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In Defense of Well-Bred Dogs

(Wednesday, January 21, 2015)

AKC Gazette breed column, Basset Hounds—Dedicated breeders work to produce healthy, well-adjusted, quality puppies because these puppies become the foundation for our next generation and for the breed’s future.

Recently a father and his children saw me walking a Basset puppy at the dog show. After the kids spent some time with the puppy, the father asked questions about the show and the different breeds. Then he asked, “What’s the difference between a shelter dog and these dogs?”

I had a long answer, but I started to realize that dedicated breeders need a 30-second “elevator speech” ready to answer this question. The general public doesn’t know the real answer, and right now animal-rights extremists are providing the popular answer.

One difference is predictability. Those who obtain their dog from a responsible breeder get to see their puppy in advance and can meet many of the puppy’s relatives. These puppy-buyers have immediate access to all of the breeder’s knowledge and experience. The breeder becomes a ready reference for a whole range of dog-related questions, from health issues to vaccine protocols and flea and tick control products. And if the puppy turns out not to be the right fit for the new owner, the responsible breeder will take him or her back without question.

Dogs have lived with humans for more than 10,000 years. During this time humans have bred dogs to perform tasks that helped in day-to-day life. Dogs were bred to hunt food for the table or to kill vermin. Some were bred to guard livestock or guard the home, and others to move a flock. Some were bred to turn a spit, some to retrieve in water, and others to be companions or lap-warmers. Purebred dog breeds were each developed for a purpose, and most maintain much of the original instinct to do the jobs for which they were originally bred.

Take Bassets, for example. They were bred to hunt in packs independent of human command. That explains a lot about life with a Basset. Bassets are stubbornly independent and capable of amusing themselves. Training is a challenge because the breed doesn’t look to humans for commands or praise. Bassets are not stupid, but they are easily bored by human games. They understand pack behavior even if their owners do not. They were not bred to kill prey, and they get along with everyone. Because they are scent hounds, they will find exactly where the dog cookies are hidden.

Dedicated breeders are the keepers of a living museum. We keep alive standards that were in many cases first written hundreds of years ago. We work to produce healthy, well-adjusted, quality puppies because these puppies become the foundation for our next generation and for the breed’s future. Though most of our puppies are sold as companions only, they carry the same genetics as our show dogs.

Dog shows are not beauty pageants; they are tests of breeding stock judged by knowledgeable people who study breed standards and understand each breed’s history and function.

Pressures on dedicated breeders and the sport of dogs are enormous. Restrictive ordinances are proposed in many locales, and it seems that fewer people want to take on the challenges of learning a trade than was the case in past decades. Kids are interested in other things, and it takes real skill to properly groom terriers and many other coated breeds.

Unethical or casual breeders and producers of “designer breeds” don’t fund research to identify and cure canine diseases; dedicated breeders do. Dedicated breeders breed not for monetary gain but for the love of dogs in general, and their specific breed in particular.

If current trends continue, in the future there may be no reason to ask what the difference is between a purebred and rescue, as there may be only “rescues”—dogs produced by irresponsible breeders and then dumped into the rescue/shelter system.

Predictability, health, history, an experienced and knowledgeable support system, and a lifetime return policy are all available only through dedicated hobby breeders.

That should be enough to get everyone started on their own elevator speech to explain why purebred matters.

Jacquelyn Fogel

Further information about Basset Hounds can be found here and here and on the website of the breed’s national parent club, the Basset Hound Club of America.

Read more AKC Gazette breed columns here, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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