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Where to buy a Purebred Dog
By Laurel Tofflemire
From what resource would you have the best chance of finding a nice healthy pet with lifetime of support from it's breeder? I feel it is odds on from the hobbyist show breeder. While anyone who produces a planned registered litter is a dog "breeder", some hardly fit the traditional meaning. Today we need to define breeder farther. Please remember there are honorable and less than honorable people in each group and that AKC papers are not a guarantee of quality.
Commercial Breeder, USDA licensed (Puppy Mill or Puppy Farm)- These are wholesalers, the government considers this agriculture, they produce a product to sell for profit and that is their only reason for raising dogs. To do so they must keep costs down, so puppies are only guaranteed to arrive live at a broker's or pet store and so ends their involvement. The dogs get the bare minimum in quality of care and food. Genetic testing for heath problems is rare. Some raise their dogs in clean kennels or on wire floors in raised cages (like rabbits) and so are in reasonably good condition when they are shipped. Puppy factories seldom socialized the pups so many have behavior problems. The adults are livestock. Once they produce as many litters as they can they are usually either killed or sold at auction. The worst puppy mills are too horrible to describe here, suffice to say, short cuts in costs often lead to suffering and abuse. Most puppies are sold to pet shops. The new scam in larger cities, are "Breeders Outlets" and clever "home" retailers that advertise in the local paper to hide their puppy mill origin, watch out for one phone number advertising several breeds.
Backyard breeder - Starts with a family breeding their beloved pet. The majority of purebred dogs come from this category in many popular breeds and the majority of purebred dogs in rescue or destroyed in pounds. Their reason to breed is honorable but uneducated; they think it will be fun (wait till the thousandth dirty newspaper or the midnight visit to the vet), They think they can make back the purchase price of their dog (The hobby breeders who do it "right" lose money on most litters), they want the kids to see a birth (At 3 AM most kids are not interested), because their friend or relative wants one too (They don't consider what they will do with the other six dogs they brought into the world, if no one calls off the ad in the paper).Most don't get involved enough to know if the dog is breeding quality and breed to the closest male they can find. Some are sold as registerable when papers were lost, and the litter never be registered at all. The majority are sold locally through newspaper ads and the responsibility ends with the sale. Often they do not have the knowledge to properly raise a healthy socialized litter or to help the new owner with any problem that might arise. Some backyard breeders turn into small time unlicensed puppy mills, keeping a few bitches to breed for profit without consideration of quality or health concerns, and selling them locally.
A retail pet shop, no matter how clean or well run, will only have stock from the above two sources. If they say their dogs come from local breeders, it will be of the backyard variety. The sales people can not know each breed like a hobby breeder knows their own. Many do not care if the breed or individual puppy will be right for you, most will be more than willing to make the sale. The average pet store's commitment to the dog is a 48 hour guarantee at best.
Large Show or Working Breeding Kennels- These are normally very responsible in their breeding practices, They are breeding for top quality, but may expect a profit and produce numerous litters for the show and pet market. They do not make their profit by cutting costs, but by increasing their price based on their reputation for quality. They do genetic testing and raise puppies well, but not quite with the "in home raised" attention a hobby breeder can give. Sometimes I feel they do not have the time to properly mentor the people to whom they sell pets and show/breeding potential dogs. When people, new to the dog show sport, get frustrated if they don't instantly win, they breed the dog to "get their money back" adding to the backyard category. These large operations are quite responsible for the dog, but some are less than willing to take them back as older dogs because of the numbers involved and add to rescue problems. These breeders sell their own dogs, pets may be sold on spay/neuter contracts with warrantees. They often advertise in the national dog magazines.
Hobby Breeder- Very responsible or they don't rate the designation. Their dogs are their pets as well as show dogs. Often their "kennels" include the couch or bed. The hobbyist feels the only reason to breed is to strive to produce the ideal dog of their breed. They breed "the best to the best" no matter how much time, research, money and effort it costs.They are creating a work of art and have thoroughly educated themselves.Having champions in the pedigree proves nothing toward breeding quality of an individual. Therefore they breed a dog only after they prove themselves in their field, be that a show Champion, a hard pulling sled dog, or a good sheepdog or retriever. They do all available genetic screening for known health problems in their breed. They spay or neuter any dogs that produce health problems, no matter how beautiful, or how much they have won. They breed to the written standard of excellence for their breed, not to a showring fad. These breeders are committed to every dog they produce for life. Expect pet quality to be sold on spay/neuter contracts only to protect the breed and written guarantees to protect you. Many only sell their puppies by referral, although some do advertise in the paper or magazines. They would not trust their mother to screen a prospective home, let alone a retail pet shop.When you have located a hobby breeder expect to be grilled about your home and life and maybe to wait a awhile for a puppy. You may even run into resistance when you ask about buying their dogs. Best to ask price last, it may well depend on how good of home they think your family will be! The hobbyist is surprised if they break even on a litter because they invest so much "doing it right". When you do acquire a puppy from a true hobby breeder you will be joining a new family, Dog-in-laws.
So how do you find the quality kennels and Hobby Breeders? Your local kennel club should have a breeders list. A list of the clubs are available from AKC on the internet. Also visit the dog show calender at AKC's site, or inquire with your local kennel club to find a dog show nearby to attend. It is a great place to find out more about the breed you are interested in and talk to the breeders. The extra effort will be well worth the time invested.
**In Australia, dogzonline.com.au is another resourse to search for breeders and puppy listings.
Copyright Laurel Tofflemire 1998 Home Terraholm Border Terriers Huskihaus Siberian Huskies.
May be reprinted with proper credit given - per author.