Is Buying From a Breeder Bad?

By Joanne Soyke

Are all breeders bad???

I was walking in a parade a year ago for a shelter I support with my then new puppy. A shelter volunteer asked me nicely but with a bit of a pointed tone, “Do you feel bad about buying a dog from a breeder?” I didn’t skip a beat with my answer of “Not at all”. She was taken aback as I believe lots of shelter volunteers would be because they see the dogs being given up daily and don’t have an opportunity to see the other side.

Let me say that Clever is my 8th dog I have owned and my very first breeder purchase. Sage was my first dog who is now 11 and she came from a shelter. The other 6 all came from rescues. Honestly, when I got Sage I didn’t know what I know now and she’s the main reason I wanted to never quit learning.

However, I was someone who knew that I wanted a dog as a child and was always met with the answer of “When you grow up and get your own house, then you can get a dog!”. So the day came and I finally had my own place. After unloading the moving truck, my next agenda item was heading to the shelter and looking for a new dog. After doing some research, I went looking for a Golden Retriever reading that they were very family friendly dogs, easy to train and loved everyone. I ended up falling in love with an Airedale mix instead but the shelter was closing for the day so I decided to bring my mom back the next day to have a look (as I was renting a house from my parents, I thought it only fair).

Of course my mom thought she was too big and too much energy and urged me to keep looking. Two kennels down was this sweet, gold 6 month old puppy that ran right up to lick my hand. Love at first sight. I pet her a little in the meet and greet room and I was sold. My mom agreed and I headed to the front to start the adoption. The computers locked up and the front desk realized that another woman was trying to adopt the same dog. After a call to the shelter manager, I won since I already had an application in the day before. Boy did Sage become a lucky dog. I say this because she really dislikes kids and the other adopter had 4. She also ended up being way more energy than I was prepared for.

Over the next few weeks she ran laps around my house, ate the arm off of my couch, tore up so many pieces of paper I lost count and even though I had been successful at teaching her the basics, she was still a lot of dog to manage. I truly cannot imagine her in a home with 4 kids. Matter of fact, I can very much see her being returned to the shelter, sold or given away. So let’s just pretend for a minute that Sage was adopted by the woman with 4 kids. Let’s also say that in her first two weeks in a home that she did all the things I described above and managed to growl at the kids for grabbing at her. Who gets the blame in this situation? Is it the new owner for not sticking with it? Is it the shelter for allowing the dog to go to a home that didn’t work? Or is it the breeder that allowed her to be born?

I would really like to take a moment here to talk about a “breeder”. I’ve done rescue for the past 10 years and when I started, I was very much into the stereotype that if you buy a dog from a breeder then shelter dogs die. I know that is still a common thought as I see posts stating it on Facebook all the time. There are many different types of breeders out there and I think that educating the general public about them is where we really need to start. 10 years ago, most people had never heard the term “puppy mill” yet now we think it’s pretty common knowledge, right? If so, then why do people still continue to purchase puppies from pet stores? Why do people not think to inquire about puppies listed on the internet and where they come from? Just because most people reading this are very aware of puppy mills doesn’t mean your neighbor or your cousin has the slightest idea about them, or maybe they just don’t care.

Now let’s take the breeders who advertise on Craigslist, in the local paper and yes, even some on reputable websites. Whether on purpose or by accident, they now have a litter of puppies that they need to get rid of and they want money for them. These folks are the biggest part of education that we need to focus on. It’s pretty rare that these folks will dump a litter at the local shelters. They want to try to “recoup costs” by offering them at a discounted price similar to what it would cost to adopt from a shelter. Most of these folks have no clue about behavior or temperament and are really just looking for “a good home” and in the end, your money. They are the same folks that will have yet another litter in 6 – 12 months to sell. If you have any questions or issues you will be lucky to get a call back let alone any advice. These are the main puppies that end up at the shelter between 6 months and 2 years of age. I call these folks Backyard Breeders.

Now before you go and put all the blame on these folks, let’s stop and talk about the people who buy them. How many actually put in the time to train, socialize or basically make them into a well-mannered dog? Some do and some just wait until they can’t deal with the dog anymore and then send them to the local shelter or rescue. These are the dogs that you see that jump all over you, mouth and nip for food or attention and basically have no real skills to offer. So now we have the original breeder that sold the puppy but we also have the owner that did no real work to give this dog any skills to be successful in a home.

Now let’s talk about what I call a “good quality breeder”. These aren’t the folks who are looking for money. Don’t get me wrong, you will pay a good price for one of their dogs, but they make very little from puppy sales. They are spending the money on multiple OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) tests. They are testing things like hips, eyes, hearts and other genetic issues to make sure that the parents should not pass on any negative traits to their offspring. Not only parents, but grandparents that have also tested clear as well. Any good breeder is also involved in showing their animals in one venue or another be it conformation, obedience, agility, hunting, herding, schutzhund or whatever that breed was designed to do. These titles aren’t just about letters with a dog’s name but putting lots of money where their mouth is and showing that they are breeding dogs that live up to the breed standard.

Not only that, but a good quality breeder will commit to taking back any dog they have produced no matter if it’s a puppy or a senior that for any reason might lose it’s home. I personally know a breeder that took dog’s back because she heard they weren’t properly being taken care of. She was at the owner’s house within the week and per her contract took the dogs back to her own house. She didn’t really have the room for 3 more dogs but she made it work because she was committed to these dogs for life. These are the same breeders that you can call 10 times a week for advice and they will give it. So again if you ask me “Do I feel bad buying from a breeder?”, I will tell you absolutely not! Clever’s breeder has introduced me into the world of hunting which I never would have even thought about. She was bred to do it and when I watch her out there searching for birds I get a huge smile seeing her so happy. We also email frequently and she is genuinely interested in knowing what I’m doing. She does this with all of her owners and it’s a commitment to be admired.

Bottom line is that this topic of breeders being bad is something that needs some serious education. Are there a lot of bad breeders out there? You bet there are. Are there a lot of owners out there who aren’t committed and would rather give up than take a simple obedience class to help? You know it. We need more public education about how to find a good quality breeder for those folks that choose to purchase a puppy. So before you make the blanket statement that all breeders are bad, step back and think about the folks who think all Pit Bulls are bad. Just as we say blame the deed and not the breed…please step back and apply the same principle to really ask why this dog ended up in a rescue or shelter in the first place.

CREDIT: Reprinted with permission of the author; Fur Better Fur Worse Dog Training, Rock Island, IL.