Beware the Backyard Breeder
By: Tom Goldsmith
Don't be in a rush to purchase your next gun dog
The advertisement in our local paper immediately caught my eye: "Dashing Bondou pups for sale." Above all else, what struck me was that the ad was counting on a degree of knowledge of English-setter pedigree, something I suspected was in short supply in the immediate area. So, curious, I got into my truck and drove over to have a look.
Heading up the driveway, I could see a jury-rigged fence made of old hockey sticks and chicken wire penning in a nice-looking tricoloured setter bitch and her litter of what I guessed were 10-week-old pups. From inside the house, a voice announced that he would be right out. So, while I waited for him to join me, I eyeballed the fairly large litter of rough-andtumble pups. The immediate question that came to mind was why were there so many pups still here two weeks after what would be the normal time to start moving them out.
Soon, Mike, the owner of the dogs, filled me in on his sad, albeit not uncommon, experience. Mike's brother, it turned out, lived in Georgia and was a serious birddog enthusiast. Years before, he'd placed a nice female with Mike. The plan was to breed her with his male. Mike's brother would then take the pick of the litter and Mike could sell the remaining pups and make some money for his trouble.
Well, it didn't quite work out that way. Mike, who was not an established breeder, had few ideas for marketing and selling the well-pedigreed pups. So, as they grew to the point where they were costing him big bucks in vet fees and dog food, Mike had little choice but to hold a fire sale of sorts. Even at the reduced price, Mike had only sold one pup. Financial and domestic difficulties were on the doorstep.
Mike's plight is hardly an isolated case. Check out the want ads in any newspaper or buy-and-sell listings. Across the country, there are countless well-meaning folks who naively think that if they breed their gun dog to a buddy's dog, they will produce quality pups and make a tidy profit, to boot. This is seldom the case. Breeding quality gun-dog prospects takes time, knowledge, and the facilities to house a number of dogs in a humane, healthy way.
I believe economics and/or impatience are the reasons most people tend to purchase pups from a backyard breeder. Skimping on the price of what you hope will be the best hunting dog you will ever own seems short-sighted. When you consider that you will be making a 10- to 15-year commitment, saving a couple of hundred dollars at purchase can end up costing you much more down the road. Good dogs cost good money. Stay away from bargains. Professional breeders spend a great deal of time and money securing the optimum breeding pairs. The pups should reflect this effort.
No dog, or any pet for that matter, should be bought impulsively. Animal shelters across the nation are testament enough of this fact. Seldom can you simply go and buy a pup from a qualified breeder. A good prospect is well worth waiting for.
Established breeders tend to be very calculating in their pairings and scheduled litters. In most cases, long before the pups are born, deposit checks have been written by those who are willing to wait for the quality that careful consideration brings. Nature being what it is, though, litter size will occasionally exceed their expectations and a couple of extra pups might become available.
Stacking the Deck
The issue of backyard breeders can span the extremes from malicious and cruel puppy mills, whose sole goal is to profit from an ignorant public, to innocent well-meaning folks, whose whole intent is to reproduce some of the qualities of a beloved dog. Either way, the resulting pups can bear the weight of these decisions through health and behavioural issues that often arise.
The investment in time, money, and emotional attachment is too great to roll the dice on a dog from questionable pedigree. You owe it to yourself and your dog to make this most important decision with careful consideration and trust in those professionals who work to produce the best chance at quality dogs. Odds are, over the next several years, that decision will pay big dividends in your home, heart, and afield.