Choosing A Breeder

By Mrs. Bev Molloy

This article contains generalizations about warning signals that should alert you to be cautious; look a little closer; dig a little deeper. Please note that just because a breeder does or has done some of the things brought up in this article, it does not necessarily mean that they are bad breeders. Much of the following can be applied to buying a puppy or selecting a stud dog.

The first mistake people commonly make is rushing into things and dealing with the first breeder they find who can provide them with what they are looking for, be it a puppy or a stud dog. Keep in mind that owning/breeding is a BIG commitment of money, time, effort and emotion. TAKE YOUR TIME!! Impulse buying/breeding can end in disaster! Many of the bad breeders know that having puppies readily available is to their selling advantage.

Your first step is to contact many breeders and see as many dogs as you can. As in anything in life, those people who are honest and upright in their dealings, and produce quality, will be well-respected by their peers. And, of course, the opposite is true of those people who rip others off and/or produce poor quality. Take note of who is spoken well of, and breeders other breeders will refer you to. Also inquire as to what clubs they belong to. Call those clubs as well as the National and Regional breed clubs and ask if there have been any suspensions and/or complaints. Familiarize yourself with problems in the breed and discuss them with your Veterinarian. The problems most commonly seen in Mastiffs are hip and elbow dysplasia, and eye and thyroid problems. All these things should be checked, eyes once a year, and the breeder should be willing and able to provide you with copies of the certification (exam sheet in the case of eyes). DO NOT TAKE THE BREEDERS WORD FOR IT! There are those that will outright lie to you and others that will minimize or even dismiss problems altogether.

Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect dog and no one has perfect lines. The breeder should be willing to discuss the problems in their dogs and what they're doing to eliminate them. If a breeder is telling you they have no problems, and their dogs are the best — be careful!

Don't be offended if the breeder asks for references, or asks as many questions of you as you ask of them. If they don't care about the type of home their puppies are going to; or the type of bitch their stud dog is going to be bred to; they likely don't care about the quality they are producing. Be suspicious if they aren't interested in keeping anything out of their dog's breeding — why not?

You should get a written contract with guarantees, and be allowed to go over it before making a commitment. Some of the wording can be very tricky and/or unclear. Your concerns should be addressed and written down to your satisfaction. Some common rip-offs seen when buying puppies are:

"If the puppy ends up with crippling or life-threatening hereditary problems, return the dog and you'll receive a full refund or replacement puppy."

Many hereditary problems don't manifest themselves until the dog is a year or more old. Are you going to return the family pet in order to qualify for a refund? If you don't return the dog, you don't qualify for the refund, and many breeders count on that. On the other hand, what if the replacement pup is from a repeat breeding? Do you want to take a chance? Do you have a say in whether you get a pup or money?

Designate a final authority to verify medical problems. As with human medicine, you can get as many 'experts' on one side of an issue as on the other. Living in Ontario, Canada, I have designated the Ontario Veterinary College as the final authority to settle any possible disputes.

If the possibility of showing and/or breeding is in your plans be very careful of limited and non-breeding contracts. While these precautions do denote a conscientious breeder, make sure your contract is very clear as to the conditions that must be met in order to have the agreement taken off. Sometimes these are used as 'pay-backs' or weapons when breeder and buyer have a falling out.

Look around at the dogs the breeder has. Any older dogs? If their first priority is to make money and not the love of the breed, they tend to 'dispose' of the older dogs past their usefulness as producers. And if their first priority IS making money, run, don't walk away!

Also, are there discrepancies between how they want you to treat the dogs and how they treat their own? I.e., do they insist that the dogs be kept in the house and treated as part of the family, and yet, they keep their own dogs kenneled?

Try to see both the sire and dam. If they won't allow you to, be suspicious! If you have any concerns about the temperament of the sire, dam, or pups — don't buy! These dogs are too big and can do too much damage to take a chance on poor temperament.

And if you don't particularly like the breeder, then don't do business with them. Things won't get any better if there is a problem in the future!

Finally, two notes: paying top dollar does not ensure getting the best dog; and, enter into co-ownerships with EXTREME caution. These are where most complaints come from. Keep in mind the old adage, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!" Also, remember, a con artist's biggest assets are that they are personable and smooth talkers.


About the Author: Mrs. Bev Molloy of Banda (Perm.Reg'd) English Mastiffs and Banda (Perm.Reg'd) Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is a breeder of English Mastiffs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. She has been involved with Mastiffs for over 28 years; is a Draft Dog Judge; a Canine Good Neighbour Evaluator; the Ontario Director and founding member of the Canadian Mastiff Club; is involved with rescue for Mastiffs; teaches Rally Obedience with Life's Ruff Obedience in Markham, Ontario; has a Certificate of Achievement Level I and II from the Toronto Association of Veterinary Assistance; and a Certificate of Achievement in Livestock Medicine from the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.