The Responsible Breeder: Raising The Next Generation Of Sound And Healthy Dogs
Responsible breeders create the next generation of sound, health-tested, well-socialized puppies in the breeds you love by prioritizing temperament, health and structure. There is no standardization in the dog breeding industry, which means that anyone can – and do – call themselves a breeder regardless of their knowledge, experience, or ethics. The lack of laws has led to a lack of breeder oversight.
While responsible breeding practices prioritize the health and well-being of dogs, the process can be time-consuming. Lack of responsible dog breeders consequently lack responsibly-bred dogs.
When it comes to dog breeding, it is not difficult for anyone to present themselves as an ethical and responsible breeder by saying all the right things. The virtual puppy buying world allows for rogue breeders and scammers to more easily hide behind a screen of a slick website, marketing themselves better than they used to – and better than they are. These so-called “responsible breeders” may even claim to conduct health screenings on their breeding dogs. They flood and oversaturate the market with their animals. This poses very real threats to the genetic health of the dog.
How do you ensure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder and not supporting unethical breeding?
Despite the challenges of lack of regulation and oversight, popularity of fad breeds, and lack of education, responsible breeders do exist. Where you purchase your puppy from impacts the long-lasting effect on the character and health of the dog in adulthood.
It’s important to be responsible in your search to make sure you purchase a healthy dog that has been raised ethically and supports good practices.
How to Locate a Responsible Breeder
You can locate a responsible breeder in several different ways:
- Contact the Parent/National Breed Club for your selected breed:
- National Clubs are the parent clubs for each AKC-recognized breed:
- American Kennel Club – Find a Club
- AKC Foundation Stock Service® (AKC-FSS)
- Canadian Kennel Club | Club Canin Canadien
- The United Kennel Club (UKC)
- The Kennel Club (U.K.) (KC)
- The Fédération Internationale Cynologique (FCI)
Contact the Local Performance or Conformation Clubs
- Attend dog events
- Attend dog shows
- Meet breeders
- Ask your veterinarian
Responsible breeders are entrenched in activities in the dog community and belong to regional, national, or international breed and performance clubs formed to preserve, protect, and promote their breed.
Responsible breeders are a member in good standing with the official parent club for the breed. While there is no enforcement, they willingly follow the parent club’s Code of Ethics.
In Canada, you can review The Disciplined Persons List. This is a list of persons that have had their privileges with the CKC revoked, including the right to utilize the registration services of the Club.
The breed clubs have a code of ethics that members must meet in order to join. However, these are guidelines with no enforcement. Some breeders are highly ethical, while others’ morality and values are very questionable. These bad breeders are savvy when it comes to misrepresentation. That is why it is up to you to be properly educated.
An informed dog buyer should be able to comprehend and grasp their dog’s breed standard and its basic intent.
*A breed standard is the description of the ideal dog of each recognized breed to serve as a blueprint by which dogs are judged at shows – in an unbias manner.
All dogs presented for the Breed Standard Evaluation must have passing/acceptable clearances for the health tests per the breed. These health testing requirements originate with a parent club. The AKC has additionally compiled the health testing requirements for each breed, organized by group.
Health Testing in Dogs
“Health-testing” refers to the recommended breed-specific tests carried out on the parents – before breeding.
Testing before breeding is the standard of care. These tests are tools to prevent problems. There is absolutely no excuse not to utilize these available tools. It is the ethical responsibility and obligation of all breeders to perform the available tests.
Every breed or mix is predisposed to their own set of diseases. Therefore, the tests your dog needs prior to breeding depends upon their breed.
To figure out exactly which tests your dog would need, check the lists at:
Check that the breeder has done all of the available health screening on the parents of your puppy and ask to see the relevant documentation to prove that both parents of your puppy are healthy and fit to breed.
If a breeder has not carried out all the available health tests, ask them to explain why.
Health testing is not a secret. Asking questions should not result in the breeder getting defensive. Breeding responsibly requires a deep understanding of genetics, temperament, canine husbandry, breed standards, breed history, medical tests, and much more. Having had all of the relevant health tests that are appropriate for the breed reduces or avoids the risk of passing health problems on to the next generation of dogs.
Check for documentation:
Health testing is not a secret, and it is nothing to be defensive about.
Passing off “DNA testing”, “vet clearance”, “Embark” as doing proper health testing to the unsuspecting buyer is not acceptable and is a misrepresentation of pre-breeding health clearances.
Responsible breeders are proud of their dogs’ genetics. Titles and health clearances should be listed and able to be confirmed. Then compare the health tests the breed club has listed appropriate for the breed, and compare those to the breeder you see to ensure they are being represented truthfully.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) registers and manages the database of results, related breed statistics, provides data to researchers, and recommends the tests and labs where all of the various tests (Hip Scoring and Hip Evaluations, Elbow Grading, Knee Grading, Thyroid Clearance, Cardiac Clearance, Eye Clearance and DNA Testing) can be carried out. This benefits breeders, pet owners, and researchers.
Intentionally omitting health screening or withholding health screening results escapes responsibility.
Check the pedigrees and health clearances for the animals they breed. A reputable breeder does not breed dogs without papers; that does not protect the integrity of the breed. Registration (papers) are records of lineage that document bloodline and allow one to research any possible health issues present in the lineage.
As a puppy buyer:
In order to find a reputable breeder
- You responsibly choose a breed that suits your lifestyle
- You are familiarized with the breed standard
- You are familiarized with the genetic predispositions to that breed
- You have a list of reputable breeders from the breed club
- You crosscheck their information in the public database
- You compare search results with the public database requirements and breed club recommendations
Owning and caring for a dog is one of the most joyous and rewarding experiences you can have. Making a responsible choice in the first place will ensure that it is. Finding a reputable breeder is an important step in ensuring that you get a healthy and well-adjusted animal. An educated choice is far better than an impulsive puppy purchase.
Make a thoughtful choice. Your dog’s future depends on it.
Sheepdog Riggs, Forever in Our hearts
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