Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Puppy Picking - Personal Responsibility in Choosing a Dog

I don't know how many of you have seen this Today Show piece from this morning...

I'm going to get on a soapbox for a minute here so forgive me.

I don't care about AKC Registration. Reyna is registered with the AKC, it means nothing except that she has a number and can participate in their activities. Mixed breeds can be registered with the AKC. Somebody left a male Boxer on our doorstep when I was a kid and my parents registered him with the AKC. I appreciate that this registration means we can participate in their sports, but I do not put any intrinsic value in it...they haven't seen Reyna, she could be a horrible example of the breed, she could also be a potential champion sleeping on our living room rug. The registration does not in anyway indicate health, or value, of the dog.

Now when the AKC says that they have inspected a kennel and certify that the kennel meets their standards that's a whole different kettle of fish and they got themselves into the mess this article exposes all on their own.

What I don't like about the way this is presented are statements like "most AKC breeders are probably fine, but...". If a person walks into a breeder's facility, sees the dogs in the condition that those Great Danes where in and then STILL chooses to purchase a puppy, they have made that decision on their own. I don't care if the AKC gave them a giant gold star and announced their awesomeness at every sanctioned event in the country. I believe it is the personal responsibility of every person obtaining a dog from a breeder to:

1) Inform themselves about the breed they are interested in
- What traits are you selecting your breed for
- What health issues are factors in your breed
- What tests and certifications are available to screen dogs of that breed for those health issues
- What are the standards for color, coat type, size
- How should a fit healthy individual from that breed move, look, and behave

2) Look at EVERY dog that breeder has and get proof of up to date screenings for health issues for EVERY dog that breeder has, not just the parents of the litter you're interested in.

3) Meet the dogs, look for the temperament that should be typical of the breed

4) Inspect the facilities yourself - except for key periods of time when puppy's immune systems are at risk, you should be able to see the entire facility.

5) Choose the Breeder NOT the Puppy
- Don't go when you are ready to get a puppy
- If I think "man I would sure like a puppy this week, let me see who has German Shepherds between 8-10 weeks old today" that is a recipe for bad decisions.
- Go when the breeder does NOT have puppies available to take home that day
- Pick your breeder first and then wait for the right litter to be born so you can make a clear decision and not be blinded by puppy cuteness

6) Be ready to PAY
- Good breeders are not "bargains"
- They invest so much into showing, training, competing, obtaining health screenings, upkeep of the facilities and the dogs that the purchase price of the puppy doesn't compare to the costs that went into that carefully planned litter
- Each breed varies in what you can expect to pay but if your budget is $200-$500 you really are better off rescuing, because that is about the level of predictability you can expect from that price point, so why not put your funds towards an ethical rescue organization instead of a breeder who does not raise litters with the future of the breed in mind.

Which brings me to my next point about adopting from a rescue vs. purchasing from a breeder. It's the same thing technically, you are just choosing who to support. People attach the term adopting to rescues and purchasing to breeders but it is the SAME THING. You are writing a check to take home a dog, calling it an adoption fee or a purchase price doesn't change anything. The important thing to consider is who are you choosing to support and why. When I paid the fee to the Greyhound rescue for my dog in college I don't think I was a better person than when I paid the fee to the breeder to bring Reyna home. I had a specific goal for what I needed at that time. I found an organization that met that need that upon inspection was ethical, responsible, held high health standards, and truly cared for their animals, so I wrote them a check and took home the dog.

Some people believe it is unethical to breed dogs and they choose to support a shelter or rescue exclusively. I disagree, but I also have some pretty high expectations for what I consider a "responsible/reputable breeder". I commend the people that save the dogs from death row and are willing to take on the unknowns that come with rescuing. It's not for everybody. I don't think rescuing is always the better option, and I think the same level of scrutiny needs to go into which rescue organization you are going to support as you would for a breeder. 

I just think passing the personal responsibility off on the AKC (i.e. the AKC said they were okay so I don't have to do any research, and now I have a sick puppy so it's the AKCs fault) is passing the buck!

Okay I'm done.

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