Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to find a great dog breeder

I've had several people recently ask me how to identify who is a great dog breeder, who isn't maybe so great, and what exactly is a "puppy mill", so I thought I would sum up my thoughts in a blog post.

First, my qualifications, so you know I'm not just writing about something I know nothing about!

  • Showed my second Yellow Labrador, Holly, to 5 AKC Championship points.

  • Learned the art of ring showmanship by traveling and working with an old time handler.

  • Studied pedigrees and watched ringside to pick dog to breed my Holly to.

  • Bred Holly twice, Guide Dogs for the Blind bought two puppies from litter two.

  • Have been competing in obedience, Rally, and agility with various dogs for about 20 years.

  • I'm a Veterinarian, and studied anatomy, genetics, animal husbandry, blah, blah

  • I've read and have a library of about 200 dog books, many of them on the art of breeding dogs.

Okay, so how do I tell if the person I'm thinking of buying a puppy from is a great breeder, or not so great?

A great and caring dog breeder:

  1. Does not accept "reservations", "holds", or any kind of contract to sell you a a puppy without meeting you. (+8 pts)

  2. Does not accept payment over the Internet (+8 pts)

  3. May or may not have a website. Many wonderful dog breeders do not. They are too busy caring for their dogs. ( -0- pts)

  4. Is actually LOSING money at breeding dogs. Show entry is usually $28 these days. There is a show in most areas every weekend day. Say 100 weekend days a year * 28 = $2,800 in entry fees alone per dog. Most of us show multiple dogs. Then there is gas. A big huge car to get there. A house with a big yard. Toys. Food. Training expenses. Get the picture? It is a labor of love! ( + 10 pts)

  5. Does not bother to advertise "Champion lines". Think about this: do you exactly resemble your paternal grandfather? If your grandpa was a champion, but you look nothing like him, does that make you a champion? I don't think so. If BOTH dam and sire are Champions, that means something. Otherwise, it's just marketing smoke. (+3 pts)

  6. Will ask you in your first conversation, "Why do you want a [insert breed] puppy?". They will ask you about your experience with dogs. They will ask for references. They will require you to visit them. At least once. (+5 pts)

  7. They have a waiting list for puppies. Which means you may have to wait. You may be waiting for a few years if you want a "tri color male with white face". Be reasonable in your expectations, puppies are not re-stocked at night like at WalMart. (+3 pts)

  8. They will ask you what you know about the breed. So, read up and do your homework. Yes, bulldogs are cute, but what were they originally bred for, and how does that influence behavior? Terriers were bred to "go to ground", so expect holes in the yard. Retrievers fetch, and they will fetch your Manolos. Collies herd, and they will run rings around your kids, all day. Got it? (+1 pt)

  9. If you haven't done your homework, the breeder will proceed to give you a long lecture about the breed, including a summary of great examples of the past. (+2 pts)

  10. They are currently participing in AKC breed competition. This shows they care about their breed, and are participating in the AKC dog community. You may not want a "show quality" puppy, but if you are going to get a bred dog instead of a rescued one, get one from someone who cares about the breed. Who cares about NOT passing on genetic problems. Who cares about the structure of the dog. Who cares about where their puppies go and what kind of life they will have. (+5 pts)

  11. Is a member of their local or national breed club. (+3 pts)

  12. Has fewer than 2 breeds. Having more than, say 5 breeds on the premises is a hallmark of a puppy mill. Rescued dogs don't count here. (+ 2pts)

  13. Don't have more than 3 or 4 litters of puppies a year. (+2 pts)

  14. When you arrive for your required visit, the house smells clean. Naturally, the puppies are indoors at night. (mine were in my bedroom). The puppies have toys to carry, stuff to climb on, cold/warm things to experience, radios for noise. The more a puppy experiences as a nursing baby, the steadier the dog he will become. (+5 pts)

  15. The breeder wants you to visit multiple times, and asks you to bring children and your friends. (see above, puppy experiences) (+1 pt)

  16. The breeder participates in "performance" events. For instance, if they have a Border Collie, they may do agility, obedience. Terrier breeders might do earthdog competition. Whippet breeders might do lure coursing. And of course, all Labrador breeders do obedience, agility, hunting tests, lure coursing, flyball.... :) (+1 pt for every type of dog activity they do that is not a beauty contest)

  17. People know them. If you go to a dog show (find one in your area here ), and mention your prospective breeder's name to someone else with that breed, if they are in the same area the name should be recognized. In other words, puppy mill and backyard breeders don't participate in the community. They don't care about the breed, they are not learning about structure, behavior, and genetics, and they are most certainly passing on their mistakes. To YOU. (+3 pts)

  18. You get the puppy on a contract that requires you to spay/neuter. If in the US, the AKC registration is "limited", meaning if you do breed your puppy, you can't register the resulting litter.

  19. The breeder will take your puppy back anytime, no questions asked. They'll even come get the dog. For LIFE.

That's about all I can think of for now! I'll add more as my dog club friends comment or I think of things. WOOF!

Oh PS: My pet peeve: the breeder never says the pup is "papered". They would say "registered". Papered is something you do to walls, not puppies. If they use that term, RUN AWAY.

Bye for now....
Splash's mom

No comments: