How do I find a reputable breeder?
Well, it’s not always easy, but it’s not as hard as people think. Start with an internet search for breed clubs – in Aussies the parent club is ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America). You can contact them and ask for the name of the local club in your area or local breeders. In Canada, there is CNASA and ASC of Ontario as well.
At this point, you will have a list of local breeders. Start contacting them. Here is a sample letter that will help you properly introduce yourself to your future potential breeder (“do you have puppies?” in the subject line, followed by no text in the body, never makes a good impression). This sample letter is designed to get you thinking about what you want to say to a breeder and selling yourself to the good breeders. An e-mail consisting of “I am looking for a Blue Merle puppy with blue eyes” in the body and that’s it, will not attract the right breeders. A good breeder is screening for the best homes. Lifetime homes. Someone who is only interested in colour has probably not thought through all the reason why an Aussie would or would not fit in their home. If a breeder responds to that e-mail with “yes, three. When would you like to pick her up?” She’s probably not the breeder you want to deal with. I am not saying your colour preference is not of some interest to a good breeder, it’s just not what makes their heart beat faster about a family.
Here is the sample letter:
My name is [Your name] and I live in [Name of City]. My household consists of [who lives with you – human and animal]. I am looking to add a new member to my family. I have been researching breeds and think the Aussie will fit well into our family because [Reason. Hint: Don’t say you like the markings. Think about why the Aussie’s temperament and traits would fit well into your family. This is a very important part for a breeder about deciding if the family is the right fit for one of their puppies].
Here is a little bit about myself and my family: [Please include things that tell the breeder about your lifestyle. For example your work life, your sports involvement, current hobbies and how you spend your time. Also include things about any kids or other housemates]. I see an Aussie fitting well into this family, because we are looking for a dog who can [explain the things you want to do with your new Aussie and how you see them fitting into your family.]
I am writing inquiring about your dogs. I would love to know more about how you raise your dogs and your breeding philosophy. We are looking to add our new family member [within the year, next year, down the road or whatever time frame you are looking at]. We are inquiring with local breeders as to who is planning litters around that time and starting to visit with them. We would like to know if you are planning any future litters and if you would be open for us to come meet your dogs and you ahead of time.
I also have a few questions about your dogs:
Do they live in the house with you?
What kind of guarantee do you offer on a puppy?
How do you match your puppies to the right home?
What health tests do you do on your dogs?
How much do you ask for your puppies?
What is your favourite thing about your breed? [This is a getting to know your breeder kind of question. The answer should give you some ideas of the breeders focus and priorities and the time they are willing to give you.]
Thank you very much for your time,
[Future Mom/Dad of an Aussie]
Okay, I contact the breeder, now what?
Finding a good breeder is also finding a lifetime friend. A good breeder should be always there for you before and after you leave with your puppy. Your new dog may be yours, but a good breeder feels connected and responsible for each and every puppy they produce. Finding a lifetime friend is not usually done by e-mail. The best way to know how you feel about a breeder is to visit, meet them and meet their dogs. This person will be there for you for the lifetime of your dog and if you have found the right breeder, probably your lifetime, too. In this day and age, it’s almost like online dating. You chat for a while, decide you like the person, go to meet them, meet their family and if everything clicks, you may just make that big commitment.
What do I need to know about a breeder before I commit?
How are the dogs raised?
Where do the dogs live?
What are they breeding for/what are their breeding goals? (This will tell you something about the quality of breeder, too. If someone is just producing puppies, they will just breeding the same breeding pair over and over again and produce puppies. Someone with health, betterment of the breed and producing excellent companions will mention those things in their response.)
Have the dogs been health tested – eyes, hips, available genetic tests?
What food do they feed?
In the litter that you are looking at, what were the qualities they liked about the parents? Why did they think it was a good match?
How do they/did they decide the puppy you are taking home was the right one for you?
What things do they require from you?
Do they vaccinate? If so, how often? What do they require from you? We don’t say “Do the puppies have all their shots?” because we don’t want puppies over-vaccinated.
Do you have a guarantee and sales contract?
This sounds complicated, Kijiji is selling puppies online, can’t I just go there?
No. Don’t shop online for a puppy. You will only be supporting people who breed for profit. If you are looking for a rescue, search Petfinder.com. These rescues are available through rescue organizations, they have been temperament tested and seen a veterinarian. People offering dogs on Kijiji may not have the knowledge to match you with their pet they are trying to get rid of and breeders on Kijiji are just selling puppies for money. Yes, I am stating that categorically, because I have never come across an exception.
I saw this website where I can pick a puppy, pay online and they ship it to me, can I just go there?
No. Again, those are just fronts for puppymills. You will only be padding the pockets of people who breed for money with little concern for the health, wellness and lifetime of the dog.
I heard “Designer Breeds” or mixed breeds are healthier, is that true? I heard they benefit from “hybrid vigor”?
This is an absolutely myth. The scientific term “hybrid vigor” refers to crossing two different species. For example a horse and a zebra or a coyote and a wolf. The genetic differences that make one breed different from the other are not significant enough to create and genetic vigor. If you have a Lab parent with Hip Dysplasia in his genes and you breed him to a Poodle with Hip Dyplasia in her genes, you are going to get puppies that suffer from Hip Dysplasia. The genes are simple not different enough to not double up.
OFA has a list of breeds and ranks the breeds in order from most occurrences of Hip Dysplasia (#1) to least (#160). The mixed breed (“hybrid”) listed as #36 out of 160 for hip dysplasia. It’s ranked higher than the GSD (#39), which has a terrible reputation for bad hips. They have the Labradoodle listed as #65, while its purebred counterparts, the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle, were rated #85 and #77.
The problem is only a reputable breeder checks their dogs for Hip Dysplasia. They will only breed the dogs that get the clearance from OFA. People producing “Designer Breeds” very rarely care about health. They are just producing puppies, lying to people saying they are healthier or hypoallergenic and they very rarely do any health clearances.
Don’t be fooled into believing a “designer dog” is healthier than a purebred from a reputable breeder. It’s simply not true.