Personally I would ask the questions before I visited the puppies. That way your choice is not influenced by cute, wiggly puppies!
Be aware also that any health guarantee that ends prior to age 2, is essentially worthless, as many health tests cannot be performed until AFTER the dog is 2 years of age.
No puppy should go to its new home until 8 weeks of age, at minimum.
Below is a list of health tests, both parents should have and you should physically see and touch certification of such:
Responsible Doberman breeders today, in general, are testing for hip and elbow dysplasia, von Willebrand’s disease (vWD), thyroid disease, genetic eye disease, normal cardiac function, and normal liver function. DPCA | The Doberman | Health BJF Dobermans--Genetic Defects and Testing Explained
Hips and elbows
Responsible breeders send their dog’s hip and elbow x-rays to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for evaluation. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Hip Dysplasia Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Elbow Dysplasia
Ask the breeder for OFA hip/elbow results. This can be verified through the OFA database. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
Breeders may also elect to register results of other health testing with the OFA. Currently the OFA registers results of thyroid testing by approved laboratories, cardiac testing by approved evaluators and vWD DNA tests by VetGen.
Another method of evaluating hips is the PennHip method. A breeder may have PennHip ratings rather than OFA ratings. PennHIP Home Dog Owner's Guide: PennHip method of diagnosing hip dysplasia
Hip and elbow evaluations are normally done once in the lifetime of the dog.
Von Willebrand’s disease
There are two companies in the US offering vWD DNA tests. VWD is a bleeding disorder. It is imperative that Dobermans be tested for this as we are now able to eliminate this disease by testing and breeding carefully. By testing the parents of a litter, a breeder can usually tell you what vWD status the puppies will have. VetGen - Veterinary Genetic Services
DNA tests for vWD are only required once in the lifetime of the dog.
Thyroid testing is normally done routinely on Dobermans by responsible breeders. Thyroid results can vary with age. It is recommended that routine thyroid tests begin around 18 months of age and continue every 12-18 months throughout the lifetime of the dog. A full thyroid panel should be completed on any breeding dogs. A full thyroid panel measures Total Thyroxine (TT4), Total Triiodothyronine (TT3), Free T4 (FT4), Free T3 (FT3), T4 Autoantibody, T3 Autoantibody, and canine Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (cTSH).
The thyroid impacts many of the body’s most important organs. Thyroid testing should not be overlooked. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Thyroid Disease Thyroid Deficiency Canine Hypothyroidism: Frequently Asked Questions / Diagnosing and Treating Underactive Thyroid Problems in Dogs / Thyroid Disease Information Source - Articles/FAQs
Dogs can be examined for the presence of inheritable eye disease by CERF certified canine ophthalmologists. CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation. CERF - Canine Eye Registration Foundation
Eye testing is something that must be done yearly – a CERF certificate is valid only for one year. Ask the breeder when was the last date and result of CERF eye testing. This may be verified through the CERF database. CERF - CERF Certification Online Verification
(Some breeders elect not to register the results in the database - ask the breeder to see the copy of the CERF test instead.)
Dilated cardiomyopathy continues to be one of the biggest problem in Dobermans today. Annual cardiac ultrasounds and electrocardiograms are a must, especially for breeding dogs. Holter monitoring (a 24 hour ecg) is now available worldwide. Some breeders and clubs are purchasing their own Holter monitors.
In October 2010, a DNA test was released to identify one gene (called the PDK4 gene) said to cause dilated cardiomyopathy. It is widely felt that more genes responsible for causing dilated cardiomyopathy will be found in the future, but at this time, it's the only cardiac DNA test we have. Dog DNA Tests from the VCGL at the College of Veterinary Medicine
The Washington State University Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab keeps a database of the PDK4 DNA results online. Doberman DCM Test from the VCGL at the College of Veterinary Medicine
(Some elect not to have their results published online, so ask the breeder if the dogs have been tested. Ask the breeder for a copy of the results.)