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Every month I am approached by dog owners of my breed who complain about how poorly behaved, how sickly, how un-trainable, and generally my breed is and how deeply they resented spending money on this breed. I listen patiently, but time taught me not to defend 'good' breeders, or explain to the angry owners how their own ignorance caused them to become victimized.
There are many myths that abound in the dog world. Unfortunately, each allows unscrupulous breeders to take advantage of eager, prospective, puppy buyers.
Here are some of the most common myths:
Registered dogs are good quality. Even puppy mills register their puppies and get the papers.
If the parents have papers, the puppy is a good one. Wrong. Actually, if the parent's papers do not have a blue boarder, then the puppy's parent is registered as "Not good enough for breeding." In many cases, these breeders show the parent's papers to prospective buyers, but explain that the litter is not registered in an attempt to save money. This is a lie. They didn't register the litter because the puppies are not purebred, and can not be registered. It takes less than $25.00 to register a puppy.
"You don't need to take breeding stock to 'dog shows,' because it is all political." Sorry, but I hate hearing this one from hobby breeders. I have been in the dog world for more than 20 years and have shown more than 4 breeds. Yes, when it comes to the BIG shows, or the Best In Show wins, there are politics involved. But, when it comes to getting the LOWEST award a dog can get (which is becoming a champion) there is little to prevent any breeder from showing and winning - unless they know their dogs are not good quality. All the title of champion means is that more than one judge considers the dog is good enough for breeding.
Poor quality parents = poor quality puppies. Many people believe they only need two purebred parents to produce good quality puppies. This is not true. Many hereditary diseases, like joint problems, are avoided by good breeders who understand bloodlines and structure. If the breeder thinks they can breed different body types together, and get consistently healthy puppies, they shouldn't be breeding.
If both parents are champions, the puppies are good. Again, buyer beware. It is relatively easy to make a good dog a champion. Hobby and unscrupulous breeders know this, so they finish one or two dogs (not most of them), and then con new buyers into believing that 'championship' is the pinnacle of a dog's career, instead of the lowest award it can achieve.
So, how can you protect yourself? Here are some helpful hints that will help you avoid ending up with a puppy you cannot live with.
Visit at least 10 breeders, before looking at a puppy.
Never let a breeder put a puppy in your hands, or tell you it will be gone tomorrow if you don't buy it now. In fact, most good breeders will not let you have the puppy after a first visit. Most good puppy owners do not take money on the first visit.
Never take your children when looking at puppies.
Contact the national breed association and ask questions.
Make sure the breeder does not consistently use males and females from their own kennel. The males most good kennels use come from top winning stock.
A health guarantee is only valuable if you, the puppy buyer, is willing to go to court. In many cases, they are not worth the paper they are written on. Instead, ask for the names of 5 - 10 people who have owned one of the dog's puppies for more than a year.
Ask the breeder for vet records showing when the breeder had the parents checked for hereditary defects.
Don't buy from breeders who always have puppies. Also, when it comes to kennels, bigger is not better. Large operations, even 'show' ones, are businesses. They are more concerned with income than the relationship between you and your new puppy.
Don't buy a cheap puppy. Find the average price of a puppy, and look for puppies in that price range. It is expensive, 'properly' raising a litter of puppies. And, it is easy for a good breeder to sell puppies. So, if a breeder is selling bargain puppies, then something is wrong.
Beware of breeders who breed their female pet. Rarely do they possess the knowledge needed to breed a good litter. More important, I have known about entire networks of people selling puppies, believing they are helping a breeder. Instead, these people are selling puppies for a puppy mill. No one will go to a stinky farm and select their puppy from dozen's of litters. No one is that naïve anymore. So, puppy mills have become very savvy, even buying 'show ribbons', to make themselves appear more legit.
If you can avoid these mistakes, you will reduce the risk of buying a poor quality puppy.
There are some facts I can give you. All the reputable, concerned breeders I have met have three things in common.
1. They love to talk about their breed.
2. They are not in any hurry to sell a puppy.
3. They only breed 1 - 5 litters a year.
Suzanne James is instructor of the online course "Pick the right dog for you" at http://www.universalclass.com. She ran a dog training school, and has shown and bred 4 breeds of dogs. Currently she breeds Chinese Crested dogs under the name Orchid Kennels.