Choosing Your Breeder Wisely
Yes, you heard me right! I am comparing selecting a dog breeder to entering a marriage. At least I believe people SHOULD think of it this way; both the buyer and the breeder. For now, I am just focused on the buyer side, however, I would argue that breeders should take the time to carefully consider whether the person inquiring about their puppies is someone they want to spend the next 10-15 years with.
For my big dog buying friends out there, here we go…
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While I am not advocating testing your future spouse, I am suggesting that health be a factor in your decision. It is no different with our dogs.
We have come a long way in recent years in the field of canine health and genetic testing and most reputable breeders do some or all of this testing on their breeding stock BEFORE breeding in order to both prevent disease in their puppies but also to track their lines for inheritable diseases.
That said, while I know some breeders who question the validity of all these tests, I do not know of any breeder that I would consider reputable that doesn’t do at least SOME health tests on their breeding stock. If you are considering a breeder that does not test their dogs, walk away… fast!
9. Temperament issues?
Picture this: You are on your first date and enjoying a perfectly lovely conversation when your waitress walks to your table to greet you and your date stands up and screams at the top of his lungs “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!” Any rational person would think “Yikes, where the heck did that come from?” Do you think you would make it to a second date with this person?
When picking a breeder, I believe both the personality of the breeder and the temperament of his/her dogs is a consideration that cannot be minimized! As I mentioned in my first post Do You Own A Big Dog Or Want To? Big Dog Mom Can Help! I have experienced the best and the worst when it comes to temperament. I encourage you to read Linus’s story here, Life With An Aggressive Dog: A Letter To My Sweet Baboo.
Ask yourself, is this breeder someone I can comfortably speak to and that I have rapport with, is willing to answer all of my questions without being defensive, is knowledgeable and experienced in the breed, is someone other respected leaders in the breed respect, and, perhaps most importantly, asks YOU more questions than you ask him/her?
8. Family tree?
What if you found out your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents were odd (and not just in a quirky sense), and their sisters and brothers were even more strange, and then you meet their uncle with a monobrow and you think he really should be committed.
Your prospective spouse seems normal enough, but wouldn’t you stop to consider the bloodlines from which he came? That is going to be the blood running through the veins of your children.
When you are considering a breeder, I strongly urge you to do your homework on the history of their pedigrees. What you see is a strong indicator of what you will be getting. If you don’t like it, walk away… kindly.
What are other people saying about this breeder? Now, I’m not talking about gossip or Facebook silliness, but honest feedback from respected folks in the breed. Does this breeder have a positive reputation? Can you speak to former puppy buyers, the breeder’s veterinarian, or maybe to popular handlers whom you trust to get information?
“Like” them on Facebook and observe how they speak to people and what information they share. I have found true colors are often seen in social media so go with your gut on this one.
Do I really have to compare this to a, prospective spouse’s reputation? If so, walk into any STD clinic. Do your due diligence!
If your soon-to-be spouse says to you “After those wild college years (if he/she says this go back and re-read #7), I never really thought of myself as the husband/wife type. But, sure, we can try this out. Might be fun!”
Do you think he/she will be around when life is no longer keg parties, but poopy diapers and tantrums?
In the same way, is this breeder committed to you, the prospective buyer, and to the puppies they produce? Do they have a solid contract in place for this puppy that protects both you and the breeder for the life of the dog?
As a Big Dog Mom, I do maintain consistent communication with Junior’s and Sulley’s breeders. I have come to understand what an important and valuable relationship these are for me and for my dogs and how much I value the knowledge, expertise and support they give me.
If you catch your boyfriend/girlfriend lying to you about anything other than which surprise restaurant they are treating you to, you might want to step back and consider the honesty and integrity of the person you are marrying.
Look for a breeder that will share with you the positive and the negative. Do they gloss over the negatives or present them as positives? Do they present their dogs as though they are perfect? Do they hyper-focus on some areas but not others?
In the world of mastiffs, breeders who consistently and publically report their dogs’ size and weight are a big pet peeve for me. I worry that this hyper-focus on size and weight do nothing to better the mastiff breed. In your breed, is it excessive wrinkle, angulation, or drive, etc.? I think you get my point.
4. The Formative Years?
Your breeder will be the one person solely responsible for the care and raising of your new puppy for the first 8-10+ weeks of his/her life. Future posts will focus on the critical periods of development that a puppy goes through during these early weeks and what breeders can/should do to make the most of them.
Consider your breeder like your prospective new mother-in-law. She was responsible for the care and raising of your soon-to-be spouse before you came in the picture. When raised well, you reap the rewards!
Consider reading my interview with Jadem Mastiffs for an example of what good looks like in terms of a breeders role in socializing and stimulating puppies.
What does your spouse think of this breeder? If not a spouse, a trusted friend or family member?
Don’t discount the feedback you get. As a mother of two children, I can only PRAY they will heed my warnings and listen to me when they are selecting their future spouse!
2. Gut Check?
Alright, time for a gut check. Is there anything still nagging at your or questions you have that have gone unanswered? I have found that, especially when puppies are already on the ground and I have already fallen in love, this gut check is particularly challenging.
Like with human relationships, sometimes we have a hard time defining what is in our gut. If your gut is saying no, go with it!
1. Vision of the Future?
Now, after all of that, close your eyes. Imagine 10 years into the future.
Do you see your big dog, with his sweet gray muzzle and calming spirit, faithfully warming your feet as you send off random pictures of him sleeping to his breeder? If not, what do you see?
As Franklin Covey says, “Begin with the End in Mind.” If you can’t imagine life with your spouse 10 years from now, DO NOT tie the knot!! If you can, congratulations!! I can’t wait to see pictures of your new puppy!
Did I Miss Anything?
I am curious what you think about this list? Are there other considerations you have used when selecting a dog breeder? I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment and give me your thoughts on how we can make this list even stronger for new puppy buyers out there.