A dog’s average lifespan is 10-13 years and many dogs live considerably longer. You’re making a long- term commitment when you buy a new puppy. If all goes well, (s)he’ll grow up with your kids and be part of your family for many years. Naturally, you want a healthy puppy who has every likelihood of doing just that.
That means you need to buy your puppy from a responsible breeder who breeds for quality or from a shelter that screens for health and temperament before putting puppies and dogs up for adoption.
Pet stores and backyard breeders don’t qualify.
Backyard breeders are people who breed casually. Usually, they breed on a small scale (good) using their own pets as parents (not so good). Sometimes this is their first litter and the breeding was an accident because they neglected to spay or neuter their pets. Or it might be an accidental breeding because their female got out of their yard while in heat and was bred by a neighbor’s dog (definitely not good). Other times they may deliberately have bred their own dogs because their male is getting older and they wanted another dog much like him. Or they may have wanted some extra income by selling puppies.
Whatever the circumstances of this breeding, now there are too many puppies and the sooner they’re sold, the less it will cost to feed and maintain them.
Backyard Breeders Don’t Adhere to Good Breeding Practices
Backyard breeders don’t know much, if anything, about their breed. They seldom know that the AKC has a Breed Standard for each of the 189 breeds it recognizes. The Standard sets forth what the dog should look like in terms of its physical structure, what its temperament should be, and what physical and temperamental characteristics are undesirable, being serious or disqualifying faults for purposes of showing in the conformation ring.
Without knowledge of the Breed Standard, backyard breeders do not practice selective breeding; i.e., refusing to breed a dog who has one or more one or more breed faults. Responsible breeders do.
Backyard breeders seldom know the genetic heritage of their dogs. They may not know who their dogs’ parents are or were, let alone who the grandparents or great-grandparents were. Consequently, they may have puppies who they don’t realize are inbred, i.e., the result of breeding two closely related dogs. Worse yet, they may have deliberately bred a mom to one of her now adult offspring, or a brother to a sister, thinking that the puppies will have the best qualities of both parents. They won’t. In fact, close inbreeding is a very dangerous practice because it’s the recessive genes that double up, not the dominant ones.
For example, in German Shepherd Dogs, white is not only a recessive but also a disqualifying fault. If a white Shepherd is bred to a non-white Shepherd, at best the puppies will have washed-out pigmentation, a serious fault. If two white Shepherds are bred together, their puppies are guaranteed to be white since they carry double recessive traits.
Likewise, if both parents of any breed carry the gene for hip dysplasia (abnormal hip socket formation), whether or not they actually have dysplasia themselves, their puppies now carry a double recessive and are far more likely to have or develop this crippling disease.
Responsible breeders know the lineage of their breeding stock for three generations back, usually five, and refuse to closely inbreed.
Backyard Breeders Don’t Adhere to Good Sales Practices
Backyard breeders sell their puppies when they’re as young as eight weeks old because that’s when they’re the cutest. It’s also when they’re too young to have received their first DHLPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus) shot, so the breeder hasn’t had to go to the expense of vaccinating the whole litter.
Responsible breeders do not sell their puppies until they’re around 10 weeks old. They’ve already had their first DHLPP shot, possibly their second, and the breeder will give you the veterinarian receipt(s) so you can show it/them to your vet when your puppy is due is due for his/her third shot at 15-16 weeks of age.
Since backyard breeders seldom have their puppies’ pedigree (the record of descent), they can’t give it to you. Responsible breeders have a three- to five-generation pedigree and will give it to you.
Backyard breeders aren’t concerned about indiscriminate breeding. After all, they do it themselves. So they don’t care whether or not you spay or neuter your puppy. Responsible breeders do. They don’t want their pet-quality puppies used for breeding purposes.
By the way, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a pet-quality puppy. (S)he’s just as well-bred and healthy as his/her littermates. (S)he simply has one or more “undesirable” characteristics. For instance, in German Shepherd Dogs, being coated (having long hair) is a fault. These gorgeous dogs make wonderful pets, but breeding them doesn’t further the breed since coatedness is a recessive trait.
Responsible breeders will give you a Limited Registration form when you buy a pet-quality puppy from them. This is an AKC form that prohibits you from registering your puppy with the AKC. “But wait a minute,” you say, “I don’t intend to register or breed my puppy. I just want him/her to be a member of my family. If I change my mind and decide to breed in the future, I’ll just do it. That’s nobody’s business but mine.” Well, actually it is the business of responsible breeders. Since they don’t want their pet-quality puppies used for breeding purposes, they’ll also have you sign a spay/neuter agreement.
Backyard breeders don’t care what happens to their puppies after they’re sold. Responsible breeders do and will agree, usually in writing, to take your puppy back anytime during his/her life if things don’t work out and you can’t or don’t want to keep him/her. Likewise, they’ll ask you questions about your home environment, like having a fenced yard if you’re buying a puppy who needs lots of exercise, to make sure you’re a suitable pet parent. They’ll also give you enough food to feed your puppy for several days so you’ll have enough to mix with whatever brand of puppy food you buy rather than shocking your puppy’s delicate digestive system with an abrupt change of food.
For your own protection, always buy a puppy from a responsible breeder or shelter.