How to get that great puppy in "three easy steps."
"Step One: THE PREP WORK"
1) Know exactly what you want. Before you even start thinking about a puppy, know whether you really want a dog after all. A Dog is a Lifetime Commitment. If you're not sure you're a dog person - or think you may be a cat person; if you're not sure you or anyone in your family is ready for a dog; if you aren't sure how your cat is going to react to a puppy, do not experiment by buying a puppy.
A puppy is a lifetime commitment not a new car you can trade in on another one if you don't like it after six months. One of the best ways to figure out if you and your family truly are ready for a puppy is to become involved with a local rescue organization as a foster home. Another good option is to apply to be a puppy raiser for a guide or service dog organization. If the answer at the end of that experience is no you are not ready, this does not make you a bad person. It just means you shouldn't go out there and buy a puppy and hope that it turns out better this time around. A good definition of inanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result!
2) Research the various dog breeds. Before you even think about contacting even a single breeder with a litter of puppies you must have already decided on a breed. You should however contact breeders - preferably when they do not have puppies because all puppies are irresistible and sure to melt your heart, even if they grow up to be the wrong dog for you - when you've gotten to the point of deciding between two or three breeds, but be honest with them that you are trying to get to know their breed, not that you are looking for a puppy. Most reputable breeders will be very happy to talk to you about what living with the dogs is actually like, and this will help you make up your mind.
With that being said, we can promise you almost nothing turns off a breeder more quickly than someone who says "I am also looking at Bull Mastiff's, but I would like to come see your Tollers." This is not because we feel like we're in competition with each other; it's because if we think that you don't even know the difference between living with those two breeds we're not particularly interested in entrusting you with one of our precious puppies. If you do this, expect to get a chilly response from the breeders you talk to!
3) Be very, VERY realistic about what kind of care and commitment you can give to a dog. It is VERY TEMPTING to see a dog in their prime and trained to perfection and to want that life yourself. Please know YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE to meet your dog's needs. You must choose a breed you can realistically care for. If you imagine yourself on an agility course, or out on the marsh hunting with your companion, but in real life you spend eight hours in front of a computer every day, DO NOT GET a Toller.
To be blunt you should buy a dog for your WORST day, not your best. Maybe some days you do get that long walk or run in; but other days you got to work late; or you put off the outdoor run because it's too hot and you go to the air conditioned gym instead. Or maybe you really do go camping every weekend....from May to September. Your Toller does not care. He is not going to need a different level of activity or a different level of mental stimulation because you are having a bad day. If you're snowed in, two kids are sick, and you have a huge project due tomorrow, your Toller STILL needs at LEAST 1 hour of hard-running exercise. Can you provide that? If you can't then a Toller is not for you.
4) Never buy a dog to be anything other than a dog. Dogs are not good at teaching kids responsibility. They're not good at saving marriages. They're not good at getting you friends or dates. They're not good at making you exercise. They pretty much all are terrible at being decorations in a lovely home. Any dog you get must be a great match for your lifestyle and your personality. If you get a dog to be a dog, if you meet its needs and desires and make its life wonderful, as a side effect it may well teach your kids good things; it could potential do good things for your marriage; it may get you new and wonderful friends; you may even lose those couple pounds you have been trying to get rid of. But those are just a bonus things you can NOT count. They are literally just side effects that can happen from doing the right things for you dog just because it's the right dog for you and its needs naturally line up with your lifestyle.
5) Learn enough about what Tollers need in terms of training, feeding, and exercise. You don't need to be able to quote phosphorus/calcium ratios or the proper distance between weave poles, but feel like you know how to meet the needs of a Toller and be sure that you are ready and able to do so. Expect to be asked - and maybe even politely quizzed - on what your plans are in this regards.
6) Prepare your house and yard, or at the very least have a plan for doing so. In your home, you should plan on making at least one room (a room you actually live in, not the laundry room) completely puppy-proofed, and that includes not freaking about pee and poop. Crate training is a wonderful tool and you should do it, but you should also have the puppy on your lap on the couch or on your feet, and you should play with your puppy and bond with it and tug with it and watch TV with it, and there WILL be accidents. Puppies have accidents and they have more accidents when they are excited! If you can not handle the thought of your new puppy "ruining" your Persian rug, you really should go back to #1 and think long and hard if you are ready - or even right - for a Toller puppy.
7) Pick out a training center for puppy socialization. This is an absolute requirement if you're buying from us and it's a very good idea if you're buying from anyone. Puppy socialization is the BEST gift you can give yourself and your puppy, and that means everybody, including experienced owners and even trainers. You should plan on entering puppy socialization when the puppy is between eight and ten weeks old, so you have to have one picked out before you find your perfect puppy and should be registered for class before you take your puppy home.
Puppy socialization is about socialization, not training. Look for one that offers a good long puppy playtime at the beginning of each class, and that uses happy, positive methods. This means going and randomly visiting the training centre and talking to the trainers before deciding if that is the right place for you. If you can, talk to other people who have taken the class and get their honest opinion on it. If you get a bad "vibe" from the place or the people you talked to had anything but great things to say about the place do not use that training center. This must be a happy, positive ongoing experience for your puppy and if it is not your may be creating issues you will need to overcome later in your dogs life.
"Step Two: CONTACT A BREEDER"
1) Contact the breeder(s) using whatever medium makes you most comfortable. We think e-mail is ideal as you can make sure you're saying all the things you want to say and you can do it whenever you want to and can take as much time as you need to. Other people are very uncomfortable when they have to write out a long e-mail and may prefer to call. There is no right or wrong way as long as you are able to convey your interest in the most comfortable and confident way possible for you.
2) If the breeder does not have any puppies available or anticipated, say "May I talk to you about the breed to make sure I am making the right choice?". We love talking about our dogs and love taking the time to educate people on our breed. Most breeders feel the same way.
3) Clearly communicate that you understand the breed, understand its needs, and are willing and able to meet those needs. Ask the breeder if they agree with your assessment or have anything helpful to add. Your dog's breeder is your number one resource. We are the experts so get into the habit early in the relationship of asking for help. We say "relationship" as that is exactly what it is. We are entrusting one of our precious puppies with you and want to help you mould the puppy into the best possible dog it can be.
4) Try to get two or three e-mails back and forth, and then (if you like the tone of the conversation so far) say "Is there a good time for me to call you?". Email is a great medium for the initial contact but be prepared to talk on the phone with the breeder.
This level of exchange is also very likely to establish a couple of things for you: If you were right about the breed, and if this is going to be a good breeder for you to either get a puppy from right now or to wait for a puppy from.
One note on semantics: Breeders SELL puppies. Rescues ADOPT them out. Retired dogs are PLACED. Dogs who are not happy in their home are REHOMED. We know that there's no way you could know this, and most people use language that they think will be the least likely to offend (and that means "adopt"), but it can set our teeth on edge a little bit. Our puppies do not need homes; they have a home here. They are not up for "adoption." So use the word "sell" or "buy" when you're talking with a breeder about a puppy, or "place" (as in "I was wondering if you have any retired dogs to place") if you are inquiring about an older dog. If we have a rescue here who does need a new home, we will use the word "adopt"; if we have a dog who is returned to us we will "rehome" her. It's a small thing but you'd be surprised how much using the correct words can help set the tone for the communication with the breeder. Under no circumstances should you use "get rid of" or anything of the kind.
"Step Three: MOVE FROM CONTACT TO PURCHASE"
So let's say you want a puppy. Send us an e-mail that thoroughly introduces you and your family, and give us some idea that you understand what a Toller is and why you want one instead of some other breed. We wll respond by sending you a questionnaire to fill out; this isn't because we don't trust you but because we keep a file for the litter with everyone's questionnaire in it. If we get nice feelings about each other, you call us and we talk. If it all seems like it's going to work, you go on our waiting list.
As you can see, buying a puppy is a VERY BIG DEAL and we want you to treat it that way, but it's a joyful and wonderful experience too. Any breeder will tell you that the greatest reward they get is that e-mail saying that Remi is now a therapy dog, or that Ducky passed his CGN, or even that Alley has passed away / gone to Rainbow Bridge and that everybody cried for three days because she was such a wonderful dog. We are eager for you to have the rewards and joys of owning a great dog, just as we do. So please, DO go to the trouble to get a dog and a breeder who can get you there. It is work, but it is worth the effort.