Bostons, Breeders and the surreptitious obtaining of important phone numbers

I think it’s interesting that the newest competition at the AKC/Eukanuba show in December was called the “Breeder’s Stakes”. I know they meant it one way, but really, there is a lot at stake, and I’m not talking about the cash prizes. It’s defining ‘good breeder’.

There is a circular conversation going on in the world of animal lovers about what constitutes a “responsible breeder.” Most people who breed their dogs call themselves a responsible breeder, even if they’re not. Even if they are utterly clueless about the fact that their seven month old chihuahua maybe shouldn’t be bred at this first heat, or that Craigslist isn’t the best place to find a stud, or that they aren’t going to make a fortune off breeding this dog once they factor in all the expenses, the possible C-section, all that fun stuff.

I see a lot of clueless people in my day to day life who want to breed their dog just because. I can do what I can to dissuade them, to convince them to contact their local breed clubs and educate themselves on the right way to do it, but at the end of the day they continue to do it because there are other people out there who are willing to buy these dogs because they are there, and available. “At least it’s not from a pet store,” they say, and I guess there is that.

Or people will go to a rescue or shelter in search of that breed they are interested in. And don’t get me wrong, I think that is a wonderful idea and something I do myself, but that is what you do because you want to rescue a pet and you’re OK with the possibility of unknown health or behavior issues that comes from a random background. I don’t think people should be guilted into rescuing a dog, unless that is something they want to do. But that’s only half the equation. People are continuing to get dogs on a whim, for the wrong reasons, and based on what is quick and easy as opposed to what is right.

Putting puppy mills and backyard breeders out of business won’t happen until we do a better job of convincing people that it’s worth the effort and research to find a good breeder and pick the right dog. They are out there, but it takes more effort than some of the other options. It’s work. Getting a dog should be work, because having a dog is work. That is not an unreasonable prerequisite.

We want people who value and love pets enough to be really thoughtful and careful about how and when they breed to be directing the evolution of the dog. We need more people like that, not less.

They were nice ribbons, though

I’ve spent more time with breeders in the last year than I have in the last ten combined, and I have learned a lot. (I’m not above learning.) And while you may see a dog show on TV and think, wow, those are some fancy dogs and some big ribbons, and la-di-dah. But what you don’t see is the fortune they spent screening their dogs for hip dysplasia or retinal disease or cardiomyopathy, the list of four different vets they have on call for various issues, or the fact that any of them can give me a run for my money in terms of reproduction know-how (about dogs, I mean. I can’t speak to the rest.)

My point is, these people are nuts- in a good way- about their dogs and their breeds. They care, a whole awful lot. And when you look at the numbers- 25% of people who get a new pet do so from a shelter, meaning 75% get them elsewhere, there are two options:

    1. Increase the number who adopt from a shelter
    2. Of those who don’t, convince them that if they are set on having a purebred dog from a breeder, you really need to choose a good breeder. One who cares enough to say, “This breed may not be the best choice for your lifestyle,” or, “why not consider an older pet,” or, “let me know if you have problems and let’s work on it.” They do that too. The more informed and involved your decision is, the less likely you are to regret your decision and dump the dog at a shelter. Because that’s what it’s all about too.

I likeย good breeders. I now have a few that I count as friends, though they might pretend not to know me in public. I loathe puppy mills and I’m not super fond of backyard breeders, who together comprise the majority of purebred dogs I see in practice. And while I support the idea of adoption and rescue, I also think we are doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring the fact that good breeders are as much a part of the “make the world better for dogs” equation, because those dogs have to come from somewhere- and it ought to be from someone who cares and values the dog, because then you are more likely to as well.

In Orlando, I got to watch the Breeder’s Stakes Championship– the culmination of four regional championships over the course of the year. Competing breeders were judged on three dogs from at least two different litters, looking not at those who were blessed with a genetic fluke of perfection but an actual repeatable representation of really, really good dogs. In short, it rewarded breeders with a strong history of doing right by the breed.

I’m not a judge, but I’ve seen enough dogs to know a good-looking example of a breed. I know that’s subjective, but you know it when you see it. It’s not only in their appearance, but in their gait, their demeanor, everything.

I’m not just saying this, these were the most beautiful Bostons I have ever seen in my life. They won the Orlando regional stakes. Being the fangirl that I am, I sidled up to my Eukanuba wingman and asked him to introduce me to breeder Linda Martin, you know, just in case my husband sustained a traumatic brain injury in the next month and changed his mind about me getting one.

It was like a scene out of Top Gun- yo Goose, hook me up with that sweet Boston over there, will ya? I totally got her number, too. Score! I mean, really:

Perfection. And trust me, when no one was looking I sneaked a peek at their nares and their eyelids. They were perfect too. I care about that stuff.

I’m not 100% stuck on Bostons alone. I looked at the Goldens too. Also amazing.

And loved, no matter what.

I even checked out the poodles. Trios of impressiveness, the whole lot.

At the end of the day, the boxer breeder took the big prize.

They were awfully nice boxers.

We want these breeders out there. I’ve seen plenty of horridly bred dogs, from the German shepherd whose hip rads looked like a morel mushroom at 8 months old to the Golden with rage issues to the mix-breed who needed hip and knee surgery by two. That is not good. Let’s do it right.

Susi at DogKnobIt has a nice and slightly more technical rundown of the Breeder’s Stakes if you want more details, because it was a little confusing. Clif’s Notes: Bostons good, good breeders good, yaay.

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Health, Musings Tagged: , , ,
  • Cathey

    Wonderful information, Dr. V! We are right behind you on all counts. We have had a LOT of dogs in our 33 years of marriage. We’ve had 7 of them live past 10 years & 2 of those past 16 years of age. We’ve had as many as 5 at a time live in our home with us and one of them had a litter of puppies. In our ignorance, we were only marginally better than ‘back yard breeders’ – we did have Brea’s hips and eyes checked at the Vet school @ Iowa State (before we bred her) and thankfully they were good.

    Because of this history with dogs, local people are always asking us where to get a good dog. We try to tell them that there are wonderful pets at the local shelters and if you are selective, you can get a really good one. We also try to direct them to breeders we know are reputable. One of my favorite places to direct them is to the Euchanuba website where you answer a questionnaire to determine which dog is actually SUITED to your family and lifestyle. People will pick a breed for the darndest reasons!

    NOT ONE of them has ever asked us how much work they are, both in the day-to-day workings, or in the obedience training (I’m talking just so you can live with them in you home & be sane – SIT, STAY, COME – and how much the upkeep of a pet will cost – I’m NOT talking about what will you pay for the dog on day one.

    They are LOT of WORK and MONEY – and to my husband and I they are worth every penny, but they deserve the work and the money because they will give you so much more back, things you can’t buy at any price!

    You are doing a GREAT job, Dr. V. of getting this info out and trying to make an educated dog owner. As many dogs as we have had, we have learned a lot here and will continue to do so!

    • Thank you Cathey. I really appreciate the feedback. I’m learning too- every day!

  • Anonymous

    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve always heard “Breed for the betterment of the breed.” Not that I ever plan on going into breeding, not my thing. Although I had strangers come up to me when Blade was 2-3 and ask for him to be the sire. Nope. As much as I loved him, I said no. You can’t duplicate a dog by breeding, each one is unique.

    • Very true K, very true. And after seeing how much work it is, no way, I would never want to breed a dog either. I leave it to the pros.

  • Man, those are some good looking dogs. Thanks for writing about this! I think it’s a really interesting point… one of the vets I used to work with said she only liked breeders who were completely nuts. She said if it’s a lab breeder, you should walk into their (clean) house and see lab stuff everywhere: lab photos, paintings, rugs, figurines… that’s how you know the breeder is really into the DOGS and not just the money. Of course, there are other things, too, like the points you mentioned (“Maybe not the right breed,” etc.), but I thought that was an interesting observation, too.

    • Your vet is so right! LOL!

  • Lorie Huston, DVM

    Well said, Dr. V! Like you, I’ve seen so many poorly bred dogs in my practice. Their owners love them despite their short-comings but it’s heartbreaking to know that their genetic defects will likely either cut their life short or cause them pain and discomfort. Amen to breeders who take the time and spend the money to do it right!

    • Agreed. And as you know, it’s so hard to see a dog in bad shape at one and know what they are in for.

  • Thanks so much for this post. I am a huge fan of rescue and try to promote it to friends, family, people who ask about Hamlet, etc. However, you are totally correct that breeders are a big part of bettering the dog equation as well. I tend to forget that so thank you for the reminder.

    p.s. I might need that Linda Martin phone # from you someday; those Bostons are incredibly cute! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I know! Weren’t they superb?

  • Jeanne

    like. like, like! our breeder has owned/handled/bred tervs for years. to top it off, she’s also a vet tech. any issues that come up, we immediately go to her. the same with any good things going on. or cute pictures. we just want to talk terv with someone who gets it. she’s really become a friend. i think most good breeders are like that. they want to know what’s going on with their dogs. they enjoy hearing about accomplishments. they want to help if there’s a problem. they want to know the kind of people they’re placing their dogs with. they care.

    • Absolutely. And I think a lot of people who haven’t worked with a breeder like that don’t see how vested they are in the life of the dog.

  • Anonymous

    Great post and super informative.

    • Thank you Joanne!

  • Abby’s Mom

    This is so true. I’ve spent a large portion of my life volunteering at animal shelters and used to fall into the never buy from a breeder camp, until I had the good fortune of meeting a truly good, responsible breeder. Not only are her dogs healthy and award winning, they are also socialized and potty trained before they go to new homes. She also will welcome them back with open arms if their new owner ever can’t keep them. Those are the dogs that don’t end up in shelters because they get the right start and she stands by them ’til the end. While I still turn to rescues first for my new pets, if I ever bought an animal from a breeder that’s the sort of breeder I would want and the sort I would recommend to a friend.

    • Thank you- I agree with every word of your response. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anonymous

    Very well said Dr.V and thank you for expressing your views on this. So many people don’t realize what goes in to the sport of dog showing, all the blood sweat and tears, all the money that goes into getting health clearances etc, all the behind the scenes work. I am often asked how much money we win at shows and my response is “close to nothing”, we will never get back what we put in. We’re not in it for the money, the same goes for breeding. Breeding should never be seen as a money maker, and the good breeders, the ones who are in it for the breed, know this. Good breeders need to be applauded not meant to feel like they are outcasts, which is what seems to be happening more often than not these days.
    Alright, I am done blabbing:)
    Love the Boston pics!

  • Versinn

    those bostons are gorgeous- says something when you can tell from their photo
    I have a dog from a reputable breeder (waited 2 years to get her). I also work at a shelter, so when my cousin was looking for a new dog (something smallish) i agreed to keep my eyes open for them
    2 weeks later they said thanks but they had purchased a puggle puppy from a nice lady in a parking lot *headexplosion*