What Makes a Breeder "Responsible?

The following are exerpts from posts to the rec.pets.dogs newsgroups. Someday I will consolidate them into one article. For now, the original poster's address is included above their posting.


dabouldin@aol.com (DABouldin)

Good breeders --
--tell you about their dogs' siblings.
--are familiar with their line for several generations
--tell you about their dogs*faults* as well as strengths.
--will show you their dogs' xrays
--help you select a puppy that has a temperament that's compatible with you and your handling skills--and may talk you out of a puppy that you like
--will offer to refund your money or give you a replacement puppy if your puppy develops health problems.

The very best breeders are second or third generation breeders who love dogs in general; have owned many different breeds before settling on one or two to breed; have worked/shown/competed w/their dogs;raise their puppies in the house instead of kennels; like people and are willing to answer all sorts of dumb questions; genuinely care about their puppies and want you to keep them up to date on their progress and health. I would add that if you import dogs that you may not, in fact probably will not, get a guarantee, even from the best, most responsible breeders.


dobefan@aol.com (DobeFan)

You will know you have found a responsible breeder when the breeder make you PROVE you are qualified to own one of their puppies. If a breeder doesn't ask you any questions (Is your yard fenced - why do you want this breed - how many dogs have you owned in your life - at what ages did they die, and how did they die - have you ever gotten rid of a dog & why - what do you know about raising and training dogs) but only asks to see your checkbook, RUN don't walk away. If the breeder make you feel like you are trying to adopt one of their kids, you have found a responsible breeder. If a breeder will sell to you without giving you the third degree, RUN don't walk away. A breeder who sells carefully will have bred the litter carefully. A breeder who sells to anyone who walks in probably bred the litter about as casually.

And a breeder who demands that you sign a contract requiring that you return the puppy to them, if at any time, at any age, for any reason you decide not to keep the dog, is a responsible breeder. A responsible breeder will always be willing to take back one of their dogs - they feel responsible for every puppy they sell, for that dog's entire life.


diannes@u.washington.edu (Dianne Schoenberg)

Here is a definition of a responsible breeder that recently appeared in a breed club newsletter:

A responsible breeder is one who always puts the best interests of the breed and of individual dogs first, above any consideration of profit, trendiness, or personal ambition. A responsible breeder does not produce a litter just to have pups to sell or just because a bitch happened to come into season. He/she produces a litter only after careful consideration of the physical qualities and temperament of the proposed parents, their individual strengths and weaknesses, how their pedigrees (ancestors) relate, and what the proposed breeding would contribute to the improvement of the breed. This is often a difficult and time-consuming process, therefore, it is not surprising to find that a responsible breeder considers the puppies as his/her "kids" and wants only the best homes for them.

A responsible breeder...
- is eager to share detailed breed information
- believes there are no "stupid" questions
- grabs every opportunity to educate
- explains total breed care
- supplies shot records, pedigrees, care information
- explains genetic defects in the breed
- is willing to let you see the sire & dam
- questions the buyers ability to care for the dog
- offers guarantees
- talks about training and development
- cares about each and every pup
- maintains sanitary, clean quarters for the dogs
- tests all breeding stock


henningl@unigen.unit.no (Henning Lund)

After some years of breeding, puppy buyers increase in number which makes it more difficult to maintain personal contact with each and everyone, and as the dogs grow older, owners are usually not as keen on keeping in touch on their own initiative. Therefore, to maintain a good overview of the situation, each year we issue a questionaire to everyone that has bought a puppy from us. In this questionaire there are spesific questions on health (have your dog during the last year had problems with ears? eyes? skin? joints?....etc) and temperament (does your dog show aggression/fear towards people? other dogs? other animals? noise?...etc). What do you like the most about your dog? the least? This has given us some very valuable information.


Robin Nuttall <robin@imed.missouri.edu>

Here are my definitions:

Puppy mill.
-Medium to large operation whose only purpose is to sell dogs at a profit. -Will sell to anyone. Will sell to wholesalers/brokers/bunchers.
-Do not do health checks on parents (OFA, CERF, etc.)
-Do not care about temperament, genetics, conformation, or health.
-Operates as cheaply as possible to maximize profits. This often means vaccinations and veterinary care are either very poor or absent.
-I personally suspect any facility that has more than one or two different breeds.
-Facilities can be clean, but more often are not.
-Dogs show little to no socialization.
-Pedigrees are not available.
-Health Guarantees, in the rare instance they are offered, are usually fraudulent (i.e., guarantee for 3 months for all defects, when hip dysplasia cannot be entirely ruled out until the dog is 24 months old).

Backyard Breeder.
-Thinks "purebred" = quality and health.
-Breeds for reasons such as, "I thought she would be more fulfilled if she had puppies." "I wanted the kids to see the miracle of birth." "She's purebred, and I thought I could make some money."
-Backyard breeders usually hope to make some money, but they are not purely profit minded. They are just ignorant.
-Again, there are no titles, no pedigree offered, no knowledge or thought of genetics or testing for genetic defects in the sire or dam.
-Some backyard breeders can be educated.

Suspect a puppy mill or backyard breeder when:
-The breeder asks you no questions.
-The breeder is offended by questions you ask.
-The breeder cannot offer proof of genetic testing of sire/dam.
-The breeder does not want you to see their kennel.
-The breeder shows you one or two puppies only, does not allow you to see either dam or sire.
-The sire/dam have no titles (Ch., obedience, tracking, agility, etc.)
-You can smell the kennels as you get out of your car.
-There are many breeds available to choose from.

Reputable breeders.
-Will ask you a lot of questions.
-Will expect you to ask a lot of questions.
-Will be honest with you about both the best and worst parts of their breed.
-Will try to determine if their breed is right for you, and may steer you in another direction if they think their breed is *not* right for you.
-Will provide you with pedigrees, genetic test results.
-Will show you the dam and (if possible) the sire.
-Are not motivated by profit.
-Are motivated by the love of their breed.
-Breed to improve the gene pool of their breed.
-Are active in showing/obedience/hunting/agility, etc.
-Will want to keep tabs on you and your dog for the dog's life.


diannes@u.washington.edu (Dianne Schoenberg)

The number of dogs someone owns has nothing to do with it. A responsible breeder:

* has spent a number of years studying and learning about their breed
* is active in one or more breed clubs or similar groups and thus is in regular contact with other people in the breed
* knows their breeding stock inside and out for several generations back
* has an "eye for a dog" and has developed a detailed picture of the type of dog they're breeding toward
* almost always compete in some in some sort of activity with their dogs (conformation, working activities, obedience etc.) so as to have a realistic idea of how their dogs compare to others of the same the breed
* is knowledgable about the hereditary problems that occur in their breed and has the appropriate tests done prior to breeding in order to decrease the likelihood of their occurance in their pups
* considers temperament important
* is knowledgable about the mating and whelping of dogs in general, so as to minimize the chances of injury or death to the breeding dogs
* is extremely concerned with the quality of the homes that their puppies are destinied for, to the point of not performing a breeding if they don't feel good homes will be available for the pups
* never has more dogs of their own than they are properly able to care for
* is willing and able to educate and build a relationship with their puppy buyers
* is honest
* uses spay/neuter contracts and/or limited registration to prevent the casual breeding of their puppies
* is ALWAYS willing to take back a dog of their breeding if a puppy buyer cannot keep it for any reason


tittle@netcom.com (Cindy Tittle Moore)

A responsible breeder

1) Breeds for a reason -- to improve the breed.
2) Each litter is carefully considered before being created.
3) Any animal used for breeding is thoroughly checked for health problems before being bred.
4) Any animal used for breeding is proven in some way to have the abilities and other characteristics essential to the breed.
5) Keeps at least one puppy in each litter for his/her breeding program (otherwise, what was the purpose of the breeding)
6) Thoroughly evaluates potential puppy buyers to be sure each puppy is put into a good home
7) Requires that puppies not to be used for breeding be neutered.
8) Encourages all puppy owners to test their puppies for various health probelms and report them back to the breeder so that the breeder has a broad> as well as a deep knowledge of what is in his/her lines.
9) Takes back any dog he/she ever bred if that dog looses its home 10)Is honest about the various setbacks their breeding program may have suffered.
11)Is deeply knoweldgeable about the breed's, history, original purpose, weaknesses and strengths.
12)Is willing to refuse to sell a puppy to a family that is unsuited to the breed.
13)Provides advice, feedback, and other help to people who have purchased a puppy from him/her.
14)Is willing to recommend to a family that adopting an adult dog of the breed might be a better option for them and helps them find a rescue group.


wendy@zzyx.ucsc.edu (Wendy Duggan)

Responsible breeders:
do health checks, correctly socialize and otherwise do everything to insure that their guarantees are meaningful.

Responsible breeders:
screen the homes their puppies (and older dogs) go to, to insure a correct match between human and animal, and insure that the physical and, as much as possible, the emotional needs of the dogs are adequately fulfilled.

Responsible breeders:
will take back any dog of their breeding at any stage of its life if the original owners are unwilling or unable to keep the dog.

Responsible breeders:
have a plan, know the standard of their breed(s), breed for health and performance as well as conformation, and have a true understanding and love of their breed(s).

Responsible breeders:
provide health, vaccination and historical information on their dogs at the time of sale. They are available to the new owners for information, advice, etc. They welcome visits (except when unvaccinated puppies are in residence) and are happy to give information out on their breed.

Responsible breeders:
understand that in spite of all this, things sometimes go haywire. But they are there to help, rectify, pick up the pieces as necessary, and not to abandon the situation with "it's not my problem anymore...".

So, by definition, no RESPONSIBLE BREEDER, no matter what the quality of the dogs they produce, the amount of winning, the number of CHs in the pedigree, will EVER EVER EVER sell puppies through a pet shop. The act of not screening prospective homes, alone, removes them from the ranks of responsibility.


Robin Nuttall <robin@imed.missouri.edu>

Responsible breeders will not be insulted by *any* questions you may ask, not only about health concerns, but about personalities, care, temperaments, obedience, etc.

Responsible breeders may require you to have a fenced yard. They feel there should be no such thing as having a dog hit by a car.

Responsible breeders may ask you to do certain health checks on your dog, even if he is of pet quality and to be neutered. Hip Dysplasia, CERF, etc. testing *all* their offspring can help a responsible breeder make good future breeding decisions.


Betty Anne Shores & Nick Nichols <sibhusky@ix.netcom.com>

A responsible breeder cares about their dogs so much that they check up on them and keep in touch with the new owners. They relay information to the new owners on littermates' health and condition.

A responsible breeder cares so much about their dogs that they insist on taking in "their" dogs while the new owners take a vacation rather than allowing them to go to some unknown kennel.

A responsible breeder says "no" to most prospective owners rather than "yes", preferring to lose a sale rather than make a mistake in allowing the wrong family to adopt their dogs.

A responsible breeder immediately neuters any dog who may be responsible for passing along inherited diseases even though they are unsure whether it is THEIR dog or the "other" dog who is the carrier. Having "done their homework in advance" on both dogs, they still don't risk that it is their dog.


mastiffs@parsifal.nando.net

The OFA, like CERF, publishes *excellent* free brochures that if you read them carefully will help you understand the genetics realistically. My friends and I test ALL offspring of ALL our animals for all the standard stuff (OFA hips, elbows, and patellas; vWD disease; MSU thyroid status; CERF exam reports) and share the data. Few breeders in our breed test at all, and most that do only test the dogs they think will pass, or only the ones they show. Our reason for testing ALL offspring is based on what we learned from the OFA brochure.

BREADTH of pedigree is more important in testing of relatives than depth. That is, it is the parents' siblings and grandparents and their siblings that, when studied as a group, give the most realistic basis for judgment. I know of animals whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all OFA Good or Excellent, but produced a surprising number of unsound pups. That is depth of pedigree, and that is only part of the picture. The other side of the story was that there were also a number of unsound dogs in the parents' and grandparents' litters.

Just as I resemble my mother's aunt more than I look like either of my parents or any of my grandparents, any pup's aunts, uncles, & great-aunts and great-uncles are likely to be lurking in the genes and are just as apt to come out as the genes that made the parents what they are. I know of an OFA Good dog who IS lovely. But he has thrown a lot of unsound pups. Because I know many generations of his relatives, I know that there was a fair amount of dysplasia on both parents' sides, and also that he is about the only sound animal to come out of that litter. Sure he's sound. Has the certificate to prove it. But he throws what is predominant behind him.

OFA says it is better to use an OFA Fair or Good dog whose close relatives are Good and Excellent, than to use an OFA Excellent animal with a number of unsound close relatives.

Not to get into too involved a discussion, but dogs carry genes for qualities they don't show, but their relatives did. Depending on how much homework you did, how much info you have to work from, and also depending partly on the rules that govern the throw of the dice, you can get puppies that are consistent with the parents, or mostly much better than, or lesser than, the parents.

This is why people who fail to test ALL offspring are screwing up the data the breed needs. If you only test PART of the population, you only get part of the picture. If you compound this by only testing, or only sending in the x-rays on those dogs you & your vet think will PASS, you BADLY skew the statistics and prevent the people who really care from getting realistic data to help them make the best possible decisions.

So for me deciding on a breeding or considering a puppy, I get the latest OFA and CERF lists of passing mastiffs, I get into my mastiff pedigrees, and I try to find out how many close relatives are proven by standard tests to be OK. (If an animal is not listed as passing, it may not have been tested, OR it may have been tested and failed. So the safe approach is to assume that at least SOME of the unscored relatives ARE unsound. And take that into consideration.)

As for OFA certification of parents etc. not helping, that is a rather short-sighted view. The more generations of OFA-certified sound relatives a animal has, the better the ODDS it will also be sound. But it will be many MANY generations before dogs will be so genetically clean that there is nothing bad that might pop out.

And sometimes you'll get dealt a royal flush and sometimes you get nothing that goes with anything else or is worth anything. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Testing all relatives and sharing data and looking at the big picture are the only ways I know of at this point to stack the deck in your favor. If we all start now and do that, we CAN make a difference in just a few generations.