Our rescue shelters are overflowing with dogs and puppies looking for homes, and even with more spay/neuter programs in place, it does not seem to be slowing down.
With all these dogs looking for homes, I can understand why certain people are against dog breeders. Most don’t understand that there is a difference between a "bred-for-purpose" dog and a "bred-for-profit dog". I’ll go into that difference in this column and my next one.
A proper dog breeder is easy to identify. Whether they breed for show, competition or special purpose, they love their animals and provide properly for them. They practise exceptional hygiene with their animals, keeping them well-groomed, and their environments clean and filled with enrichment. When you visit their facility, you can tell they love and respect the animals, both the breeders, the pups, and the retired animals that are now just pets. They feed balanced diets, encourage the animals to exercise, and provide proper veterinary and dental care. This is why a visit to the facility is so important, to see how your pet started its life.
Dogs bred for purpose are the result of proper breeding programs, designed for perfecting show dogs, competition dogs, or dogs for special needs. Show dogs carry CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) registrations, where you can trace their heritage back for generations. Competition dogs like herders, retrievers and pointers are bred for their special talents, and while many carry CKC pedigrees, most are still purebred, many having their own genealogies.
Show dog breeders perpetuate a breed, working through selective breeding to re-enforce the qualities of that breed. Infusion of new bloodlines can mean bringing new dogs in from around the world, strengthening the breed. But for every perfect show dog, there are many that are just not able to be champions. No fault of the dog, and these become pets with pedigrees.
Special needs dogs for things like therapy, guiding or law enforcement are bred for traits and qualities that make them suited for those purposes. The Labradoodle was developed as a guide dog for a woman whose husband had allergy problems. Poodles just wouldn’t work as guides, so the breeder crossed his best lab with a poodle and voila. But no one wanted the crosses until he invented the name Labradoodle, and they went from unwanted to must haves.
Many of these non-pedigreed dogs are bred properly, from unrelated purebred stock, "F1" if you please. But far too many use these designer dog names to sell what are effectively mutts with no recorded heritage other than maybe the sire and dam, who were crosses to begin with. Denoting a dog as an F2, F3 or greater says that they are that far from the purebred dogs they are patterned after. And, until CKC recognizes the Labradoodle as a breed, these are just cross breeds. Don’t get me wrong, properly done, they can be great, but randomly crossing dogs is not the proper way to breed.
The common thread to "bred for purpose" is that the breeders are conscientious in their breeding methods, documenting and following the results to ensure only the healthiest dogs are produced. People buying bred-for-purpose dogs are looking for something specific that they would not likely be able to find through rescue adoption.
Interestingly, many of these breeders I know are exceptionally active in the rescue community, raising funds, awareness and fostering at-risk animals. And many will refer people to shelter dogs at the expense of selling one of their own puppies. Not something you’d expect from what an activist might call an "evil dog breeder."
Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aardvarkpets.com