A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder

So, you’ve decided to adopt a dog and feel certain that a purebred is your heart’s desire.  You’ve done your research to be sure that the size and temperament of the breed you’ve chosen is the right fit for you, your lifestyle, and everyone else who lives with you (including both two-legged and four-legged family members). Now, what’s the best way to find this dog of your dreams? 

Here are some good options for finding your new dog (hopefully, we are in agreement that pet store and site unseen online purchases are not good options- see http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=710).  If you are open to adopting an adult dog, let the staff of your local shelter or humane society know what you are looking for- a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there.  I also encourage you to contact breed-specific rescue organizations (google the name of your breed along with the word “rescue”).  Life’s unforeseen circumstances (death, divorce, financial woes, etc.) cause many wonderful dogs to end up with rescue groups. 

Another good option for finding your new dog is via a reputable breeder.  (For the sake of my writing sanity and your reading sanity, throughout this article I refer to breeders with the feminine pronoun.) The word reputable is reserved for the breeder who is truly passionate about the breed she fancies.  Not only does she possess knowledge about the breed’s history, she knows everything there is to know about their inherited health issues (every single breed has them), temperament, and special needs.  She is a wealth of information about breed ancestries (pedigrees) and the reading material on her nightstand likely includes breed-related magazines. Compare this description to what is referred to as the “backyard breeder,” the individual who produces pups without giving significant thought to inherited diseases, pedigrees, conformation, performance, or temperament.  Their reasons for breeding have nothing to do with preserving the integrity of the breed; perhaps they want their children to witness the “miracle of birth,” believe in the myth that healthy female dogs must have a litter, or are naïve enough to believe that producing pups is a money-making proposition. 

Working with a reputable breeder provides the very best insurance policy that your new pup will have an ideal temperament and the genetic potential for a lifetime of good health.  So, how do you go about finding a reputable breeder?  I encourage you to attend some dog shows and local breed club functions to do some schmoozing. Take note of any consensus you perceive (positive or negative) about particular breeders.  Pay an online visit to the American Kennel Club (if you reside in the United States) and/or the national breed-specific association (i.e. Golden Retriever Club of America).  These sites contain referrals to breeders, but in no way guarantees that they are reputable- you still need to do your homework! Once you’ve created your “short list” of puppy providers, use the list below of a dozen simple ways to be certain you are working with a reputable breeder. 

1.  A reputable breeder insists that you visit her home and all of her dogs. In addition to the puppies, she wants you to meet their mother and, if they are on site, the sire and other relatives (aunts, uncles, and cousins).  She wants you to see that the dogs are not confined to a sterile kennel environment and that they have many opportunities for human interaction from an early age.  Additionally, this visit provides the breeder with an opportunity to see how you interact with dogs. 

2.  A reputable breeder will want to show you all the paperwork pertaining to her pups’ pedigree and health clearances (consult with the breed association to learn which medical issues are pertinent for your breed).  Not only does she have this paperwork for your pup, but for the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well.  She will take great pride in this paperwork as it demonstrates her quest to enhance the breed and produce the very best puppies possible.  She will be sending a copy of this paperwork home with you and your pup along with a binder full of other important documents: general information about the breed, breed related health issues, recommendations for obedience classes, grooming tips, results of temperament testing, vaccination and deworming history, record of veterinarian examination, photos of the relatives, and everything you need for American Kennel Club Registration (and you thought you were just getting a puppy!). 

3.  A reputable breeder will want to tell you about any significant health problems that have arisen in any of the dogs she has produced (no breeder is immune).  Not only does this suggest integrity on her part, it also lets you to know that she has stayed in contact with her clients throughout the lifetime of the dogs she’s placed. 

4.  A reputable breeder has more questions for you than you have for her!  You will likely be asked to fill out an application and provide references.  She will request a description of your immediate family, other pets, prior dog experience, house and yard (she may want to come for a site visit), time spent at home versus work, amount of money you are willing to spend on veterinary care, and what activities you hope to share with your dog. If you feel as though you are being interrogated, it is because you are!  The reputable breeder is looking for a single permanent relationship for her pup; she will readily decline a new home that she feels is less than ideal.  Keep in mind, she is well versed in her breed’s best and worst qualities, and knows that these traits are not well suited to every individual and household.  By the way, you will not be allowed to choose a puppy from the entire litter.  The reputable breeder rarely produces more than two or three litters a year and most of the pups will be spoken for well in advance. If she does not have a pup that is right for you, she will gladly refer you to another reputable breeder. 

5.  A reputable breeder is in no hurry to send her puppies off to their new homes.  They may even be held a few weeks longer than the traditional 6 to 8 weeks of age during which time she continues to evaluate each pup to determine which are show or performance prospects.  She will also continue to evaluate the personalities of the pet-quality dogs for more successful pairing with prospective buyers. 

6.  A reputable breeder is happy to provide you with references including people who have purchased her puppies in the past, other breeders, and the veterinarian(s) who cares for her dogs. 

7.  A reputable breeder will ask you to sign a contract that details not only what she expects of you, but also what you can expect of her.  The contract will include some form of health guarantee and, with rare exception, will require your agreement to neuter your pup at the appropriate age.  The contract will also spell out your breeder’s ongoing involvement throughout your dog’s lifetime. She will be an enthusiastic source of support and advice for you, and will want to be informed about any significant health issues that arise.  Not only might this health feedback influence future breeding decisions, she will want to provide a “heads up” to the people who adopted your dog’s littermates.  Additionally, if for any reason and at any age, your dog needs to be “rehomed” the reputable breeder will want to be involved in the process. She would never want one of her dogs to wind up in a shelter or passed from home to home. 

8.  A reputable breeder does not accept credit cards.  She simply doesn’t sell enough puppies to make this worthwhile. 

9.  A reputable breeder sends her pups to their new homes via automobile or within the passenger compartment of the airplane accompanied by a responsible human.  They are never transported in the baggage compartment of an airplane.  

10.  A reputable breeder works with one breed, or occasionally two.  She truly has a love affair with the breed and has focused a huge amount of her time and energy researching all of its particular nuances. She views “designer hybrids” such as Labradoodles (Labradors crossed with Poodles) and Puggles (Pugs crossed with Beagles) to be no different than any other mixed breed of dog.  They detract from, rather than enhance the breed she loves so dearly. 

11.  A reputable breeder shows her dogs in American Kennel Club recognized conformation shows and/or breed-related performance events (obedience, agility, hunting tests/field trial, tracking, herding, etc.). Her dogs may earn AKC good citizen certificates. All of these are clear-cut way for others who are knowledgeable about the breed to evaluate her dogs.  The breeder’s pride will be evident when she shows you the certificates and trophies detailing the accolades and accomplishments of the dogs she’s produced. 

12.  A reputable breeder has a job other than breeding puppies (unless she happens to be independently wealthy).  Breeding pups to pay the mortgage and put groceries on the table inevitably leads to making poor breeding choices.  As one of my colleagues recommends, “Ask the breeder if they make money breeding dogs. If they say, ‘no,’ or better yet, laugh while saying no, you can figure she is a decent breeder.”   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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23 Responses to “A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder”

  1. Betsy Calkins, CPDT-KA says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I would like to add a very important point to your list. Perhaps you left it off because it seems so obvious. But it is one that has been a problem recently in our area.

    A responsible breeder (or rescue group) will not encourage an owner to adopt two sibling puppies. We will be covering this subject in our February meeting of the Southern California Dog Trainers Forum.

  2. patty klein says:

    (website under construction) great article, there’s always something missing, it’s human! comment about the efficacy of AKC shows being a “source” of info: kiss of death for Border Collie breed, they will turn out to be “clones” in lieu of the working dogs that make them so magical. maybe the working dogs should also have to prove their work before they get ANY initials after their names! and, the obvious — G. Shepherds — yuk at what they look like at the shows. I would not want one of them (and I love the breed when it is true to real sheps)

  3. Elizabeth & The Lab Crew says:

    Greta to all breeders I suggest this, “Breeding means you enter your breed’s gene pool and leave footprints for eternity! Take care that the footprints you leave are worthy of being followed!”

  4. Sarah Smith says:

    Do reputable breeders ever ask their dogs “Is this what you want?” Do you want to put your body into a high risk situation, sometimes even at the risk of death, to provide me with puppies to sell for money? Do you want to spend your days getting pregnant, having babies, and watching them get ripped away from you one by one into the great unknown? I suspect they would respond, Please, no, don’t do this to me. The world is full of so many dogs and puppies being put to death. I don’t want to create more and more, and I don’t want to see my babies sent off to people and places I don’t know. I wouldn’t do this to you. You say you’re reputable, what does that mean to me? You’re my owner, using me on your behalf, is that really reputable ? If only we could ask these creatures what they would want.

  5. Pat Floss says:

    A wonderful summation of how to find a responsible breeder of purebred dogs. I would agree that not all pure breeds are AKC-registrable; and if one lives in Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club would be the registry of choice.

    I have only bred one litter; of Welsh Springer Spaniels (I had a smart, adorable, major-pointed and health-tested bitch; whose championship I finished eight months after the pups were born), back in 1996; and did my best to do so responsibly. I did not put mandatory spaying and neutering into my contract; because at the time I felt this should really be the buyer’s decision; but I did discuss the matter with every potential buyer and strongly encouraged spaying of the pet-quality female pups. The buyers were uninterested in showing and spayed the females before their first heat. I sold all pups but the pick female with AKC Limited Registration. As it turned out, all the male pups were neutered. Most importantly, the pups all went to loving homes; I am still in touch with a few of them. The pick female, who the co-breeder and I kept, though she turned out not to be show or breeding quality, died in my arms last April.

    I now have a lovely intact (and Ch.) male English Cocker Spaniel; and have noticed that all the English Cocker breeders I investigated had, in their sales contract, a provision requiring the spaying/neutering of all pet-quality pups.

    Laurel Hunt – I know your Alex’ breeder; and she is a very dedicated and responsible breeder; honest and extremely knowledgeable as well. I’ve met some of her lovely dogs as well.

  6. Elizabeth: Please note that I did not claim “hybrid vigor” necessarily occurs. I said buyers may be hoping for it since illness problems in purebreds are skyrocketing. Whether they are correct, they clearly want it. And if the two breeds do not share a lot of genetic problems, in fact the offspring are likely to be healthier. Not the case with Labradoodles, since they share quite a lot of genetic issues including allergies and similar orthopedic problems. However, there are other intentional mixes that are tremendous pets or are terrifically functional as sport or working dogs, and suggesting that their breeders can’t possibly be good because the dogs aren’t purebred makes no sense.

    Cynthia: I actually challenge the idea that it’s a good idea to breed “to the standard.” The standard is a completely artificial proxy for alleged health and working ability. MANY conformation champions have neither health nor the ability to work. Breeding “to standard” functions to narrow an already-closed gene pool based on NON-functional characteristics… sounds like a really bad idea when put like that. If you breed a dog that actually IS healthy, and actually DOES function well, then you get healthy dogs that can function… amazingly enough. Trying to breed to standard ultimately gets in the way of this. If you actually breed healthy, functional dogs, then you don’t need the standard to tell you how to try to get the same result indirectly; and the only remaining purpose of the standard is to provide the rules for a game in which the stakes are dogs’ lives and peoples’ egos (i.e. conformation showing).

    I’ve recently had a very long discussion about this on another list and don’t have the energy to repeat it. I hope those who actually care about this will go to the trouble to read what *actual scientists* who understand individual and population genetics have to say about dog breeding. They agree with me — or, to be fair, I have come to agree with them — and think conformation breeding is nuts. Ultimately conformation breeding is very, very bad for dogs. The fact that it is fun for some people does not, to me, morally justify the damage it does to dogs. You might check out Coppinger, R&L, Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution.

    To bring this back to picking a breeder, I suggest choosing a breeder functionally rather than by relying on symbolic achievements that are supposed to, but do not necessarily REALLY, prove health and so on. There is literally nothing about membership in a kennel club or breeding to a standard of appearance that makes for a better, healthier pet. There is a very good reason that breeders of actual working dogs do not belong to conformation kennel clubs such as AKC!

    Greta Kaplan
    Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
    Certified Pet Dog Trainer
    Companion Animal Solutions
    Portland, Oregon USA

  7. Lisa Hudson says:

    I wish “reputable” breeders would give breeding a break while this economy is so bad, and so many millions of dogs are being abandoned from people losing jobs and homes. I not here to say bad things about breeders, or good things, Im just saying with the state that we are in, and so many animals in dire situations, they should halt their breeding and not contribute to the animal population.

  8. Cynthia says:

    Great article Dr. Kay, thank you for posting it.
    I would like to add, that when looking for a reputable breeder, it’s not enough that they are aware of all the genetic issues that their breed can be predisposed to…..they should be preforming the necessary genetic testing on all of their breeding stock to make sure they do not carry these genetic issues, before they are even bred. If they test positively, they should not be bred. These test results should be made available to a prospective buyer. I am also a firm believer, that a reputable breeder should be showing their dogs to their AKC championships (if applicable) before being bred….how else would one know if they are truly breeding to the standard, thus breeding only the best specimins to better the breed. Because the bottom line to reputable breeders, IS bettering the breed.

    Cynthia
    Sacramento, CA

  9. Greetings,

    Joan asked about reporting back to breeders when behavioral issues arise in one of their puppies. I definitely encourage doing so, particularly if the behavior is seemingly in sharp contrast with the behaviors of the dam and sire. If other pups in the litter have similar issues, they may choose to reconsider future breedings and/or their early puppyhood socialization strategies.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy Kay

  10. Greetings,

    It sounds like, when it comes to the giant breeds, some exceptions might need to be made about traveling in the baggage compartment of an airplane. I would still encourage travel by car whenever possible (I realize that cars cannot cross oceans!) and would hope that any puppy expected to travel alone in the baggage compartment of an airplane would be considerably older than 7-8 weeks of age. Thanks to everyone who has responded to this article. While we may not agree on everything, I appreciate your passion!

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy Kay

  11. Joellen says:

    Great article, Nancy. I agree with just about everything you wrote. I also, do have to agree with some of the comments above, such as the comment about AKC breeders being more reputable. I think, it is only true if all the other criteria is met. I feel that the AKC tends to put too much emphasis on a look. Once a dog is bred to a specific look or ‘standard’, i.e., height, coat, head type, etc., the ability of the dog to do the job it was intended for is many times lost, along with solid temperament and health. I feel a reputable breeder breeds for solid temperament, health, and suitability to the job it was originally intended for, in that order. For a dog to do the job it was intended for, and/or be a good companion, it will need all of those attributes.

    When my clients ask my opinion about breeding, I tell them the first and most important attribute is solid temperament, then health. I also recommend they get the dog titled and/or tested for doing what the breed was intended for. Choose a mate who also meets this criteria. They also must be willing and able to keep the whole litter, no matter the size, if for some reason they can not find them suitable homes. They also must be willing and able to take any dog they produce back at any time. I also tell them that they should have people wanting their dog’s pups long before they breed, and should have a list with deposits, with back-ups prior to breeding. They must be willing to thoroughly screen potential buyers to be sure the pup will be going to a good life long home. If there are any genetic diseases/disorders they should have their dog, and be sure the dog they breed to, have been tested/x-rayed. I know it sounds like a lot, but it is no more than I would expect from myself.

    A good place to find out about genetic disorders/diseases that are detectable through DNA testing, and submit samples through a veterinarian, is http://www.optigen.com. They are always working on adding more tests all the time.

    Respectfully,
    Joellen Burton
    Certified trainer and behavior consultant
    Diamonds In The Ruff
    Sebastopol, CA

  12. Gail and the Clumber kids says:

    My husband and I had our first litter of Clumber pups (after 10 years of trying) and did not make any money selling the babes. We did the breeding for the love of the breed and hoped we would break even with the cost of taking care of the babies. Most Clumber breeders keep the puppies until they are 4 months of age. Our reasons for keeping the pups for that length of time is to ensure the babes have all of their shots and are socialize to the best of our abilties prior to going to their new homes. I purchased (I call it my puppy pouch) a human baby carrier that I used to take the puppies with me to meet the public. The pups visited Panera Bread, our local jewery store, the supermarket, our drugstore, a Hallmark store (where I bought some stuffed toys for them), a clothing store, a visit to my allergist and of course our veterinarian’s office. It was very difficult for us to see them leave to go to their new home, which is the most painful part of being a breeder. We will always be available to help the “parents” of our pups in any way we can and will always be repsonsible for the welfare of the pups. We also do genetic testing for specific diseases on both parents, prior to breeding them, as a way to ensure (as best we can) the healthiest pups are born.

  13. Elizabeth & The Lab Crew says:

    Greta:
    I have to say that I don’t have a good opinion of “hybrid vigor” when used as an excuse to breed “designer hybrids”.
    Labradoodles for example are showing up in larger numbers with Addison’s disease, carried both by the standard poodle and by the Labrador. The breeders I have seen with these dogs are not doing their homework. Maybe a few are but I believe many are just taking advantage of the “current” dog trend right now to get on the bandwagon and make money.
    I am sure there are some out there who see this as a way to develop a new breed and may work for the benefit of the “new breed”. But the results I see of this “new breed” and I am only looking at one disease saddens me. You don’t just get the best of both breeds you also get the worst of both breeds.

    “Real Breeders” do their homework and do their best not to breed dogs with genetic diseases like Addison’s and I don’t care whether we are talking about hybrid or purebred dogs..

  14. I have already seen a lot of great comments here. I think it is difficult to make a general statement about what’s a responsible breeder. To me the first thing is that a breeder takes responsibilty for the lives they have produced in case the placement does not work out for whatever reason, without making it a personal issue with the buyers – the welfare of the dog should be the priority.
    In a rare breed like mine with very few available litters nationwide each year, it is not reasonable to require that buyers visit the breeder or pick up their puppy themselves, however the breeder should offer that people visit or in my case, I often refer interested parties to breeders closer to them to meet the breed even if the other breeder doesn’t have a litter or the person just has the dogs and isn’t a breeder. Most people do not have unlimited vacation time or money and I rather see them take time off when their puppy comes home and to use their money to buy a pet insurance policy. For me it has always been a huge turnoff if a breeder is too rigid and insists that a buyer jumps through countless hoops to get a puppy from them, I refuse to do it (jump through the hoops for a breeder) and I believe it drives people to the backyardbreeders who will hand over a pup no questions asked. There has to be a reasonable process to evaluate each other and to build a working relationship.
    I also completely disagree that getting show titles on a dog is a sign of a reputable breeder. Showing and show titles are a very superficial way to select for a certain look and in the case of most breeds, it has not done anything to improve the breed, in fact many breeds are worse off now than they were 100 years ago, one only needs to take a look at the show-type German Shepherd Dog, or the breeds who have so much coat now that their coat would prevent them from doing a job or the breeds who can no longer romp and run around because they will overheat and can’t breath, not to mention the many breeds who are considered “C-Section breeds” because they cannot give birth anymore.
    Accepting credit cards has nothing to do with whether a breeder is reputable or not, if a breeder has a farm or other business they may have a credit card account and why not allow a buyer to use a credit card to pay for a puppy?
    Health records and pictures of relatives is also not something that every reputable breeder has. First in the age of frozen semen and artificial insemination we can now breed to dogs that have been dead for 20 years or longer, much info and pictures just may not be available. In the case of breeding to a male that the breeder does not own themselves, pictures may also be hard to come by if the owner of the male doesn’t have a lot of pictures for whatever reason. In my breed we have an open studbook, which means we can import dogs from the country of origin to widen the genepool which is extremely important. This means that even the most reputable breeders will breed to a dog with little known history and no health testing on any relatives of that dog, and the dog itself isn’t even AKC registered. This is done to preserve our breed and to ensure it’s health and well-being for future generations.

    respectfully,
    Marlene Johnson
    Code of Ethics Breeder ASDI and ASDCA

  15. Thanks Dr Kay,
    Great article and well said. Our Club has been working on a document to put on our Club website in regards to choosing the right breeder and most of your points were covered in our document.
    I like to change the word reputable breeder to responsible breeder, and at the risk of a little brag, you just wrote abt me in that article as I follow with all your points. I also do not like to fly my dogs anywhere, without owner or myself travelling with them, and delivered a 12 week Mastiff puppy to it’s owner last year in Edmonton Alberta, 4 hours flight away from us, at my feet in the cabin.

  16. bob edwards says:

    With millions of dogs perishing in shelters each year, there is clearly an oversupply of dogs. This would not be happening if there were less breeders — be they reviled back-yard breeders, notorious puppy mills or so-called “reputatable breeders.”
    It is true that some breeders (let’s call them “reputable” for purpose of this discussion) have more integrity, are more serious about what they do, and more concerned about the impact of their “hobby” on the animals that they produce.
    But if animal welfare is the objective, then they are all part of the problem: Too many dogs are being produced and slaughtered because of it.

  17. sofie says:

    Wonderful article, very helpful. I would only comment that in this economy, accepting credit cards should not be a sign that a breeder is not reputable. As a small business owner (who used NOT to accept credit cards), a 1.75% fee on a transaction is a small price to pay for a qualified puppy owner. (On a $1500 pup, it’s only $26.25…less than the fee of a bounced check!)
    Always a pleasure to read you, keep up the good work.

  18. Laurel says:

    Thanks for this excellent list! I would also add that reputable breeders may know of adult dogs needing re-home. I got my first Welsh springer through a breeder re-home situation, and we had many happy years together. When he passed away I decided to get a puppy and went through the entire process you described (online research, talking to breeders, lengthy application and contract, etc). I was surprised to learn that the puppy would be chosen for me, not vice versa, as you mention in #4. The breeder sent photos of the litter from birth, weekly, which became a fun event in my office as my co-workers got to know each puppy by its markings. At 8 weeks the pups were evaluated and matched to their new homes. I could not be happier with my Alex, who fits my lifestyle perfectly. Although he comes from a top show line, the breeder said, “It’s more important to me that my puppies go to good homes than that they win ribbons.” That says it all. By the way, her web site, http://www.statesmanwss.com, posts her questionnaire and sample contract. This transparency is another sign of a reputable breeder.
    Laurel, celebrating the love of dogs at http://laurelhuntbooks.com

  19. While in general I find this outline of the responsible breeder to be excellent, I do take issue with the blanket statement that a responsible breeder will not ship a pup in baggage. That is simply far too broad a statement. Not all pups will be of a size able to be taken in cabin when they are of an age to leave home and join their new family.
    Please reconsider this.
    respectfully, Laurie

  20. Joan Mayer says:

    Thanks for posting this article on a very important topic – I will pass along this link to my readers as well. I especially appreciate number #1 (socialization) #6 References #12 breeding for the love of the dog/breed and not “to make money”. I’ve been hearing too often lately that folks out of work have decided to breed so they can pay their mortgage. Ugh!

    What are your thoughts regarding behavioral issues being reported to breeders from his or her adoptees? And then for that breeder to disclose information to potential or new adopters? Although the “nurture” factor has has a huge influence on behavior, if a dog is predisposed to certain behaviors, do you think the breeder should make this information known?

    Thanks Dr. Kay

  21. Normally I enjoy your essays, and there is some superb information in this one. I particularly agree that a reputable breeder will be eager to have you meet all of the prospective litter’s family members, will be eager to show you health clearances and records, will tell you about health problems in the breed and her lines, and will interview you extensively.

    However, I feel strongly that your emphasis on American Kennel Club registration is way off target. While I live in the US, my fantastically well-bred Border Collie is, well, from Canada. While eligible for AKC registration, her litter was quite properly registered only with the Canadian Border Collie Association. This is a simple example of why AKC registration should be not a sine qua non of “reputability.”

    But there’s more more. Not all breeds are AKC breeds. In fact, there are far more breeds in the world that do not have (have not sought) AKC recognition than breeds that are recognized by AKC. I don’t consider rarity a good reason to choose a breed, but if a puppy buyer is certain that a Spanish Greyhound is the right breed for her, how sad that your article is effectively telling her there is no such thing as a reputable Spanish Greyhound breeder!

    There are also breeds in which, *for very good reasons,* many breeders and fanciers and large breed clubs discourage AKC registration. These notably include the Border Collie and the Jack Russell Terrier, both popular breeds. There are a huge number of wonderful Australian Shepherds (another popular breed) that are not AKC-registered, but are registered with the Australian Shepherd Club of America, the largest single-breed registry in the US. These are just a few examples. There are also breeds where AKC-registered lines tend to be a lot less healthy than some lines from, for example, other countries: German Shepherds and Dobermans rapidly come to mind. (Correlation is not causation… but the correlation is very real here.)

    Finally, at the risk of raising eyebrows, I think your blanket condemnation of intentional mixed breed dogs is a mistake. This is a tough issue. There are numerous “intentional mixes” that seem to be bred because they have cute names or were just easy to produce. On the other hand, why do you think there is such a big market for these little dogs? I think it’s partly because people are tired of the numbing list of genetic ailments and lousy temperaments that are rife in so many breeds including many toy breeds. I think many people are hoping that “hybrid vigor” or at least the ability to avoid doubling up on undesirable recessives will get them a less heartbreaking puppy. If the purebred toy breeders cannot meet this need for whatever reason, why should people not seek a mix from a breeder who is screening homes, doing health checks, and choosing parents carefully for good health, structure and temperament? Additionally, in the sports breeding area, there are intentionally mixed breed dogs who can far outperform any comparable purebred, and with nicer health and temperament too. Many of these breeders select parents very carefully and with full health checks and so on. Many pure breeds are in deep trouble. They were all originally mixed breeds. Condemning breed mixing out of hand is just short sighted in terms of population genetics. I suggest educating readers about how to choose well based *not* on purity of breed!

    I just got home from a day at our large regional AKC cluster show. I am not anti-purebred. Professionally, though, I see enough dogs from breeders who meet all your criteria and still produced dogs that are behavioral disasters; their baffled owners tell me, “Isn’t he beautiful? He’s AKC-registered” (as the dog eyes me with intent). Some AKC breeds can’t be saved — there has been too much loss of healthy gene pool. Let’s stop making AKC registration a criterion. It muddies the water and keeps some people from choosing the right dog.

    Greta Kaplan
    Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
    Certified Pet Dog Trainer
    Companion Animal Solutions
    Portland, Oregon

  22. Excellent. Thank you Nancy, well said. We really cannot be picky enough when choosing a source to buy a dog, and the truth is that the vast majority of people producing dogs have no right to be doing so.