by Esther Ekman
When dealing with your chosen breeder it is, "communication", "communication" and more "communication." Be completely honest with your expectations and needs. Don't try to con yourself into a better deal and don't try to impress anybody by telling them what you think they want to hear. Both you and the breeder will lose confidence, because one of the reasons a person would go to a breeder would be asking their advise. If you are busy trying to stay two steps in front, you don't listen well enough.
Your selected breeder may be a person that has produced hundreds of champions, bred a great number of litters or may be a breeder that has a few dogs and a litter once in awhile. Or the breeder may be a rancher/farmer with years of experience using their own animals and breed a few so that others can benefit from their years of work and selection. In some cases the breeder may be a pro stockdog trainer that breeds as part of their business. (This is the person you usually buy a started pup from, although some ranchers/farmers take the time to start a promising pup or two.)
In some areas, stockdog trials are associated with stock auctions, where the top placing dogs are "for sale" as part of the auction. (The Red Bluff Bull Sale etc.) I'm of a see/saw mind about this way to buy a started stock dog. Partly because as a breeder I would want more control on who buys my dogs. (Having and spending big bucks at an auction for a stock dog, doesn't necessarily mean the buyer has the knowledge or caring attitude to do right by the dog.) I know..... most would think that if you spent that kind of money, they would protect their investment, but over the years I've seen a few that have more money than brains and like to impress people by being the winner. I'd worry. I have also wondered whether the buyers get future support from the trainers of the auction dogs.
Everything is relative. Which is one of the reasons I don't like the term "backyard" breeder. True breeders may have 200,000 acres or a 25' x 50' yard. Space isn't the issue, knowledge, integrity, caring for the breed is the issue. The situation doesn't matter as long as you feel comfortable and have confidence in their opinions. Most breeders have some sort of club affiliations (All breed, specialty, obedience, stock dog club etc.) and if they are listed on a Club Directory, they most likely have signed a Code of Ethics from the Club. Most will have a written contract. Most ranch/farmer breeders would rather lose an arm than go back on their word or use a written contract. (When in Rome, do as the Romans do.)
Use common sense when you go to the breeders to see the pups.
Do: Keep your appointment time: Call to cancel if you can't make it: See as many breeders and dogs as you can: Take notes: Read the contract: Listen to the breeder's advise: Keep your head, pups are so cute that they may turn your head, but if that pup isn't the right one, you've got a problem.
Don't: Bring your dog, unless you've talked it over first: Bring your children, unless you know they will behave: Insist on seeing both sire and dam. In today's hi tech world, many breeders use shipped semen or have sent the bitch to him. Pictures yes: Be disappointed at the look of the dam. After they wean the pups bitches blow almost all of their coat and may look a bit thin, no matter the amount of super food and supplements given during nursing: Meet a seller in a parking lot or some such, no matter what the reason. Breeders take pride in their dogs and they will want you to see all.
If you are a first time dog owner or have never had a herding breed before, it is best that you do not buy the alpha bitch or dog in the litter. (There will be one of each sex.) These will be the most dominate, the most likely to test your control and will be the least likely to be placeable if you lose control and have to give up the dog. The breeder will be able to tell you which pups are alpha and which are beta.
Don't select a really shy pup either. By shy, I mean scared shy, this type of pup may even act a bit aggressive, hiding behind another, darting out if you get too close and snapping. This pup will be a fear biter, needing work to control and will never be completely reliable. (Most well bred litters will not have a shy one, but sometimes even in the best, problems arise.)
Don't confuse a shy pup with the one that may hang back somewhat when you first see the litter, watching you before coming over. (This one could be the "thinking" one and may make the best working prospect, because he has a good dose of common sense and less puppy sillies.) Also in the case of "heeling" breeds, don't confuse true aggressive behavior with the fact that the whole litter will be trying to heel you. This is normal for the alligator crew.
Have your breeder give you an evaluation of each pup. Especially if you are picking a working prospect. They should know what style, instinct level and personality each pup has shown. Again, listen, listen, listen.
Try not to get locked into a certain color or markings. If you just "have to have" a certain color, be prepared to wait. Mother Nature doesn't always listen to want you want. Don't pick color over personality, quality and instinct. (There are certain exceptions, in the show world the dog's color would have to be within the standard for acceptable color and markings, but what is underneath is more important.)
There is nothing that drives me nuttier...... than getting an inquiry from someone stating they want a "double masked" blue or red ACD, with a "tail root spot" and asking nothing else. With my warped sense of humor, I've often wanted to respond that I have a very expensive pup that would fit their bill of fare to a Tee, but he is also 24 inches tall, weighs 30 lbs.., has an overbite, flat feet, straight stifles & hocks, bug eyes, knock knees and down ears, but has a perfect mask/tail spot. (Saints preserve us, that I should ever had bred such a beast!) Point is: make sure a dog of quality is under that color and markings. Or be prepared to wait until the two come together.
You Have Found Your Pup: Some Restrictions May Apply.
As I said earlier, most breeders will have some sort of written contract required. Make sure you read and understand all phases of said contract. Do not assume anything. Add any oral promises or restrictions onto the contract, making sure both of you sign and date. (If there is a problem later, the courts will usually only recognize the written contract. Not that it happens often, but facts are facts.) Said contract may be a couple of paragraphs or several pages. Neither is right or wrong, it's just what the breeder is requiring and what you can live with. No where is it written that a certain breeder has to sell you a dog, nor that you have to buy a dog from a certain breeder. (Show and/or breeding prospect pups are usually the ones with longer contacts attached.)
Most breeders will require that pet pups be spayed or neutered. (The AKC has a limited registration for such situations. Have the breeder explain.) There does seem to be some resistance to this, especially having a male neutered. In my opinion, it is only common sense to do this. It cuts down on the amount of dogs being bred (On purpose or by accident.) that shouldn't have been bred in the first place. Besides, it is scientific fact that if a bitch is spayed without having a litter, she will be approximately 80% less likely to develop mammary cancer and a male neutered early will almost never develop prostate problems. These are the two big killers of unaltered dogs. Altered dogs can and are eligible for all performance events and ranch work. The only two restrictions are that they cannot be shown in conformation classes and cannot be bred.
Buying Sight Unseen:
Could be that for some reason there are no breeders of your selected breed anywhere near your home. Or you just may want a different line than the majority in your area. Or you may want to import a dog from another country. In these cases unless you can go and visit these breeders, you will have to buy sight unseen and have the pup shipped to you.
Complete communication and confidence is a must. Your breeder must understand what you want and you must understand what they have and are willing to send to you.
In addition to the normal arrangements, buying sight unseen has another set of customs and conditions. The pup will have to be shipped to you. This could be by air (Which is the norm.) or by arrangement with a friend or handler to deliver the pup to a show near you. Sometimes breeders will have a shipping crate that they will let you borrow for the trip and shipped back to them UPS, otherwise you will have to buy a crate from the airlines. (In Australia it has to be a wooden crate from the jobbers, union rules.) Don't buy a crate larger than needed, the shipping price can be affected by the size of crate.
It is customary that the buyer prepay shipping costs, mileage to the airport and/or a fee for surface delivery. Most breeders will give the buyer an out, by saying that if you don't like the pup when you see it, you can send it back immediately, but again the shipping fees will be up to you to pay. (If importing from any country or state that has strict rabies restrictions, it is not an option to send the pup back.) You will also have to pay for a Vet health certificate, required by the airlines. As you can see, communication is a must as there are added expenses to the purchase price that cannot be recovered if you don't get exactly what you wanted in a puppy.
Buying A Pup For The Wrong (In my opinion) Goal:
OK now about that person who's primary goal is to buy dogs to breed themselves. As a whole, I think it is a bad idea. If you have absorbed this article, you now know there is a big difference between a breeder and a puppy maker and this type of person will end up being a puppy maker. It doesn't matter what quality dog this person buys, because without years of study, they will not know if their "breeding pair" is complimentary to each other, ending up producing inferior animals. Ignorance breeds ignorance and does harm to the breed.
Having a stud dog is some people's idea to make money, but if you are honest with yourself, how would you know if that outside bitch is of a quality that should be bred. That's why you'll see ads stating "Stud So and So standing to approved bitches." It is knowing what to approve that is part of a persons study program or knowing your own male qualities and faults. Do you really know that?
Two examples of people I didn't sell pups to: A couple who wanted to buy a pet bitch, because they wanted to raise "pets" for people. After explaining the whole nine yards to them, they responded "Oh I just think that most people don't want a show dog and pets are more fun to sell, so top quality isn't important." I then explained eighteen yards to them and I hope I got through to them, but either way they didn't get a pup.
Then awhile back a woman called wanting to buy a "breeding pair" because she "just loved raising little cutie puppies." (I was taken back when she said "cutie puppies" about ACD's. I think ACD pups are cute, but most people think Cocker pups are "cuties".) I told her that if she genuinely enjoyed such a project, then she should volunteer at her local shelter as they always were in need of foster homes for whelping bitches and pups. You know what? She did and is happy as a little clam.
Hope this article helps you to find your special pup.
If you didn't have time at the end of Part 1 of this article to go to the other article I suggested, please take the time now and CLICKon Buzz Words, Registration Pitfalls and Terms Used or Misused as you will find it both informative and useful.