Staff and volunteers of the Elmbrook Humane Society will be blogging about what's going on at the society, as well as other observations about life in Wisconsin.
The mission of the Elmbrook Humane Society is to promote the human-animal bond through adoption and education, to provide shelter to homeless animals, and to prevent animal cruelty and neglect. EBHS services the city of Brookfield, the villages of Butler, Chenequa, Elm Grove and Nashotah, and the towns of Brookfield and Delafield. EBHS shelters unwanted pets and strays, and rescues injured domestic animals and wildlife, provides resources for individuals with companion animals and provides Humane Education to schools and civic groups.
Visit our web site at www.EBHS.org.
Today, we are going to continue our discussion about where to find an animal companion. Aside from shelters, or breed rescue, we have "breeders". Now, there is a lot of contention as to what a breeder is, or who may call themselves or consider themselves a breeder. I am going to write about each kind, and I will reserve my own judgment, allowing you to decide the best one for you.
If you have a male and female dog that you allow to mate, and then sell the puppies to the public, does that make you a breeder? It certainly depends on who you ask. I guess there are different types of breeders.
Some people will have a great dog, usually a purebred, that they will not spay or neuter because the dog is beautiful, well-tempered, and they feel that this dog should have puppies to make other dogs just like that one. Sometimes these people will advertise looking for, or to provide, stud service in newspapers, or other classifieds. I have met many people in my life who have done this. Typically, these are people who are just regular people, looking to make wonderful puppies, maybe to keep one, but certainly to sell the rest. They may give the stud dog a fee or a puppy for their services. Most of the time, these people have purchased their dog from someone just like them, kind of a hobby breeder, and the dog will have AKC papers, and possibly have a champion or two on the pedigree. Typically, these are the kind of dogs that you will find for sale in the newspaper, or on the bulletin board at the grocery store. Many times, these kinds of breeders will breed their dog two times a year, until the dog is about 5 or 6, then let them retire. They typically do not do any genetic testing for things like hip dysplasia, or eye conditions. Often, this is a simple cash purchase with no guarantees, or promises to take the dog back and refund money if there is a problem, or give a new puppy when available. These breeders rarely require you to sign a spay/neuter contract which could someday spawn a new breeder just like them after the first heat of a female. These people do love their dogs, and the dog they are breeding is their own family dog.
Then there are other breeders, who have a few breeds of dogs they like, having breeding pairs of them. Typically, they will focus on two or three breeds, having puppies several times a year from each female, and selling the puppies. I think these are more business-y type breeders. They are very similar to the breeders I spoke about above, but these folks are a little more ambitious. There are some who really try to purchase well bred dogs for breeding, but there are many others who simply find a fertile male and female and let nature take it's course. These people are very much about making money, advertise a lot, even on signs on their front lawns. These folks often do guarantee their puppies, and will offer a limited refund or an exchange for congenital defects for about a year. That said, most dogs that have congenital defects will not show signs of these until they are older than a year, so that warranty is limited itself. They will take many forms of payments including credit cards, and will sometimes sell puppies over the internet and ship for an extra cost. This is a money making enterprise for them and you should do your homework, especially if you are buying a puppy sight unseen. They also offer a choice for a "full" AKC registration which will allow a buyer to pay more so that you can breed the dog and register the puppies with the AKC so that you can charge more for any puppies you decide to breed, or they will sell for less with a "limited" AKC registration that will not allow you to register any litters of puppies with the AKC. They will also often charge more for females than males in order to get an upfront commission on any puppies you breed and sell.
(Here is a little secret - AKC papers do not necessarily mean a whole lot. They are a record of a dog's heritage. That is it. Most confirmation dog shows, and some obedience shows will require the dog having an AKC registration paper, but do not think that because a dog has an AKC pedigree that it is better than a dog without one. I will say that if you buy a dog from a breeder who shows for confirmation, this pedigree will have champion bloodlines across the generations and you are probably paying a premium for the dog for reasons I will discuss below. But, if you buy a dog without any champion bloodlines in the first or second generation - and many "papers" I have seen will not have ANY champions listed on them - do not feel like you should pay top dollar for that dog. Papers for a dog like that are not proof of anything but lineage - and does not mean that the dog has any better breeding than a dog without papers.)
The last type of breeders are the confirmation breeders. These are the people that show their dogs many weekends each year. They have carefully planned litters, and will only breed their best dogs. You can look at these people and see the most dedicated people to a breed that have ever lived, or crazy people who devote their entire life to their dogs. There is a lot of truth in each of these characterizations. Breeders at this level will do genetic testing on any dog that they want to breed to make sure they are not carrying anything that can be passed down to the next generation. Many breeds have some disease or defect, so these tests can include x-rays and blood work. They will only breed a female once a year, and usually at about 2 years of age, and only after the dog is a finished champion. This requires driving all over the country, going to shows to collect points, you need majors and minors and it can be confusing, so I will not even try to explain points here. As well, most working dogs, or herding dogs will be trained to perform their special duties like agility work, herding livestock, hunting, or scent work and get titles in those areas before they are bred. These breeders live for a breed and will only breed the best to the best to ensure the future gene pool of this breed is the strongest and most diverse possible. Many of these breeders will have a website - mostly to show the world how awesome their dogs are with photos of winning events, action shots, and then shots of the dog living a normal life with their family. A great number of these breeders are veterinarians, but many are regular people who outside of their normal every day life take on weekends of long drives, spend hours grooming, training, and spoiling these dogs so that they can turn it on in the ring. These breeders are the most difficult to get a puppy from, and I know this from experience. Since they have limited litters, you can have a long wait for a puppy. If you live close to them, they will often want a home visit, and to meet your family before placing a puppy. Many of these breeders will tell you after they meet you that you might be better off with another breed due to incompatibility with your lifestyle, which is not easy to hear, but you should take it to heart if they actually come out and say this. If you live far, they may ask a friend or another breeder to do this home visit. They will not place a show potential puppy in a "pet" quality home. That is because "pet" people like me will not keep up with possible show grooming needs, or the proper conditioning for a grand champion. If you are waiting, and there is a litter of 6 puppies, and 4 may be show quality, and there are only 2 for "pet" homes, you might have to wait for the next litter. Show quality puppies are usually sold for high dollars and with conditions like co-ownership, exclusive breeding rights, and you may have to let your dog leave for several vacations a year with a handler to be shown. "Pet" quality puppies are sold at more moderate prices, but you will be paying a premium for them as well. Why? A confirmation breeder typically does not make any money in breeding. After the genetic testing, the show life which requires special vehicles, traveling and lodging costs for many weekends of showing, grooming, loss of income from their civilian life, and other incidental costs like the best of foods, training and fieldwork and other incidentals, these people are usually in the red.
So, who is the best of these type of breeders? It is up to the reader to decide what is best for them. I know that cost, timing, location and many other factors go into deciding which type of breeder is the best for you. Doing your homework and research on a breed is the most important part of the process of purchasing a dog from any breeder. Many people love the look of a Border Collie, but few know that Border Collies are smarter than most people (and I include myself in that group). I firmly believe that if Border Collies had opposable thumbs, and could speak a language they would run the world, in a very fast and intense manner. Buying a Border Collie from a hobby breeder is very easy, and relatively inexpensive. However, if this is the wrong breed for you, you may come home to a dog who has destroyed your home because they needed a job to do, and they may appoint themselves the couch un-stuffer, or the drapery remover.
I guess the less you know about a breed, or about dogs in general, the more you should educate yourself and search out all the different types of breeders and learn from all of them. Then you will be able to see firsthand the good and bad points of each type of breeder.
Of course, if a purebred puppy is not an absolute necessity, I urge you to go to your local shelter, or breed rescue and adopt a dog that needs a new family first. Puppies will always find a home, but adult dogs are often overlooked, and they are a real treasure.
All of the above applies to cats as well - though most people will never buy a purebred cat, when there are literally millions of kittens born each year in need of families. I assure you that purebred cat breeders are much the same as purebred dog breeders, so the above advice is applicable to cats as well.
Next week we will talk about different ways to help put an end to puppy mills.