Anybody can produce puppies, and does. Here’s how to find a good, caring breeder instead.
Find a Breeder Who Participates in Rescue Work
Finally, there’s my preferred route. Get in touch with breed rescue groups (search on your breed’s name plus “rescue,” or find rescue groups through the breed club’s site). Ask to be put in touch with breeders who always take responsibility for relinquished dogs that turn out to have been bred by them. Better yet, talk to the breeders who participate actively in rescue work. And find out, if you can, which breeders don’t take back their dogs. The ones who do are the ones who really care. You’ll still have to verify the breeder’s expertise, of course.
If you buy from a pet store, an Internet broker, or anybody who breeds to score beauty pageant prizes or to make a few bucks, you’re supporting the suffering of animals exactly like the companion you love. Yes, it’s a project to find a really good breeder. And the odds are high you won’t get a puppy tomorrow or next week. Some legwork and patience are a small price to pay if you want a puppy from someone who genuinely cares about dogs’ welfare.
Quick and Dirty Tip for Choosing a Good Dog Breeder
Last, here’s your guiding principle when choosing a good dog breeder: At every stage, ask yourself whether the breeder is behaving the way you would behave if you cared about the puppies you produced, and you wanted them to enjoy healthy, happy lives. If the breeder’s policies and actions don’t reflect such loving-kindness, go elsewhere.
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1. See Mark Derr, Dog’s Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship (Henry Holt, 1997), chapter 6, “The Ugliness of Beauty,” especially pp. 215ff. This is one of the best books ever written about dogs.
2. Many people in the working Border Collie community oppose AKC registration. Some Bulldog breeders, using outcrosses, say on their websites that they have attempted to produce what they call “Olde English Bulldogges” that (unlike AKC-registered English Bulldogs) are “free breathers, free breeders, and free whelpers” – that is, they can breed and give birth naturally and don’t suffer from respiratory problems. I haven’t researched these dogs and don’t know whether the claims made for them are true. The Wikipedia article “Purebred (dog)” also discusses the closed stud book/open stud book/registration controversy.
3. See the website of the Canine Genetic Diseases Network; “Purebred Dog Breeds into the Twenty-first Century: Achieving Genetic Health for Our Dogs,” by Dr. Jeffrey Bragg (Canadian); the website of the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, with a link to the RSPCA report on the health of pedigreed dogs; Michael D. Lemonick, “A Terrible Beauty,” Time, June 24, 2001; Jean Dodds, DVM, “Guide to Hereditary and Congenital Diseases in Dogs.”
4. Check out, for instance, these videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_z3fgk9bQw&NR=1 (German Shepherd Dog; watch how his hindquarters wobble and how at several points he’s walking on his metatarsals) and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIaM3hYFszc (starts with Dachshunds and Bull Terriers but mainly focuses on German Shepherd Dogs).
In the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the ridge is the breed’s most characteristic feature, but associated with it is a condition called dermoid sinus, itself related to spina bifida. Dermoid sinus is rare or nonexistent in Ridgeback puppies who are born without the ridge. In the UK, the breed club code of ethics used to call for ridgeless puppies to be culled – that is, killed. In the US, the breed club code of ethics doesn’t overtly require the killing of ridgeless puppies but seems to leave this decision up to the breeder: “When puppies with serious defects or faults (Dermoid Sinus, ridgelessness) are sold rather than culled, the breeder must take the extra responsibility to see that the dog is spayed or neutered.” In other words, the U.S. breed club’s ethical code permits the killing of healthy puppies because they don’t meet a cosmetic standard that is itself associated with a serious health condition.
5. See Straus, Mary, “Guaranteed Stone-Free Dalmatians? Yes! British Kennel Club Registers First ‘Low Uric Acid’ Dalmatian; So Far, the AKC Won’t.” The Whole Dog Journal 13:6 (June 2010), p. 4.
6. Cockapoos, Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Chorkies, and so on are plain old mixed breeds. The genetics are beyond my ability to explain, but in a nutshell, the difference is this. If you breed, say, Border Collies for generation after generation, you get dogs that look and act like Border Collies. The various kinds of “designer dogs” don’t breed true in this way (though some breeders are trying to produce a Labradoodle that does). To call these dogs “pure”breeds constitutes deceptive marketing.
7. The pet store staff may try to tell you otherwise. Laugh in their faces. Here’s a useful guide to “pet store doublespeak,” by the Humane Society of the United States.
It’s important to note, by the way, that many ethical pet supply shops provide space to local rescue groups or host on-site adoption events. This, obviously, is a good thing, although rescue groups also vary in quality – a topic for another article.
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