To me, Breeder should be spelled with a capital “B”. It’s a proper noun, a title earned through years of dedication, education and respect. Anyone can breed a dog, but not everyone can be a Breeder.
So how do you tell the difference? And if you have your heart set on purchasing a puppy, how do you find one?
Your first stop should be the parent breed club. For the Akita, you can find their website at www.akitaclub.org. You don’t need to be a member to access the resources available there. Breeder referrals are available, based on members who conform to the club’s Code of Ethics. There are also contacts on the page for members throughout the US who may be able to refer you to a Breeder who is not currently a member, but whose ethics are in concert with the club’s COE. Perhaps life got busy for them with a new job, a new baby, and their membership lapsed. If a Breeder you are considering is not a member of the ACA or another all breed or specialty breed club, don’t be afraid to ask why. Determine whether or not any disciplinary action has ever been brought against your Breeder and the outcome. The ACA maintains a list of suspended breeders- persons whose privileges have been revoked by the American Kennel Club. Check for their name.
How many puppies does the Breeder produce in a year? A person who constantly has puppies available may not be able to follow through on all the pups they have produced. A good Breeder knows where their dogs are for life and keeps in touch with a new owner. If they are producing dozens or even hundreds of pups a year, how important could you or your new Akita be to them? High volume kennels can serve a distinct need for pet production, however buyers should exercise caution if sourcing from such a location- do the animals have enough hands on care and interaction daily to be healthy and social? What do the facilities look like? Do they have any citations or violations and what was the outcome of them? Discover too if they have more than one breed and if so, how many? One, two or even three breeds isn’t at all unusual, especially if they are low volume producers but five, six, ten or more? You’ve come across a commercial producer, where you’re only as good as your wallet.
Quality of advertising matters, not location. Good Breeders and poor imitations alike can be found on site like puppyfind.com. A good Breeder will be open and clear about the registered names and numbers of the sire and dam. They will list the health certifications performed, dates, and associated file numbers (ie: an OFA hip score will be listed on www.offa.org under the dog’s registration number and name). If you don’t know how to read health certifications or a pedigree, ask someone from the parent club or a local all breed club, they are there to help you! Unethical producers will not disclose the parentage of their dogs and often use terms such as “champions in the pedigree” (usually somewhere in their ancient history) though they have no intention of showing themselves, ever. Please note that some Breeders do conduct mating between dogs that have not completed a championship. Talk to them about their reasons for this. If you hear “oh showing is just for suckers” or “you don’t need to buy from a show breeder when all you want is a pet”, there’s your warning flag.
Quality Breeders do not have a “buy now” option on their websites. They will require an application process that helps determine whether or not you and the puppy will be a lifetime match. They don’t take credit cards- anyone who does is waving a huge red flag in your face! Understand that you may have to travel some distance to find the right puppy, or that the Breeder may turn you down. Ask why- it may be something you can correct, or perhaps they felt they just didn’t have the perfect dog for you. Good Breeders will always be willing to give you the contact information for other reputable friends in the breed. That’s because they HAVE friends. This means more resources for you, someone near by who can help you if there’s a problem and you can’t reach your Breeder immediately. A good Breeder wants to stay in touch and doesn’t mind if the phone rings at 3am with an emergency. They are willing to connect you with the rest of the breed community so you have resources at hand. You may have to wait for a litter to be born. Breeders aren’t puppy marts where you can browse and shop. Quality takes time and effort. Be willing to wait if necessary. Get the RIGHT puppy, not the RIGHT NOW puppy.
Breeders require a contract and they will likely ask for your cooperation, if acquiring a companion puppy, that the pet be spayed or neutered at an appropriate age (after consult with your veterinarian). Why? Because the Breeder has thoroughly evaluated your puppy and sees traits that should not be passed to successive generations if their goal is improvement- which it should be. Most structural faults or aesthetic issues that determine whether or not a puppy is show or pet quality will not impact the ability of the dog to be a great pet. Really, does an overbite matter while you’re playing ball in the yard? Ask why your puppy is “pet quality”; you should receive a clear answer about what fault was present that didn’t conform to the breed standard. The breed standard is the ideal dog, the blueprint of structure and traits to which Breeders aspire. Mating dogs with major faults isn’t going to help lead to healthier, happier generations. If acquiring a show prospect, expect to live up to a different set of requirements, including proper training, nutrition and reasonable restrictions on reproduction such as mandates to perform hp radiographs or specific genetic marker tests that the Breeder themselves follows. Breeders should practice what they preach!
What happens if you can’t keep your dog? Breeders are willing to take back their animals for life. Despite any feelings you may have about your reasons for surrendering the dog, they want you to call and bring the dog back. Quality breeders do NOT contribute to the shelter dog problem by allowing their dogs to be sent to public facilities. If you need help getting a dog back to its Breeder, there is help available for the asking.
Quality Breeders never, ever sell their dogs through a third party broker or a pet shop. They are directly involved with placements and by extension, with you. Think- if you have a question about your puppy, who are you going to call? The store?
Ask for references, because your Breeder is going to be checking yours, too. Puppies should be registered AKC, and possibly, cross registered with FCI (imported or for export) or UKC. Registry only with UKC or with any other registry is a red flag. This may be a person who is suspended or whose pedigrees cannot be confirmed. Honesty in a Breeder matters- if they will lie to a registry, they will lie to you. Insist on AKC or AKC+FCI/UKC dogs only. Any Joe with a computer and printer can create a “registry” where, for the right amount of money, you can even make up new ‘breeds’. These registrations aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Not everyone gets along out there. You’ve probably got people you’re not friends with either. If one Breeder doesn’t care for another, it’s not necessarily a reason to turn down a puppy. Ask for the names of other Breeders they know, and see what they think of them. If they can’t name anyone easily, or have only contacts overseas, or the listings they give you come back to any of the flags mentioned above, walk away. If you get a bad review when giving out a name or kennel name, ask for independently verifiable information about why you should avoid this kennel, such as a record of animal control violations or convictions for fraud in sales or cruelty. Check your facts! Bad apples can come across smooth as silk- swindlers didn’t get the name “confidence men” for nothing. Do they show? Ask what events they will be present at and if you can come visit them ringside or at their set up. Its a fantastic place to get to know them and their dogs.
Ultimately, the only person responsible for placing a healthy, happy puppy into your home is YOU. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check your sources. If you don’t know how, get a member of the parent club to help you and mentor you through it.And above all, wherever you decide to get your new best friend, please- love them for life.