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Finding a Breeder vs a Greeder

A well socialized Gowan Bernese Mountain Dog LitterI received a barrage of letters after last week’s column wanting to know what to look for in a good breeder so here’s a start:

Finding a good breeders usually starts with referrals from experienced dog people. There are a few sources. Area veterinarians are one. You want to know if they have any of the same breed you’re looking for coming through their clinic that they think stands out. While you’re at it ask them what sort of physical problems can be expected in that particular breed as you’ll want to match that with what the breeder depth of knowledge.

Another resource is breed specific rescues. They generally know who’s who and who’s not in the breeding world and might point you in the right direction as well as arm you with questions to ask. They might even have a “ready to go” dog for you. Yet another strategy is getting on line to a discussion group aimed at the breed with a primary focus on health. Lurk for a while to get a sense of who’s who and who’s not and then ask them questions. Nutrition lists are good too, particularly the ones into all home made natural diets. Even if you haven’t the time nor the inclination to do so yourself, or whether you agree with the philosophy or not, the raw feeders that breed are often top notch breeders and the raw feeders have their own discussion groups you can tap into.

You can learn a lot just by talking to breeders. They’ll want to interview you which is great but not necessarily a sign of a good breeder. You want someone that has been breeding at least as long as the normal life span that their breed of choice achieves and checks at least annually to see how the dogs have been doing physically and behaviourally.

You don’t care how well behaved the parents are or how many ribbons they’ve won as you have no way of knowing how much time it took to get them that way or maintain it so you want to talk to people living a similar lifestyle as you, that have one of their older dogs. Ask for names and numbers and be suspicious if they’re not easily located.

Ask what sort of problems they’ve had with dogs they’ve bred, if they say none find out what their secret is because the best breeders in the world haven’t cracked that nut. There is no such thing as the perfect bloodlines and the info about the breed you received from your earlier conversation with the vet will bear that out. Ask them if your vet can contact their vet. If not, why not?

On paper the “If there’s a problem with your dog, we stand behind our dogs 100% and will replace it.” guarantee may sound good but unless the dog actually dies it’s not much of a guarantee. It’s not a toaster. People can’t trade in their feelings, so for the most part it’s a hollow promise. I’d like to hear as a guarantee, “If your dog ends up suffering from a genetically passed trait, we’ll spay and neuter the parents so it never happens again and contact everyone that has pups from those bloodlines so they can provide early intervention care.

A sneaky question is to ask them if they make any money breeding. If they begin to laugh so hard they pee their pants it might be a good breeder. Breeding good dogs usually costs money. It’s done out of passion not for profit.

Another great clue is their yard. Have a look at the yard they let the pups out in and it looks like a junk yard that’s a good sign. They’re providing tons of sensory exposure when it counts most. There will be things to climb and balance on, squeeze under, climb over and noisy things to knock over. I’ve a whole book on this topic as it is critical for breeders and dog owners to apply before 12 weeks is up.

Good dogs might cost more money then greeder dogs but not always, either way the cheapest part of a dog is the purchase price.

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