We talked recently about bad dog breeders, and an owner’s recourse in case of receiving an unhealthy puppy. To balance things out a little bit, I’d like to discuss today a class of people who truly make the dog world go ’round: The elusive Responsive, Reputable Breeder. We’ve talked about RRBs in relation to small animals before; now, let’s talk dogs.
5 Traits of a Good Dog Breeder
- Not in it for the Money: A responsible, reputable breeder knows that if they do everything right, they might break even. Dogs need health testing, expensive show entries, food, vet care, and even with an uncomplicated delivery, a pregnancy and litter gets expensive. If labor complications occur or a puppy becomes ill, the vet bills can easily eat up every dime made from the sale of the puppies and more. If you ask the average hobbyist RRB how much money she makes breeding dogs, you’ll have to wait until she gets up from rolling on the floor laughing and wipes her eyes before she’ll answer the question. Breeding is a hobby, not a profession, for the vast majority of RRBs. A very few, after many years of dedication to the fancy, are able to make money.
- Performs All Available Health Testing: RRBs are always on the lookout for ways to make sure that every puppy born has the best possible chance of a long, healthy life free of any congenital or genetic defect. They have dogs with OFA-certified hips and shoulders if that test is recommended for the breed (it is for most dogs, and almost all large dogs). An RRB will continually research health information and innovations in testing available to their breed, and will not balk at the expense if a test is likely to be able to prevent the occurence of a genetic problem.
- Dogs Compete in Conformation and/or Performance: RRBs use many methods to determine each dog’s suitability for breeding. Its temperament as their own pet, and health tests, are two such methods. A third is competition in conformation or performance. RRBs make a conscious effort to ensure that their dogs are seen and evaluated by experts by participating in competitive events. RRBs who breed for performance generally campaign their dogs in performance events like gundog trials, lure coursing, scent tracking, and Earthdog, while RRBs breeding mainly for pets and show dogs are often found in the conformation ring. Of course, there is overlap, and many great dogs have titles both in performance and conformation events!
- Asks and Answers Questions: If you feel like you might be in danger of being waterboarded, or if you’re convinced adopting a child must be easier than adopting a puppy from a particular breeder, chances are you’ve found an RRB. Of course, the grilling goes both ways; an RRB will ask you questions about your lifestyle, home, family, plans for the future, experience with dogs, and more, but he or she should also answer any pertinent questions of your own. If a breeder clams up when you ask about pedigrees, health testing, competition records, how the dogs are kept, how the puppies are raised, or anything that relates to these list items, move along to another breeder.
- Dogs Are Pets First: A breeder who sees her breeding animals as money-making, puppy-producing furry little machines isn’t worth working with under any circumstance. An RRB sees every dog as a pet first. While breeders often have to make tough decisions that pet owners never face, they should do so with their first priority being the welfare and happiness of their dogs. Their dogs should be treated as beloved pets, with most if not all living primarily in the breeder’s house, and with elderly and retired dogs receiving either a lifelong, loving home with the breeder or careful rehoming into a quiet environment suited to a senior dog. Dogs should be fed high-quality food, not whatever is cheapest, and they should receive daily attention and exercise.
Of course, there’s much, much more to a good breeder than these five qualifications, but if the five items on my list check out, continue to investigate the breeder, and consider placing your name on their waiting list for a puppy. However, never count out rescue. I respect and admire RRBs very much, but for the majority of people, a rescued dog will be as good a match as a purebred puppy. Good luck to all my readers who are searching for a new dog!