I found it rather timely that the world of purebred dogs was brought front and centre this week with the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, while the topic of puppy mills and breeding dogs for profit continues to circulate in the media.
This year's winner was CJ, a German short-haired pointer (GSP) - my favourite breed by the way. I have always been reluctant to declare publicly what my favourite breed of dog is out of concern that someone may interpret it as a suggestion that they acquire
one. I will declare this: GSPs are a very challenging breed to own and not for first-time dog owners.
Unfortunately, with the Westminster winner's rise to fame, the ugliness of humanity will come out. Specifically, backyard breeders and puppy mills will be ready to capitalize on those who want the latest popular breed or the latest "designer" mixedbreed dog, often charging more money than reputable breeders.
Potential purebred dog
owners have to do investigative homework to ensure they are buying from a reputable breeder, especially when they will be paying thousands of dollars for a purebred dog.
I spoke with the breeder of Piper, my GSP of 12 years, to get an idea of what a reputable breeder goes through to create a litter of high-quality purebred dogs worthy of the price tag.
Laura Stillin, owner of Seadrift Kennels, had this to say: "As a reputable breeder of quality purebred dogs, let
me explain what good breeders go through ... First a dog must prove it is of quality for reproducing, which entails being of sound temperament, able to do what it was bred to do, and as close to the breed standard as possible. This is why you will find that reputable breeders will make sure both parents are titled in conformation and working title (what it was bred to do). For GSPs, that would be hunting.
"Once the female has matured and it is worthy of being bred, the health testing starts. Tests are typically done on hips, elbows, eyes and heart, plus whatever health issues might be related to a specific breed. If health tests are clear, researching bloodlines to find a stud dog begins. The stud dog will also have a conformation title, working title, as well as all health tests. With luck, the stud dog is local and a natural breeding can be done. However in most cases the stud dog is not local and the female is sent to the stud or artificial insemination or trans-cervical insemination is done with frozen or chilled semen.
"As you can see, the costs add up very quickly and the puppies have not even been born yet. Once the breeding has been done, it's hurry up and wait to see if there are puppies. Around day 42, the female will get an ultrasound done to see if there are puppies. Around day 55 the female will get X-rays to see how many puppies to expect. At day 63 the puppies are ready to arrive. Once the pups
are born and mom and babies are doing well, a vet check is done to confirm mom is still healthy and her milk is good. Now the fun begins! As puppies grow and eyes/ears open, it is time for mom and breeder to help with mental development. Games are played, puppies learn to climb, explore and build confidence and house training starts.
"At approximately six weeks, the puppies will go to the vet for another checkup, first set of vaccines and tattoo or microchip or both for identification records. Around week eight to nine puppies are ready to go to their new homes that have been sourced out before the breeding even takes place.
"When all is said and done, there is very little money left over for profit. As a responsible breeder, if anything does not work out, the puppy will return back to the breeder. Responsible breeders also offer a health guarantee, as well as emotional support for the life of the dog."
You will never see any reputable breeder selling their dogs online, in the newspaper or in a pet store. A reputable breeder will never cross-breed their dogs to create a designer dog. A reputable breeder will also support rescue groups for their breed, encouraging potential buyers to adopt before buying a puppy.
Reputable breeders have their dogs' best interests at heart, not their bank account.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years. Contact her at email@example.com.