Thursday, September 10, 2009

Red Flags that Indicate that the Breeder Might Not be a Good One.

Typically, places where people look for their next canine companion is on-line, pet stores, newspapers and bargain finders, humane societies, rescue groups, dog magazines and dog shows.

I won't discuss rescue dogs here - that's a topic for another post another time.

And I'm not going to talk about dogs sold in pet-stores, or advertised in newspapers and bargain finders, because NOBODY should get a dog through those venues - ever. Period! And that also includes dogs advertised on Kijiji. With the rare exception of a responsible owner forced by circumstances to find a new home for the pooch. But most dogs advertised and sold there come from irresponsible back yard breeders, or are mass produced and brokered and, in my ideal world, that would be against the law.

Getting a pup from a conscientious breeder pays off, cause mistakes made during the pup's crucial imprinting and impressionable period has to be made up by the owner. That can be costly, time consuming, frustrating and sometimes heart breaking. Many people believe that purchasing a CKC or AKC registered puppy is a guaranty that he/she was carefully bred and raised. That is not so, and it can be difficult for laypeople to tell the difference between good and bad breeders.
Here are red flags I found browsing through dog magazine ads, googling websites and visiting breeders, that might point to a large-scale, uncaring and breeding-for-money operation.

Has several breeds, or switches between breeds depending which one is most popular at the time.

Most colors and patterns available; Year round puppies; All sizes.
Looking for that special pet = selling pitch - all dogs are special.
Good with kids = selling pitch - great family dogs are not born. Some breeds are genetically more predisposed to love people, including young ones, but the most important aspects are proper imprinting, gentle socializing and teaching pups and kids to be respectful and comfortable with one another. Good breeders know that.

Red Flag kennel names: for bully breeds, anything that has Bad, Raging, Gang, or alike in it. Good breeders of "bullies" do everything they can to avoid adding to the negative perception the media and public already have regarding pit bull type dogs.

Kennel names and ads that contain the words smallest, tiniest, largest or giant. Good breeders breed for temperament, not size. Trends and a certain look feed an attention seeking society; people who own a dog to show off with him/her. Not the type of person I would want for my pup, were I a breeder.

Champion Blood Lines. That is not a red flag, but also not a guaranty that the pooch is sound and healthy. It simply means that the breeder showed in conformation and enough judges decided that the pooch represented the breed standard (looks, gait and other superficial stuff) more than the other dogs competing.

Working stock; field dogs; excellent protectors of house and home and any indication that the dogs are bred for purpose other than companionship. That is also not a red flag, except when the breeder sells these driven dogs as pet companions to anyone who opens his/her wallet. For the average family who is looking for a balanced, middle-of-the-road dog, the ones bred to work are often too much to handle. It's the dog who suffers the most.

Popularity of a breed always has unscrupulous people jumping on the band wagon.
A rare breed often comes with a bunch of health problems due to a small gene pool.

CHEAP and REASONABLE PRICED. It costs money to breed and raise a dog the proper way. Good breeders don't sell their pups at bargain prices or on a payment plan.
Sadly, even some savvy and wealthy people are reluctant to spend more money for a dog when they feel they can get the same breed cheaper elsewhere. Our Australian Shepherd Davie was sold for $100.00 as a purebred, without tattoo or chip, no papers and delivered to a city 300 km away. I'd say that Davie's first owners are above average intelligent, highly successful people, yet they thought they could get a purebred dog from a good breeder delivered for 100 bucks.

If I were to shop for a pup I'd:
Shop local or travel to see the kennel in person;
Meet the pup's parents;
Get a breeder's contract with a warranty on health and temperament;
Be prepared to be on a waiting list;
Be prepared to be interrogated by the breeder;
In turn, want all my questions to be answered;
Am willing to spend money.

Good breeders:
Demand that their offspring is returned to them if the owner can't care for him/her any longer;
Some are involved in pure breed rescue, or have a couple of rescued dog themselves;
Can provide references - and ask for them;
Never sell to pet stores or through Kijiji;
Socialize gently without over-stimulating the pups and keep them long enough to learn valuable lessons from litter mates and older dogs. The ideal age for a pup to join a new home and family is, in my opinion, at 10-12 weeks of age.

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