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Karlin
28th July 2008, 08:17 PM
This article is a must-read for everyone trying to find a good breeder by looking online and thinking, "That breeder's website looks really good!" But what does it REALLY say about the breeder? This is a great guide about how backyard breeders, mass breeders, puppy millers and brokers set up websites to try and make themselves look good... but if you know what to look for, you can read between the lines very easily!! They are trying to dupe you -- buyer beware!!


What is in a Website?

Karen Peak
West Wind Dog Training
Will O'Wisp Shelties
Written in 2007
This can be reprinted in total or in part for educational use as long as full credit is given.


The internet has made it very easy for potential dog owners to learn about different breeds and find breeders. Sadly, it has also made it easier for those with less than honorable breeding practices to have an outlet for their puppies. It is easy to be caught up by pictures of adorable puppies and wonderful sounding phrases. For those who opt not to adopt, it may be difficult to determine the quality of the breeder when gazing at those daring faces. Before you hit that email button or grab your phone, stop and look deeper.

When perusing at a breeder's website, there are a few things to look for to help you determine if this is a breeder truly working for the betterment of the breed or just trying to sell puppies. Here is a bunch of red flags to look for:

* Mini/Toy/Teenies/Teacups/Precious Baby dolls – Know your breeds before you start looking at websites or calling breeders. For example, some breeds have Mini and Toy varieties; many do not. There is a Miniature Poodle and a Miniature Schnauzer. There is no mini Sheltie. Shelties should be between 13 and 16 inches at the withers. A 13-inch Sheltie is actually quite small when placed next to a 16-inch dog. No good breeder will intentionally breed undersized dogs. Even in breeds in the "Toy" group, there is no such thing as a teacup. In actuality, "teacups" may be more prone to medical issues. Do a search on the health issues associated with "teacups," it should be more than enough to dissuade you. These dogs are bred to do nothing but appeal to those following in the steps of some ding-a-ling public figure or people who think they need something to shove into a purse.


Karlin's note: There is no such thing as a mini or teacup cavalier and anyone claiming to breed them should be avoided.

* Giant/Enormous/Oversized/Monster – Just as no ethical breeder will intentionally breed undersized dogs, no breeder will intentionally breed dogs over sized. Sadly, many phrases used to describe oversized dogs are used in breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. Again, know the breed standard. The UKC standard for an American Pit Bull Terrier is males between 35 and 60lbs with weight in proportion to height. Rottweiler males are between 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder and males average about 95 to 135 lbs (in proportion to height and build). These dogs are often being bred just to make money and appeal to the macho/tough image of some people just as teacups are often bred to appeal to those who want a living toy.

* Rare Colors/Rare Coats – A breeder intentionally breeding undesired traits is not breeding ethically. Yes, sometimes breeders will get something not in standard; it just happens, no matter how well a breeder plans, genetics are genetics recessive genes can crop up. Fuzzy Mastiffs, black and tan Labradors, dilute Shelties, white Dobermans, etc can all crop up from time to time. However, a good breeder will not treat them as something rare and special nor will they ask a significantly more amount of money for one. If you see catchwords such as "rare" raise that red flag.


Karlin's note: Beware anyone deliberately selling and breeding chocolate cavaliers or all black cavaliers (or other non standard colours) unless they require them to be neutered and the person is a legitimate show breeder who happens to have these genes in her lines. NO reputable breeder deliberately breeds off-standard colours and those who produce them require them to be neutered. They especially do not charge MORE for such dogs.

* All dogs are heath certified – If you see just this and nothing else, this should be a red flag. A breeder should state what tests have been done and the results for any dog they are breeding be it a male or female. It is up to you to know what tests should be done in the breed at minimum and what tests can be done. For example, if on a Sheltie site you see "genetically cleared for epilepsy" this is a breeder to avoid. As of now, there is no genetic test for this issue. Work is being done on one, but for now, there is no genetic test. A breeder should also be able to show you records of what tests were done and when. Some screenings, like eyes, should be done annually. One of the first things to look for is a list of tests done on the dogs. Never trust a breeder who states they do not health test, as the dogs are healthy or has no known issues. All dogs, even crosses, can inherit health issues. At bare minimum, breeders need to be checking hips, eyes and thyroid. It is vital that regardless of the breed you are looking at that you research the health issues and what can be DNA tested for or at least screened. Look for sites where breeders list what tests were done. Just shots and worming breeding dogs is not enough!


Karlin's note: With cavaliers, avoid any breeder claiming their lines are MVD or SM-free. These conditions are both widespread in all lines, all colours -- to date no line anywhere is believed to be free of the genes for either condition. Watch out for breeders who simply state they 'heart-test' . With cavaliers, you want breeders who cardiologist test (NOT vet-test) their breeding dogs and have the certificates to prove it. Stating lines are SM-symptom free also doesn't mean too much at the moment as the symptoms are easily mistaken for other conditions. Dogs must be MRI'd to show they are SM-clear. Most reputable breeders heart, eye, patella and hip test and increasing numbers MRI. Many in North America report results to OFA where they are publicly available.

* We breed only for loving pets – A good breeder breeds for the betterment of the breed. Along with breeding to the standard and for health and temperament, they will also be proving their dogs deserve to have their genetics passed on. Since competition in many sports is costly and time consuming, not all breeders are involved in all sports; HOWEVER, they should still be producing puppies that CAN go into other events. In every litter there will be puppies not to the standard and these will be sold as pets or performance only dogs. Someone breeding solely for pets is not proving that they are trying to improve a breed. In fact, these breeders are doing damage to breeds in the end to a greater degree than the "show" breeders are.

* We always have cute puppies for you – You cannot always tell a good breeder by how many litters they produce a year. A good breeder breeds first for their needs and the puppies they do not keep or place in other show/performance homes go to carefully chosen pet homes. For some breeders, this may be a litter every two or three years, for others, they may breed several or litters a year. However, if a breeder always has young puppies available, then this is a red flag. Even some breeders who show and test their dogs may breed quantity trying to get quality. Use your gut here.


Karlin's note: Beware breeders who always have 'all four colours' of cavaliers available. This indicates either a puppy mill/farm, or a puppy broker. Avoid people who promise they can get you what you want from a 'friend' who also breeds.

* What breed do you need? We probably have it or can get it – Most good breeders limit themselves to a breed or two, or three. The more breeds bred the harder it is to maintain quality. Some breeders who are also handlers may have quite a few different breeds on the premises but themselves are only actively breeding their own dogs. If you see a site with lots of different breeds, this should be a red flag. This person is probably also a broker. A broker is the intermediary. They either purchase pups for resale to private homes or stores.

* Our dogs are the best – A good breeder knows that there will always be dogs of superior and lesser quality. No breeder has the best dogs out there.

* USDA certified and inspected – Wholesale dog breeders (a.k.a. Puppy Mills) are supposed to be USDA certified. It is no badge of honor nor is it a guarantee of quality and healthy pups. It is the law.

* All puppies guaranteed – Sounds great but how long is the guarantee good? Many health issues can take years to show up so a guarantee of a few days or weeks or even a year is insufficient. A puppy can contract Parvo Virus before leaving the breeder and not show symptoms until he has been in the house for up to a couple weeks. The incubation period is about 4 – 14 days. Other things such as epilepsy may take three to four years to show up. Good breeders will have well written, guarantees for many years, even for life, and be very specific about what the parents have been tested for and what they will do should the offspring inherit an issue. Included in the guarantee/contract should be what will happen to the dog if for some reason, even ten years down the road, you must give the dog up.

* Oodles of Doodles and Uggles - There are many people breeding what are called designer dogs. This is a crossbred dog (most often poodle and something else) being sold as if it were something rare and special. In reality, these are crossbred dogs. A few of the designer dogs being sold are Labrador/Poodle, Golden/Poodle, Shih Tzu/Poodle, Chihuahua/Poodle, Pug/Beagle, Bichon/Poodle, etc. There are many misconceptions regarding crossbred dogs such as they are naturally healthier. A crossbred can inherit many health issues. These designer dogs are nothing special or rare; it is a crossbred intentionally bred for the pet/money making trade. Do not be fooled into thinking such. Why spend sometimes thousands of dollars for a crossbred when you can go to a rescue? How can you tell if a pup is a legitimate breed or not? If you are in the US, check the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, American Rare Breed Association, Canadian Kennel Club and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) websites. These entities will have the majority of recognized breeds world wide listed amongst them.

* "Cutesy" pictures/Costumed puppy pictures – On far too many sites you can see pictures of puppies barely five weeks old wearing hats, sitting in flower baskets, dressed in bows, etc. These pictures are to do nothing but try to get the viewer to impulse buy. Think of window dressings in department stores or end cap displays at your grocery. They are designed to help increase impulse buys.

* We cater to the stars – The stars go for the newest fad or set that newest fad, often without proper research. They impulse buy, have a huge staff to care for their crew and when the fun wears off, the dog is swapped out for a new one. Catering to the stars is nothing to about. How many stars get their pups from pet shops? Quite a few when you start checking around.

* You found the breeder through a puppy sale/auction site – This may or may not be a red flag. There are people that troll the internet for breeder sites and link them without asking permission. There are sites that contact breeders after a link has been put up and then are slow in taking it down when requested (provided the breeder does not delete the email as spam). However, some breeders intentionally seek out these sites as ways to unload animals. You have to add up various factors. The breeder may not even know someone unethical has added his or her website.

* No indication of what the breeder is doing with their dogs – Does the breeder have lists of titles their dogs have won? Remember, a good breeder is trying to better their dogs and the breed as a whole. You cannot do that without being able to prove your dogs are able to perform/work/show successfully. It is not hard to search to find out if a dog has actually won titles either. If in doubt a small internet search for the dog's name.

* Our dogs are the best – A good breeder knows that there will always be dogs of superior and lesser quality. No breeder has the best dogs out there.

* USDA certified and inspected – Wholesale dog breeders (a.k.a. Puppy Mills) are supposed to be USDA certified. It is no badge of honor nor is it a guarantee of quality and healthy pups. It is the law.

* Registered exclusively with XYZ – In the United States, you want to look for dogs registered with the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club or American Rare Breed Association. Though no registry is perfect, and even the lowest breeder can register if they make the minimum requirements, there have been a glut of less than ethical registries cropping up to cater to those who do not want to meet the requirements, who have lost privileges with other registries, puppy millers, etc. Make certain if you see just letters, that you verify the registry. Some less than ethical ones have used names with the same initials as other registries. Is that A in AKC for American or is it Arthur's Kennel Club?

* All puppies guaranteed – Sounds great but how long is the guarantee good? Many health issues can take years to show up so a guarantee of a few days or weeks or even a year is insufficient. A puppy can contract Parvo Virus before leaving the breeder and not show symptoms until he has been in the house for up to a couple weeks. The incubation period is about 4 – 14 days. Other things such as epilepsy may take three to four years to show up. Good breeders will have well written, guarantees for many years and be very specific about what the parents have been tested for and what they will do should the offspring inherit an issue.

It is easy to be blinded by flashy sites, claims, cute faces, etc. The internet has made it very easy for unscrupulous breeders to lure the unsuspecting buyer in. If you choose the breeder route over rescue, do all you can to ensure the breeder you choose is not in it for just the money.

Please remember; always consider the rescue option when looking for a companion. With too many owners willing to give up a dog as opposed to working through issues, there will always be dogs in need of new homes.