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Old 05-25-2008, 10:31 AM
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Default In Defense of "Backyard Breeders"

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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Lilavati View Post


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

Responsible breeders don't breed without a waiting list

I don't have a waiting list. If I waited to have 7 or more people lined up I would never have a litter. That being said, I'm pretty new to breeding and I breed VERY rarely. My next litter wont be for a minimum of three years. No one is willing to wait THAT long for a pet puppy. They just aren't. I breed for myself, first and foremost.

Responsible breeders never advertise

I do, technically. I have a website that shows my dogs and their accomplishments. That is advertising. I wouldn't feel bad about advertising in a local paper if I had pet puppies to sell. At that point, I would screen calls and decide if any of the callers were a good home for any puppies I might have.

Responsible breeders don't advertise what colors they have

Im my breed there are only two colors. I don't feel the need to state what color I might have because to me, each color is jsut as good as the other. If someone asks "Do you have a red puppy" I can tell them.

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?)

No application here, but like I said, I also don't have a waiting list. I like to screen people through e-mail, phone, and if I can in person. I would ask for references if I felt the need, but I generally just go with conversing with them, etc.


Responsible breeders have dogs with a mess of titles

Yes, I do. I personally feel it is important to prove my breeding stock. That means (to me) a minimum of Conformation and some other sport/activity. I like a well rounded dog. If you don't have someone else looking at your breeding stock and giving you an opinion then you risk becoming kennel blind. No dog is perfect, but the owners often see them as perfect. You need to be odjective.


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. Uhh.. why not? Why would anyone not test for things that are preventable? You don't care if your puppy is healthy? My dogs are tested for OFA hips and elbows, BAER, CERF, and Optigen's PRA test.

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?)

I breed for an all-around dog. It must be temperamentally sound and healthy above all. I will not breed a bad temperament, especially in my breed. I will not breed a dog with health problems. After that, YEs I breed for looks/working ability. I want a biddable, smart dog. I want a dog with stamina, a dog that could work all day. I believe the dog with all these things will win in the conformation ring, so yes I breed for that too.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:17 AM
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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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:25 AM
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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.

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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by OutlineACDs View Post
If any of this didn't make sense... I will fix it later...
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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:47 AM
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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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:48 AM
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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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:01 PM
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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.
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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:06 PM
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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.
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoundedByHounds View Post
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.
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.
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