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Puppy Sellers - Breeders, or ???

"The reason people breed Labradors is that they're the most popular breed and that they make lots of money having puppies, right?"

WRONG!--but, unfortunately, right in some cases also. How can this be?

The truth is, there are breeders and there are breeders. On the high end there are a number of serious hobby breeders (this is true of any breed) whose main purpose is to breed the best dogs they possibly can and who do so in an effort to improve their breed and enhance the qualities of that breed. Money is not a consideration for these breeders in that they are willing to spend what it takes to keep their own dogs healthy, participate with others in the enjoyment of various dog-related activities, and maintain the highest standards of breeding knowledge and ethics. They study genetics, pedigrees, canine behavior (important in order to breed the correct temperament), health-related issues, and more. They invest a tremendous amount of time and energy in their dogs and in becoming as knowledgeable as possible about their breed.

The next category is what responsible hobby breeders refer to as "backyard breeders". These are individuals who breed for a variety of reasons ("I want one just like my PreciousDog" or "I want the children to see the miracle of birth", etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum...). They are not necessarily bad breeders intentionally; but they haven't invested the energy and time required to know how to go about it in a way which minimizes problems with the offspring and sends puppies to happy, loving homes. These "breeders" are horribly naive. Their puppies are normally the ones you see advertised for less money than the hobby breeder charges (who is just breaking even, usually), and they are also one of the major contributors to the presence of pure-bred puppies in animal shelters. However, not all is lost with this group. Many of them can be educated to either do it responsibly or not do it at all.  Before I became “educated” in what responsible breeding was, I actually did a breeding of my pet dachshund because “I want another one just like her”… OMG, I can’t believe I just told you that!

Before I get to the worst category – the true puppy mill, or puppy farm – let me warn you of another.  There are what I refer to as “backyard breeders with credentials”. These are show world people who may have earned a reputation by winning some major specialty shows over a number of years. They may have become household names, revered as top breeders by the uninitiated. That is, until you visit their facilities and discover that all those ribbons are surface painting which, when scraped off to expose what is under the surface, reveal conditions that are far from what the rest of us have come to believe were possible.  Upwards of 50 dogs, filthy conditions, clearances either not done or falsified by having them performed on a “ringer”, etc. On the other hand they may have only a handful of dogs. The important thing here is that a label of “backyard breeder” does not depend on how many dogs there are – it’s all of the factors taken as a whole. Some people can manage 20 plus dogs and do everything in the world right – truly caring for every single one. Others can’t manage a third of that responsibly.

The last category represents the worst of all possible scenarios - the true puppy mill, whose only motive is profit. The practices of these "breeders" are sickening, disgusting, immoral, and -- unfortunately -- legal in several mid-Western states. They keep dogs in incredibly unsanitary conditions, seldom use vets, breed bitches on their first cycle and on every cycle after that until the poor creature is totally wasted and then they unceremoniously destroy her -- they won't keep or feed a non-revenue-producing animal. These people provide most of the puppies found in pet shops; it's one of the major reasons responsible breeders won't be caught dead in a shop that sells dogs (cats either, for that matter -- and usually no pets at all!).  The link below is an investigative report that describes the beyond horrific conditions that existed in one commercial puppy mill. This place was actually inspected and licensed by the US Department of Agriculture.

Pick of the Litter Kennels - Investigative Report

Another danger lurks in what reputable breeders would consider a puppy mill cloaked in an imposter's costume of respectability.  In one of these, there were over 30 breeds, litters available all of the time, they shipped anywhere to anyone who sends in the cash. Although they made liberal use of some "buzz words" to make you think otherwise, the absence of things like OFA and CERF clearances on breeding stock, screening of buyers, and promoting puppies as breeding stock speaks for itself.

So with all this going on, how can you be sure that you are not getting yourself into a sad situation when buying a puppy? There is a treasure trove of truth in the words, “buy from a responsible breeder”!  Do NOT purchase from a pet store – their stock comes almost exclusively from commercial puppy farms like the one described above. Do NOT buy a puppy around a holiday UNLESS you have already established a relationship with the breeder and both of you are comfortable with each other. Puppies are not Easter chicks or Christmas stocking stuffers. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you get comfortable with your breeder. Visit if at all possible, and meet the dam – she is where much of the temperament of the puppies will come from. Don’t be put off, necessarily, if the sire is not on premises. He may well live hundreds of miles away and this typically is a sign of a well-planned breeding. A responsible breeder will willingly answer questions, explain their breeding program and practices, and will ALWAYS be there for you and your new puppy for the life of the puppy. And if you aren’t happy with the puppy/dog, or if a life change makes it impossible for you to keep the dog, the breeder will ALWAYS either take the puppy back or help find a loving and suitable forever home. It’s what we do, who we are, and we could not possibly do it any other way.

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Originally created: 1996; Last Updated: May 27, 2018