional supplement, which helps manage the digestive stress that can occur when a dog goes to a new home.
Retrievers staying at Wildrose to become finished dogs spend several months learning heeling, whistle commands and hand signals. Then, Mike zeroes in on each retriever’s hunting training, which is done specifically to the contract with the client.
Several months after Bill’s initial inquiry for a finished adult dog, Mike called with exciting news of a potential match. Bill and his wife, Sandy, flew to Oxford to meet “Gillie” (Glenshee Ghille of Craigenross) and participate in a four-day handler workshop for Mike to evaluate their compatibility with the five-year-old black male.
I was so eager to take Ghillie home that I pulled out my checkbook each day to seal the deal,” Bill recalls. “By the third day, Mike was comfortable with my handling skills to sell me his dog.”
Back in Anchorage, Ghillie effortlessly became Bill’s full-time companion. He accompanied bill to work at his job, his easy temperament reversing a company policy prohibiting animals in the downtown high-rise.
“Ghillie’s gentle nature and versatility made him easy to take anywhere. We hunted pheasant in open fields, chased coveys of quail, sat quietly in countless duck blinds and traveled across the country,” says Bill. “He was a true gentleman’s gundog.”
Bill is now among a long list of repeat clients, a nod to Wildrose’s reputation. Realizing he couldn’t risk Ghillie hunting past his prime, Bill bought two black puppies, including “Opus” (Wildrose Opus One), a Ghillie nephew, and “Ice” (Wildrose Black Ice), an Opus nephew.
“I am fortunate to have such spectacular dogs,” he says. “Ghillie, Opus and Ice have been everything I ever wanted in hunting partners.”
Reflecting on his success, Mike says he enjoys receiving phone calls from clients bragging on their dog and seeing photos of dogs working as they were trained to do. “When a dog becomes part of a family, I know I’ve done my job.”
Tips for Successful Puppy Placements
- Take it Slow: Do not rush into placing a puppy into a home if you’re not 100 percent sure it is a suitable fit. When you take the time to actively listen to what people want in a dog, you’re more likely to make a compatible match.
- Trust Your Gut: If you notice red flags indicating a potential buyer and puppy aren’t the best match, trust your instinct. Your sales agreements, contracts and guarantees are only as good as the people signing them.
- Customization is Key: Matching puppies with buyers isn’t an exact science. Ask potential clients questions about their lifestyle and help them to understand temperament is often a better match than color or sex.
There are No Bad Questions: Although questions from new owners may seem basic, remember that you were once a novice, too. Take time to educate clients throughout the buying process and continue to support them after the sale as the puppy transitions to his or her new life.