Who’s your “Breeder”?
Dog people are crazy, both a good and bad kind of crazy. Cody of Team Charlie told me she wanted me to bring her back a shirt from Westminster Kennel Club that said “My Breeder went to NYC for the WKC and all I got was this Stupid T-Shirt. Now only a crazy dog person would want a shirt that referenced their “breeder”. I’ll get her one if there is such a thing but it got me thinking about the relationship between “Breeders” and their “Puppy People”.
Purchasing a puppy from a breeder can be a nightmare, a puzzle, a quest, an education, a joy. The thing about buying a dog is that for the next 14+ years you have an opportunity to build a relationship with a breeder and hopefully it is a good relation. When selecting a breeder to work with I think you need to look for three things:
A breeder with integrity is going to work with you and make sure you know what you are getting into with your new puppy. Puppies are adorable and we love them at first sight (good thing they are so adorable since they are a hell of a lot of work and if we didn’t adore them they might never make it to adulthood). It is hard to focus on what a puppy is when they are so adorable and a breeder with integrity will help you focus on the right puppy for your lifestyle.
So how does a person know they are dealing with a person of integrity and not someone just looking to make a sale? You need to do your research, don’t just fall in love with a cute face. All Puppies and cute, ALL OF THEM!
What do you need to research? Look for a breeder who is interested in the protection and advancement of the breed in question. These are breeders who are less concerned with the sale of puppies and more concerned with making better puppies. Does the breeder belong to their national or local breed club? These clubs were formed to protect and advance their respective breeds and for the most part their members agree to abide by a code of ethics or code of conduct in respect to their breeding practices.
Now I know that some breed clubs have lots of rules and it is hard for people to join so a respectable breeder may not have all the qualifications or tenure to join a national club. Each Parent club makes their own rules so it is up to the puppy buyer to decide if the breeder they are interested in working with has acceptable credentials. This is sometimes a sticky thing, I am the Corresponding Secretary for my National Parent Club and as such I get complaints about breeders who are not behaving in an ethical manner. Happily for me 99% of these complaints are about people who are not members of our parent club. Many of these breeders have wonderful sounding excuses for not belonging to a parent club but mostly it boils down to them not wanting to follow the rules of the organization that was formed to protect and advance the breed. At least that is the case in my own breed.
Again, for some breeds it isn’t easy to join a Parent Club but if a buyer is truly interested in working with a breeder they can go to the AKC website and find the Parent Club website and see what it takes to join. Then decide if the breeders they want to work with are working for the breed or working for their pocket books.
Also remember, clubs are formed for the dogs but they are made up of people and just like most organizations personalities and politics can come into play. Some people join to add credibility to their breeding programs and others choose not to join because of politics and personalities. Club involvement is another tool for a puppy buyer to use when determining the motivation of the breeder, is it betterment of the breed or profit.
How else can a puppy buyer research for a breeder with integrity? Is the breeder producing dogs that are in some type of competition? If so they will be bragging about it and those puppy owners can be contacted to get feedback.
How about health testing, are they testing and telling? Or are they saying yes we test but we don’t submit results. They need to have some proof and be willing to talk about their test results. Personally I have a dog that I had OFA hip X-ray submitted. She didn’t pass, am I going to breed her? Yes, I am (I might resubmit) because I believe that based on side by side X-rays her hips are as good as dogs that have passed and her sibling all passed. The Stud dog has strong hips behind him and I am confident in my choice. Will I inform potential puppy buyers of this, you bet! They will then make their choice as to their interest in getting a puppy from me.
Are they breeding to the Standard of the breed? Don’t fall for that “rare color, size or coat” A breeder with integrity is going to be trying to produce dogs who meet the prescribed standard. That is why people look for purebred dogs so they get what they expect when it comes to size, coat, temperament etc. Does that mean there won’t be anomalies? No but they should not be marketed as something rare or special. We have fluffy coats and off colors in our breed that pop up due to recessive genes but since they are not correct an ethical breeder should not be trying to produce these anomalies on purpose.
What is your gut reaction? That is a lot of it too, if it feels funny move along. Find someone who will meet your needs.
Responsibility – A responsible breeder is going to do right by you and the puppy they produced. They will provide you with a healthy, well-adjusted puppy. They will have worked on it socialization, evaluated it temperament and made an every effort to have it ready to be a happy puppy in your home. They will be available to you for the life of the puppy for questions, concerns, cheer-leading and consolation.
A responsible breeder is not going to release a puppy as soon as it is weaned, 8 weeks is the normal minimum and the puppy should come with age appropriate vaccinations and a contact stating the expectation of each party. And unless you are getting a “show dog” most breeders will have some sort of spay/neuter agreement since better puppies not more puppies is the goal.
A responsible breeder is going to agree to take the puppy back or assist in placement if something ever happens and the puppy (dog) needs to be re-homed. In fact most will insist on it.
A responsible breeder is going to interview you, find out about your lifestyle and expectations and then will help you pick the best puppy for you. Expect it and be ready to interview them as well.
A responsible breeder is not like walmart, you can’t expect them to always have puppies “in stock”. So be prepared to wait for the right puppy. If you need a puppy NOW, you are better off going to your local shelter and getting dog that needs a home NOW too. Shoot, go ahead and do that so that your puppy will have a friend when it comes home.
My last one is Livability, sounds sort of weird but it might be the most important of them all. Can you live with the breeder? Remember at the beginning of this writing I said, Dog People are Crazy? This is where the crazy comes in to play. Dog breeders spend unbelievable amounts of time and money on their dogs. They are working to create something wonderful, using both science and art. Their hearts are buried deep within their dogs and they often have very high expectations about the people who are blessed with one of their puppies. Not everyone live up to the expectation.
Puppy buyers need to be aware of the expectations which can include the usual good care and condition practices to Diva like demands that the dog only sleep on a pink bed and eat out of pink bowls. Their contracts might state what a dog is expected to be fed or what type of exercise the dog receives. You have to be able to live with the expectations.
This is even more important with someone buying a show/breeder prospect. These contracts and expectations can be bizarre, expensive and feel intrusive. If you are OK with the expectations then by all means work with that breeder but don’t think that once you get the dog the expectations will go away. It is a buyer’s responsibility to make sure they can live with the choice they make for the next 14+ years.
Puppy buyers also need to realize that raising puppies is expensive and purebred puppies ethically breed by responsible breeders are not cheap. Also remember the cheapest part of owning a dog is it’s purchase price.
So a lot of words to explain what seems like common sense, unfortunately it is the lack of research and common sense that leads to so many dogs being discarded. Puppy buyers please don’t just fall for a CUTE Face, make sure you are finding the dog that fits your life. If you live in a small urban setting don’t get a high energy sporting dog. If you are looking for a running companion dog don’t get a bulldog. If you aren’t going to get your dog a pink bed, don’t agree to work with a breeder that expects that pink bed.
Yes, I am a crazy dog person (I don’t expect the pink bed though) but I hope you might have some insight in finding the right breeder to work with and hope when you find your puppy it is everything you imagined for many, many years! If I can help let me know.