As a trainer I am blessed to be in the lives of many families who have trained with me again and again over many years as they add new pups to their families.
As part of that same relationship that we build, I often get asked about where to get a puppy. When my families come to me, they are generally coming to me to add a new pet to their family, not looking for their next competition or show dog…though that does happen too.
Funny enough, my answer is always the same, regardless of WHAT you want your puppy for.
Going to a reputable show breeder is the answer. At the point that I mention a show breeder, many put up their guard and tell me that they “only want a pet”.
That gives me the opportunity to educate. The difference between a show puppy and a pet puppy, from the same litter can be miniscule. It could be as an ear set that is just a little low, or maybe the ears are a little too big. These things can make a difference in the show ring, but not as a loved family pet.
Did you know that out of a litter of puppies, one, MAYBE two will ever make the cut for the show ring? The rest are destined for pet homes.
So why pay for the purebred pet from a show breeder? Because these puppies have a higher chance of being healthy, and more likely to have sound temperaments.
A reputable show breeders’ goal is to better the breed on a whole, they take the time to research lines and do the necessary health screenings PRIOR to ever considering a litter.
The amount of time and love that goes into producing their puppies in unparalleled.
With that said quality breeding isn’t an absolute guarantee, not all defects are genetic, and not all genetic defects are a simple pass or fail test.
What these puppies do have going for them, the cards are stacked in their favor. The generations of genetic and temperament testing come into play. Long term we want a dog who can physically stand up to the test of time, not one that will break down early due to poor genetics.
I personally learned this lesson many years ago, long before I knew better. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we decided to add onto our dog family. We had already rescued Maddy, my heart dog. She was literally running wild with a pack of dogs, having been dumped out by our then family ranch. She is another story.
We had just purchased our first home (which just happens to be the same home we are in today) a small home on 2 acres. We wanted to add another big dog to our home and so I looked for a local “breeder”. All those years ago, I had no idea what to look for. I had no idea what a “back yard breeder” was. Sadly I learned all to quick.
When we added Broster to our home, he was the cutest little Rottweiler puppy you had ever seen. We were able to choose him from 12 other puppies, never did we see the parents, nor did I know to ask.
As Broster grew, we jokingly called him Clifford…like the Big Red Dog in the children’s books. He just kept growing and growing and growing. He was the height of a small Great Dane.
Now all this does not seem horrible, but sadly by the time he was three, he was having joint issues, and was full blown dysplastic in the hind. This was a dog that first taught me to love the sport of carting. Which he was unable to do by the time he was four due to his poor conformation.
We lost Broster just shy of his 5th birthday to osteosarcoma…bone cancer.
Do I think that the cancer was caused by poor breeding? Not entirely.
Do I think that poor genetics played a part in? Absolutely!
Broster taught me to do my research, as in REAL research. To learn the genetic problems in the breeds that I love, to learn how breeders do their best to breed away from these problems and so much more.
Did you know that genetics also plays a BIG part in temperament?
We all want a dogs that is structurally sound long into their senior years, but if we don’t have a dog that is also sound in temperament, then that is also a huge problem.
Reputable show dog breeders work hard to ensure that their dogs are mentally stable to be groomed, handling by strangers, deal with dogs and people they don’t know, and work under pressure. This is all temperament.
As a professional trainer, who specializes in behavior issues, I see way too many cases of dogs with poor temperaments. It can be argued that this is due to genetics, but can also stem from lack of proper handling and raising as puppies.
Yes, this is a thing! A reputable show breeder, spends countless hours handling their puppies, socializing them with different surfaces and textures, spends time litter box training them, so they are easier to potty train when they go into their new homes AND SO MUCH MORE. They want these skills for all their puppies, not just those destined for the show ring.
There is no shame in wanting your dog to be healthy, and to live a long and happy life. For me, this starts at the source. You need to be willing to do your homework, talk to people, talk to breeders, find out what problems the breed you love has, then find out if the breeder you are considering tests for these problems and breeds away from them.
By the way….my show dogs are pets first and foremost. Showing is extra in our world, our dogs are the center of our world, just as any good pet should be.
If you want an outstanding dog and want to bank your chances on one that is genetically healthy, with a sound temperament then only purchase a puppy from someone who is working at making the breed better. Not someone who just decided to breed their dogs because they could.
Ok, off my soapbox! But, I bet if you made it this far, I made you think!