Breeder Meter

Or how to tell a breeder from a quack:

We may not have a puppy available that matches your gender and/or color preferences or we may not be able to accomodate the time frame during which you plan to adopt a puppy. Or we may not be able to help you because you live too far away to meet with us. You turned to us for good reasons and we are honored to have earned your trust. You deserve that I point you in the right direction – even if it will not be a puppy from Camelot. 

I spent many hours on the phone every week coaching our own clients, catching up with old friends and checking up on our puppies and guiding Pug lovers to the right places. As much as I love to talk with other Pug enthusiasts, my time is limited as I split it between our family, my work as a freelance interpreter and our dogs. 

Being the German that I am, I have an immanent affection for rules and regulations, as well as standards and manuals. My ethnical and educational background simply dictates to find more efficient ways wherever I can. And I really do want to help folks find a healthy pup and have pointed many in the right direction, but I am not the AKC ombudsman and I am spending way too much time on my hobby already. So this is to lay to rest some of the half truths, myths and lies you may have heard. The following hints should help you make a decision for or against a breeder.

So, what makes a good breeder, and who is a BREEDER in the first place?

breeder is a fancier with a predetermined program to pair animals with the object to create a new breed or maintain and improve upon the quality of an existing breed under stringent criteria and standards.Breeding program: preditermined, goal oriented and intentional pairing of at least 4-6 females and 2 males with specific, desirable qualities. 

Anyone without a breeding program using less than 6 specimen, including of at least two males, thereby depriving themselves of any possibility to use the offspring for further breeding, thus solely producing for the market and for sale purposes ONLY, is a pet producer. Pet producers come in shape of puppy mills and backyard breeders

While keeping dogs in cages is very strictly regulated for puppymills, backyard breeders who did not have run ins with the dog warden before generally have no limitations and if they keep more than one male and several females together in the house, they will follow their natural instincts and show pack behavior. Pack dynamics entail marking and eliminating all over the house, bullying and fighting for supremacy if not constantly, then certainly during times any of the females is in season. This requires most keepers of multiple, intact dogs to keep them separated in cages or crates for extended periods of time. We keep our pack safe and controled in a fully climate controlled $65,000 state-of-the-art 12 kennel run with access to 3 separate 1/4 acre exercise runs and swap them frequently to keep 3 to 5 in our house at all times and we are fully licensend through the state of PA.

 Lets look a little closer at numbers: while a very large number of dogs and litters per year suggest that a breeder may not be able to take care of them properly, a too small number tells you just as much and possibly even more. At least now it should… 

What number exactly is too large can vary greatly, depending on the breeder, their profession, their support system, their living situation, even their health and age and other factors. Some can’t handle 6, others may be perfectly fine with 20 or 25 dogs. Many competitive show exhibitors own 15 or 20 dogs because more litters mean more winners and not every litter even has a Champion in it, despite of the ads you may have seen advertising a litter of 5 show quality puppies. Just as long as you don’t show them to a judge or a knowledgeable exhibitor or Havanese enthusiast…
Of course, if a breeder has 30+ dogs they are most likely no hobby breeder; the law actually draws the line at 26 when a breeding operation becomes a legal kennel and that includes every puppy produced during the calendar year, which means, a large number of backyard breeders operate illegally if they produce 3-4 litters during a year and have 8-10 adults.

So while it may be tricky to say which number of dogs is too large for a breeder to keep in a particular case and situation, there is a clear definition of what number is TOO SMALL but it can give you some insight about who you are dealing with: If a breeder does not have at least 4 bitches and at least two males, they can’t keep their own offspring and produce for sale and sale alone! Even at 4/2, they find themselves in a dead end within two generations and that might mean as little as 3 years.

Next to the number of dogs, the number of breeds is an indicator of how serious a breeder really is. If a breeder has 4 or 5 different breeds, he should probably make up his mind. Could it be that they are more interested in variety on the sales menu than their respective breed? If a breeder has only one or two breeds, but has frequently switched breeds, could it be that they are following market trends? 

Another important number is the $$$ amount a breeder spends on his breeding stock. Why? Because quality has a price and breeding stock is usually much more expensive than a pet, even if they are of similar quality. 

If a breeder spends $2000 or $2500 on a dog with breeding rights, he bought it from a mill or a backyard breeder. Decent pets from decent breeders start at around $2800-3000, in many areas more. The going rate for documented quality and health is around $3200-4000. However, for this PET PRICE, NO reputable breeder will give breeding rights. A well bred Havanese with full breeding rights will cost about 50% more or come with stipulations such as a puppy back clause.  

Ask your breeder where they bought their dogs and boldly ask how much they spent on them. 

Next to the selection of breeding stock from healthy ancestors and preventive treatments for preventable diseases, food is a major factor in producing healthy pups as well as keeping your puppy healthy. 

If a breeder recommends an expensive food such as Eukanuba or Iams which are commonly rated only 3 out of 6 stars in all reputable reviews due to questionable incrediences such as by-products (often “first class” by-products, alright!), wheat, corn, artifical and possibly carcenogenous preservatives and other cheap fillers, chances are, that he has not educated himself on the very basics. 

If they use Member’s Mark from Sam’s Club and insist that it is an excellent food: check the incrediences. Sure, it is the best food they sell there and there are a large number of worse foods available at super markets as well as pet stores, but it is NOT high end. 

If they recommend NutriSource Now and portray it as an excellent food, they haven’t done much research and they stand very much alone with their opinion -to which they are entitled to- but which is not backed up by the widely acknowledged facts of what makes an excellent food. Same is true for Pride and many other “Breeder favorites”. Brewers Rice is a cheap by-product and a low quality grain, although it sounds like a decent incredient; beet pulp is a cheap filler, known to cause bloat.  

Ask your breeder what they use for their dogs and to raise the pups and then check up on the food. If they cut corners and use cheap (or expensive yet low grade) food; well, you be the judge! 

If a breeder tells you NOT to vaccinate against Leptospirosis but does not educate you about the risks, they might just not know what the pros and cons really are. If on the other hand, they have not heard about immunization risks they are just as ignorant. 

Yes, there are risks associated with vaccinations in small breeds, especially the Lepto shots, however, the few reported fatalities in many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of vaccinated dogs may not justify the risks of the easily contractable bacterial disease which is transmittable to humans and causes irreparable damages. Besides, the allergic reaction due to the shots could have been controled and fatalities could have been avoided in most cases if treated in a timely manner. 

Ask your breeder what they know and how they feel about the issue and you will get a lot of insight into a breeder’s knowledge and an important clue about who you are dealing with. 

If a breeder tells you that they can not show you the puppies until they had their first shots you know that he’s a dilettante. A puppy is NOT safe after the first shots and a breeder is taking a calculated risk every time he shows his pups, however, the risks can be minimized and are rather miniscule unless you have, had contact with or bring along a diseased dog (or certain other animals). I suggest to get your breeder to talk about safety issues in regards to your future visit. 

By the way: a good breeder does vaccinations AT HOME. If your breeder does not give the shots himself and takes the pups to the vet at 5-8 weeks, they are taking a higher risk than they ever would by letting clients see the pups in their home environment. Guess what: a vet is a risky place to take an unprotected puppy. People with sick (and often contagious) animals go to the vet. 

A good breeder does the vaccinations at home, then goes to the vet for what should be a routine wellness exam. If a breeder does not do the puppy shots himself and goes to the vet for the shots, he is probably a bloody amateur. 

When a seasoned breeder takes the pups to the vet for the wellnes checkup, they generally do that for the buyers. If the pups have worms, a hernia, fleas, a soft spot in the cranium, weak, lose knees or a respiratory infection, the breeder already knows that. The only thing breeders usually don’t do, is listen for heart murmurs. Other than that, nothing the vet has to say will be a surprise. A few things may need to be confirmed under the microscope. 

A real and seasoned Breeder knows nearly as much about the anatomy, medical issues and diseases of their breed as a vet does. Breeders, especially Pug breeders, have to have certain drugs and medications at hand. Of course, most are prescription. If something goes wrong during whelping -and it often does- the breeder is the first responder. He has to have some medical and anatomical knowledge, has to have certain abilities, skills and experience. Why should you concern yourself with these questions? What it means for you is that you can find out who you are dealing with.  

Think of the car salesman who has to grab the broschure to tell you if a car has side airbags or 4 wheel drive. My surgeon better not grab the handbook before he makes the incision. 

If a breeder does not know what dopram is, or oxytocin, or never used it, he either doesn’t have his vet’s faith in his judgement to have the drugs at hand and in his ability to administer it (at the right time and after the proper examination of the birth canal), or they don’t have a good report and history with their vet. What does that mean for you? You can ask if they ever had to use oxytocin on their dogs and if they do the puppy shots themselves. The answers can be telling and should be another hint for you as to whether you are talking to a serious breeder or a backyard nitwit. 

If a breeder tells you they don’t worm the pups because they can’t have worms because the parents are worm-free: BS.

Some worms are dormant in the mamary glands where gastrointestinal worm treatments don’t reach. The mother will not show any clinical signs and will even produce a negative fecal test result. The pups ingest the worms with the milk. 

If a breeder sells unlimited (with full breeding rights) to just about anybody: Chances are they are more interested in monetary gain than the welfare of their dogs and the soundness of the breed. My advice: ask if they sell on spay/neuter contract. If they don’t, then they don’t care; if they don’t UNLESS you pay the extra $$$ then they care about one thing only: their own wallet.

If on the other hand they may consider unlimited rights depending on your history, intentions and credentials, you are more likely dealing with a true breeder. Most likely and certainly if you are not a seasoned breeder yet, they will only consider full rights if you are willing to show and they will often not sign the dog over until the championship was achieved. There will most likely be some other stipulations. You can also start by asking if the price is for limited or unlimited registration. This is another true litmus test! Make use of it. 

As I explained on different occasion: many people don’t realize that not just anyone with $3000-$6000 to spend can buy a high quality dog from a high end breeder WITH BREEDING RIGHTS. Money can usually buy you a PET, but to buy royal lines from the people who guard them, namely high end show exibitors in 95% of all cases, you need clearance first.

And if you are welcome into “the unlimited club” without invitation and special references, just based on the amount you are willing to spend, you are not getting the real deal and in most cases you find yourself dealing with entry level lineages, breeders and wannabees. 

Unlimited funds of course, will probably open any closed door. Most high end breeders however, carefully select whos $$$ they accept (and in many cases $3000 is not enough for this breed). This does not mean that you will have to spend this kind of money on a pet, but it should give you an idea what separates the chaff from the grain. What it tells you is whether or not you are dealing with a professional. 

I have some dogs, that I had to negotiate over for 18 months, with the help of breeder colleagues lobbying on my behalf and vouching for me because my name alone was not good enough. It is both, a humbling and an elevating experience, and it is only then that one notices the wide range of experience and expertise from novice breeder and quacks on one side and seasoned breeder establishment on the other. Although I have to say that some breeders need to be a little less snotty. 

This one is sort of common sense: If a breeder does gives no or only a short term warranty (like a one or even a two year warranty) and they make excuses that there are no guarantees anyway and they explain over a page and a half what an oxymorron the word “guarantee” in context with a living being is (yes, you know who you are!): ask yourself what the problem is. Do they know something about their lines that you don’t? 

If a breeder does not want to meet you at their home and has a P.O. Box so that you can’t do a drive by: well…. 

Now, we do meet people to shorten their trip for delivery, but anyone who wants to visit is more than welcome. And nobody will receive a puppy from us whom we have not met face to face.