Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dog Breeders: Devils or Angels?

One of my Facebook friends (who actually is a friend in real life) posted a photo of a Cane Corso bitch who had been owner-surrendered to a local shelter.

The listing stated, "The owners were breeding her and selling her puppies. Now, she's been cast off and left in a shelter. She has 2 cherry eyes but that's just cosmetic. She seemed like a sweet happy girl."

The first comment under the photo was, "poor baby, breeders suck".

And that got my goat, because I'm a breeder. And while I suck at a lot of things - time management, posture, cleaning my closet, and ironing, to name but a few - I don't suck when it comes to my dogs.

I understand. I understand if you volunteer at a shelter and see dog after dog after heartbreaking dog come in. Dumped like yesterday's cold oatmeal. Brought into the world by human carelessness, ignorance, or greed and dropped off to be your problem when it wasn't your fault. I truly understand. Believe me, it makes me sick.

But let's think for just a moment.

What if there were no more Labrador Retrievers? "Oh that would be fine, because then everyone would rescue a dog in a shelter," says the Breeders Suck Person. Then who would be the seeing eye dogs? Who would get up at oh-dark-thirty with a big smile on their face and sit in a blind with their owner for hours and jump into the icy pond and get the duck and have so much fun doing it that their heart practically explodes? What if my son hadn't had the best outfielder in the world, even if Opie did give a whole new meaning to the term 'spitball'?

What if there were no more Bloodhounds? What if your grandmother with Alzheimer's disease had wandered off into the woods and there was no search and rescue dog to call?

What if there were no more Pugs? No more Sphinx-like ancient Ibizans or Pharaoh Hounds? No more German Shepherds or Malinois to help police and soldiers? No more Beagles to sniff for airport contraband or to curl up on your couch? No more Border Collies to fly through an Agility course or to bring the sheep to the fold?

These dogs are living history. They are our treasure. And without breeders every breed of dog is an endangered one. Every single breed.

Here's where breeders do suck, in my opinion. We suck at public education. We suck at telling people what is involved in being a good breeder.

A good breeder does expensive testing on any dog they plan to breed. They test for eye abnormalities, joint problems, heart disease, thyroid disease, and more depending on the breed. They have the results of the testing available for you to see.

A good breeder won't sell you a puppy before it is eight weeks old.

A good breeder's clothes might be a bit frumpy and out of style, but their dogs' coats will gleam.

A good breeder will make you sign a contract saying that if for any reason whatsoever you can't keep the dog you are purchasing, you will return it to that good breeder. Period.

A good breeder will have someone check you out before they sell you one of their precious puppies. You'll need a vet referral, and quite possibly you'll have to submit to a home visit. A good breeder will want to know that if you said your yard is fenced, it actually is fenced, and they won't just take your word for it. If instead, they see three dogs chained to barrels, you won't be getting their precious puppy.

A good breeder will have some Very Old Dogs in their home. These dogs will occupy the Best Beds, and will often be found on their breeder's lap, regardless of the size of the dog. When a good breeder strokes her Very Old Dog's ears, she may lose her train of thought, and she might blink hard a couple of times.

A good breeder won't always have puppies available. This is important. Please pay attention. A good breeder won't always have puppies available. A good breeder will refer you to another good breeder who does, or who will soon.

A good breeder might tell you that, in his opinion, his breed isn't the right breed for your lifestyle, or that perhaps an adult from rescue would be a better fit. A good breeder might not be willing to sell you a puppy.

A good breeder will know the history of their breed inside and out, backwards and forwards.

A good breeder will do something with their dogs. They will have ribbons and rosettes, or certificates in frames, or trophies and win photos everywhere.

A good breeder will tell you all of the problems of their breed and will go on and on until your ears want to jump off of your head. Their walls will be covered with photos of their dogs and paintings of their breed. They will have knickknacks and dishtowels featuring their breed.

If the worst thing happens and a dog that a good breeder sold ends up in a shelter, that good breeder will go to Hell and back to get that dog out.

Good breeders live for their dogs.

hug your hounds