By Jo Ann White
There are many good reasons to buy a well-bred purebred dog from a responsible breeder. The first, of course, is predictability. You will know whether you are getting a breed that exemplifies what you want from a dog, rather than an albeit cute puppy who could grow up to be something other than what you expected in terms of size, temperament, appearance, or many other factors. Unpredictability also applies to “designer dogs”; they may well combine the worst, rather than the best, qualities of the two breeds involved.
The word “breeder” alone will not suffice when you’re choosing from whom to buy a puppy. “Breeder” simply means the person owns a female dog who produced a litter of puppies. If this person isn't knowledgeable about the breed, doesn’t know the breed standard, and isn’t working toward producing dogs who look like the standard and are physically and temperamentally sound, the results, again, could be unpredictable—or worse.
Irresponsible breeders who breed for profit rather than quality will accept any buyer with a check or credit card. Ethical breeders screen new homes (as a potential new owner, be prepared for lots of questions), serve as knowledgeable mentors after you take your puppy home, and will always be ready to take back or re-home any dog they produced. In other words, they deeply care.
Because ethical breeders spend lots of time socializing, caring for, and observing their puppies, they will be able to recommend the puppy most likely to fit best into your life. In my breed, the Shih Tzu, in most cases the breeder will not let you take your puppy home before he is 12 weeks old, ensuring he is old enough to adjust well. They will tell you what you need to buy before you bring your puppy home, have started his paper training, had his health checked, and begun to accustom him to having his nails cut, feet trimmed, and coat brushed. All of this gets your puppy off to the best possible start.
Some people truly enjoy raising a puppy, while other prospective owners would prefer not to deal with housebreaking, crate training, chewing, teething, and all of the other things that go along with raising a youngster. If you would prefer an older dog, a breeder may have a retired show dog who would love to spend the rest of his or her life as a pampered only pet, or she may be able to refer you to a reputable breed-rescue organization that knows the breed well, has screened its dogs, and can, again, find the dog best suited to you.
It's important to understand that responsible breeders do not contribute to the situation of homeless pets in shelters. In fact, they support breed-rescue efforts that help those dogs and are often actively involved in transport, fostering, and placement of rescued dogs.
Responsible breeders find good homes for every animal they breed, and they keep track of them once they leave. They take great care in producing healthy, well-adjusted animals who look like the breed is supposed to and have correct temperament—which for the Shih Tzu means calm, friendly, playful, and inquisitive, and responding quickly and easily to basic training. The dogs who wind up in shelters do not come from responsible breeders but rather from poorly bred, randomly raised, or “damaged” dogs who spent their early lives in one or more unsuitable homes.
—J.A.W., American Shih Tzu Club, December 2013 AKC Gazette
Want to know more about how to choose a responsible breeder? Read on Woofipedia: 8 Signs of a Responsible Breeder