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Dog Breeders Are You Getting What You Pay for?

By Yodle Local
A year after they were married, Amanda and Tom, a professional couple, moved from the city to the suburbs. They rented a cute little cape-style house with a good-sized backyard in a residential neighborhood that was close enough to the city to allow them to commute to their jobs. For the first time in their lives, they had their very own house, but something was missing... they wanted a dog.

With their landlord's consent and a dog in mind, they invested in a tall privacy fence for their backyard. Now all they needed was a dog romping in the yard to complete their idyllic picture. They spent endless hours discussing breeds, personality types and desirable size and regaling each other with stories of the dogs from their childhood.

They did their homework, reading as much as they could on the breeds they both liked and in the end, agreed that a Newfoundland was what they wanted. They contacted a reputable breeder, visited the breeder's premises and learned that a litter was due any day, met the expectant female, examined the documented blood line, played with some of the other dogs before departing and made plans to return when the puppies were old enough for new homes.

Little Bear arrived at her new home when she was three months old. Over the months that followed, Amanda and Tom spent hours trying to teach Bear all the niceties of dog behavior, but by the end of Bear's first year, housebreaking was the only lesson she had learned. They were loving parents, but they finally had to face the fact that their lifestyle was at odds with the best living arrangement for Bear. She needed more companionship, more exercise, and quite possibly a professional trainer. Bear's owners realized that she was being short changed and they felt guilty for having failed her.

They contacted Bear's breeder?who had made them promise when they purchased Bear to return the dog to her if things didn't work out?and shared their concerns. The breeder found Bear a new and loving home with a family that already owned several Newfies. The owner was a professional dog trainer, he had a large farm, and best of all, there was a large pond on the farm where Bear could do what she liked best, swim.

Purchasing Through a Qualified Breeder vs. a Pet Store

The young couple just described is not unlike many others who buy the dog of their dreams only to discover, for a variety of reasons, that their choice is not a good fit. Intelligent and caring owners do what Amanda and Tom did, contact their breeder for assistance in finding a new home for their pet, but too many people, especially those who purchase dogs at pet stores, do not know where to turn when they find they have made a mistake.

If you purchase a dog through a pet store, you must do so knowing that the dog is entirely your responsibility for life. Turning a dog over to a shelter, while preferable to abandonment, should never be considered an option.

It is probably safe to say that all prospective pet owners anticipate living happily ever after with the dog that they buy; however, as history shows us, this is not always the case. While not all breeders will agree to assist you in finding a second home for your dog if this becomes necessary, no pet stores provide this service. If the breeder you select will allow you to return the dog or assist you in finding a new home for your dog should this become necessary, purchasing your pet directly from a breeder becomes a wiser course of action than selecting one from a pet store. In either case, be it breeder or pet store, do not expect a refund beyond the standard new purchase guarantee.

Qualified Breeders

There are two types of breeders: hobby breeders and commercial breeders.

Hobby breeders ? Hobby breeders pursue their interest in a particular breed or more than one breed solely out of concern for the breed(s) of their choice. Making money is not the goal of the hobby breeder; rather, the breeder's concern lies with preserving and protecting their breed preference. In the course of indulging their hobby, these breeders follow a specific breeding program designed to enhance and maintain the integrity of their chosen breed; therefore, they limit the number of litters per year choosing to breed only as necessary to enhance the breed itself and the overall breeding program they have established. A reputable hobbyist will provide puppies with human contact and environmental stimulation, raise puppies in their own home or alternatively, in a small, clean kennel and work to place puppies in the best possible homes. Additionally, hobby breeders screen the dogs they breed to perpetuate healthy dogs by eliminating hereditary defects and they usually belong to or work with a local breed or kennel club to increase their knowledge and share their love of the breed with others.

When you visit a hobby breeder with the hope of purchasing a puppy, it is not uncommon to discover that you are not the only one with questions. Hobby breeders, in an effort to find the very best homes for their puppies, will ask prospective buyers a number of questions in an attempt to assess the prospective owner's willingness and ability to provide the things that a puppy needs to grow into a happy, healthy pet. Be prepared to answer questions similar to these:
What is your past experience with dogs?
Who will the dog live with?
Do you have other pets?
Are there any limitations on pets in the community in which you reside?
Do you rent or own your own home? (In the case of a rented home or apartment, the breeder will want to be assured that you have your landlord's approval.)
How much exercise you are prepared to offer the dog? Where will the dog live?
How much time will be you be able to devote realistically to companionship, training, play activities and socialization?
Are you aware of and prepared to meet the cost of feeding, veterinarian visits, grooming, etc. that the dog will require?

As important as these questions are, what the breeder really wants to see is a warm, caring, fair and even-tempered person who has realistic expectations of what is required to provide a happy life for the puppy.

Commercial breeders ? Commercial breeders are motivated by money. Breeding and selling dogs is a business. Most commercial breeders sell to brokers, middle men who move puppies from commercial breeders to retail stores. Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) passed by Congress in 1966?and amended in 1970, 1976, 1985, and 1990?the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses and inspects commercial breeders to ascertain adherence to minimum standards of housing and care. These standards require a minimum amount of space for each dog, clean shelter conditions, fresh water every 24 hours, proper kennel drainage and sanitation procedures, a feeding program and appropriate veterinarian care. Additionally, some states license and inspect the kennels of commercial breeders. Despite these protections, not all commercial breeders are responsible breeders. Further, commercial breeders, that sell puppies directly to the public as opposed to through a puppy broker, are not covered by the AWA. Unregulated and unlicensed breeders are generally unscrupulous and inclined to ignore such breeding standards as screening for genetic defects, breed resemblance or temperament. Kennel conditions can range from acceptable to deplorable. Never buy a puppy directly from a commercial breeder.

It is worth noting that retail puppy store owners and employees never inquire about a buyer's ability or desire to properly care for a puppy because their motive is strictly monetary; they will sell puppies to anyone who can afford the price. Such lack of concern should give prospective buyers pause.

Puppy Mills

We have all heard about puppy mills, even though neither the Animal Welfare Act nor the American Kennel Club defines these kennels. However the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), an organization that works tirelessly to protect animals of all kinds from cruelty, is much more vocal on the subject. It defines puppy mills as large scale commercial operations "where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."

Dogs in puppy mills are housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, often in wire cages that cause damage to legs and paws. There is little or no veterinarian care. Food and water tend to be inadequate and there are no opportunities for the puppies to become socialized before they are shipped to pet stores, often as early as eight weeks of age?too young to be pulled away from their litters. Females are bred at every opportunity with little or no recovery time between litters and may spend every day of their lives in cages. When parents can no longer breed, they are often killed as are puppies born with obvious deformities because they cannot be sold. There is no attention to selective breeding to prevent genetic diseases. According to the ASPCA, puppy mill dogs are prone to diseases like:
Heart disease
Kidney disease
Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
Respiratory disorders

It is not unusual for puppy mill dogs to be shipped to pet stores with other diseases as well. The ASPCA reports the following most commonly seen diseases:
Upper respiratory infections
Kennel cough
Intestinal parasites
Chronic diarrhea

The ASPCA warns consumers not to purchase puppies in pet stores or through retail websites because such purchases contribute to the support of puppy mills.

Adding a puppy to your family is a big step for both you and your puppy. Don't risk disappointment and possible tragedy by making an uninformed choice. Buy from a hobby breeder, not a pet store, and learn all you can about your breed preference before you begin visiting breeders. A puppy is not a disposable toy; it is a life-long commitment. If you make an intelligent choice and provide your puppy with all the ingredients of a happy, healthy life you will be repaid tenfold?the reason a dog is considered man's best friend.

Pat Perkins is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a breeder or more pet articles at Yodle Consumer Guide. Dog Breeders: Are You Getting What You Pay For?

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