How To Select The Right Breeder
People often comment on our Facebook page about how they're picking up a puppy in a couple of weeks, or how they've just brought a puppy home from a great breeder etc. Then with a quick scroll through the comments, you'll find someone facetiously ask about the parent's hip scores and get met with "What are those?" Usually in those cases, these people did not buy from a good, reputable breeder. If they had, they would've done their research first. But with research scattered in every direction recommending everything, why don't we condense a lot of information in one article?
Don't get a dog from a pet store. Just don't. This is where puppy mills dump the dogs they can't sell. Buying from pet stores only funds puppy mills, and you'll probably be getting an inbred puppy full of genetic health issues.
Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss the three types of breeders in order of terrible to the only type you should buy from.
Type 1: As the famous line from Jerry Maguire goes: "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" These are your puppy mills and bigger backyard breeders. What's the difference between the two? A puppy mill just breeds together any two purebred dogs (or any dog on Earth with a poodle and names it something "doodle" or "poo" at the end) for the sole purpose of making money. They often keep dogs in deplorable condition and do zero genetic testing. They also typically give zero veterinary care to boot.
Bigger scale backyard breeders may actually be decent, yet uneducated people. They can have professional looking kennels that are pristine. Healthy dogs with a clean bill of health from the vet. They exercise, bathe and feed their dogs well. But that's only the decent ones. Average ones just have 4 or 6 pet dogs they just let mull around the house and breed and they sell pups for a little extra cash. Either way, most of these people do zero genetic health testing. Having a clean bill of health doesn't mean the dog doesn't have hip or elbow dysplasia. It just means you seem like you're not at risk of dying soon and visibly seem well. That is not good enough.
The few who do genetic health testing? Good on them! I mean it! But ... and of course there's a but, these are still dogs who were bred for no real purpose. Maybe they just want to breed pets ... sorry, that's not a good reason. Maybe they breed out of standard colors because people who care more about looks than the breed flock to them for white, blue, red, cream and any other assortment of color to have something "different." Not only is that not a good enough reason, purposely breaking the rules and breeding out of standard dogs hurts the breed.
As you can see, even the best intentioned of these breeders, while they may be ethical, aren't good breeders. They have no intentions of contributing to the betterment of the breed, or maintaining excellence, they're just breeding dogs and getting paid.
Type 2: These are probably the most common breeder. I don't count them as backyard breeders because they don't have 2+ litters a year. I call them "Myth Breeders." They breed because of some old wives tale about male dogs or female dogs somehow being "better" pets if they're bred. Or "Well ... one litter ... it'll be good for the kids to experience it!" Or "Well, he's just such a great dog, I figured I'd stud him out just once or twice and keep a puppy as payment!" They have some mythical ideas going on as to why they should breed their dog once or twice. "Well, he's such a good dog, I want a piece of him forever, and so I'll keep a pup." I promise you, the dog they think is such a great dog came from a breeder like them who said the same thing, or a puppy mill. They are very easy to find, and don't have to be bred to produce one "as good" as they are.
These breeders are also to be avoided.
Type 3: The professionals. These people know what they want. They have goals. They may only produce 2-3 litters a year, or they may produce 6+. They may have 2-4 dogs, or they may have 30. They only have 1 of 3 types of dog. American/Canadian/British show line, European show line, or working line dogs. These people don't breed for money. They breed to win shows, win at sport or training competitions. Or for police and similar types of protection, and detection and tracking work.
They get genetic tests done. Hips and elbows at minimum. They often have titled dogs, whether that be show, sport, training or working titles, but not always. Their facilities are kept up with, their dogs are healthy and from a long line of dogs with genetic testing and a long lineage of winning, competing and/or working.
These breeders know their type of dog because they are professionals. They are experts in their chosen type of dog. They can answer any and all questions you have about their lines easily, and they'll have documentation to back it up. No stories like "Well ... his father was a K-9," which is something 80% of German Shepherd owners have heard, even when their dogs came from breeders in the two former categories, neither of which have a working police dog anywhere in their lineage.
When you find a professional breeder, you've found the one for you. All you have to decide is what you want. Thinner, often timid, but makes a fairly decent pet American show line. A good looking, robust, black and rich tan/red German show line dog who is more medium than timid, in both drive and nerves, but can't fight their way out of a cafeteria food fight. Or a working line dog, who is going to have a ton of energy and take a lot more work than the aforementioned, but with training will be the German Shepherd of legends that protects it's family with its life! Because the other two aren't doing that.
If you want a good pet, go German show line. Want to show in the AKC ... well, that's the only good reason I can think of to buy any American line dog. Want a very active pet who is the same German Shepherd you would've found 100 years ago, or do you want actual protection? Then get a working line dog. And if you want the actual protection part of the working line dog, have $10,000-$15,000 set aside for the two years of training you'll need. What do you want? What do you need? What are you going to do with what you want? How much can you afford to spend to train to get what you want? What can you realistically handle? What do you expect from your dog? Be realistic, and be honest, but most importantly, always go with the professional breeder. If not, adopt. Don't put money in the palms of the other two types.
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