And why you should care
Responsible dog breeders may become an extinct species.
They’re under attack from animal rights groups and we even saw a media story calling the winner of the Westminster Dog show “elitist” and trying to shame Poodle owners about loving their breed.
We’re amazed by the level of misunderstanding in the world of dogs. If we don’t recognize the value of, and support the efforts of, responsible dog breeders, there won’t be any left. And we’ll have no choice in dogs. Only mixed-breed, irresponsibly bred dogs will remain.
What is a responsible dog breeder?
Responsible dog breeders are people who love their chosen breed – be it Mastiff or Chihuahua. Their goal is to perpetuate the finest qualities of their dogs. To find and reproduce the healthiest, soundest examples of their breeds. To share their lives with their dogs, and to find wonderful homes for the puppies they produce and don’t keep. Those people become part of their own extended families for life.
For their entire lives. Because responsible dog breeders are there for every single puppy they produce for the entirety of their lives. They make new puppy owners sign contracts promising that if, for any reason, the new owners cannot keep the dog, it will go back to the breeder. For any reason. For as long as the dog lives.
We’ve known lots of responsible dog breeders. And we’re always amazed that all of them can rattle off the names of every single dog they’ve ever produced, whether it lives with them, across the country, or in another country entirely. They can tell you where the dog is, how many members of the family, and what each one does. They care.
And when their careful vetting of potential puppy owners goes awry, they never forgive themselves. If they lose track of a dog, or if it gets sold without their knowledge, they go to the ends of the earth to make it right. And always feel guilty when they are unable to “fix” it.
It costs a fortune
In the breeds we know best, producing puppies costs a lot of money. Responsible breeders are never in it for money, because there isn’t any. There’s a saying among breeders: “Want to have a small fortune breeding dogs? Start with a large one.”
A responsible dog breeder plans a litter – looking at pedigrees, knowing their own dogs strengths and weaknesses, and doing health testing to make sure they’re producing healthy dogs. Every breed has specific health issues they’re prone to – responsible breeders will test their dogs for those issues and avoid perpetuating the problem.
A friend of ours, a Cocker Spaniel guy, had his young dog go blind from Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), cutting short a promising agility career. When our friend was looking for a puppy Cocker Spaniel, he sought out a breeder that tests for PRA. He knows that his puppy won’t suffer with the condition because he found a responsible dog breeder who spent the time, effort, and money to be sure.
Breeding to the standard
Many people say they don’t need a show dog, so why should they bother seeking out a responsible breeder?
We need to look at that idea from a different angle.
Your house doesn’t need to be in Architectural Digest, so why should you use a licensed contractor?
Because you want your home to be built according to the building code. The code that says your pipes can’t be made of lead so your family won’t be poisoned. The code that says that electrical wires have to be shielded, so your house won’t catch on fire. Your life, and the lives of the people you love, depend on that house for shelter, safety, and comfort.
Abide by the code
The “standard” of any breed is the building code for that breed. We all are drawn to the looks, characteristics, and personalities of particular dogs. That’s the kind of dog we’re attracted to, we want to share our lives with, and make us happy. And responsible breeders, to the best of their abilities, produce dogs that come as close to their vision of that standard as they can. The “standard” is developed by the people who love the breed and want only the best.
We’re going to use the example of French Bulldogs. They’re popular right now, we know a lot about them, and we’re familiar with both responsible and irresponsible breeders of Frenchies. They’re also a breed with a list of issues regarding health, from allergies, to orthopedic, to heart issues.
Responsible French Bulldog breeders test their dogs for heart, knee, and spine issues. They test for communicable diseases, and genetic issues. They pore over the standard and choose their best options for breeding. And they only breed their dogs when they’re looking to expand their own families. Most responsible breeders we know may have one litter every year or two. And French Bulldog litters are small – four is a large number of puppies.
Patience is a virtue
Because they produce so few, and demand is so high, many responsible breeders’ puppies are spoken for even before they’re born. It takes time and patience to connect with a responsible breeder, getting to know them and letting them get to know you.
In this age of instant gratification, people want what they want when they want it, which opens the door for irresponsible breeders to cash in. Irresponsible breeders don’t do the health testing, don’t follow up on their dogs’ lives, and don’t pay attention to the standard, the “building code” of their breed. And breed their dogs often, regardless of the health consequences.
In French Bulldogs, this is apparent in the “rare” colors, like blue or merle, that irresponsible breeders are selling at a premium. The colors they’re touting as “rare” are not part of the Frenchie standard because they’re associated with health problems. The “black and tan” coloration isn’t part of the standard because it’s genetically dominant (think Doberman Pinschers). In short order, all dogs would be black and tan.
Every breed has a “parent club” that sets the standard. These are responsible breeders, joining together, to set the code for their own dogs. And all members of the club are required to sign a code of ethics to protect their breed. Anyone with intact dogs can have puppies. But do you want “anyone’s” puppy?
Responsible dog breeders are in it for the good of the dogs – all the dogs. Almost all the breeders we know are also involved in rescue organizations for their breeds. And almost every breed club has a rescue arm they support. Most breed clubs also fund health studies and research to solve their breed’s issues. They’re part of a community of dog lovers. If there’s a breed you love, do an internet search for “ XX breed club of America.” You’ll find it, and a list of responsible breeders across the country. You’ll also see the research they support, the outreach they do, the education they provide, and the events they sponsor. It’s lots more than just having puppies.
No horse in the race
Why do we care? We’re not dog breeders at all. But we think it’s important to support people doing it right.
We have friends who say their favorite breed is “rescue.” That’s a wonderful option, for those whose choice it is, even if you want a pure-bred dog. There are breed-specific for almost every dog breed.
But it’s not everyone’s choice. Everyone has the right to choose.