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Monday, December 14, 2009

Choosing the Right Breeder: Ethics vs Profit

People ask me all the time how to choose the right breeder. They also ask me how I have ended up with healthy dogs, dogs who live a long, long life, and how I have had dogs ranked in the top 10 in the country for their breed in AKC obedience, but haven't spent a fortune. The answer all goes back to the origin of my dogs. That begins with the breeder.

Here are the most common mistakes that owners make when buying a dog:

1. Buying A Dog From An Internet Website

So many people have shown me sites, and they were so proud of where they purchased their dog. What dog-knowledgeable people could tell from the site was that it was a front for a puppy mill. Here are some of the things to look for that are bad news: Selling multiple breeds, and not listing a physical address that you could actually drive to the location to inspect the facilities. Showing 8-10 males or females used for breeding. Not listing PENN-HIP, OFA or CERF numbers or ratings. Not listing any titles on the breeding dogs. These should be Championships, CDs, CDXs, Agility titles, Schutzhund titles, etc. If you don't know what the titles after a dog's name stand for, then look it up. These titles will tell you a great deal about the temperament and trainability of the parents, which means your dog will be easier to live with and train. Also, be a detective. Type in names, addresses, phone numbers, see if they are listed on any of the "Buyer Beware" sites. When doing a search on a breeder for a friend, I found they had a USDA number. USDA numbers are given to commercial kennels who breed so many dogs that they have to be inspected. They usually sell dogs to brokers and pet shops.

2. Not Expecting Enough Of The Breeder Or The Breeding Dogs

Many breeders want to charge you 1-2 thousand dollars for a dog. These are not necessarily good dogs or good breeders. I actually know someone who was quoted $6,000.00 for a German Shepherd adolescent whose parents have no titles. The good German Shepherd breeders both locally and in Germany have had a good laugh at this guy. But you know he may find someone with more dollars than sense.

I purchased a great German Shepherd from a European breeder. I spoke with at least 25 people who have purchased dogs over many years from this breeder. I emailed and talked with people by phone. I spoke with the breeder several times through email and by phone. My dog's parents are both titled, her father has won many German Schutzhund trials, and placed in the WUSV (huge honor and accomplishment.) My female is healthy, has a great brain for learning, very confident, courageous, has been a certified therapy dog, and will compete in Schutzhund, AKC Obedience, and Agility. She was $1,000.00 plus $400.00 airfare. She came with a health guarantee for any genetic problem including hips and eyes.

A good breeder belongs to a governing agency or club that makes them sign a code of ethics. Most of these agencies forbid breeders from selling to pet shops, brokers, or selling dogs for resale to retail outlets or brokers. A good breeder wants a cradle to grave aggreement which means that if the new owner doesn't want the dog, the dog has to go back to the breeder, not end up in a puppy mill and bred to death, or dumped in a shelter. If a breeder brags on how much money they have made in puppy sales -- RUN!

3. Not Meeting The Puppy's Parents

Bad breeders will make all kinds of excuses for why you can't meet the mother of a litter. If you go to visit a breeder and a litter, make sure the breeder knows in advance that you are coming to meet the dam (mother of the puppies), and the sire (father). Sometimes the father is not on the premesis because semen is flown in, and he lives in another state or even country. But there is no excuse for not letting you meet the mother except that maybe she is a fruitcake. If the mother backs away, growls, barks, or in anyway acts fearfully. Do not buy a puppy. I don't care what excuse the breeder gives for her temperament.

A great deal of a puppy's temperament is inherited from the mother dog. Again, often a bad female is bred to a great male hoping to correct a problem in the pups, but what you get is usually the good genes watered-down by the bad. Also, I have seen dozens of new momma dogs who welcome visitors after the puppies are 6 weeks old. She is ready for them to go. So don't listen to how she is being protective of her young. That is just one more excuse for bad temperaments.

4. Assuming That Because A Dog Is Pretty, Or Even Has A Championship, That The Dog's Temperament Is Good

There are breeders out there who only breed dogs for conformation shows. Often these dogs come from a long line of champions. But many of these dogs have lost their ability to work. There are Border Collie Champions who will not herd. There are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers who are afraid of water, and who are aggressive with children. Many AKC Champion German Shepherds have such extreme conformation faults that they have to be euthanized at 5-6 years of age because of their hips and backs. Many of these dogs are fearful, too. Great dogs worthy of being bred have titles in working sports. They are more apt to be trainable and heathy.

5. Not Recognizing Buzzwords That Are The Mark Of Poor Breeding

Dogs are not Grand Champions. That is reserved for Hogs and Cows. Dogs are BIS (Best in Show) or Group Winning, or have CH. before their registered name. People who sell dogs having "Champion Bloodlines" are not being really honest. Almost any dog, even those in shelters, or mixedbreeds may have a champion somewhere in their background. It doesn't matter so much what the greatgrandparents or grandparents have done, what did the Sire and Dam do?

Buzzwords like "tiny" "teacup" or "extra large" are all ways of saying the dogs are not correct. Dogs who are larger than they are supposed to be or smaller than they are supposed to be usually mean lots of vet bills and a short life. Look at the AKC Standard for the breed you are interested in, and then look for a breeder who breeds within the standard.

Mixed breeds are great dogs. BUT please adopt, don't buy. Only unethical people cross breeds and sell to those who just want something different and again have more dollars than sense.
Some of my best dogs are adopted ones. They are healthy, and I got them from purebred rescues or shelters. Shelters and rescues screen the animals for health issues, spay or neuter, vaccinate, and make sure the dog doesn't have parasites including heartworms. The adoption fee is usually less than it would cost you for the vaccinations alone. Also, most rescues and shelters will let you have a trial period to make sure the dog fits your family. You can get any dog you want, purebred or mixed from shelters and rescues. You can get puppies or adult dogs without having to look very hard, or go through trying to find the perfect breeder. All of my pet dogs are neutered, spayed, and most were adopted. Only my competition dogs were purchased from breeders.

Be informed. You will save money, and you won't be the schmuck that the breeders laugh about as they vacation in the Bahamas on your money.

If you would like information on breeders, rescues, or training, please visit us at http://www.fullcircleobedienceschool.com/ or call 405-721-7829


  1. Oh yay, I'm the first. I am glad you are using the blogosphere to get the word out!

    Unpaid and unasked for endorsement: I've met Kaylan, trained with her, and would encourage anyone out there reading this blog to listen to what she has to say-she knows her stuff.

  2. Came here vis Debra Kay and I agree with her, you know your stuff! I've been a vet tech for 36 years now and I agree with everything you said.
    Keep spreading the word...for the dog's sake ;)