Buying from Bertschire
First, take a look at our "planned litters" page. There you will find our planned combinations, and there will be a link to email for information. Pedigrees and some health information can be found under each dog's individual biography. We do annual eye exams, but don't submit results for official CERF numbers. We are happy to email you a copy of the actual CERF form for any given dog.
We do prefer email, at least for initial contacts, as visiting over the phone can be tough to fit into a typical day. We are happy to get on the phone once our preliminary screening is complete, but please be patient. Our lives are busy and quite full, and telephone time often is low on our priority list. All puppies are sold under contract and a deposit is required to reserve any of our pups. You can find our questionnaire here; please include a short introduction in the text box at the end. Questionnaires that don't include introductory information are not likely to get a response, so please share!
For general information, our puppies are all born in our living room. The puppies are never far from any sort of activity and are handled multiple times daily, especially snuggling, and get weekly nail trims.
From birth until approximately six weeks of age, our babies remain in the house, still exposed to normal daily sounds and activities. They have access to toys starting around 3 weeks of age. Our litters are weaned around 4 weeks of age, and mom continues to interact with them even after weaning. At about 6 weeks, most litters are big enough to begin enjoying the big world outdoors, and in nice weather (thankfully most of the year in Georgia!), they go outside to a large puppy pen to romp and play during the day. The pups come indoors again at night to sleep.
We begin worming at 2 weeks of age, and vaccinations start at 8 weeks. We vaccinate for life threatening ("core") diseases only and do not believe in vaccinating for diseases that will just be a small aggravation. We believe over-vaccination is dangerous to the health of the puppies. Somewhere along the way, we microchip each pup. We use hair clip marks to identify each pup in the litter; after trying collars and nail polish, we settled on clipping the hair as a good way to identify, so when you see photos, you'll see we identify by the location of the clip and the pup's gender (right shoulder male, for example). We try to take weekly "development" photos - these are posed pictures on a table, with each identified. Not only does this allow you to get a good overview of the litter, but we also reference the photos to look for the finer points of conformation and type. Candids are also taken and posted online, and we take videos to share whenever we can.
As the pups continue to grow (usually around 6-8 weeks), we move them to the "puppy palace", a room specially constructed off of our barn. It has free access to the outdoors (the shaded yard is fully fenced) through doggy doors and the puppies quickly learn to keep the inside area clean. Many of our buyers have called and thanked us for housebreaking their puppies! While not every puppy will arrive completely housebroken, this method of puppy raising does make the housebreaking process easier, as the pups learn early on that "indoors = clean". Their puppy yard is stocked with tunnels and toys, and we keep a kiddie pool filled with fresh water in the warm months. When it's cold or rainy, the pups snuggle up in dog beds inside and the room is heated when necessary. The puppies continue to get daily interaction, including snuggle time, nail trims, walks in the pasture, retrieve work and beginning crate training during the weeks before they are ready to go to new homes. Mom also visits daily, so the puppies continue to enjoy her lessons and nurturing.
We free feed our pups and they always have access to fresh water. We will suggest a feeding schedule with recommended amounts, as well as recommended dog foods when you take your puppy home. They are interacted with daily, often going for walks or even just sitting around while they chew us to bits. We test each pup for retrieving aptitude around 6, 7 and 8 weeks of age and also do temperament testing around this same time. These tests generally confirm what we've already observed in the litter, and let us begin to make preliminary placement decisions. Your completed questionnaire guides us in our choices and we have rarely made a mistake when matching puppies to homes. Occasionally, we have not had a compatible puppy for someone in a litter - in this case, we advise you immediately and ask what you would like to do. All puppies go home with a complete "puppy book", including all pertinent health information, such as vaccination schedule, feeding recommendations as well as a pedigree on your pup and training tips. In general, we will match you with the puppy that most fits your requirements - it is rare that you will be allowed to choose your own puppy!
If you would like to visit the pups, it is imperative that you make an appointment with us - we run 3 businesses, and now have a litter of pups! Visitors disrupt our routine, so please respect our time. While you are very welcome to meet mom and pups (and dad if he's one of ours), we do have chores and obligations to complete, so please don't be insulted if we can't spend 3 hours with you. Anyone staying over 2 hours will be put to work!! :-)
Puppies being sold as companion quality (every puppy in our litter is companion quality, by the way. Show quality pups are always meant as companions first and show dogs second!) will be available after 9 weeks of age. When we have multiple puppies of potential show quality, it is possible that we will ask you to wait until 12 weeks of age before letting a pup go, as sometimes it takes that long to sort them out. Since we are really breeding each litter for our own continuation of a line, not every puppy is for sale in any given litter. If you are on our list, but we don't have a puppy to match you, you will be asked if you prefer to carry over to a later litter, or you will have the option to drop off of our list, with a full refund of any deposit placed.
Once it is confirmed that you will be getting one of the puppies, then it's time to make arrangements to get the pup to your home. Due to USDA regulations, we DO NOT offer unaccompanied shipping of any puppy! If you want your puppy flown to you, you MUST book a flight where you can meet us and take the puppy back with you as excess baggage. There are no exceptions to this policy. For those who will be driving, weekdays are available as well as weekends, but don't forget to clear it with us ahead of time! If you need to stay overnight in Athens, we have a small guest house available most of the time. You are also welcome to let your pup stay with us overnight if you would prefer to get a good night's sleep before heading back home!
In addition to breeding quality flat-coated retrievers, Andrea and Kass are also career dog trainers. If you should have training questions, we would love to help you. We also offer general obedience training through our full-time training kennel. And always remember, we care about your dog's health and well-being, so please, please, please report any unusual or potentially genetic health concerns to us as promptly as possible! Sometimes a note or phone call informing us of a health condition can drastically alter our breeding plans for the future (to avoid a problem, for example), and the more health information we can gather, the "bigger picture" we can get! Of course we can also offer advice for dealing with most health conditions that arise, so please let us know!
If your pup has been sold as a companion quality pup, we appreciate getting hip information when your puppy is ultimately spayed or neutered. We will reimburse you for this expense - just ask your vet to shoot a hip film while the pup is under anesthesia and send the results and the receipt to us. Show quality pups are required to do all necessary health checks - hips, elbows, knees, eyes, thyroid at the owner's expense.
Once you take your pup home, the fun is just beginning. We hope you'll keep in touch with us (Christmas cards are great!) and keep us up on how your pup grows up. In the interest of staying current on health and temperament information, we will contact you a couple times a year just to see that everything is going well with your dog and you aren't having any problems. Again, we are available to answer questions any time - consider our expertise to be like an extended warranty service! We have a Facebook page (search for Bertschire) where we post photos and updates of all of our activities, and welcome photos of all of our babies, even when they are adults!
We are pleased you would consider one of our retrievers. This has been a lifelong labor of love for us and we enjoy nothing more than hearing what a great companion one of our puppies has matured into.