Responsible Dog Ownership, Support Responsible Breeders

What Are You Paying For?

Recently, I’ve written a few posts discussing some of the reasons a puppy from a responsible breeder can be worth a considerable amount of money. Considerations are health, temperament, breeder support and so forth. But like many things in life, more expensive does not always  mean better.

If you were to see a fancy, new sports car for sale your local craigslist for $6,000, the first words out of your mouth would likely be, “What’s wrong with it?” The likelihood of a brand new, fancypants (yes, that’s the technical term) sports car in good condition being sold for that extremely affordable price is very low. It would likely have a salvage title, or some sort of mechanical issue.

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Fancypants sports car

Conversely, if you found a 1999 Geo Metro with 200,000 miles for sale for the same price of $6,000 you may raise your eyebrows a bit.  The car is really nothing to write home about and the seller must be delusional to think they would ever get that amount.

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Geo Metro

We use this type of critical thinking all the time in our daily lives. Any time we are buying something, we ask ourselves, “What am I paying for? Is this worth it?”

We need to start taking that same mentality and applying it to dog shopping. Just like used car dealerships sometimes try to bamboozle buyers with technical terms and flashy sales techniques, there are puppy producers who have found buzz words to increase the perceived value of a sub par product.

“Exotic!” “Champion Bloodlines” “Original Bloodlines” “Old World” “Rare Colors” “Wooly Coat” These are all terms that can seem appealing to unsuspecting puppy buyers. As humans, we all want something rare and unique. We want to be able to say, “Oh, he’s a double dapple” like it’s something special. Or say, “Oh no, he’s not a malamute, he’s a Woolly Husky!

If it’s not the fancy color or coat that’s appealing, maybe it’s the fact that you can say, “His grandpa was a champion!” or “His bloodlines go straight back to Italy, where the breed is from”

To go back to the car analogy, it’s much like going to a car lot, seeing a car that’s a cool color, having the sales person talk up the car, but never looking at the statistics on the car, not checking the miles, and never considering the MPG. You might drive off the lot having spent a considerable amount of money on a car that is not worth it, merely because you like the way it looked. $6000 is a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the nightmare of a money pit you might end up with if you buy the wrong car.

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I’m going to pick on huskies in this post, but the concepts hold true for every breed. The photo above is a screenshot of a puppy producer who regularly sells puppies for upwards of $1,300. For some breeds, that’s a steal. But for a husky in my area, it’s very steep. Why are these dogs worth so much? I have no idea! Based on their facebook posts, it’s clear that they’re breeding their dogs young (under two years old), don’t health test, and breed for traits that are not correct in the breed such as a woolly coat and being oversized.

An AKC registered, health tested Siberian Husky from a responsible breeder in the US generally sells for $600 – $800 for a companion dog and closer to $1,200 for a show prospect. Their health tests are from nationally recognized organizations and they dedicate their time, money and love to ensuring they’re doing what’s best for each individual puppy. They have strict standards for potential puppy buyers and take their dogs back at any time for any reason if the buyer can’t keep them. They strive to educate puppy buyers on the challenges of owning a husky. The breed is known for being vocal, digging and roaming.  While the breed is a good fit for many, these traits can be a deal breaker for some.

Correct Husky
A husky bred by a responsible breeder in keeping with the breed standard. Photo used with permission.

A well bred, correct Siberian Husky is valuable for many reasons, and none of the important ones have anything to do with a show ring. First of all, a responsible breeder is specifically breeding for correct temperament. There’s going to a certain predictability to the dog’s behavior, so if you’re buying a husky because you  did your research and are looking for certain traits, buying from a responsible breeder is going to increase your chances of getting the dog you’re looking for.

Everyone wants their pet to be happy and healthy, so health testing is another very important part of the breeding process. You want to know if the dog is genetically predisposed to certain issues, and you want a breeder who not only has health tested, but also has records of your puppy’s parents’, grandparents’ and siblings’ health. Keep in mind that your dog’s health is dependent on a variety of factors and genetics is only part of the puzzle. But getting your dog from a responsible breeder will give you as good a start as you can hope for.

Correct structure is something that is vastly underrated when people are looking for a pet. A dog that has correct structure is going to be built in such a way that they’re not putting unnecessary stress on certain joints. If their chest doesn’t have the right angulation, every time the step forward they will have to overcompensate to gain enough reach. That overcompensation puts strain on the shoulder joint and ligaments increasing chances of injury.  That’s not to say a well bred dog can’t get injured, but a balanced dog moves with ease.

Along with important physical aspects, a dog from a responsible breeder comes with breeder support. Whether the dog is ten months or ten  years old, a good breeder will want to be kept up to date on how they’re doing. Have a serious life change and can’t keep the dog? The breeder will either take the dog back or help you re-home him. You have questions because your 6 month old Bernese Mountain Dog won’t stop eating….EVERYTHING? Call the breeder! They’ve raised a significant number of not only the same breed, but your dog’s relatives! They will be able to tell you if the behavior is normal and give suggestions.  You don’t know how valuable this type of support is until you have it.

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Part of breeder support is also having a breeder who is involved with the local dog community. They will have personal knowledge of the trainers and groomers in your area and if you don’t live near your area, they will have contacts in the national dog community and often be able to recommend someone. Their main goal is your puppy living a long, happy, healthy life.

So if a person can buy a well bred husky for $600-$1,200, why are people paying well over that for poorly bred ones? There are a number of reasons for this, but the two main reasons are 1) people are often too impatient to wait for the right breeder and 2) pure salesmanship. This goes for any breed.  When a puppy producer’s main goal is to make money, they will spend the time and energy to get flashy websites with high quality photos. They often have a very big presence on social media with many followers and use certain phrases to increase the “perceived value” of their product. There are  responsible breeders who can have flashy websites and the like, but many of them are spending their money on health testing, dog sports, and training. They’re “out with the dogs” so to speak and don’t always prioritize sales.

This is where telling people that the dog is somehow special because he’s a “Woolly Husky” comes into play. People will pay extra because they think they’re getting something rare or special, when really what they’re getting is hours and hours of grooming and vacuuming up hair.

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And if they’re not willing to put in the time and work that it takes to take care of that “woolly” coat, it can seriously affect the dog’s health and happiness. I saw this all the time when I was grooming, and not just with huskies. “Doodle” owners would come in all the time with with a deep misunderstanding of their dogs’ coat. I have had more than one person tell me “He’s a doodle so he doesn’t shed, so he doesn’t need groomed as much as a poodle.” What? No! In some cases, I would end up having to shave their severely matted dog down to the skin.

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If you do not groom your “woolly husky” regularly it can be detrimental for their health and you may end up having to shave them down – sometimes the fur never grows back the same. Note the red, irritated patches of skin on the dog’s side.

There are plenty of breeds out there that need extensive grooming and regular coat maintenance, but what makes puppy producers breeding specifically for incorrect coat texture stand out is the lack of education they give their puppy buyers. Like I’ve said before, there’s a gradient of puppy producers, so sure there are some that explain the challenges that come with this type of coat, but the majority of buyers walk into this with no concept of the amount of time, training and energy it takes just to care for the dog’s hair.

The same thing happens with puppy producers who breed specifically for things like a “double dapple” coat, extreme brachycephaly (squishy face dogs), and other “exotic” traits. Many animals bred for double dapple coats are born deaf or blind and extremely flat faced dogs often need expensive surgery to help them breathe. In some cases, the average puppy buyer is paying thousands of dollars more for these “unique” features.

Just because a puppy producer is selling a dog for an astronomical price, does not mean they are a responsible breeder. If the breeder isn’t checking the boxes that you prioritize as responsible, you need to keep looking and researching. You’re going to have that dog for the next 10 – 15 years….I guarantee it is worth it to wait and find the right dog from the right breeder.

*Featured photo used with permission.

 

Previous Post: Why I’m Done Using The Term “Backyard Breeder” 

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