Diavolino Italian Greyhounds

                                                                                      ...world reknowned show dogs and world class companions

 
                                             
 
 

Breeders... The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. And The Confusing.

Congratulations! You made the right decision - buy from a breeder! Easy right?

Wrong! Now you really have to use your investigative knowledge to determine if the breeder you are talking to is a good breeder or a bad breeder. Or maybe even just a borderline breeder. There are so many conflicting opinions, so many alternatives. However, some things are a definite red flag, some require you to do a bit more research. I hope this page can help you. Following are some hints, indicators and myths.

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All breeders are not created equal.

A reputable breeder does not breed solely to produce puppies. Each breeding is researched to find the most complementary mate for the dog in question.  Pedigrees are researched to determine compatibility, to identify health testing and risks, to make sure desired characteristics are evident, and to what degree undesirable characteristics are present.

This research is crucial as each time a reputable breeder does a breeding, it should be with the intent that they will be keeping something from that breeding to improve upon and further their own breeding programme.

Achieving that goal cannot be accomplished by simply putting two dogs of the same breed together. Sometimes it is even more than putting two good dogs of the same breed together. A breeder must be part geneticist, part scientist, part artist and sometimes just a little bit magician!

The reputable breeder will breed the litter with the intention that the pick puppy will remain with them or within their circle of breeders they work with. The remaining puppies will then usually become available to qualifying purchasers. That is the breeder you want to work with.

So what about the breeders that offer pick puppies for sale? Very experienced breeders can sometimes tell the pick puppy from birth. Sometimes they're right, more often they are not. So breeders hesitate to identify the pick puppy until they are 6 -10 weeks old, and even then, they know they are only identifying the possibility, not the surety.

Now, we previously discussed that reputable breeders breed to retain the pick puppy in their breeding programme.  If they are offering pick puppy for sale, then why did they even do the breeding?  Easy - to produce puppies for sale.  To make a profit.  You'll find that most breeders who offer pick puppy for sale actually do so prior to birth or shortly thereafter.  That way they can charge extra money to someone by letting them have first choice. Because those breeders are in it for the money, they are not usually willing to hold onto the puppies long enough to determine which is truly the 'pick puppy'.

In fact, most of those breeders don't know enough to even be able to select the pick puppy, at birth or any age.

So pick puppies should never be offered for sale before or shortly after birth. OK, understood.  But what about breeders who allow you to choose any  puppy at birth? Or any puppy based on a photo?  You know the ones I mean, the ones with the cutesie photo of the puppy posed beside a daisy or a teddy bear, along with a "Pay Now" button.

AAAAGH!  Run away!  The breeder's goal should be to match the puppy's personality and activity level to a suitable, well matched buyer. No breeder knows the puppy's personality at birth, and no buyer can tell the personality from a picture.

If the breeder is allowing you to buy based on a photo, then they really don't care if it's a good match, they just want payment.  Expect the breeder to ask questions of you, and if the breeder does not feel the puppy you were first attracted to is a good match, then do not be offended! They just want to make sure you AND the puppy are happy for the next 15 years.

Now, if they try to talk you out of one puppy and into a more expensive one, then don't buy ANY puppy from them.

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The internet and the breeder.

You'll hear people say to you "Never buy a puppy off the internet!" They are right... and they are wrong. The internet, and a breeder's website, are a valuable tool but it can also be the biggest obstacle, as anyone can make their website look good! Use the internet as a starting point only! Do not think that because the site looks good that you don't have to do any research (we'll cover that in more detail later).

Many breeders that used to sell through brokers have discovered that they can cut out the middle man and make more profit by selling directly off the internet themselves. They study responsible breeder's websites and try to emulate them, creating a false illusion of legitimacy to their own website.

Have a good look at the site.  Is it respectful to other breeders?  If the site owner is not respectful in publication, you can usually bet they are even less respectful in person.  Is that the person you want to be involved with for the next 15 years?  Someone like that will turn on you if you ever question them, or God forbid, need to approach them about any health issues your puppy may have developed.  You want someone who is respectful, empathetic, and courteous enough that any conflicts are dealt with privately and maturely.

Look at the photos.  Not just the show wins, as we can all pose our dogs enough to make them look good for a brief capture on film!  Look at the home photos and look at more than just the dogs.  Do the dogs look comfortable?  Look in the backgrounds of the photos.  Do you see kennel runs in the background? That might be odd on a site where they claim all their puppies are raised in the home.  Do you see a clean environment? Green grass or just gravel or cement? Do the dogs have toys?  I'm often amazed at how some people will post a photo of the dog, with long talons for nails, or a dirty water bowl in plain view, or mounds of excrement in the background.

Look at the brags on show wins.  It might look impressive for the length, but look at the calibre of wins.  Are they bragging about class wins or higher? Most successful exhibitors do not publish class wins as they don't result in any Championship points. No successful exhibitor brags about wins where they were the only dog in competition, or wins where they did not defeat anybody. Breeders trying to create a false illusion of success will post everything, whether they beat a dog or not, to try to pump up their results.   I'm baffled why some of them do this (and they do, I've checked myself!) as these results are all published on the CKC website, so they can be verified if one takes the time to do so.  Even trickier, some breeders 'boost' their competition, that is, enter multiples of their own dogs.  After all, if no-one else is entered, one of their dogs will win, and they think nobody will figure it out!

For more information on the calibre of wins, see Understanding Dog Shows.

Does the website have a lot of spelling and grammatical errors? While everyone makes the occasional spelling mistake or typo, if a person has enough knowledge to create a website, they should have enough knowledge to use spell check! Not doing so shows a lack of attention to detail, and the last thing you want in the breeder of your new family companion is someone who doesn't pay attention to detail!

Do they seem to always have puppies? Raising a litter of puppies takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of emotions. To do it right is exhausting. To do it non-stop is debilitating. Unless a breeder has a staff, it is impossible to responsibly raise and place more than a few litters a year. For most people, 2 litters a year is max, and if they have a year where they do three, they usually take a year or two off or reduce to one litter a year.  If they DO have a staff, they are no longer breeders, they are commercial producers.

In 2007, I had three litters for a total of 7 puppies. In 2008, I had 1 litter of 1 puppy and raised a litter of 5 puppies for a friend. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE puppies! But I am puppied out.  I know my limits and I know going beyond my limits is not fair for the dogs.

When checking the number of puppies they have, or dogs they have for sale, don't just look at their website.  Many will post only a few puppies to make it look good, but in reality have dogs and puppies advertised on "Classified Ad" type websites like kijiji or Craigslist.

Does the breeder identify the available puppies by number? For example, IG456? Do not buy from that breeder, as they clearly see puppies as inventory, in my opinion. What scares me is, what does the number mean? Is it IG puppy number 456 for that breeder?

Does the breeder accept credit cards? Does the website have a "Pay Now" or a PayPal button? While many people have a PayPal account, no respectable breeder advertises a quick and easy way to pay on the website! The bad breeders add the Pay Now buttons to encourage impulse purchases. You may find, AFTER you send the deposit by PayPal, that the small print says you can't get your deposit back if you back out. Furthermore, no responsible breeder will accept any form of payment until they have done their research on you!

Credit cards are only accepted by commercial establishments, and the credit card company takes a cut of the selling price. This means that the breeder needs to either raise the price or sell more puppies to compensate for the credit card company's cut.  Non-commercial breeders have no use for a credit card service.  Some breeders will make excuses as to why they accept credit cards (ie an existing business of some other sort) but the reality is, accepting credit cards is simply a method to take advantage of impulse purchasers.

Advertising that the breeder accepts credit cards plays on the impulsive nature of some buyers and allows for some decisions that may be regretted later.  Buying a puppy means adding a family member into your life for 15 years or more. The amount of time it takes to research the breed and the breeder should allow for enough time to save the money necessary to buy the puppy.  Let's face it, if you can't afford to buy the puppy with cash, you probably aren't in a position to properly care for it either. The puppy's first year will be the most expensive year of it's life (barring injury or illness).  Do not waste your available credit buying the puppy... you may need it later.

Walk away from these breeders. Even if you saw a puppy on the site that you absolutely fell in love with, be realistic. You can't fall in love with a photograph.

A good breeder wants to be sure you have the resources available to properly care for the puppy for it's lifetime and will not encourage your using credit to purchase the puppy.

Does the breeder advertise Champion lines? That doesn't mean anything! Even the best quality male bred to the best quality female is no guarantee of Championship quality puppies! Every breeding will at best, produce one or two puppies worthy of obtaining a Championship. The rest of the puppies will be companion quality only.   So just because the parents come from Champion lines doesn't mean they are a quality representative of the breed themselves. 

At least one parent should actually BE a Champion, preferably both parents. Showmills (a slightly better version of a puppymill) will often get a Championship on their male only, as that Championship has better financial value than a Championship on a female. After all, a male can be bred to hundreds of girls, making them all Champions sired, whereas a female will produce far less puppies in her lifetime.

Is the breeder willing to ship?  This subject will always be a topic of dissention.  Some people firmly believe that a puppy should never be shipped, some people think there should be no limitation on shipping.  My personal feelings are, if we never shipped dogs or puppies, bloodlines would become very inbred and that would be a disservice to the breed.  Like any other factor, shipping should be considered only if the puppy is healthy and old enough to fly, if the breeder has determined suitable weather conditions in each point of stopping, if the plane has a climate controlled compartment, if suitable connections can be made.  The breeder should be willing to inconvenience themselves to ensure the best flight for the puppy.  I commonly drive 4 hours to an airport if the connection is better for the puppy from there.  Recently I drove 14 hours to the Vancouver airport as that was the best thing to do for a dog I was flying to Australia.

In a perfect world, buyers will be able to fly or drive out and bring the puppy home themselves, but that is not always practical, feasible or even the safest option.  In fact, I had one buyer drive 12 hours to pick the puppy because they were worried the puppy might risk injury on the flight.  What happened was the buyer's car hit a slippery patch on the road and tumbled down a cliff.  Everyone was fine with only minor injuries, but it shows that there is risk in any mode of transportation.

Each breeder must make their own decision whether or not they will ship. I respect their choices as I hope they respect mine .

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Showmills and puppymills

We've all heard about puppymills. Oprah had a big show about it, we read about puppymill busts in the newspaper, and we all feel disgust and horror. We vow to do all we can to help eradicate puppymills. The problem is, they are hiding amongst us!  We used to think all puppymills were in the back woods and run by rednecks. Actually, a puppymiller may be the nicest, most polite person you've ever met; well dressed, educated, successful in other avenues of life.  Some of them even show their dogs. There are some puppymills that have the cleanest facility you've ever seen! Dig a little deeper, ask a lot of questions. Getting a puppy from a puppymill is not saving it, what you are doing is dooming the parents to a life of constant puppy making.

Since no-one can truly define puppymill, it is getting harder and harder to identify the puppymills, especially with the emergence of the showmills.  A showmill is basically a puppymill that also shows their dogs..

Is it the number of dogs produced? That's a good start. However, one person may be inadequate to maintain 1 litter of puppies while another may be able to do a stellar job with multiple litters. Even allowing for personal variations, my personal opinion is any more than 3 or 4 litters a year is excessive for anyone without a staff. And if they have a staff (not including house sitters), they are probably a commercial operation.

Is it the conditions the dogs are kept in? Not always. I've seen a breeder with 1 litter every couple of years keep their dogs in filthy conditions, and another breeder who I consider to be a showmill with immaculate kennels.

Are they breeding their dogs too young and too often? That is pretty much a huge red flag. Are they regularly breeding dogs that have not achieved a Championship? While a reputable breeder will occasionally breed a non-Champion dog, it is often because circumstances have prevented it getting a title (ie a broken leg that healed badly). A breeder who habitually breeds dogs before titles might give one cause to investigate further. Aside from the rare  incidence of an accidental breeding, reputable breeders do not breed their females before 18 months old, most preferring to wait until 2 or older.  Many of the health problems in Italian Greyhounds do not rear their ugly heads until adulthood.  When a reputable breeder does breed a younger dog, it is almost always from a dog that is descended from their own lines for multiple generations, where the health status of the pedigree is known. Furthermore, they will always breed it to an older dog, and the resulting puppies will almost never be offered for sale as a show or breeding prospect. Any prospects will be retained within the breeder's own circle, as the health status of the young parent is still an unknown.

So, the occasional use of a young dog is not a red flag in itself. However, when a breeder frequently breeds young dogs, often breeds two young dogs together, breeds young dogs from a pedigree they are not intimately familiar with, or young dogs from lines with no known current health testing, walk away.

Additionally, no reputable breeder offers their young males at stud to the public. It is irresponsible as the genetic health is unknown at that time. They may offer limited use to their breeding circle, people who are intimately familiar with the pedigree, but not to the public. There is never a legitimate reason to intentionally breed a female under 1 year of age.  Never.  Just because they can does not mean they should.

Another cause for alarm is if a dog is bred too often. My personal belief is that there should be a limit to how many times any dog is bred, male or female. No dog is so spectacular that it needs to be bred dozens of times. That is one of the reasons I limit my outside stud use, as I do not want to use my dog so much outside my breeding programme that I can't use him anymore myself! Each female is an individual. Let's face it, they have the tougher time creating a family than the male does. Some mothers have a difficult pregnancy and a difficult whelping. Some make lousy mothers. For most bitches, 2-3 litters in a lifetime is enough. There is the rare bitch that is a spectacular mother,  glides through pregnancy and whelping, and produces outstanding puppies. Those bitches can sometimes be bred more often.

Do they offer a reasonable health guarantee? Keep in mind, a 1 year guarantee has no more value than the newspapers you put down for the puppy. Most genetic health conditions in this breed appear after adulthood. We'll go into health guarantees later under "Choosing Your Breeder".

What is their relationship with IG Rescue? You have every right to check with the rescue representative in your area to see how they deal with dogs of their breeding that go to Rescue. A responsible breeder takes every dog they produced back, regardless of the age of the dog or the condition of the dog. Here is a site you can go to as well, to see results of dogs that are turned into rescue. 
http://www.cigrescue.org/smoking_guns.html  (note - this site is no longer current, but you can see some of the previous dogs whose breeders didn't step up to the plate).

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Multiple breeds.

As an exhibitor of dogs that require minimal pre-show grooming, it can be a long day hanging around the dog show.  We often get a second breed to show so we have something else to do during the wait times.   Sometimes we just like another breed as well, so we have one or two just because.  Owning multiple breeds is not a warning sign, but breeding multiple breeds concurrently (more than 2) is.

It takes years and years of research to become sufficiently familiar with a breed to become successful with it.  Trying to do that with multiple breeds is almost impossible.  I do not believe a person can do justice to that many different breeds.

Breeding a second breed can also be  warning sign if the breeder is a relatively new breeder.  It is very important that a breeder become familiar with the ins and outs of one breed before embarking on another.  Jumping into breeding a second breed too soon is  a sure way to ensure you don't so either breed any justice.

Some breeders know this is a warning sign, so they create second, third and fourth websites, one for each breed.  Use your search engine and check to see just how many breeds are being produced by your breeder.  Don't rely on just  the one site.

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