Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer beware!

I got a call from someone during the week asking me to help find a stud dog of a particular breed to cover his bitch, who was on heat. My first reaction was not to help as I believe that lay people should not be breeding dogs. Just because you have a great bitch (or dog) doesn’t mean that you should be breeding a litter from him or her. Chances are that only one (if any) of the litter might be just like the parent you are trying to replicate.

The call got me thinking about the business of breeding in general. I have always ecouraged people to buy puppies from registered breeders only. Their pups are more likely to be healthy, sound, free of hereditary diseases and have reliable temperament. To be honest, this is not always the case. Many respected breeders keep their dogs in concrete runs. Their dogs do not live as pets in their homes. They are not socialised or trained. They do not go out for walks and they never are played with.  Are these the dogs we want parenting our puppies? And these are the “good”breeders, remember? 

How many breeders can I honestly recommend? I believe that “breeding” dogs should be loved and cared for. They should live in the home as pets and be socialised regularly with people and other dogs. Only dogs and bitches who are confident and sociable should be bred with before you even look at health, soundness and hereditary conditions. The pups should be raised in the home where they learn to be part of the household, exposed to household activity long before they even come to you. Quite a tall order really.

Maybe I am living in cloud cuckoo land! Registered breeders who fulfill my criteria must be few and far between. Most people who are looking for a puppy of a specific breed are not going to be patient enough to do the research to find these good breeders. 

Another major factor is price. Well bred pups are expensive! Good breeders spend a lot of money on breeding stock often importing new blood lines from other countries. They also need to pay for the relevant health checks for their chosen breed. Then there is the cost of traveling to shows, health care and of course good (often imported) dog food. Not everyone looking for a puppy is prepared to spend many thousands of rands. 

Once you find that perfect breeder, there is a good chance they won’t sell you a puppy anyway. Reasons they may give  are your lack of experience with that particular breed, other dogs you may have, the fact that you work and no one will be at home with the puppy during the day, the fact that you may have kids or where you live. The good breeders are as fussy about where their pups go as we should be about them.  

Why do we see so many potential problem pups at puppy school?  Puppies who have health problems, are anxious and or reactive. I think it is because we have become a society that expects instant gratification. People are not prepared to invest the time (and money) into finding those great breeders. You want a Rottweiler puppy now? Pick up the paper or surf the net and you will find one!  There is such a demand for puppies of particular breeds that anyone and everyone can call themself a breeder. They can breed with dogs who are nervous or aggressive, too young, too old and kept in any conditions. They can raise puppies in a “hokkie”at the bottoms of the garden in complete isolation. They can sell off the pups as young as they like as the public will buy their stories of the mom’s milk drying up or the pups being weened already. They can even get a better sale and sell you two pups at once!

My advice to those who are not wanting to invest the time into finding that illusive breeder and then waiting for that breeder to have the next litter or cannot afford an expensive pedigree, is still to make a conscious decision not to support the backyard breeders and puppy farmers. We, the public create the market for badly bred dogs with all their health and temperament problems. As long as there is a market for their puppies, they will continue to breed. If you have your mind set on a particular breed, rescue an older dog of that breed. If  it has to be a puppy, visit an animal shelter. There is a population explosion of mixed breed pups, many waiting at shelters for the right person to come along.



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