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Breeders – Good And Bad

written by Carol Kufner
submitted by Judy Bohnert

The views expressed on this page are my own. No names of individuals or kennels will be mentioned. I feel this is an important topic and one that should be discussed.

Well, you’ve decided to purchase a puppy. Now where do we buy our new family addition? We do NOT, nor WILL we ever, condone buying puppies from Pet Shops. The origin of these puppies is always questionable and far too many Puppy Mills supply these Pet Shops with unfortunate puppies who have had a horrendous start in life. Many are ill and will not live a full healthy life. Besides, for every puppy mill puppy that is purchased from a Pet Store, there are literally thousands of unfortunate, ill-bred Dobermans that will take their place. It goes without saying, that the horrendous, disgusting, conditions that the adult dogs are subjected to in order to keep producing puppies is far beyond horrid. There are many articles written on puppy mills and a prospective puppy buyer would do well to educate himself on “What is a Puppy Mill” before taking one step into pet stores.

So now, it boils down to “which breeder (s)”?. How on earth will you know who is good….and who is bad….?? This is what this page is all about. I hope it serves as a guideline to help you make the right choice.

First the original phone call: A lot can be gathered from that first phone call if you only pay close attention. We’ve all made jokes, or heard of them, about the “used car salesman” approach. “Have I got a deal for you?” He/she tells you of the perfect puppy that they have for you that is just so adorable and it only costs xxxx amount of dollars. “Come see the puppy and you can take it home to-day”.

Now what is wrong with this breeder’s pitch??? Did they ask you why you chose a Doberman? They should have. Many buyers don’t know the breeder characteristics.

Did they ask you if your yard is enclosed? They should have. Many dogs escape from yards and are seriously hurt or killed.

Did they ask you if your dog will be inside/outside or strictly outside? They should have. No good breeder worth a pinch of salt wants one of their dogs or any dogs for that matter, left outside. A Doberman left to its own devices will soon find itself in trouble, physically and definitely mentally. This is a pack animal. A family pet SHOULD BE part of the family. You certainly wouldn’t leave your Mom, Dad, sisters, brothers, children etc. outside all day and night. If the breeder doesn’t care what you will do with your puppy/dog, then they don’t care either. Walk away. If this is your intention by the way, DON’T BUY A DOG period. This is NO life for a dog, especially a Doberman.

Did they ask if you will be doing some sort of training with your dog? They should have. An untrained dog is a nightmare waiting to happen. A family pet deserves and should have basic obedience. If you put nothing in to a dog you’ll get nothing out of it and a good breeder should care about these things. If not….walk away!!!

Did they ask if you’ve had a dog before? They should have. New puppy owners need a lot of guidance and even the simplest thing to an experienced doggie owner may be overlooked by a novice. A good breeder will make sure you know what owning a dog is all about. The good and the bad. Many well meaning prospective dog owners have no idea of the commitment it takes to raise a dog properly.

Did they ask where will the dog be kept when you are at work? They should have. If not, walk away. It is unfair to keep a puppy/dog locked up in a crate all day long. A good breeder will ask if someone can come in during the day and let the puppy/dog outside to go potty and stretch its legs. They will insist that you take the time to teach the puppy house rules so he/she can be lose in a confined area of the house and eventually in the house.

Did they ask if you have other pets? They should have. Some people collect pets like stamps. The more you have, the less individual attention you can give. A good breeder should want to know this.

Did they ask if you have children? They should have. Some people will buy pets as play toys for their small children. This is a living creature not a toy. A good breeder should give you all the pros and cons of having a small puppy around very small children. It is hard work raising a puppy and small children at the same time. A good breeder will advise you of this and sound you out to see if you are up to the task.

There are many other questions that SHOULD BE asked and I’ll add more as I go along. Some may be asked when you go to see the puppy. BUT, the breeders interest or lack of interest in you and what you will do with this puppy is a HUGE WARNING SIGN. If he/she doesn’t ask questions, even during the initial phone call, to me this means he/she wants your money first and foremost. This is NOT what a good breeder is or should be about.

ALL puppies are cute. Many breeders will keep the original phone call brief because they know once you get to their kennel and see those ADORABLE puppies, you are HOOKED. No one can resist a cute little puppy. They know that love at first sight will cause you to forget to ask other questions. You’re just in a hurry to get home with your new puppy. DON’T FALL FOR THIS. Ask and be asked questions galore BEFORE you see that cute little puppy.

LESSON #2: What should you ask the breeder and look for?

1. Are the sire and dam on the property? Not always possible but see what you can see and ask about the ones you don’t see.

2. Are the parents health tested? Yes??? Then show me some paperwork to prove it. Have the following tests been run on all breeding animals — bitches and dogs prior to breeding:

  • Cardiomyopathy – to include a Holter monitor EKG and an ultrasound or sonogram done by a veterinary cardiologist. Cardio tests should be conducted annually or 3 months before a planned breeding. This type of testing should be done in Dobermans as it is better than nothing and you can know that at the time of the breeding or the time of the test whether the heart tested normal; that there were no heart murmurs or abnormally skipping heart beats.
  • Von Willebrands disease via DNA test (vWD) – a blood clotting disorder
  • X-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, certified by OFA at or after the age of 2 years
  • Annual blood panels for thyroid, kidneys, and liver
  • Annual eye exam done by a veterinary ophthalmologist (CERF exam)

3. Ask for the breeder’s veterinarian and permission to call that vet and ask questions regarding the health of the breeder’s stock. Some breeders will tell you their dogs have never been ill and are free from any genetic problems. Some tell the truth. Some do not. The vets won’t lie. If the breeder won’t give you permission to call their vet, be suspicious. Be very suspicious.

4. Read a book or internet site on what to look for in a healthy puppy. The list is long but print it out and when you go see the puppy, take that list with you and check it off very carefully.

5. Take a good hard look at the environment the adult dogs and puppies are raised in. This can tell you a lot. Is the breeder eager to show off his adults and pups and where they sleep/play/groom, etc. They should be proud of how they care for their dogs. If they hesitate, if the place is dirty, if adults or pups are dirty and unthrifty, walk away and don’t look back. Do bear in mind that dogs play in dirt and grass and water and can get a little grungy looking at times. This is different than the dog with overly long nails, runny eyes, dirty ears etc.

6. My favourite here…Will the breeder let the dogs out to
meet you. Many will not. I would be asking why not??? Bear in mind the dogs can be rather rambunctious when let out but they should NOT be hostile/spooky/aggressive, etc. Always remember that a little part of all the ancestors of the puppy is in that puppy. If the parents/grandparents are on the premises, then meet them too. If the breeder won’t let any out (unless he/she has a legitimate reason) or the dogs seem hostile, remember, part of them is in the cute puppy in front of you.

7. I suggest you print out a copy of the Doberman Standard found at AKC and on most breeder websites. Take that with you when you go look at the dogs. Each person interprets the standard a little differently, I know, but it does give you an overview of what a good Doberman should look like.

8. Another favourite of mine. DO NOT get tangled up in the which country breeds better dogs scenario. Go see for yourself. There are many breeders who have working lines of impeccable character and I truly applaud their dedication to the breed. These dedicated people are a far cry from those who breed German or German U.S. combos strictly as a means of selling dogs. In other words, if the market cries out for German this year, they breed German, next year maybe Latvian or whatever. This is NOT dedication. This is merely sales. Another example would be dilutes are in this year, let’s all breed for dilution. If you want a good working dog, and there should be no other, go to the people who have devoted their lives to the working dog. Not just to-day because it is the ‘IN’ dog, but because this is what they truly love. A heck of a big difference here.

9. Ask the breeder about ears, teeth and everything you can think of related to the dog. They should be more than willing to answer your questions. Basically, what you are doing here is finding out what the breeder does and does not know and whether he/she is willing to share that information. A good breeder encourages your questions. Questions mean you want answers. If they can’t be bothered or brush your questions off, find another breeder. This one just wants your money.

10.Ask how long they have been breeding. This isn’t to say that someone fairly new is not knowledgeable by the way. Some have been breeding for years and should know a heck of a lot more than they do. Again, test their knowledge. Go to their home well informed. Read, research and print out whatever you can. Then go and check it out. Always a good plan.

11.Ask about guarantees, written or verbal. If there is none, be careful.

12.What they feed, when they feed, how much they feed and why do they feed the food they do. Many a dog has had health problems due to poor quality diet. Sterility, bad hips/elbows, etc. have resulted from poor quality diets and breeders trying to “cut costs”. Strange thing is, the cost of the puppy remains high but the quality of what often goes into them is poor. Hmmmmm…make you wonder?

13.Ask the breeder for references from other buyers.

14.Ask how many times a year they have litters. Some are like non-stop assembly lines.

15.Ask if there have been other prior health problems associated with pups from the sire/dam or grandparents of your future puppy. Some will tell you. Some won’t. Again, get permission to call their vet and ask away. A better chance of getting the truth here.

16.Ask what temperaments were like on the litter as a whole. Just because one puppy remains unsold, by the way, doesn’t mean that it is a defective puppy. This is perhaps just the one that was not quite as appealing to the people who were ahead of you for whatever reason. Don’t discount this puppy because he is the only one left. He may be the puppy you have been looking for. People mistakenly think they have to have multiple pups in front of them but let’s face it, there is always a first and always a last to go.

17.Ask about vaccinations. Vaccinations have been tied in to a great many immune system problems. Many breeders and/or vets are “needle happy”. To pups who may have a predisposition to immune problems this over barrage of vaccines could cause them future immune disorders. Know what has been put into this puppy first. Type as well as manufacturer. It could save you and the puppy future heartache. Some buyers prefer to take their puppy “vaccine free” so they can regulate the type/frequency/manufacturer of the shots. Read¬† articles on vaccines.

My last thought for you is this — have breeders ever been dishonest with or about other breeders??? YOU BETCHA. Not all have, but there are enough to really tick one off.

A PHD once wrote “If all breeders would honestly share their canine health experiences for the betterment of ALL, there would be very little or NO inherited diseases”. He followed this up with “BUT, human nature being what it is, the information will be used to “put down” a particular breeder in order to bolster their own egos.

How sad when ones ego takes priority over the health and well being of the breed itself. To some, it is all about egos, ribbons, trophies and glory at any cost !!!

It is difficult to remove an outstanding looking and outwardly sound dog from a breeding program because it carries and passes genetic defects. For the breeder who constantly wins with this dog and is on ego overload, it is something they most often will not do.

What about the puppies that result from these genetically inferior animals and who suffer or die as a result? What about the puppy owners who suffer along with their puppy? Ask those owners if they care that the Sire or Dam won another ribbon while they were burying their little puppy.

This type of breeder (and I shudder to say the word where these kinds are concerned) MUST get their priorities straight and put their massive egos to sleep. If not, the Doberman will go the way of the DODO bird (as in extinct) and the only place you’ll be able to see one is in an old text book!!

“What can we do about BAD BREEDERS?? We can refuse to buy from them and never breed to their dogs; that much is pretty obvious. If the dogs are known to be genetically inferior, do not bring them or their offspring into your bloodlines or your home. Never ever refer anyone to them. Inform the local vets of the breeder’s shady breeding practices. Trust me, no vet wants to be associated with these type of people.