Choosing a breeder
Again this is for the general public, those not already immersed in dogs. Deciding whom your going to buy your pup from is perhaps the most important, and often times most difficult, aspect of acquiring a dog. Dogs themselves are relatively simple beasts, even the dumbest of humans are capable of far greater artifice than the smartest canines. A clever "Dog seller" will usually say all the right things.
But consider this: all it has ever taken to become a “breeder” is the possession of two dogs at one time. With the advent of artificial insemination, the requirements were halved. There is no formal education or innate intelligence test. No degree, no apprenticeship, no regulation, no exam, no license; no requirement what-so-ever. So as you can imagine there’s quite a range of knowledge, experience, intellect, commitment, resources, motivation, etc. In the diverse and generally pathetic world of “dog breeders”. I.E. any dumb ass can breed dogs.
But all too often the public makes their decision armed with precious little knowledge. As such, they are easily impressed, and easily deceived. It never ceases to amaze me how people will make such a big decision as to which dog to own and from whom to buy it with so little understanding.
The thing to remember is that dog may be an integral part of your family, it may protect your children, for over a decade. Most people when purchasing a car will ask a mechanic to look it over if they are not qualified to do so themselves, but a dog breeder can sell lemons indefinitely. The following is intended to provide a helpful overview, and hopefully educate the buyer to some greater extant. No sweeping statements can be made without exception, but I’ll make a few just the same, cause I’m not running for office.
With the possible exception of fine Art I’ve personally not been involved in any endeavor where the posers and deceit where as thick as in dog breeding. I’ve often wondered why it’s so, and can only conclude it has to do with the ignorance and gullibility of the buyers. In other words bullshit and posture sells a lot of dogs, as it does art. To the extant the dogs and art are not actually serving a purpose anyway. Should it be functional art or working dogs that are needed..... it's a different story.
The majority of dog people are not people people. That may be the single truest statement on this website, and I may be no exception. Given that you’d think breeders might relate to each other at least, turns out…. not so much. There is very little love lost amongst most dog breeders, and much bad mouthing between them. So you might want to ask people to support any form of slander with evidence, or at least, reason.
The vast majority of all breeders and breedings are motivated primarily by money; and the vast majority of all claims are to the contrary. Many in dogs will deny this, arguing everyone knows there’s no real money to be made, especially if you don’t cut corners. Which is, I think, generally true. But, I think it does not prove that people are not after money, so much as that those that do breed, compete viciously for a scant supply there-of.
No it’s not likely to make you rich and yes most real breeders got into it, and stay in it, because they are passionate about the dogs. But those breeders are a slim minority anyway. And there is Machiavellian competition for that that fickle trickle of puppy buyers between all ilk’s of “breeders.” The scant supply of green just means they get more creative, and oft times deceptive, to get their perceived share.
And the desire to find a means by which one person can claim they have better dogs than another is what drives most of the subcultures in dogs; from the show ring to the working events, too much of dog forum traffic. Most are looking to elevate the status of their dog, kennel, program or breed; if not denigrate the competition. And most of that behavior is about trying to increase their economic returns and or satisfy their inextricably tangled egos.
Serious dog breeders think dog breeding is a lot more important than the rest of the world does.
Moving on with more politically incorrect generalizations. For clarity’s sake I will divide dog breeders into various categories and make generalizations about them all.
Show dog Breeders
Working dog Breeders
Know cross breeders
Factories and large-scale millers
Show dog breeders:
As far as I’m concerned these are generally not the cream of the genetic crop themselves; I find them a quirky self aggrandizing bunch and entirely ripe for satire. Well let me get off the fence… I don’t like em, so I’m biased. I can’t pretend to understand the motivation; I don’t have enough respect for the process.
Of course success in the show ring does not in and of itself pay off, it can be a very expensive and time consuming process if one is serious about it. Ribbons don’t put money in your pocket directly, they are more a less a marketing tool, if they pay at all. And, in my opinion, the show dog world is to some extent a pyramid scheme. Like all pyramid schemes it only functions so long as enough new people play along, and continue to ascribe monetary value where there is no real worth.
Many dog breeders of all ilk will have you believe money is hardly a factor. In fact I don’t know of any other money-producing endeavor (with the possible exception of organized religion) whose practitioners routinely claim such lofty motivation. Show breeders (amongst others) with precious few exception, will profess to be motivated entirely by a “love of breed,“ or a desire to improve it. But talk is cheap, next time any breeder tells you it’s not about money, or suggests that on their web site, suggest to them then that they should give you a dog…or reduce the price, see how that goes over.
The pyramid scheme is of course built on the ignorance of the public. And the arrogance of the show world serves that end by making Joe Public feel silly and not ask too many questions before he ponies up $2000 to the person who sounds like they know what they’re talking about. The truth is there’s a ton of bullshit in all dog circles, but the show world's strange denizens are, in my opinion, the worst. Their arrogance is often only exceeded by their ignorance of basic biological and evolutionary principals.
Just the same when Joe public gets home, his neighbor seems right impressed with his new “show dog”, and often times Joe stumbles on a pencil and an envelope full of bills, does a little math, and the next thing you know a CONVENIENCE BREEDER is born
CONVENIENCE BREEDERS: (AKA “ backyard breeders”)
Convenience breeders, though very likely to be bad for any breed are only less tolerable to me than show breeders if they pretend to be something other than what they are. When they portend knowledge, or breeding ethics, they are insufferable; the worst. When they don’t– it’s a free country, they got some dogs, they're breeding, let the buyer beware. Statistics say they won’t be breeding long anyway.
Most people use the term “backyard breeder,” and a backyard is a convenient breeding local to be sure, but I’ve never liked the term because it misses the point. It’s not about how much land a person has, or how extensive their kennels are. It’s about breeding based on convenience and to what extent. Hence in my world, “backyard breeders” shall be referred to as
“Convenience breeders” And we can retire that useless term. But first you should hear the old truism.
“ The only thing any two breeders can agree on is that any third breeder is a "back yard breeder”
That’s a good one to bear in mind, if you’re going to ask breeders for their opinions of other breeders, they toss it around a lot, but nobody ever defines it.
The convenience factor may be the simplest way to grade breeders. Because convenience is a factor for all of us, and the degree to which it is, largely what separates us. True Convenience breeders don’t bother to educate themselves. Why would they, they have no intention of doing much searching, so knowledge is irrelevant anyway. As is testing, as is experience, or the quality of the dogs they happen to have.
They breed what they can get with as little money and effort as possible. They breed what they have because... it’s what they have. And many of them, in their travels, pick up some rhetoric from other breeders and spout it out like parrots to the public who all too often can’t tell the difference anyway. What’s worse many have flashy web sites, instagram pages, facebook tik tok, etc. Which seem to impress the not so discerning public to no end. Everybody has a web site, and it doesn’t take much reading by a knowledgeable dog person, to see that the vast majority of the web sites belong to convenience breeders.
WORKING DOG BREEDERS
This is the group I personally respect most, though in the strictest sense, at the time of writing, I do not qualify to be considered one. But I do have the where-with-all to find them, and the good sense to give their dogs precedence in my travels.
These are people who are breeding nothing but proven working animals to proven working animals. That is the criteria and should have been so for generations. These animals are born and bred to do something. For me the given task is less important than breeding for the ability to do something….anything. Not look a certain way. Not to compile ribbons or bows. “Conformation” is only there, if it’s there at all, because form has followed function. And these folks are at best a tiny minority, at worst…. an endangered species. Many have little interest in dealing with the public at large. Some avoid the pet owners, and the show world, to some degree, and often at their economic peril, because they believe that those groups inevitably ruin working dogs.
Which brings me to those who claim, “ Total package." Those are people who claim to work and show their dogs. It’s a nice idea, good marketing to be sure. But most of the real working dog people I know would hesitate to honor a show dog with their spit, much less get caught trotting around a ring. In America anyway, the two worlds are starkly polarized. If you can find someone that truly commands respect in both those worlds (as opposed to some someone claiming both and likely respected by neither) tip your hat to em, and give their dogs a good look. Chances are however, it’s an empty claim.
And the world of “working dogs” is not immune to empty claims. The term is fast becoming rhetorical, it’s used so often and so loosely in some circles, and rarely proven in any meaningful sense in most. Again, as in show dogs do not be shy about wanting to see proof of any claim with your own eyes. Do not be made to feel silly for wanting to understand in plain terms the merits of a given dogs “working” credentials. See the dogs “work” or witness for yourself a “working event” and decide for yourself what it’s worth and what it’s not.
BAND DOGS/ DESIGNER DOGS/KNOW CROSS BREEDERS
These are all folks trying to fill the void left by the decay of purebred dogs, myself included. Granted the distinctly different subcultures surrounding say “ designer dogs” with their little old ladies, shitzypoos, goldendoodles and endless hypoallergenic and or purse size crosses. As opposed to say…. Bandogs with it’s decidedly Knucklehead jena se qua and their largely pitbull x neo x mastiff crosses bred almost exclusively to protect humans from humans, is so drastically different, it’s fairly amusing to mention them on the same page much less in the same paragraph. But the common denominator is the same.
Hybrid vigor aka Heterosis
And hybrid vigor is a reality. No one in commercial animal husbandry will deny it. No scientist worth his salt will contradict it. For overall health and vigor it’s hard to get more bang for your genetic buck than a cross.
But, bear in mind, whether a breeder stops there, or crosses back and gets a 75% 25% cross, or takes two different f1 crosses, or gets a dog composed of 25% of four breeds, or breeds f1’s 2’s 3’s or even breeds tightly for a few generations. They have likely not created a “New Breed.” Not by any meaningful definition of the word... "Breed". And I would say that most claims to that affect should be considered a red flag. It usually speaks to ignorance, marketing, or both.
The sheer numbers of dogs desirable in any worthwhile attempt at creating a proper genetic foundation of something one could reasonably call a “breed” is beyond most men’s resources. Which is not to say that some recognized “breeds” of today we're not started with insufficient foundation, cause many were. But that curse haunts every such breed in direct proportion to that lack of foundation evermore. All the more so if, they are cursed as "purebreds" and denied new genetics ever after.
It's and odd thing, but often true, that no sooner have these cross breeders realized some benefits from the fresh blood, that they set about trying to reproduce the new mix, or “NEW BREED” as if the pay off of a good cross had not been enough somehow. Many set off, back down the road they just got off, and begin to tightly line breed their crosses in the name of “consistency.”
I think it not unreasonable to ask any cross breeder to document the pedigree of their crosses. And I would be wary of those who are hesitant to produce that information regardless of the justification of “secret recipes” and such. One knows and keeps records or one doesn’t. One will share that information or one won’t.
If there is one thing I think any reasonable amount of crossing will make plain it’s that it’s not about some magic formula, or ratio of breeds. It’s about the QUALITY of the individual dogs chosen to represent the breeds. Hence any bandog person unwilling to speak plainly to the pedigree of the dog, in my opinion, has waved a red flag. And what it says is.
"Any dumb ass that could mix the breeds I’ve mixed could get the same results" Which means there was no real effort put into finding quality individuals in the first place.
FACTORIES AND LARGE SCALE MILLERS
These are true puppy factories, in the industrial farm model, mass production. We are talking a numbers game, numerous breeding bitches, often in tight confines, with numbers instead of names. Dogs that live their whole lives in cages; producing litters all the while. Typically these are the miniatures, although it can and is done with any sized breed. I have seen in done in deplorable conditions with "kangals" in turkey. I have seen it in S. Africa. And Argentina. And you can be sure it's happening in every state of our union.
In the U.S. many of these operations are actually inspected by the U.S.D.A and given a stamp of approval. They tend to pop up in out of way parts, of out of the way states. They sell much of their wares through pet stores and or mail order arrangements; so bare that in mind if you're considering putting your money there. Though many an equally horrible, if smaller scale, operation can be found anywhere. When it’s only about money, it shows, it's obvious to anyone that visits.
Most folks have an instinctual revulsion to these set ups, when they see em. In any event one should know that if you choose to give your money to a pet store, or un-seen mail order breeder you may well be supporting an operation that would disgust you if you could walk threw it. And if you're not actually welcome to visit the "breeders" location..... you might want to ask yourself why ?
7 Questions for the Breeder
What follows is a few questions I suggest asking your potential breeder, regardless as to what category they may or may not fall into, as a means of sifting.
1. Where did you get your dogs?
This seemingly simple question is really quite telling. One can make quite a few logical inferences with regard the answers to this question. How convenient was it? What sort of stock is it? Did they need to travel to do it? How much effort went into that most crucial decision.
2. How many dogs have you raised/owned that you did NOT breed ?
Boom. If they bred everything they got, they are either very VERY lucky, or it’s a convenience thing. Especially if you were not real impressed with the answers to question one. If everything that got bred got bred again, chances are they were not real selective either.
3. What sort of health testing do you do?
Boom….that costs money, and likely eliminates dogs.
Ask to see the results on paper; you might be amazed at how often these claims will remain unsupported. One will hear things like,
“O my vet looked at the hips and said they were great…so I didn’t bother sending them to OFA or Penn hip. “
Well the costs associated with sending an x-ray in to OFA or Penn hip to be certified and evaluated is next to nothing, relative the cost of getting the x-ray taken in the first place. Maybe an additional thirty dollars more on a two to four hundred-dollar investment. If they thought the process was worth doing, why would they not spend the extra chump change to provide the customer with the proof? If they have the proof why not post it on the web site for all to see?
4. What other sorts of temperament testing do you do.
The idea that a given breed, any breed, is automatically willing and able to do what it’s supposed to do is a bit of a fallacy. There are many dogs that don’t fulfill the billing of their breed. If someone tries to sell you on the idea that there’s no need to test their dogs…… that should tell you one of three things. They are ignorant, dishonest, or both. If they give you an honest answer, that should tell you something. If they don’t have any idea what you mean….that should tell you something.
5. What sort of experience do you have with other breeds?
Most half ways serious dog people have experience with several breeds, and often in other animal related areas besides canines. If all they have owned is one breed, how much really can they know?
6. What sort of proof, or documentation are you offering ?
If they're claiming, “ show dog, champion lines” etc. Verify the organizations involved, there are ones that generate “champions” in a weekend and garner no respect in their own circles. There are others that have respect in the world of show, if that’s something you place stock in, take the time to educate yourself regards the paper.
IF they are claiming “working dogs” ask if you can see the dogs at work. If they are claiming working titles ask to see them. And if you're really hell bent on a working dog, go see some of the working events for yourself, decide, for yourself, what those events are worth.
7. Can I see a copy of your sales/ warranty contract?
If there are contracts or guarantees read the fine print
If there are none, know that.
In short don’t be apologetic about wanting proof of any claim, big or small. If someone takes offense that you don’t necessarily come to the table with absolute trust. Ask if they will accept your word as promise of payment for the pup, till you have some cash, see how that goes over, maybe feign hurt feelings if the lack of faith is not yours alone.