26th July 2006, 12:45 AM

Recognizing an unethical breeder

When you talk to people about their puppies or view their websites, there are many warning signs that you may be dealing with a disreputable, unethical, or irresponsible breeder.

A first caution: in general, disreputable breeders have been quick to embrace the web and have websites! Probably 50% at most of ethical breeders have them! So websites are not generally a good starting point for finding a breeder -- contacting the official regional or national club for puppy referrals IS. Be especially cautious if the breeder lists on lots of general puppy sites. Some good breeders do use these -- to try to keep them from being dominated by the trash breeders -- but not too many at this time. Talk to them and use these guidelines and other information on this site to help sort the wheat from the chaff.

NB: Do NOT post names of breeders or links to their sites here on the board, with a question on whether they are a reputable breeder, please, for reasons noted (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=8694) in the 'Getting Started' section. Feel free to ask questions without specifically identifying them -- someone on the board will likely contact you privately to help you out.

ALL these elements below not need to be present. If ANY of these is true, you should be very cautious:
* The "breeder" lacks knowledge about the breed
* The "breeder" shows ignorance or denial of genetic defects in the breed and doesn't openly discuss health issues of the breed with you VOLUNTARILY: in cavaliers, these are MVD and syringomyelia in particular
* The "breeder" only vet tests hearts -- they should cardiologist test their cavaliers before every breeding, AND have the certificates to show you (all cardiologists issue them) AND most will have the certs for GRANDPARENTS too -- the latter should all have been heart clear at least until age 5!
* The "breeder'" lists on puppy-finder websites. Very few reputable breeders use these sites. None of these sites check breeder bona fides
* The "breeder" has a website address with a name like cutepups, pups4u, cavcuties or similar. No ethical breeder makes a point of looking and sounding like CavsRUs. :sl*p:
* The breeder has a section full of 'happy customer' pictures and testimonials
* The breeder's cavaliers are bred at less than age 2.5
* The "breeder" has no involvement in dog sports/doesn't show and never has -- especially if they state this as a POSITIVE (as in 'we aren't snobby show breeders'. No, they breed for greed, not health or conformation, and sell substandard dogs with a higher incidence of health problems as a result)
* The breeder sells puppies on 'full' or 'open' registration and clearly states this: a way of letting prospective backyard breeders know they can get their start in this sad industry by buying one of this breeder's dogs :x
* The "breeder" doesn't let you observe the puppies or adults, or let you see the kennels
* The 'breeder' deliberately breeds extra small dogs ('teacup' cavaliers) or non standard colours (black, chocolate) or larger dogs for 'health' reasons and advertises this as a good thing -- and probably charges more! This will NOT be a health focused breeder
* The "breeder" has no documentation and cannot provide a pedigree or the pedigree is from one of the trash registries (see below)
* The puppies are not socialized
* The "breeder" says s/he decided to breed mainly for the pet market or help others get a start in breeding/showing because 'other breeders' are too snobby to give puppies to normal nice people (like you!) and charge so much (these will NOT be bred for health and will NOT be show quality and should NOT be bred!)
* The "breeder" makes a big point about how the puppies come from 'champion stock' and those 'champions' are several generations back (ALL cavaliers 'come from champion stock' once you go back far enough so this is meaningless. Most backyard bred dogs have champions within 3-4 generations)
* The "breeder" got their 'champion stock' from Ireland (very few reputable Irish breeders export, but lots of puppy farmers and BYBs do -- Ireland is the puppy farm capital of Europe)

Excellent guidelines for spotting a good breeder and knowing what to ask:




How to recognise an unethical breeder:


From which:

how to read those ads!

Here are a few more things that you ought to look out for.
"Champion lines" -- look instead for Champion sired or Champion parents. All Champion Lines means is that there is a dog somewhere in your puppy's family that was a champion - it says nothing about the quality of the parents at all. Anyone can buy a puppy from a champion, but it does not mean that they have any other interest in the breed but to bank on the name and make money. The puppy may have been sold as a pet (since it had some problems that prevented it from being shown) and an unethical person did not have the dog desexed and is still breeding puppies.

"AKC Registration" or "AKC Papers" -- So what? AKC registration does not guarantee quality. AKC papers are much like the title of a car - papers are issued on the junked chevy on blocks in your yard just as easily as they are on a brand new, shiny Jaguar. AKC does not control breeding, approve litters, or guarantee soundness. Unfortunately, in the hands of some unethical breeders, it doesn't even guarantee that the dog is purebred.

AKC Registration is automatic if you buy from a reputable breeder - they will provide all necessary paperwork when you buy a puppy. It is not a selling point, and shouldn't be treated as one.

Be wary of other "registrations", as well. There are several groups that are registering dogs, occasionally even mixed breeds, for a fee. This registration means nothing, and is of no value to you. Not that AKC papers really mean much, either.

"extra-big", "extra-small" -- breeders trying for extremes are rarely raising healthy dogs, and any ad that has to stress the size and weight of the dog to sell the puppies is suspect, in my opinion. Usually, these dogs are outside of the breed standard and are subject to their own medical problems due to excessive size or lack of it.

"rare" -- Why? Is the dog showable? Are there too many defects for the animal to be bred? What kind of problems does this "rare" color or size or pattern entail? There are many people buying "rare" white Boxers and Shepherds, not realizing that they are not show-prospects, and that they are buying a dog with medical problems from lack of pigmentation, and possible behavioral problems as well.

There are even some people selling unusual cross breeds as "rare" dogs, and people buy them thinking they are getting some unique treasure. I don't want to be too harsh about this, though -- every breed we se today is the result of some specialized and "rare" breeding to create a certain look or behavior. Shepherds herd, retrievers retrieve...because we have selectively bred them to do so. A breeder who is trying to 'recreate' a lost breed may fall on either side of the ethical divide. Shop with care.

"see both parents" As noted in questions to ask a breeder , this is not usually a good thing. Rarely will a good breeder have the luck to own both dogs for the perfect litter. If you can see both parents, it often means that the person had two dogs in the back yard and didn't supervise them carefully enough, resulting in puppies.

I probably get more mail on this one statement than anything else -- people who legitimately have both parents are incensed that I would suggest that they are unethical and bad breeders. That is not what I am suggesting -- there are some good and very reasonable reasons to have both parents on site. However, you need to ask the right questions and understand why this is true. If the breeder doesn't have an answer, or the answer is something like "well, they were just such cute dogs..." or "we bought another dog so we could have puppies" you need to evaluate whether this breeder is doing the right thing. They might be, they might not. It's up to you to ask.

"Must go now!" Why? Are they too big to be cute anymore? Need more money? Is there a problem? Be very wary of this one.

Terrific page on reading between the lines of breeder websites:


Here are some links to information on finding a reputable, responsible breeder of Cavaliers.






One good way to spot an unethical breeder or puppy mill dog is if it has one of the registration listed at the link below, rather than AKC, CKCSC, or one of the national registries in other countries, such as the Kennel Club in the UK or Irish Kennel CLub in Ireland. Note that proper registration is only the START of checking out a good breeder. Proper registration does not indicate a good breeder but no good breeder registers with the bogus registries. If a breeder wants you to pay more for a real registration (eg AKC) that's another sign of a bad breeder. So you still need to do your research!