There are certain tests to be aware of that can help determine how
healthy the parents of your prospective puppy are. Unfortunately,
these tests can only examine the outward appearance of the dogs, but
cannot truly certify that the dogs do not genetically carry the diseases.
Therefore, none of these tests are a guarantee that the puppies will
be perfect, but they are the best way to reduce your risks. It is
very difficult for breeders to say definitively "No dog from my kennel
will get these diseases". Testing cannot gaurantee anything other
than a reduced chance that these conditions will be passed on. They
are not perfect tests, but they are a start, and are our only weapon
in the fight to eradicate genetic diseases from pure bred dogs.
It is an erroneous myth that pure bred dogs are more prone to disease than mixed breeds (or mutts). In fact, this has never been proven. Most owners of mixed breeds never have their dogs put through the genetic tests that pure breds under go, so their chance of producing affected offspring is much greater than a pair of rigorously tested pure breds. "Hybrid Vigor", another popular myth, has been repeatedly proven to only have any resonance in the first generation of offspring, and the same genetic diseases rapidly re appear by the second generation of offspring of mixed breed pairs. Add to this the fact that you cannot accurately predict the size, temperment or appearance of mixed breed puppies.
In short, pure bred dogs are not perfect, but many caring breeders are doing their best to improve their over all condtion. Here are some of the things that are being tested for, what their signifigance is, who governs the testing, and what you should look for. Most breeders will perform some or all of these tests, please take the time to ask first. A general site for more info on genetic disease in pure bred dogs is "Eliminating Genetic Diseases in Dogs: A Buyer's Perspective"
Let's address the question of "What good are titles?". I hear many people say "Why does it matter if my dog's parents have titles? I just want a pet - titles are just a lot of fancy stuff for show dogs." First of all, it *does* matter. Seeing titles lets you know that the breeder of your dog is interested in MORE than just the breeding of dogs - it lets you know that they are serious about improving their breed, not just taking advantage of it. Please, do not be fooled by the claim that this dog has "Champion Lines" or "Champions in the Pedigree". Seeing a few champions two or three generations back does NOT tell you anything about your dog's breeder, except that they haven't done any showing themselves. Knowing that the mother and father of your new pet are conformation Champions ("CH") increases your chances of getting an adult dog that looks the way the breed you chose is supposed to look - and looks are no doubt part of the reason why you *chose* that breed. Knowing that your new pup's parents have an obedience, therapy or CGC title lets you know that your pup came from dogs with more than just looks - that his parents were smart, intelligent examples of the breed you're going to spend the next ten+ years of your life with.
There are different titles for conformation or obedience a dog can
obtain through various dog organizations. While it is not necessary
for the parents to have any, titles do suggest that the breeder is
interested in promoting and improving the breed. There is a saying
that "A balanced dog has a title at both ends" - you see, show titles
go at the front of a dog's name, and obedience, temperament and therapy
titles go at the end of a dog's name. Therefore, a dog with titles
at both ends is sound in mind AND looks.
(reprinted with permission from Bullmarket Frogs)