Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dog Breeders: Devils or Angels?

One of my Facebook friends (who actually is a friend in real life) posted a photo of a Cane Corso bitch who had been owner-surrendered to a local shelter.

The listing stated, "The owners were breeding her and selling her puppies. Now, she's been cast off and left in a shelter. She has 2 cherry eyes but that's just cosmetic. She seemed like a sweet happy girl."

The first comment under the photo was, "poor baby, breeders suck".

And that got my goat, because I'm a breeder. And while I suck at a lot of things - time management, posture, cleaning my closet, and ironing, to name but a few - I don't suck when it comes to my dogs.

I understand. I understand if you volunteer at a shelter and see dog after dog after heartbreaking dog come in. Dumped like yesterday's cold oatmeal. Brought into the world by human carelessness, ignorance, or greed and dropped off to be your problem when it wasn't your fault. I truly understand. Believe me, it makes me sick.

But let's think for just a moment.

What if there were no more Labrador Retrievers? "Oh that would be fine, because then everyone would rescue a dog in a shelter," says the Breeders Suck Person. Then who would be the seeing eye dogs? Who would get up at oh-dark-thirty with a big smile on their face and sit in a blind with their owner for hours and jump into the icy pond and get the duck and have so much fun doing it that their heart practically explodes? What if my son hadn't had the best outfielder in the world, even if Opie did give a whole new meaning to the term 'spitball'?

What if there were no more Bloodhounds? What if your grandmother with Alzheimer's disease had wandered off into the woods and there was no search and rescue dog to call?

What if there were no more Pugs? No more Sphinx-like ancient Ibizans or Pharaoh Hounds? No more German Shepherds or Malinois to help police and soldiers? No more Beagles to sniff for airport contraband or to curl up on your couch? No more Border Collies to fly through an Agility course or to bring the sheep to the fold?

These dogs are living history. They are our treasure. And without breeders every breed of dog is an endangered one. Every single breed.

Here's where breeders do suck, in my opinion. We suck at public education. We suck at telling people what is involved in being a good breeder.

A good breeder does expensive testing on any dog they plan to breed. They test for eye abnormalities, joint problems, heart disease, thyroid disease, and more depending on the breed. They have the results of the testing available for you to see.

A good breeder won't sell you a puppy before it is eight weeks old.

A good breeder's clothes might be a bit frumpy and out of style, but their dogs' coats will gleam.

A good breeder will make you sign a contract saying that if for any reason whatsoever you can't keep the dog you are purchasing, you will return it to that good breeder. Period.

A good breeder will have someone check you out before they sell you one of their precious puppies. You'll need a vet referral, and quite possibly you'll have to submit to a home visit. A good breeder will want to know that if you said your yard is fenced, it actually is fenced, and they won't just take your word for it. If instead, they see three dogs chained to barrels, you won't be getting their precious puppy.

A good breeder will have some Very Old Dogs in their home. These dogs will occupy the Best Beds, and will often be found on their breeder's lap, regardless of the size of the dog. When a good breeder strokes her Very Old Dog's ears, she may lose her train of thought, and she might blink hard a couple of times.

A good breeder won't always have puppies available. This is important. Please pay attention. A good breeder won't always have puppies available. A good breeder will refer you to another good breeder who does, or who will soon.

A good breeder might tell you that, in his opinion, his breed isn't the right breed for your lifestyle, or that perhaps an adult from rescue would be a better fit. A good breeder might not be willing to sell you a puppy.

A good breeder will know the history of their breed inside and out, backwards and forwards.

A good breeder will do something with their dogs. They will have ribbons and rosettes, or certificates in frames, or trophies and win photos everywhere.

A good breeder will tell you all of the problems of their breed and will go on and on until your ears want to jump off of your head. Their walls will be covered with photos of their dogs and paintings of their breed. They will have knickknacks and dishtowels featuring their breed.

If the worst thing happens and a dog that a good breeder sold ends up in a shelter, that good breeder will go to Hell and back to get that dog out.

Good breeders live for their dogs.

hug your hounds


  1. Thank You Patience. I knew when I saw the original posting that there would be some heated comments. Good Breeders do their part to make sure each and every dog they breed has a long, satisfying, and healthy life.

    Sue & HotRod

  2. Good Breeders/Bad Breeders. Good Owners/Bad Owners. Thank Dog for rescue, breed specific or otherwise. And thanks to the Bad Breeder/Bad Owners who surrendered Gussie. We love him, even if he is not "Breed Standard"

  3. Thank you, thank you. All I hear anymore is don't buy from breeders, adopt. We do both and we breed wonderful pups and I know there are bad breeders, but some of try very hard to do the very best for and with our dogs. Thank you.

  4. I agree completely! I don't breed, but I am very thankful for the breeders who produced my purebred dogs and cats, and I want that option when it is time for a new addition. I recently wrote on the same topic.

  5. Hi Patience. As one very involved in rescue, and who has sometimes been accused of being anti-breeder, I want to thank you for this post. And I'd like permission to copy the criteria that define a good breeder (with credit, of course)for people who ask about choosing one.
    Sadly, I believe the number of bad breeders FAR outweigh the good breeders, the breeders who know where every pup and that pup's offspring ad infinitum are today and who would go to the ends of the earth for them no matter how long it has been since they were sold. In rescue, I see far too many purebreds come in whose breeders are contacted but 'can't' take them back. In fact, I just adopted a purebred eight year old sheltie whose breeder not only didn't want the dog back but told the owner she was fine with the dog being advertised "free to a good home" on the online classifieds. And - get this - this wonderful boy's father had a ton of ribbons, awards and titles both here in Canada and in the US. I would like to see much tighter regulation of breeding, both in law and through the breed clubs. It is a travesty. Your criteria are spot-on and should be tatooed on the forehead of every ne'er-do-well breeder.
    I do have a little disagreement with the first part of your post, though - I have met many shelter and rescued dogs who have become great bird dogs, trackers, therapy dogs, and personal assistance dogs. If there was a moratorium on breeding for a few years, there would still be dogs to fill those roles.

  6. Permission granted, of course Jean!
    You said:
    "Your criteria are spot-on and should be tatooed on the forehead of every ne'er-do-well breeder."

    No. If we could get the word out to the BUYERS, then the ne'er-do-well breeder would be out of business.

    "I do have a little disagreement with the first part of your post, though - I have met many shelter and rescued dogs who have become great bird dogs, trackers, therapy dogs, and personal assistance dogs. If there was a moratorium on breeding for a few years, there would still be dogs to fill those roles."

    I know the shelters are full and it's a travesty. I DO know this and it is awful. But. If the good breeders stop breeding, and the health screening stops, and the careful study of pedigree stops, and breeding for specific talents/traits stops, then it will not be long until too much is lost.

    Not to say there won't be wonderful dogs, but there will (as there are currently in our shelters) be dysplastic dogs, sweet generic dogs, dogs with heart failure at age 4, dogs with congenital blindness, dogs without special skills or instincts.

    Nor do I support the equally evil "fads" in dog breeding. The modern German Shepherd Show Dog is a perfect example of WRONG. Fortunately the working GSD lines are still available. And - to an extent - the show breeders are trying to correct their folly.

    I believe that the best answer to the problem is education, information, and knowledge. So I'm trying to help.

  7. When I hear about breeding legislation, I cringe. Who would follow the laws? The good, responsible breeders who already do all the testing and reference work and contracts, etc. Who would ignore it? The careless owners who are too lazy, cheap or ignorant to have their dogs spayed or neutered. and the millers who wouldn't give up the big bucks they make from selling untested, often unhealthy dogs by the hundreds.

    What would we wind up with? I don't want to think about it. Scraggly mutts with unusable legs, pups dying before their second birthdays and dogs that need to be put down young because of temperament issues.

    Yes, by all means adopt from a shelter or rescue, but also buy from good caring breeders who work hard to produce beautiful, healthy animals to further the breed standard.

  8. I can see that breeders are helping to give us a lot of wonderful animals. But is anyone breeding dogs for longevity? Here are some other random questions, which have nothing to do with dogs, but maybe you will enjoy reading anyway:

  9. I believe this is the best article I have ever read on finding a good dog breeder. Thank you so much for posting. Your list of qualities found in a good breeder truly is wonderful. Anyone thinking about buying a puppy needs to read this first!!

  10. This. I work with rescue and this totally sums up for me what a good breeder should be. The problem isn't the good breeder. The problem is the backyard breeder and puppy mills trying to make easy money. Thanks for your article.


Love your comments! Love them we do. Don't be bashful! Thank you for visiting :-)