I’m sure you’ve seen the #adoptdontshop hashtag. Maybe you’ve discussed your desire to breed with some friends and they gave you a look that suggested you were about to take a job on the black market.
There is no denying that there are a lot of dogs that make it to shelters, and quite a few that are in the care of rescues, in some areas there is definitely an overpopulation problem. It is highly likely that you’ll run into people who completely despise breeders along your dog breeding journey, so I want to give you a little more thorough background on the topic from a crusty breeder’s perspective. I want lay out the benefits of getting dogs from—and working with—honest breeders. I hope some of these discussion points will help you be a part of the culture change that is needed in the dog world surrounding honest breeders. It is my honest belief that if we do our jobs right as breeders, the shelters and the rescues won’t have jobs. The world needs more Honest Dog Breeders.
Alright, well let’s dive in:
First off, it is ethical and necessary to have honest dog breeders. Dogs have a purpose beyond making someone feel good they rescued a dog. Many dogs provide much needed support for their owners: they give people someone to come home to; they help people have a purpose, particularly lonely people who are isolated, often seniors, or singles, working far away from friends and family. They are also very helpful for those suffering from depression. They are a kid’s best friend, a jogging buddy, an alert to strangers, and a foot warmer in the winter.
Dogs aren’t just companion animals either. They have working purposes, too. They are bred for hunting, for detection, for police work, for service work as guide dogs and emotional support dogs, they do ranch work keeping livestock inline and safe.
Dogs have been developed to be fully integrated in our world. We have bred them for so many things and we need them in our society.
ENTER THE HONEST DOG BREEDERS – Dog breeders make this possible. You are not going to get the perfect hunting dog at the shelter, you’re not going to find the best guide dog at the rescue, and you’re certainly not going to find a great livestock guardian dog on craigslist. While there are anomalies, it is only through quality dog breeding that you find a source of dogs that live up to their potential on a consistent basis.
It’s not just consistency, either, there are so many reasons why people should buy from breeders:
Honest breeders breed with a purpose in mind and they have significant interest in improving their lines to make even better puppies. Puppies that are healthier, who execute their potential better. And breeders do this, over and over and over again, getting better with each generation.
When people buy from a breeder they do so to minimize the unknown with the puppy they are purchasing. It removes a lot of the fear and uncertainty of getting a dog.
1. they have less health issues
The worst thing for a child is to fall in love with a puppy who becomes ill or cannot live up to the child’s expectations, this is rampant problem in dogs that are adopted at the shelter as they were not bred with purpose, let alone screened for health issues. You pay more for a well-bred dog, but you’ll have less vet bills and fewer surprises.
After my ex-husband left for Afghanistan, I didn’t want to be in my apartment alone for the year, so I decided to adopt a dog from a rescue. I hadn’t articulated what I wanted, I didn’t have any particular requirements, I just wanted a companion, someone to come home to at night so I wasn’t alone. I picked up a dog from a large adoption event that the Detroit Zoo hosts every year. I picked out a golden-colored dog that had a sweet face and I felt a bond with. The lady whose kiosk she was at told me she was fairly sure she was house trained and that sold the deal for me. She was $175, spayed, vaccinated, and house trained back in 2009.
Fast forward 18-months later. This dog—who loved to chase squirrels—kept getting her knee stuck while running, she would limp a lot, and do all sorts of manuevers to make it fall back into place.
I took her to the vet who explained she had a luxating patella. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s where the ligaments that hold the knee cap on are often too long, and don’t secure the knee cap correctly. It is primarily found on smaller breeds, in fact, it’s a health testing requirement for my Rat Terriers. Well, my 40 lb. mix dog had this. The vet said we could give her essentially anti-inflammatory pain medication for it…well, I am not a big medication fan, and a lifelong of liver-damaging anti-inflammatories wasn’t working for me and my 3-year-old dog. I asked if there were alternatives. He said there was surgery through a specialist.
I took her to the specialist and to my surprise they said they could do it the very next day. The price tag was $3,900, and remember this was 10 years ago. I was blessed at that time in my life and I was able to swing paying that bill. As I was picking her up and asking the specialist how it went, he said it went well, that I’d need to have her in a sling, so she wasn’t putting any weight on her leg for 8 weeks. At the end of the conversation, he tossed in, “oh and there’s a 50/50 chance she’ll need to do the other leg in about a year.” Holy guacamole, this pup that I was whole-heartedly invested in, could potentially rack up $8000 in vet bills in the first two years of having her.
I understand you’re not always going to have thousands and thousands of vet bills with a rescue, BUT it isn’t uncommon to have surprises. Honest breeders screen for these things, so although there is a higher cost up front, buyers are reducing the odds of having these surprise vet bills and other issues.
2. when people buy from an honest breeder, they get a support network
Part of being a great breeder is always being available for phone calls and texts, this way your buyer is never alone in the care of their dog. This doesn’t mean you help pay for things, but you know your dogs and so when the owner is struggling with something or isn’t sure what to do in a situation, they can call to touch base. An honest breeder is a sounding board. As a breeder we have so much more exposure to our particular breed, especially our lines, and therefore, there may be little things here and there that we see a lot and we can offer guidance on. Just having that support, someone to talk about the problem with, can give the owner the confidence to take better care of their dog and not feel at their wit’s end.
Many people are looking through rose-colored glasses when they remember their family dog growing up. They remember how funny the dog was, the quirks, and how loyal they were. They remember them as adult dogs and quite frequently forget what it was like when they were puppies. They forget about them chewing on their shoes, they forget that had to learn to go outside to use the bathroom, and they never got the dog because it would be good for an instagram account. When these people get a puppy as an adult they have to relearn all these things and get through them. This is where honest breeders are so helpful. They can remind people of the quirks and difficulties that they are likely to encounter with the puppy and then provide solutions for them.
In a way, working with an honest breeder is like buying a car with a warranty and great customer service. You always have someone to call, you always have someone on your team.
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3. when people buy from an honest breeder, they know what they’re getting
Not only does buying from an honest breeder tend to lead to a healthier dog, but you have a much higher probability of getting what you wanted, a dog whose drive and temperament aligns with what the buyer is looking for.
Ever hear of a cross and you think, gosh, I wonder what that looks like?! Like a spotted hunting dog crossed with a fluffy livestock guardian dog? These breedings are intriguing because we are curious what a dog like that would be like. Many great breeds of dogs started the same way: as a mix of various breeds until the traits were brought out that fixed a problem humans had. However, the vast majority of mixes like this are accidents, the casual meeting of two lovers in the night. A product of hormones and opportunity.
Despite the unknown traits like eventual size and coat texture…the biggest difficulty in these mixes is the conflicted drives that the dog often inherits. Take the hunting dog mixed with the livestock guardian dog. Does it want to hunt the chickens or protect them?
Drives already account for many of the difficulties that owners have with their dogs, even when they are getting a well-bred purebred dog, as our lifestyles don’t often have a need to use the drives that the dog was designed for, but what if the drives of the dog are conflicted? This adds a considerable degree of difficulty to ownership. Avoiding this confusion is yet another reason for going to an honest breeder. The drives and needs are laid out, well-organized, and understood.
Honest Breeders know the type of people that thrive with their dogs and the type of people that struggle. We will get a phone call from people and they will tell us about what they are looking for in a dog and what their life is like and sometimes the red flags start to stack up. When this happens honest breeders have two avenues of approach: they can help the people understand that the type of dog isn’t a good fit for their lifestyle, or they can educate them on the parts of ownership that they haven’t thought through yet.
Often times, with my shorthairs people want them because they love the intuitive and empathic nature of the breed, but they aren’t prepared for the energy and athleticism that the breed has. In these situations, I like to explain the needs of my dogs, their quirks, the difficulties, and possible solutions. You can usually feel that light bulb moment when the person begins to understand more fully what they are getting and what their life would be like—good or bad—with one of my dogs.
It takes a lot of time, experience, and practice to really nail this process down, but that’s what Honest Breeders do, and that’s because success isn’t defined by the number of puppies sold, success is defined by the success of the owners with the dogs. It is bringing an owner and dog together in a way that improves the quality of life for both of them.
4. Honest Breeders have the financial resources to give their dogs the quality of care they deserve
As you get better at breeding, you understand the process better, you know your dogs, their needs, and you get your facilities designed right, the process of raising quality puppies becomes infinitely better, easier, and more consistent. This leads to making money beyond what it costs to raise a litter. This excess income provides so many opportunities to improve, learn, and maybe do a little spoiling with your dogs. It then becomes no question to feed a high-quality dog food, vet care is covered, the individual needs of each dog in the program can be met because there are the financial resources to do this.
5. Honest dog breeder will ALWAYS take one of their dogs back, at any point in their life, for any reason.
Because of this point, there is no reason a dog from a breeder ever has to end up in a shelter.
Breeders have a responsibility to the lives they have brought into this world and part of that is taking a dog back when a home they found doesn’t work out as was hoped. When breeders get a dog returned they can learn so much from the situation, whether that means they didn’t prepare the buyers well enough, the temperament of the dogs aren’t turning out the way they thought, or the buyers are not a good fit for the dog that was bred. No matter the situation, it is helpful information for breeders and we should take the opportunity to learn and adapt our breeding programs to make things better going forward.
On a side note – If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve sold a dog out of state or relatively far away and the owner wants to surrender the dog, often the breed rescues of the states can help you facilitate getting your dog back. You generally can call the breed rescue and they will be able to help you fly the dog back or meet you in the middle. As much as they often hate dog breeders, they will have respect for a breeder who is willing to coordinate this and they will help you. Oh—and if you aren’t familiar, breed rescues are rescues that specifically work with certain breeds and their mixes. This is helpful as people who want a dog from a certain breed can contact them and give them what they are looking for and they can keep a running waitlist.
Dogs deserve to be healthy and with a sound temperament that allows them to live a happy, quality life, with the humans who are taking care of them. The probability of finding this quality of health and temperament in a dog that was an unplanned breeding and is now in a shelter or rescue is slim. Yet, the probability of getting a dog like this from an honest breeder is high.
We honest breeders have it in our best interest to raise healthy and sound dogs, home them with families that will thrive with them, and then to continue to provide support for the life of the dog. If you aren’t holding up your end of the deal, you can bet your boots you’re going to hear about it, through phone calls, emails, texts, and bad reviews. Nothing hurts quite like giving a puppy to a family and later finding out it didn’t live up to their expectations. Honest breeders take that information and use it to improve their breeding program and produce better dogs.
In the end, remember that the world will always have a need for well-bred dogs, that honest dog breeders breed them, and when we do our job right, no dog will ever need to spend the night in a shelter again.