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June 16, 2017

What is a Backyard Breeder?

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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.

Barb Davis on June 16 at 1:42 PM said:

THANK YOU FOR THIS! For the sake of all the poor puppy mill dogs and the 'backyard breeders' in it for the money and not for the health of the dogs they produce, NO responsible breeder will ever place their puppies in a pet store! If the pet store salesperson or owner tells you otherwise, they are lying. Period. Pet store 'stock' is usually populated by brokers - the middle men - between millers and irresponsible breeders. My heart breaks for the poor pups and their parents, but the only way to stop this abomination is to ensure it's not profitable for the perpetrators. Makes it sound like they're committing a crime. In my eyes, they are.
Ann on June 16 at 1:50 PM said:

I have rescued 2 yorkies that were left at a local pound in a box. Buddy was over used as a stud and has both back legs that he walks with a limp. LULU had 5 dead babies inside her and all her teeth were rotten. I took both of them to give them a forever home no matter what medical needs they will need. Buddy is 10 yrs old and LULU is 13 years. They are both doing great but the pound said they most likely came from a back yard breeder due to the condition they were in. We have had Buddy for 3 years now and LULU for 2 Years. Everyone please do not support backyard breeders.
Deborah on June 17 at 10:54 AM said:

I think that if the punishment was greater than just a small fine for animal abuse maybe we can stop this travitry. Long jail sentences. Pictures of these prepitators in every public place where pets are adopted and sold and splashed all over the Internet. Just like the most wanted criminals. Seize their properties, put it up for sale so the proceeds can be used to fight for animal rights and protection. Something more than just money cause they're making money by abusing and selling these poor furbabies. It hurts their pockets momentarily but they're back doing the same thing, laughing at the system as soon as they're released. Make the laws and punishment stricter. I don't consider my furbabies as property they are my family members. The law has to change from animals being property to making them family members. Animals just like humans feel love and fear, they have thoughts of a wonderful life just like us. Let's get things changed so that all the farm and domestic furbabies have a great life. I believe A GREAT LIFE FOR ALL!!
Alecia Novak on June 17 at 1:01 PM said:

Responsible breeders DO let the puppies go at eight weeks… There's nothing wrong with that and breed clubs have often have that in their code of ethics. It's letting them go prior to that that is an issue! Eight weeks is the average, from what I have witnessed…
Abby on February 5 at 2:25 PM said:

I have important experiences to share: My first dog, a Golden Retriever, is from a backyard breeder. He is currently around 10 years old and shows little sign of age. He has had near perfect health his entire life (only issues being some ear infections and some lumpy, fatty bits in his older age all vets ensure are not a problem). He has the best temperament a person could ask for - always been playful, always been stranger and dog friendly (unless the dog is aggressive towards him, in which case he stands his ground), always been insanely easy to train, always been content to sleep right on top of you as if his 80+lbs body didn't matter...really, truly, the best dog. He came from a backyard breeder. If I remember correctly, there is some type of championship lineage in him, but most importantly his parents were not related, they gave proof of all vet visits, and the litter was clearly healthy and well tempered. They simply were not breeding for perfect show looks or a winning pedigree. Their goal was to raise healthy, happy dogs and they succeed without requiring a $2k price tag. With that said, my second dog, a GSD, was also from a backyard breeder. We had her for all of a month. Quickly became extremely lethargic and thin due to horrific parasite issues. No vet seemed to help her. She was all cute and playful until it was time to sleep in her crate - she would *scream* unrelenting for hours. I've never heard a puppy scream before...The sound still haunts me years later. We had to give her back a month after buying her due to her declining health and temperament. We (my family) were not so diligent in getting her as we were with the Golden. We had our house broken into and wanted a gaurd dog, so we rushed off and picked up the first intimidating breed we could. Wrong move. Her breeders *said* they took the necessary steps with her veterinarian, but provided no paper work. Her house was dirty. All bad signs we ignored due to our haste. So, my point is - there are good and bad 'backyard breeders' out there. Yes, there are unfortunately some poor practices, but being an informed buyer makes the difference. Just know what to look for and know the warning signs. There are plenty of happy, healthy dogs out there who aren't perfect show dogs. I, for one, value health and temperament over pedigree.
Abby on February 6 at 5:11 AM said:

I have important experiences to share: My first dog, a Golden Retriever, is from a backyard breeder. He is currently around 10 years old and shows little sign of age. He has had near perfect health his entire life (only issues being some ear infections and some lumpy, fatty bits in his older age all vets ensure are not a problem). He has the best temperament a person could ask for - always been playful, always been stranger and dog friendly (unless the dog is aggressive towards him, in which case he stands his ground), always been insanely easy to train, always been content to sleep right on top of you as if his 80+lbs body didn't matter...really, truly, the best dog. He came from a backyard breeder. If I remember correctly, there is some type of championship lineage in him, but most importantly his parents were not related, they gave proof of all vet visits, and the litter was clearly healthy and well tempered. They simply were not breeding for perfect show looks or a winning pedigree. Their goal was to raise healthy, happy dogs and they succeed without requiring a $2k price tag. With that said, my second dog, a GSD, was also from a backyard breeder. We had her for all of a month. Quickly became extremely lethargic and thin due to horrific parasite issues. No vet seemed to help her. She was all cute and playful until it was time to sleep in her crate - she would *scream* unrelenting for hours. I've never heard a puppy scream before...The sound still haunts me years later. We had to give her back a month after buying her due to her declining health and temperament. We (my family) were not so diligent in getting her as we were with the Golden. We had our house broken into and wanted a gaurd dog, so we rushed off and picked up the first intimidating breed we could. Wrong move. Her breeders *said* they took the necessary steps with her veterinarian, but provided no paper work. Her house was dirty. All bad signs we ignored due to our haste. So, my point is - there are good and bad 'backyard breeders' out there. Yes, there are unfortunately some poor practices, but being an informed buyer makes the difference. Just know what to look for and know the warning signs. There are plenty of happy, healthy dogs out there who aren't perfect show dogs. I, for one, value health and temperament over pedigree.

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