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FINDING AN HONEST BREEDER by Bonnie Schaeffel

                What To Look For When Buying A Puppy by Bonnie Schaeffel

Choosing where to go to buy your puppy is a HUGE decision. I would like to offer some guidelines and opinions. These are my opinions and not shared by everyone, but I suspect most reputable breeders will agree with much of what I will say here.

There are many options when you are looking for a puppy; a show breeder, a backyard/hobby breeder, a puppy mill or a pet store. It can be overwhelming.

 A pet store is in business to make money and the more money the better. They many times buy from backyard breeders or puppy mills who are selling their pups at rock bottom prices, allowing the pet store to make a higher margin of profit. Seldom if ever, do these pups come from parents who have had any genetic testing or for that matter, are even well socialized or good examples of their breed. They are bought from someone who may be USDA inspected, which mainly means that the government gets money from inspections, comes only once a year and gives the breeder a heads up before coming. The pups or dogs in these facilities generally do not get much, if any attention, nor do they get great care. These places crank out pups nonstop. They invest the least amount of money into their pups that they can and send them to pet stores to be sold. That way they don't have to back their pups. They also don't have to have customers come to their property and see the parents and how their dogs are kept, or do any type of customer care. They make their money in VOLUME and the pet stores make their money in getting more of a mark up and frequently selling poor quality at the highest prices.

     Pet stores do only minimum screening of homes and their pups most times probably get more socialization upon arriving at the Pet Store than they ever got previously. Pet store employees generally do not have a great deal of knowledge about any specific breed, although they may have some general dog knowledge. Basically, anyone with the cash gets a pup. They do no follow up after a pet is sold. Buying from a Pet Store does two things; it perpetuates Puppy Mills and it also perpetuates sales to customers, that may be a poor match for the breed they are getting. This means a greater number of these pups may eventually end up in Rescues or humane societies. From a customer standpoint, you probably pay far more for a puppy from a Pet Store, than you would pay from an established top breeder who shows, who backs their dogs, tests and uses good breeding practices.

Another option is a backyard or hobby breeder. The type of care their dogs are given pretty much will run the gamut; some good, some bad, but most of them, only breed their dogs and do nothing else with them. Few, if any, have done their genetic testing or become knowledgeable about the diseases and genetic problems particular to their breed. Few know what the breed standard for their breed is. Most times, they will put any two purebreds together, mainly pairing dogs based on color or to produce blue eyes because those pups sell faster. Many of their dogs have purebred papers, but with what registry?

There are dozens of registries out there. CKC (Continental Kennel Club) is a registry where you can take 3 pictures of your dog and have anyone sign that they feel it is a certain breed and CKC will register it as a purebred dog. ACA, APRI and numerous other registries do not have very strict guidelines and these types of registries are used by many Puppy Mills. There are good dogs in each of these registries, but there are also a lot more poor quality dogs and dogs that may not in fact, BE purebred. AKC is the most prestigious registry but is not a guarantee of quality unless the breeder follows good breeding practices.

The prices of pups from backyard or hobby breeders may be lower, but that is because they generally invest much less in their dogs in housing, quality food, genetic testing, training, exercise area, etc. You are really playing Russian roulette buying from these situations. You can never be sure if it is a pup who will be within the breed standard, who will be sound and healthy, and who will have any type of good temperament. Sometimes people get lucky and often people are not lucky with a pup they get in these situations.

Probably the ideal situation to buy from is a reputable breeder who SHOWS their dogs. Many people will be saying, "I don't want a show dog. I only want a family pet". I am a breeder who is actively involved in showing and I do not breed two sets of dogs; one poorer quality to go to pet homes with no testing,etc., and another higher quality to go to show homes. GOD FORBID!!!! NO WAY!

 ALL OUR PUPS ARE BRED FOR EXCELLENCE!! Showing was originally started as a way to determine the best examples of each breed and to use only those dogs who were judged as excellent to produce pups and perpetuate that breed. Besides being a fun sport, it is a wonderful tool for a good breeder to use in assessing which dogs should be used in a breeding program. I can see things about a dog when they are in the show ring, that I cannot see anywhere else! 

 So, we have only one level of puppies and that is fantastic! All are quality pups, bred with sound health, solid genetics, excellent conformation and great temperament in mind. Some will do fabulously in the show ring, but we know that any dog's highest calling is to be someone's loved and valued family pet and companion. All our pups will be potential show quality as well as wonderful family pets. So whether you want a show puppy or a beautiful family pet, a knowledgeable breeder who shows, is an excellent place to go. You don't ever have to show your dog, but isn't it nice to know that your pup will be a gorgeous and sound example of this breed who will be bred for anything you choose to do; agility, rally, sledding, showing or just being your amazing family companion!

Our prices are generally far lower than a pet store and you get so much more for your money... the highest quality pup plus life time breeder support and written guarantees.Your family pet is for a lifetime, which for a husky is about 15 years. Even if you were to pay $1000 for your pup (and ours aren't priced that high), if you divide that by 15 years, that is about $85 dollars per year you have invested in your loved "friend". When you buy quality, you are likely to have fewer vet bills throughout the life of your pet. If you get a $600 puppy who is not tested or bred for excellence, you are much more likely to be spending money on big Vet bills during their lifetime, which is apt to be shorter.

 So now, let's say that you've found a breeder who raises AKC and /or UKC dogs and has what seems to be a nice web site. What else should you look for? You need to learn their breeding PRACTICES and how to read what is said in a site.

1. Since dogs can still be growing up to two years of age, no dog should be bred until it is full grown. Otherwise, you are actually breeding older puppies, which rob them of needed vitamins and nutrients to complete their growth. OFA testing cannot be done until two years of age ( because growth is not completed until then), so if someone says they test their dogs but are breeding them before age two, that defeats the purpose of the testing. It may sound good on their site and they are hoping a buyer will believe the words and not really check their actions. BE someone who CHECKS!

 I "love" when I see sites that present themselves as a "good" breeder while advertising a repeat breeding with a female who is not yet 2 years old, showing not only that their dog was bred twice before age two, but also in back to back heats and they advertise they do testing. Sheesh! Using older, untested puppies as breeding stock??? Buyers should run for their life! These are horrible breeding practices and dishonest in that they try to say the right thing without DOING THE RIGHT THING. It is important for a buyer to really read and look at someone's site. If they talk about testing but are breeding dogs under age two, they are deliberately misleading you and knowingly doing the wrong thing for their dog, the breed and their customers. If they do not post the birth dates of their bred female, go somewhere else for your puppy.

2. Do they CERF test, which is for cataracts? Great if they do, but do they explain that this needs to be done YEARLY? If their CERF test is over a year old, it is of little value. If they present CERF testing as something that means their pups won't have cataracts, that is misleading. It is a tool to help give the best chances of not getting them, but it is no guarantee, since this breed has no test for carrier dogs.Also ask to see CERF tests of the parents of the bred female. Make sure that they also passed.

3. Another misleading statement on some web sites is when a breeder advertises that they are AKC inspected and passed "with flying colors"! They announce this as if it is some remarkable feat. Any breeder knows that if you have more than 7 or 8 AKC litters in a year, AKC comes out to your site every 12 to 18 months. They do only a cursory inspection of your facility. Their main goal is to see that all your paperwork is in order and they generally give you several days notice before coming. AKC is a wonderful registry and I am always happy to see our inspector when he comes, but passing the inspection, if you are following AKC paperwork rules, is no big accomplishment and says very little about your facility or the quality of your breeding practices. There is no "flying colors" to it. It is expected. To present this as some sort of award or feat is misleading.

4. I have seen a couple sites or summaries by a breeder on PuppyFind who will advertise that they are a "small family breeder" who only has 2 or 3 litters a year. Apparently they feel this sounds better. That can easily mean they are a backyard breeder and less knowledgeable. Elsewhere in their site, some of these same breeders are bragging about passing their AKC inspection. The fact that they had an AKC inspection tells you that they have at least 8 litters per year. So, they are telling you a lie when they said they were a small backyard breeder with 2 or 3 litters per year. It's finding these lies in a web site that will help you determine whether a breeder is honest enough for you to buy a puppy from.

5. Another thing some breeders will do is post "Quality Breeder" award stickers on their site. These "awards" are sent to every breeder. I have half a dozen e-mails with them in right now. The companies who send these out to breeders want breeders to post these "awards" on their site so that it links back to the company's site who sent it, and brings them more traffic. For the breeder, it makes them look like they got some sort of award of excellence, when this is VERY far from the truth. It is something that is sent around to all breeders. Some choose to post them and others, like myself, do not feel right putting them up on my site. It feels misleading to me.

6. Does the breeder show and/or sled with their dogs or are their dogs mainly kenneled and used to produce a constant stream of puppies? I always like to deal with breeders who not only are ethical, honest and don't mislead, but who are involved with their dogs in some sport. That shows me that they love the breed and it is not strictly a money making venture. When people make decisions based solely on profit, they are frequently poor ones for their dogs. You will find them breeding back to back several times, breeding before testing, breeding dogs that are too young and never allowing their dog to be anything but a breeding machine! We do extensive showing with our dogs as well as sledding. We have pictures of both sports on our site and many of our dogs are championed by us from reputable registries such as AKC and UKC.

Some breeders advertise "champion" dogs who are APRI Champions. APRI shows are a good way for children or new people to learn. Pretty much anyone's pet dog that is entered, will be "championed". Dogs don't compete against each other in their breed. They can be championed with NO competition whatsoever. It is a nice comfortable place for a novice to learn HOW to go around a ring, but it is not a champion title we would advertise as having great meaning or merit. AKC is the most prestigious and UKC right after that, along with International/National competitions and Canadian Championships.

7. Does the breeder write their own information on their site, showing they themselves are knowledgeable or do they "borrow" MOST EVERYTHING they have on their site from what others have written? If they borrow or take the majority of their site from others, it shows lack of knowledge on their part. I have even had one breeder copy my ads almost word for word! I see other breeders lift things off the Husky Colors site (instead of using the link), or AKC sites, again with no link. Without permission, this is plagiarism, again showing a level of dishonesty.

These are all things I look for when I look at anyone else's site. They show levels of honesty or lack of it. These are questions you should ask yourself. Is the breeder knowledgeable in presenting their OWN information on their site? Is their site honest or misleading? Will you trust someone who lies or misleads on their site? Do they care for their dogs more than they do for their own profit or pocketbook? A breeder's motto should be similar to a doctor's oath, "First do no harm". If they follow poor breeding practices, they are making money at the expense of their dogs. Do you want to buy from them and support this practice? Do they actually involve themselves in sports with their dogs, be it showing, sledding, agility or whatever? Do they love their dogs enough to have several of their breed in their house actually sharing their life with them?

As a breeder, these are things I look at and check out before I purchase a dog from someone. This is by no means an all inclusive list, but it is a start and I hope it helps raise your awareness of things you maybe hadn't thought of and of how to "read" someone's web site. Do your homework. You are able to buy from whoever you want but at least some of the information I have offered here, may open your eyes a little and help you in assessing who may be an honest and ethical breeder to spend your hard earned dollars with.

I am also adding a link that has other information on finding someone good. If anyone has any remarks or other suggestions, I would welcome them . They can send them to my e-mail address. Thanks and good luck in this process of finding an honest, ethical, knowledgeable breeder to do business with!! We strive to be all those things and would love to hear from you!

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