AMERICAN DOG BREEDERS - AN INTRODUCTION
When it comes to the selection of a household pet, many people feel threatened or limited in their choices by society’s negative stigma that surrounds dog breeders. Some people believe that if you do not get your animal from a shelter that you are somehow less compassionate, which is simply not true. In the first in our four part series on dog breeders, we will be giving an overview of the breeding industry and hopefully clearing up any wrongful negative associations regarding breeders.
The reasons an individual “goes pure” instead of purchasing a mutt from a shelter are his or her own, but they could range from personal history to specific needs. Whatever the reason, it should be respected and these people should not be attacked, like individuals have in the past, because of their choice in companionship. What matters is that they are good, caring pet owners who have animals that will fully fulfill all of their needs. Some ‘animal rights’ groups need to be reminded that their goal should be to ensure humane and ethical care, not to prevent or stop bred animals from reaching loving owners.
Please don’t misinterpret, we are not saying that you shouldn’t save a mutt from a shelter or that your mixed breed dog is any less than a purebred, there are advantages to both. We are simply showing the advantages and benefits to purebred animals and breeders in an attempt to clear up the negative stigma around the industry.
It is also important to note that pet breeders are not the cause of overpopulation. Well managed animals with owners that care about their well being (because they are a source of income if nothing else) do not contribute to this problem at all. There is an overpopulation problem because of irresponsible pet owners that allow their pets to run free and breed without any care for what that is doing to the overall population. Yet, 80 municipalities have banned animal breeding. This is the type of thing we are trying to stop, limitations on a thriving industry because of irresponsible people outside of the industry causing a problem and others misattributing that problem.
Some ‘rescues’ have opened to deal specifically in purebreds because of their popularity, but often have to purchase them from auctions instead of rescuing them from the streets; again, because purebred animals are not the cause of the overpopulation problem. But, if there are any bleeding-hearts who can only stomach adopting a shelter dog but still wants the predictability of a purebred, these are a relatively good choice. Just know that it is likely that the animal came from a normal breeder and was not ever a dog in need of ‘saving’ until it was purchased by the shelter. Also, the advantages of purchasing your animal from a reputable breeder with appropriate certification and papers far outweigh the psychological benefit of getting a dog from someplace claiming to be a ‘shelter.’
Nevertheless, there are some important things we need to consider about dog breeding and its importance.
The History of Breeding
Domesticated canines have been around for approximately 15,000 years. They have acted as assistants, protectors, alarm systems, hunting tools, friends, and have even been a part of our police force. Each individual dog is different in personality, and each dog breed is different in capability, temperament, and application to an individual’s lifestyle.
With 339 different breeds of dogs recognized by the World Canine Organization, it is extremely easy to identify the traits that have been bred into the different types of dogs, and how they have changed over the years to address specific needs.
Dogs are descendants of the Grey Wolf. In the early stages of domestication, dogs worked mainly as an alarm by barking when wild animals or strangers would approach the outskirts of the village or human settlement in which they resided. They scavenged their food from the communal garbage dump, it was a mutually beneficial relationship. They acted as a security/waste management combination, and their services were highly valued by early man.
Their value was inflated even more when humans began to use them as hunting tools because of their enhanced senses. The selective breeding process started soon after. If a dog had a longer coat in colder areas, was a good swimmer, extremely loyal, or great for seeking prey, they would be bred. This is what created the original breeds, and thousands of years before modern society dog breeders traded and bred their animals to create the optimal pets.
Although some were bred to fill specific human needs, even more were bred for companionship and looks. This resulted in modern show dogs and household pets without a tangible working application (If you do not know already, companion animals fulfill far different needs, those beyond what words or science can explain).
“The friendship between man and dog is one of the oldest and most lasting in history.” ~Simon & Schuster's Guide to Dogs
Although purebred dogs can better fulfill specific purposes and the history between breeders and their animals is one that is intertwined with the history of humans themselves, there are many types of breeders from which you can purchase an animal. Some of these sources can be considered ‘better’ than others; we will explain the differences between them.
Type of Breeders
1) Large Commercial Breeding Operations. These are sometimes referred to in a derisive manner as puppy mills, but in no way are all commercial operations mills. Most are licensed by the U.S.D.A. and raise puppies for pet stores, unlike others who sell directly to the individuals. They usually care for several breeding dogs and can efficiently manage way more than an individual backyard or hobby breeder. They are more effective with medication and general treatment and socialization of the animal because they have had more experience with the animals and can tell what they need and when they need it. They are often registered with the American Kennel Club or the Continental Kennel Club, and are a great choice to purchase a purebred dog.
2) A Backyard Breeder – Although not all ‘backyard breeders’ actually raise the animals in their backyard, the name means that the individual has a female dog and knows someone with a male dog, so they decided to let them mate. This is different from just letting your dog run wild on the street and accidentally letting it sire puppies with the neighbors. There are a variety of reasons that an individual could chose to do this, but since these breeders are mating their pet dogs, they are extremely likely to care about them and get adequate veterinary care for them. They are also likely to provide adequate housing, food, and attention for the animals. Yet, they do not have appropriate knowledge of the breed so it may be more difficult for them to care for the animal as effectively as an experienced breeder. They usually sell their pups locally without health guarantees or vaccinations. Purchasing an animal from a backyard breeder is sure to get you a great animal, but you are taking on a lot of responsibility and risk if you do so.
3) Hobby Dog Breeders – A hobby breeder is someone who has a decent knowledge of the breed, health risks, and care needs. They often keep up-to-date on the research and knowledge having to do with their animals and are constantly learning more about their chosen breeds. Many hobbyists choose their breeding animals based on temperament and health, and care deeply about the puppies they sell. They want to be sure their puppies go to good homes. But, as you can tell by the name, a hobbyist is someone who only breeds occasionally, maybe once or twice a year, which can meant they have less experience simply because they have bred less or less often. They can better incorporate the animals into their hobby by showing or training them, and with fewer puppies they are more likely to interact with them on a regular basis. Animals with ‘show capability’ are often sold for more, so if you are going to purchase a well-trained animal from a hobbyist, be ready to pay. You will definitely get your money’s worth.
4) Professional Dog Breeders – These are very similar to hobby breeders in care and knowledge of the animal. They are likely going to have several litters of puppies a year and treat the operation as a business. A professional breeder is more likely to have contracts to sign, health guarantees for their puppies, and provide a lifetime of support in the form of information and mentoring in all things related to their puppies, so it is a great investment. This is probably the most reputable puppy breeder on the market, and would just increase the value of your investment because of the guarantees and support involved.
Although there are sure to be unethical individuals in each of the four groups of breeders, they are all mostly good and reliable ways to get a purebred dog. You cannot condemn the entirety of the industry simply because of the actions of a few individuals.
Again, we must stress that you should not be pressured into purchasing an animal that you do not want from a shelter. It is not any more or less compassionate to buy from a breeder. Take your own reasoning into account and do not cave to radical individuals fighting the industry instead of the individuals who treat their dogs poorly. Beware, their pressure is so strong that they even manipulated ‘the most powerful man in the world.’
President Obama said in 2007 while he was campaigning in Iowa that his oldest daughter, Malia, would be getting a dog after the campaign was over. Due to her intense allergies and personal preference, she wanted a goldendoodle (a designer mixed breed cross between a golden retriever and poodle). Lobbyist and animal rights organization could not have that, though, and they sent a petition with 50,000 signatures to persuade them to adopt a dog instead of going to a breeder. PETA even wrote to the Obamas calling them ‘elitist.’ In the end, on September 30th, 2008 during an interview with Entertainment Tonight, the Obamas showed they cared more about their image than their daughter's wishes and promised they would get a rescue dog.
Most people won’t be getting a 50,000 signature petition when they go to make their selection, so remember that either way it is YOUR decision. Let’s erase this this negative stigma around a traditional industry that provides a great service to Americans!