In Defense of "Backyard Breeders"

Discussion in 'The Breeding Ground' started by Lilavati, May 25, 2008.

  1. Lilavati

    Lilavati Arbitrary and Capricious

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    Nolu suggested I move this to its own thread, as I'd sort of planned. Its partially a response to "Are you a Backyard Breeder?" and partially a response to a phenomenon that I've seen a lot on Chaz, and on other dog sites.

    By Backyard Breeders, here, I do NOT mean the idiots who breed puppy-mill bought dogs, all the time, for cash, with no vet, who dump extras at shelters. Instead I mean that large class of breeders who don't quite meet the modern standards of "responsible" as I have often seen them listed here on Chaz.

    I've cut and pasted this from my other post, but made some changes too, since it now morning:

    In my experience, breeders form a continuum, from the depths of puppy-mill hell to the heights of the quintessental "responsible breeder." Reading the various definitions of "responsible breeder" that I see on Chaz, I often feel the bar is being set a bit too high. Not that all of the practices of Chaz-defined "responsible breeders" are not the best way to do things, but I am not sure that anyone who doesn't do all these things is by definition a BYB, and thus somewhere on the level of pond scum.

    Some of the "responsible breeder standards" I've objected to previously include:

    Responsible breeders don't breed without a waiting list

    Responsible breeders never advertise

    Responsible breeders don't advertise what colors they have

    Responsible breeders have applications (I'll clarify this . . . I don't see why an interview is not a perfectly find substitute for an application. Obviously people need to be screened, but unless the world is beating down your door for your dogs, do you really need people to fill in an application?)

    Responsible breeders have dogs with a mess of titles

    Responsible breeders always do a mess of genetic testing, even if they have a breed with relatively few problems and have never had issues with their lines.

    Responsible breeders breed for <blank>, when <blank> is something other than heath and temperment. (Another clarification. Health and temperment are supreme, and I don't think anyone really disagrees with this. But requiring some other thing that MUST be bred for gets into mess of other issues. Yes, you should be breeding your dogs for something. Yes, dogs should be bred to standard. BUt how much to standard? WHICH standard? In my lifetime I've watched serveral breeds change appearence rather dramatically, so a grand champion of yesteryear would be laughed out of the ring today. If you breed your dogs to a "style" not currently in fashion, are you not responsible? As for breeding for working traits, rock on! And well rounded dogs that can show and work, rock on! But do we really want every retriever and spaniel out there to show full field traits?)

    Are all these good practices? Yes, or at least, they aren't bad ideas. But the converse of "responsible breeders do this" is that everyone else is an "irresponsible breeder," a backyard breeder, an ignorant, scummy person adding to the pet overpopulation problem. I beg to differ.

    I further beg to differ with the author's contention that anyone who buys from someone who isn't a "responsible breeder" is the sort of person who dumps their dogs at shelters when they don't want them any more.

    The truth is the world is more complicated than that. Three of my mother's four poodles were found through the newspaper. She then went to visit the breeder, saw the parents (or at least the mother and a photo of the father since he was occasionally in another state), examined the puippies (or the return in one case), asked about the lines, looked at the pedigree, and brought home a poodle (or left because she liked neither the breeder nor their dogs). These breeders did show. As far as I know they didn't do genetic testing. They advertised in the paper (with colors!). They didn't have a waiting list a mile long. They didn't ask Mom for an application. I do not believe they were irresponsible. They were perhaps not the stellar height of the absolute BEST way to do things, but "irresponsible" they were not.

    I have honestly reached the point of being annoyed with some of the demands made by responsible breeders. Long waiting lists even for a pet. Must have a fenced yard. Must own rather than rent. Must have references from everyone from your veterarian to your grade-school English teacher. Must locate them through the breed club. Don't dare ask for a specific color. Someone must be home all day. No children. Must give them your social security number. Etc.

    Is it any wonder people buy from puppy mills and sleezy BYBs? Half the population can't pass the test to get a dog from a responsible breeder. Heck, more and more shelters have the same requirements. Unless you can provide an ideal home, forget it. Unless you want the dog they hve decided to offer you, forget it. (No, I don't want an ancient basset mix with diabetes. I'm sure he's very nice. But he's not what I want, and stop looking at me like I'm a hard hearted bitch) I've honestly been insulted by some conversations I've had about adopting dogs. . .not because they asked lots of questions (good!) but because the questions were asked in an aggressive, accusing fashion . . . PROVE YOURE A GOOD OWNER YOU SLEEZE BALL, PROVE IT, OR NO DOG FOR YOU.

    Perhaps I'm old fashioned. I grew up with people who I believe strongly were responsible owners and breeders. But you only went through some elaborate ritual if you wanted a dog for a specific purpose from a top breeder who had a waiting list because the world WAS beating a path to their door.

    In my world, you looked in the paper for the breed you want, called the person, talked to them to make sure the trip was worth it, went on a road trip, talked to the breeder, looked at the dogs, had some coffee, looked at the papers, and either came home with a puppy or not. It was relatively easy, relatively polite, unconfrontational, and worked pretty dang well.

    Times have changed. But the constant pushing of standards for both owners and breeders higher and higher is not, to my mind, productive. In the end, you have a few "responsible breeders" selling a few "responsible owners" and all the irresponsible other people thrown on puppy mills, the sort of BYBs that do not take their dogs to the vet and dump extra puppies at the shelter, and the shelters (If they'll give you a dog). Dog ownership is becoming, frankly, elitist. Perhaps this is good . . . but I actually doubt it. In the end, the world will have fewer dogs, fewer people familiar with dogs, and more restrictions on dogs. Sometimes the very declarations of what "responisble breeders" have to do are just more ammunition for dog-restrictive laws and AR . . . "See! Even the dog people think so!"

    I have always had my own "red flags" about breeders, and although you see them on lists, they are often paired with other "red flags" that are perhaps too demanding, if not arbitrary. Here's my list, sort of the exclusion list for breeders . . . as in, if these things are true, they really are "BYBs":

    * They are in it for the money. If they are in it for the money, and not for the dogs, run away. Besides, with only a few exceptions, no legitimate breeder is making any sizable ammount of money breeding . . . if they are, then they've lowered their costs in ways that are probably scary.

    * They can't have a cogent conversation with you about their breed.

    * They have never won any titles, at anything, or even tried. Or used the dog for the original purpose . . . or in any way tried to evaluate the quality of their lines. (I can think of a few exceptions to this, but there'd better be a real explaination)

    * They don't know who their dog's grandparents were beyond names on paper.

    * They don't ask you any questions, other than, where's my check?

    *Their dogs have not yet had a vet check up or all the appropirate shots for their age

    *Their dog has a genetic disorder and they bred it anyway, or, they can't coherently discuss the genetic issues with their breed and how they have tried to avoid mitigate them (genetic testing is a bonus but not required).

    *They won't let you see the parents, or if they don't own the sire, the mother.

    *They won't agree to, let alone offer to, take the dog back if there's a problem

    *They, or their dogs, give you the creeps.

    There are probably a few others I'm not thinking of after a late night last night.

    But the point is that there are minimum standards for "responsibility" and then there are, to my mind, "bonuses" which may have more to do with a specific breed, or dog sport, or just level of supreme responsiblity, than with being the requirements for buying a dog from this breeder.

    I'll admit, I'm doing the whole song and dance in the process of getting a Cardigan corgi. But one, I really am well informed, much, much better informed than you can probably reasonably ask of your average dog owner, even your average responsble owner. Two, I'm looking at a fairly rare breed with serious known issues (I'm not going to find Cardis in the newspaper, even if I wanted to). Three, I want something fairly specific. I want a pet, primiarly, but I also want a dog that I COULD do some dog sports with, and who is capable of being trained to a fairly high level. (Whether I use any of that is another issue, but I want the potential, if not to be a top sport dog to at least be a pretty good "for fun" sport dog).

    This post is probably begining to verge on the incoherent, so I'll conclude:

    I wonder were the boundary is between demanding responsibility (a good thing) and making a bunch of quasi-arbitrary requirements to make sure that one is part of the "club" of "responsible" dog owners and breeders. I'm not sure where that boundary is. But I'm beginning to feel that the bar is being set too high for both owners and breeders, especially when anyone below that high bar is condemned as dog-mistreating scum, or at least hopelessly ignorant.
     
  2. OutlineACDs

    OutlineACDs Crazy Dog!

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    If any of this didn't make sense... I will fix it later...
     
  3. OutlineACDs

    OutlineACDs Crazy Dog!

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    Also, in response to "Do you want every retriever and spaniel to show full field traits."

    YES! I have Australian Cattle Dogs. I want them to be Australian Cattle Dogs. I don't want some watered down version that looks like one. I want badass, go all day, active, independent cattle dogs. It is up to the person buying the dog to get a breed that suits them. Breeders should NEVER water down temperament or working ability for the general public.

    That is my opinion.
     
  4. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    I have vague plans of maybe breeding Australian Shepherds in the future, both because I freaking adore this breed and what they are capable of and I'd like to know that there are at least some of the old lines still around and they haven't all been diluted by the pet breeders who like the dogs because they're adorable puppies with neat markings. Aussie rescue has exploded over the last 5 years. :mad:

    And I just have to say...I'm waiting over three years for a pet quality dog...my next Aussie. I've had this breeder earmarked since 2003 and put my name on the waiting list (and I was #5 at the time) back in 2006 after their most recent litter. The next litter isn't schedualed to be bred until 2009 and that's assuming the bitch meets all the criteria. Barring any freak crop-outs of HD (unlikely in these lines; the bitch's grandsire has the best hips ever measured in any Aussie) or some other random occurance, there's no reason why the breeding won't go as planned.

    When/if I get into breeding, my dogs are going to be hardass cattle dogs that can do anything you ask of them and it will be easier to get a bank loan than one of my pups. Precisely because they aren't going to be the fluffy, bouncing airheads the public is capable of owning.
     
  5. Lilavati

    Lilavati Arbitrary and Capricious

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    Nope, made perfect sense. And its not that I think, say, genetic testing is bad. I don't. I think its great. I just wonder if someone is by definition "irresponsible" if they don't genetic test like crazy. Its very expensive to do, perhaps prohibitively so for some breeders who make just enough for their vet bills. There are some breeds I would never buy without a bunch of genetic tests. There are some breeds that I'd probably take the word of the breeder that they haven't had problems. My point is not that genetic testing is bad (same with a list of titltes that looks like you added the alphabet to your dogs name). They aren't bad. At all. They're good. The issue is whether they should be part of a limitus test for "responsible breeder," rather than a bonus for a superb breeder. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

    As for breeding for instinct and breed traits, I'm torn on this one and probably always will be. BCs and Aussies should herd. Retreivers should retrieve. On the other hand, if every dog except the "companion" breeds were bred for their original purpose, then there'd be a lot fewer breeds to pick from (and virtually all would be toys). I think we could have a long debate on the virtues or not of breeding for purpose. There's important philosophical, ethical and aesthic questions at stake in whether dogs should always be bred to exhibt the performance traits of their breed, not just as echoes but as functional, useable traits. Do we want all cockers, for example, or goldens, to be able to go out for a day in the field (or at least to come from lines that do)? My gut instinct there is no, but I can see why some people disagree, and can even agree with many of their points in principle.

    But I do think that saying anyone who breeds Aussies (or cockers, or goldens, or whatever) for show and "pet disposition" is "irresponsible" is a bit over the top. Not doing the best thing for the breed, possibly. Not preserving the breed as it was and should be, ok. But irresponsible?

    As for waiting years for your next dog . . . if that's the dog of the lines you want, please do. I'm willing to wait a long time for the right Cardigan (though I'm aiming for rescue or breeder return because I have decided I'd rather not have a puppy . . . but to get a puppy from Fine Creek, I'd wait.) But demanding that everyone who wants to be "responsible" as an owner wait for years is pretty, well, unfair. Why the heck should they wait for a dog that will just be a pet, when all they want is a pleasant, fun companion? Not only will they NOT wait, and go elsewhere, I think demanding that they do is pretty unreasonable.
     
  6. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    People have always had dogs though, long before it became the norm to have a "purebred papered" dog. Back when breeders only moved in certain circles and you had to be a part of that circle in order to get a dog. Of course, there have always been the "bad" BYB's and millers as well, but they weren't *quite* as common.
     
  7. HoundedByHounds

    HoundedByHounds Oh, it's *you*

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    genetic tests are a drop in the bucket compared to an emergency c section, TPLO or anything else that comes up in dogs. If you cannot afford the genetic testing to me, that tells me a lot about your priorities...general you's thruout.
     
  8. Lilavati

    Lilavati Arbitrary and Capricious

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    Well, that's true, but people DID have dogs. They just had mixed breeds, or, more accurately, mutts and mongrels. Now, I think that's fine, and wish more people would go to a shelter (Though getting puppy from a shelter is a dodgy proposition). BUt since many of them won't, for good and bad reasons, And I'm not sure if it was ever that exclusive with many breeds. Some of them, certainly. A few of them still. But people have been able to get many purebred dogs from reasonably responsible people for a long time.
     
  9. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    I don't totally disagree with you. ;) Actually I see both sides...I'm just also looking at this through the lens of rescue. We've got such a crisis situation now and I feel that by opening the door to "allowing" it to be ok to get dogs from the less than stellar breeders, then things are going to get worse, not better. These breeders that you have in mind as you're writing this defense are out there as we speak. They aren't going to magically appear or disappear based on our collective opinions. But I do think that if we present the "ideal", it's easier to find a good person who is a couple of steps down from that, than to present an "average", because a couple steps down from that lands one into true BYB territory or petstores.

    I just wish that more people would spend as much time researching their dogs as they do when they buy a TV or a camera.
     
  10. Lilavati

    Lilavati Arbitrary and Capricious

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    You have a point, and I'll conceed it. If the only reason given was "its too expensive" I'd worry. The difference between that and a C-section, though, in my mind, is that genetic testing is a constant expense, not an emergency expense. Its overhead, that needs to be spent on every dog, rather than coming out of an emergency fund as a an extraordinary expense. But you are right. If I were to ask a breeder if they did genetic testing and if they didn't, why not, and all they said was "its too expensive" that would be a serious mark against them right there. If it was, "Its pretty expensive, and I've never have problems with my lines. Let me show you my charts." I'd hang around. It would also depend on the breed.

    Genetic testing also relatively new, especially widespread testing. There are people who have been breeding for 20, 30, 40, 50 years and have never tested their dogs, (for a long time they couldn't) and frankly, aren't going to start now. They see it as a nusience and an unnessiary expense. I may think they are mistaken, espeically with some breeds, but I'm not going to call them "irresponsible."

    Remember, I'm not critizing any of these practices, or the people who do them. I'm objecting to knee-jerk calls of "irresponsible" against anyone who doesn't conform to these requirements. Keeping in mind that in this case "irresponsible" means a catagorical statement (you are too irresponsible to breed dogs) as opposed to "well, you're a pretty good breeder, but I think your choice not to genetic test is irresponsible in this day and age." Perhaps its a very fine distinction, but I think its an important one.
     
  11. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Another place that people got dogs from was the farm.

    Some of the best bred dogs came from farmers who had been breeding stock and their own stock dogs for generations. If the dog wasn't healthy and couldn't work and didn't have an acceptable temperament, it didn't get bred.

    If you think about it, that's a more realistic and wholesome test of a working breed dog's lineage than any number of letters after a kennel name or any kind of certs.
     
  12. HoundedByHounds

    HoundedByHounds Oh, it's *you*

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    most genetic testing is a one time deal...so not very different at all from a section. Point is you need to be able to pull money outta your butt if you breed dogs...or you simply have to be hard hearted enough to let them die because you lack funds.

    If you will not spend the money for genetic testing which might save me the consumer...some money and heatbreak down the road...and so you yourself are not breeding in a dark room because flipping on the light might raise the electric bill...I have no problem going elsewhere.
    general "yous" again
     
  13. SizzleDog

    SizzleDog Lord Cynical

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    I disagree, somewhat. I know a few responsible breeders that run ads in publications such as Dog Fancy - not to sell pups, but to hopefully act as a "net" for at least some of the novice dog owners to-be to be "caught" in. Every novice who calls these breeders gets gently educated on why they should research the breed they want, and how to make sure they're buying from a responsible breeder. They educate against the breeders they are listed next to - the ones offering oversized or undersized dogs, irresponsibly bred dogs, etc.

    I have immense respect for the breeders that dedicate themselves to this "public education" - they get calls at all hours of the day and night, and spend a lot of time educating the clueless public in this manner.
     
  14. HoundedByHounds

    HoundedByHounds Oh, it's *you*

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    and BTW...I am not sure the BYB needs defending...

    far as I can see they have it pretty good. They can reap the financial rewards and accolades of the pet buyers...and be answerable to no one because most do not attend shows or have peer pressure, are not members of clubs or do any organized activities...and spend none of the money involved in proving a dog in some way.

    It's easy to be a BYB...so why does one need to defend them? It is hard to be a good breeder..IMO...and in most cases we are left on our own to defend ourselves and answer tons of questions about what we do. We do xyz and people still ask us why we didn't do W...lol.
     
  15. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    I agree with some of your points but I believe if you are breeding without proving your dog to be a good example of his breed (the mess of titles, the dog looks like his breed if he is shown and has the drives and working ability of his breed if he is worked, he has a good temperament if he is a therapy pet or has his CGC). I also think it's irresponsible to breed without getting all the genetic tests needed for your breed, the last thing we need is more unhealthy dogs. My reasoning is simple, there are enough dogs as there is. We need to breed though, so breeds will not die out. But if we are breeding dogs that don't conform to standard of temperament and body are we really even preserving the breed? Or will they eventually turn into something else because we keep breeding them more and more out of standard. Most importantly because there are so many dogs we can't just be ok with everyone breeding, we need to have some "standard" of quality, well why not have that be dogs who are actually good examples of their breed and are healthy? I don't see anything wrong with being hard on BYBs, we don't need their dogs, we have enough dogs who are not anything like their breed, they are in shelters. If you cannot strive for quality don't breed, it's not some awful thing to say you should not be breeding puppies, why not just enjoy the dogs you have, you don't need to be breeding.
     
  16. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    I agree with a lot of that lilivati, I know breeders that I really like to advertise, why shoudln't they? It gets the idea of a registered breeder out into the public, instead of having to get into those inner dog circles, they can look through a magazine or on the net.
    Now this advertisement doens't mean they get a puppy, it means they can inquire and be judged like everyone else.
    I think its great, I think someotimes the general public getthis ciew that registered breeders are "elitest" and you wouold only buy from them if you wanted a show dog.

    I will also want a particular colour when I get my next dog. This has been discussed on another forum many times on what breeders think of people asking for specific colours. The general consensus, you wait for this dog, you pay for this dog, if you are willing to wait for the right colour, its the icing on the cake, but temperment comes first.
    I will ask to wait for specific colours, for example. My kelpie I would be after either red and tan or fawn and tan. Personal preference and if I'm paying for a puppy I am willing to wait for the "icing on the cake"

    I've also been looking into kelpies and asking around about health testing and such. I know they are an amazingly healthy breed and wouldn't expect much tested. There is one eye issue that can be tested for but when asking people with working kelpies about it, it appears to only be an issue with bench kelpies.
    I havn;t done all my research yet but atm I've found a breeder that has dogs with stable temperments AND good working ability, this is very important to me. I've talked to a woman that has 2 of their kelpies, apparently they are great at matching pupies to new owners and are picky about wherethe puppies go, which pleases me.
    Than I have talked to other people that have dogs from fantastoic working lines, but the parents had loose temperments so the pups are extremly DA. I see a lot ofworking breeders breeding for working ability alone, doens't matter if their dogs can't go to the dog park or be taken down town, they just have to do their work. But my priorities lye differently in that sense. Its very important I get a stable tempermented dog this time round.
     
  17. OutlineACDs

    OutlineACDs Crazy Dog!

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    One thing that just irks me about health testing. If you do not test, you do not know. Just do the tests. Really. You can spout all day that "____" breed doesn't have hip problems. Well, how do you know unless you test? It's a simple test, it costs $40 plus the cost of x-rays to get it done. It's a one time test, just do it.

    Not picking on you, Mrose, its just that you reminded me about it. It's what I don't like about strictly working breeders. A lot of them don't test and they say "Well THAT problem only runs in conformation lines." Well THATS because the conformation people are doing the testing that you should be doing. Don't all dogs of the same breed come from essentially the same bloodlines? Especially in a breed with a small gene pool.

    Working breeders will often opt out of testing because "A dog with HD couldn't work all day." Not true. There are varying degrees of hip displasia, elbow displasia etc. Some dogs will work through the pain just because they have a ton of heart.

    IMO, health testing is priority in ANY breed.
     
  18. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    I agree with Zoom too - lowering the bar is just like asking for trouble.
    We all want the ideal in everything else, and know what that ideal is... so why lower the bar for dog breeders?

    It sounds like more than anything you're objecting to these breeders being called "irresponsible"... This is why I think most of us like to use the term "reputable" breeder. To me, it's like... there are reputable breeders, and then everybody else. And like you said, that everybody else is a spectrum, ranging from the naive breeder to a puppymill. But if somebody doesn't health test (though for my breed, I do think somebody who is breeding without health testing is indeed irresponsibly breeding) they just aren't reputable. It doesn't make them a bad PERSON, but they are not a breeder I'm going to hold in high regard the way I will for people who, as Hounded said, worked so hard to be an excellent breeder who's really improving the breed.


    There are several problems with the "Well, I've never had any problems in my lines so I don't health test" response... VWd, for example, may not always show clinical signs in affected dogs, depending on which type it is. You wouldn't know a dog was affected unless you saw signs of it or if you had the testing done, so you might unknowingly breed an affected dog and produce other affected dogs who WILL show signs. There's also affected dogs and then carrier dogs... if you were breeding a carrier to a clear (non-carrier) dog, you would come up with carriers and non-carriers, but no affected dogs. Theoretically you could breed a few, or even several, generations without ever ending up with a carrier and a carrier breeding and producing affected dogs... but eventually it would/could happen if you weren't testing and selectively breeding.
    The same goes for stuff like hips and elbows, since it's graded, and you need to keep an eye on the quality - not just for the individual dog, but siblings and the rest of the pedigree too.

    So it sounds fine in theory to say you haven't had problems in your lines, but in practice, genes make it more sticky than that. I mean, yeah, a breeder is selectively breeding, but the natural elements of evolution and biology are still at play. Mutations will always occur no matter what you do, so you best be trying your hardest to keep an eye on everything you can IMO!
     
  19. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thats a good point Outline and I do agree with you.
    The issue comes with where are all these health testing breeders?

    I've only seen show kelpies breeders testing and I'm not after ine from those lines.
    This really is difficult, I suppose when I start looking for real I will get in contact with WKC and ask about it there.
     
  20. shadowfacedanes

    shadowfacedanes *Biter*

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    I'm just going to touch on the point of genetic testing.

    I don't care how healthy a breeder thinks their breeding dogs are, in this day and age, not health testing a dog is IMO not only irresponsible, but cruel.

    I say this because I own a dog who is a genetic mess and most of her problems could've been avoided had the breeder health tested and not ridden the coat-tails of the breeders several generations back who did health test.

    It only takes one or two generations for dogs to fall apart. Hannah is living proof of that. Her great grandparents were BIS and BISS dogs and were health tested to the hilt with passing results. So Hannah's breeder skimped on the health testing because "there were no problems in the lines". Well, a whole lot of good that did us.

    I say, boo hoo if it costs money. If you don't do it, you shouldn't be breeding dogs. I think it is morally bankrupt for someone to breed dogs that aren't health tested. It's russian roulette....only the breeder isn't the one suffering. The dog and it's owners are.
     

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