Controversial Issue #4:
INTERVIEWING BREEDERS: LET
THE BUYER BEWARE!
It is very
important for you to be able to trust and rely on the breeder from whom you
purchase your new pup. Your breeder can help you raise a well mannered, healthy
pet, and can provide you with guidance throughout you pup’s life. You should
look for a breeder who obviously loves the breed, who is both honest and
knowledgeable about the breed, who wants to be helpful to you, and a breeder
who you feel comfortable with and feel that you can trust.
breeders is a tall order, but it is very important. A mistake in judgment at
this point in your search for a healthy pup can be quite devastating to you and
your family at a later date. The internet contains a lot of useful information,
but a bad breeder can also use the net to pick up on “just what to say” to
people inquiring about pups. This is your chance to truly play detective.
technique described should work for interviewing breeders of any breed of dog,
but I will, from this point on, be Great Dane specific. Danes, as a breed, have
a life expectancy of only 7-8 years. Due to their size, medical problems
can be both physically demanding on their owners (lifting them or assisting them
in walking, for example) and extremely expensive, not to mention the emotional
toll on both the owner and the pet. It is very important to work with a
breeder who is truly knowledgeable and committed to producing healthy pups.
to breeders, ask a few basic questions. You don’t have to “grill” the
breeder, just work your questions into the conversation. Since initial
contacts generally include a phone conversation, you could make a list and check
the questions off as you go plus you could take short notes. DO NOT PUT
THESE QUESTIONS IN AN EMAIL!
paragraphs to follow, these questions will be addressed in detail. How did they
get into breeding Danes? How long have they been breeding? How many litters of
Danes have they had in their breeding career? How many Danes do they have? Do
their Danes live in their house, outside or in a kennel building? Do they show
in either conformation and/or obedience and agility? What are the most
important characteristics that they breed for in a Dane? How long do their
Danes generally live? What do they generally die from? What do they do with
their dogs once they are too old to breed? Are they willing to provide
references? Do they screen their buyers? Do they utilize a sales contract? Do
they provide any type of guarantee? If so, what is it and how long does it
extend? When working with their guarantee, do they refund money or provide a
replacement pup? If a replacement pup, do you have to give up the Dane being
replaced? Do they allow folks to come out and visit, meet and pet their adult
dogs? Do they provide you with written instructions? Do they have any strict
requirements concerning brands of kibble or specific diets? Do they have any
specific requirements about veterinary medicine or homeopathy? Do they cull
their litters? If so, based on what? How do they feel about ear crops…do they
have any strong preferences? What type of support services, if any, do they
purchase a Dane from a breeder there is potential for three levels of suffering
if problems arise. The breeder can be hurt; the buyer can be hurt; and the
pup can be hurt. A good breeder should be carefully screening you while you
are screening them to insure that you would be a good home for a pup and
that the puppy would be the last one to suffer if something went wrong
(after all, the pups can’t protect themselves). Since the breeder makes the
final decision whether or not to sell to you, once you express a desire to
purchase, the breeder should be willing to shield you from as much potential
“suffering” as possible, in the event of a problem. A breeder who strives to
protect himself/herself first is not what I consider a good breeder. Keep
this in mind as you read the paragraphs below.
did the breeder get into breeding Danes? There are many people who know
a great deal about Great Danes and yet have never bred a litter and have no
intention of breeding. These people are generally well informed Dane owners.
There is a big difference in owning Danes and breeding Danes. I have a major
problem with people who decide to use the “learn as you go” method of becoming a
breeder. Their dogs and their pups are the first to suffer and the last to be
protected from their bad judgment; lack of experience; inability to effectively
screen their buyers; and inability to be helpful in the raising and training of
to start somewhere. There are many books published about Great Danes; there are
a substantial number of breeders in almost every state; and there is abundant
information on the internet. Novice breeders who are interested in learning
present a wonderful opportunity for experienced breeders to become mentors.
Locating a willing, responsible breeder can be a challenge, but it is possible.
Not all experienced, reputable breeders are willing to assist novices, but for
the betterment of the breed, helping a novice to avoid mistakes that our
dogs pay for really beats complaining about “backyard breeders”.
long has the breeder been breeding? I have read many misleading
websites and talked to many people who grossly exaggerated their breeding
experience. For example, one breeder I talked with had a Dane as a pet for
several years…then didn’t have any Danes for numerous years….then, five years
prior, decided to become a breeder. They claimed the entire span of time as
years of experience to total over 20 years. Their actual experience…5 years
max. You don’t have to be pushy to inquire about details…just be interested.
many litters of Danes have they produced in their breeding career? If
they claim 20 years experience and have produced 3 litters during that period,
they are essentially novices. They do not have to mass produce to be
experienced breeders. For instance, if a breeder claims 20 years of
experience and has had 9 or ten litters, that’s believable.
many Danes do they generally have at home, excluding puppies? This
information will help you interpret info about the number of litters they’ve
produced; plus the amount of experience they actually have with the Danes.
their Danes live in their house, outside with doghouses or in a kennel building?
Sometimes the climate provides definite housing requirements, but in many areas,
it’s personal preference, zoning influences, space requirements, etc. The answer
to this question will also help to interpret the answer to many other questions.
they show in conformation and/or obedience and agility? The answer to
this question will help to explain their breeding criteria and will help you
interpret the answers to other questions. Conformation shows and production of
champions generally doesn’t mean that much to a person looking for a pet, as
conformation shows are generally concerned with conformation, movement, color
and training. Showing in obedience and agility, on the other hand, can
provide helpful information about their dogs fitness and attitude.
are the most important characteristics that they, as a breeder, breed for?
If they show in conformation, then movement and conformation are likely
to be very high up on their list. Most dogs shown in conformation are
building their reputation and that of the breeder for the time when they are
either being bred and producing pups or are being used for stud. In my humble
opinion, conformation and gait are not nearly enough to justify using a dog to
produce offspring. If they don’t have their health and a good temperament, they
are simply not good candidates for breeding. Personally, I like intelligent
dogs too. If you are looking for a family pet, health and temperament should
be top priority for you.
long do their Danes usually live? What do their dogs generally die from?
The average life span of Great Danes is supposed to be 7 to 8 years.
Unfortunately, most American Danes don’t live to a ripe old breed standard age.
The life span of American Danes has declined to around five.
with this question, you have to be thorough. If a breeder has been breeding for
8 years, it is not likely that they can claim a life expectancy of 7 to 8 years
unless they produced several litters their first year and most of the pups are
still alive or unless their dogs used for breeding come from a breeder known for
their 7-8 year life expectancy. Asking what their dogs generally die from is
do they do with their dogs who are too old to breed? Believe it or
not, I have known some breeders who put their Danes down when they were too old
to breed. I don’t even want to further discuss these jerks.
breeders with very limited space place their retirees in pet homes to make room
for younger dogs. Other breeders retire their dogs and maintain them in their
home. It is super experience for breeders to maintain geriatric Danes. How
can a breeder help you with important advice when your pet gets old if they have
no experience with aging Danes?
the breeder x-ray the hips of their dogs before breeding? Ask about the
general health of their Danes and what tests they normally run. Hip x-rays
are very important for Danes. If they don’t x-ray, find a breeder who does.
Some breeders will ask people to look at their dogs rear ends to see how strong
they are because they don’t x-ray. You cannot tell with the naked eye. Some
of the best rears I’ve ever see with my own eyes did not x-ray well. Without a
sound set of hips, Danes are in trouble eventually. If the breeder is
having specific problems in their bloodline, they should work with any testing
available for their specific problems. You should not expect a Dane to be
tested for every possible problem. It is not economically feasible and you
wouldn’t be able to afford the pup. Think of a human physical. Most people are
never tested for a wide array of problems.
breeder willing to provide references from veterinarians and buyers?
Any reputable breeder should be more than willing to provide you with
telephone and/or email references from both their veterinarian and several
buyers. If they are not, find another breeder.
the breeder screen potential buyers, and if so, what technique do they use?
This gives you some feel for the thoroughness of the breeder. Screening
via phone or person interview are the two most revealing, if the breeder is a
skillful evaluator of people.
the breeder utilize a sales contract? If their answer is yes, ask for a
copy before you waste your time. I have seen many sales contracts used by
breeders. Some are fairly simplistic and are used to either formalize the sale
or to function as a back up in case their evaluation of the buyer was not
accurate. Others range from complicated and impractical to an insult to anyone
with half a brain.
Now I am
going to ask a question that will appeal to anyone with an ounce of common
sense. If a breeder has properly screened a prospective buyer and doesn’t
trust the individual to take proper physical and emotional care of a pup, why in
the world would the breeder allow the buyer to leave the kennel with a pup?
The only thing I can think of that would fill the bill for some is MONEY.
What is there about a contract that could possibly make a breeder feel reassured
about letting a buyer they didn’t trust take a pup? Once again, sounds like
the answer could be potential gain.
your common sense. If a sales contract is difficult to understand, would be
difficult to comply with, if it is full of legal ease, if it requires you to
give up any of your legal rights (one of which is appearing in a court in
YOUR county of residence), if it is very financially slanted toward the
economic well fare of the breeder, run don’t walk to your car. Any breeder
with a track record of frequent law suits would inspire me to question their
screening process. If they are so bad at screening that they have to rely on
the legal system, they should do the pups and the breed a favor and either hire
someone who is good at screening to screen their prospective buyers for them or
the breeder give a guarantee? If so, what does it cover and how long
does it extend? Is the guarantee in the form of money or a replacement pup? If
it is a replacement pup, does your Dane have to either die or be returned to the
breeder to get the replacement pup?
breeder what their guarantee covers and for how long. Also ask them if you
encountered a problem covered by their guarantee, would the compensation be in
the form of money or a replacement pup. Most breeders who give a guarantee,
offer a replacement pup…not money. Many breeders require that your Dane
either be returned or deceased before they will replace it, and if you ask about
its fate should you return it, most will tell you that it will be put down.
They are hoping that you will refuse to give up your dog.
I’ve been in
Danes for well over thirty years now. In all honesty, I’ve not heard of or
known many breeders who give a really good guarantee. A good guarantee
should be simply written and easy to understand. It should not make you feel
irresponsible or negligent. The breeder should not mind clearly and
concisely answering any questions you might have. The guarantee should be
written in such a way that you feel the breeder is confident and has faith in
his/her bloodline and that the breeder wants you to feel comfortable working
from 24 hours to a few days for the buyer to get the pup to a vet. If they
guarantee hips, it’s usually for either a year or at most two years. I’ve seen
many guarantees that make you prove that you have taken good care of your dog
with an array of demanding requirements (including but not limited to extensive
unnecessary lab tests when the pup was first acquired, proof of purchase for
labels from a specific brand of dog food, etc.). I’ve seen guarantees that
attempt to dazzle the novices with the names of the many health problems that
are supposedly guaranteed against only to discover that these guarantees require
unrealistically early diagnosis and treatment (paid for by the puppy owner) with
a negative outcome.
have a problem with your Dane, your breeder’s guarantee should not provide you
with an additional problem. If it sounds like the guarantee is
protecting the breeder more from the buyer’s claims than it is reassuring and
comforting the buyer, find another breeder.
the breeder only want visitors when he/she has pups for sale or will they allow
visitors to the kennel at other times? Most good breeders are very
proud of their Danes and would be more than happy to have visitors, by
appointment, to see and play with their Danes. If you’re talking to a
breeder who does not want you to come out unless they have pups, check out some
the breeder provide the buyer with written instructions for caring for the pup?
buying a new pup are too excited to be expected to listen carefully and take
accurate notes. It is the responsibility of a good breeder to instruct the
buyer about how to care for a pup. Instructions should be clear, simple and
easy to comply with. If they appear overly complicated, ask for clarification.
Some people just can’t write clearly. Others expect too much. If the breeder
expects too much, find another one.
the breeder have any specific requirements concerning brands of kibble or
specific diets? If they do, you had better make sure that you are
willing and able to comply or you could wind up voiding your guarantee (if the
breeder is giving one).
the breeder have any specific requirements concerning veterinary medicine or
homeopathy? Some breeders do not want their pups to have vaccines.
See the upcoming comments under controversial issue #11, Vaccinosis. They want
their buyers to use homeopathic medicine. Some go so far as refusing to
guarantee their pups if the pups receive any vaccines. They want the pup’s
health dealt with by homeopathy.
I have a
serious problem with this demand. First of all, there are not enough
homeopathic practitioners to treat the entire pet population. Secondly, anyone
can claim to be a homeopathic practitioner. Make sure you are willing to
comply with the breeder’s health maintenance requirements or you could be in
real serious trouble if your pup develops a health problem.
the breeder cull their litters? If so, based on what? Some
breeders cull their litters immediately upon birth of any non-show marked pups
because the dam will then have more milk for the show marked pups, and the
breeder will not have to work with people seeking pet pups. Personally, I find
this offensive, lazy and hard-hearted, and I would never want to contribute to
their economic well-being.
breeders cull mostly white pups fearing that they will be blind and/or deaf.
You can’t tell anything about these pups for several weeks. It does take a
great deal of extra effort to insure that deaf pups are placed in qualified
homes. We do put deaf pups (at no charge) into homes willing and able to teach
them to respond to hand signals. However, some of the whitest pups we’ve ever
produced could both see and hear. Blind pups are almost impossible to place,
and, fortunately, are infrequently produced.
the breeder require that you crop your pup or does he/she permit natural ears?
Which do you prefer and will the breeder support or permit your choice.
If not, find another breeder. If you need help with this decision, you can
order a tape from S.F. Products (800-235-2094) called “All About Ears”. The
tapes discusses the pros and cons of both cropped ears and the natural ear; how
to locate a vet to crop; how to tape cropped ears; how to deal with problem ears
with taping techniques; corrective surgery for some problem ears, etc. You can
order via phone with either Visa or MasterCard between 8:00 AM, EST and 9:00 PM,
type of support services does the breeder offer you, if any? Will the
breeder be a resource for you if you have questions about behavior; training;
health? If not, find another breeder. Do they board at all?
should be there for you via either phone or email with information about
behavior and assistance with training tips. You will need guidance with regard
to certain surgical procedures, where veterinarians differ in their
recommendations, like tacking stomachs in an attempt to prevent torsion. I
don’t put my foot down with regard to much, but I will not allow stomach tacking
in a pup as a preventative surgery. I don’t object in an adult who has
LINE: There are many bad breeders in the dog world. Some are bad
because they don’t know what they are doing, and others are bad because they
don’t care. The ones who don’t know will improve as they learn. It’s up to
you to ferret out a good breeder who is willing to provide any assistance you
might need and a breeder that you feel comfortable dealing with.
Ignorance on the part of the breeder can produce results that will break your
breeder’s paperwork sounds like the breeder is attempting to dazzle you with
info that they know is over the average person’s head (thus making the breeder
look extremely knowledgeable); if the breeder’s paperwork is excessively
concerned with finances, especially their expenses and compensations; if their
paperwork tends to make you feel totally stupid; if they give a guarantee that
requires you to “prove” you have taken or are taking good care of the pup; if
they give a guarantee that requires you to maintain unreasonably detailed
records; or if the breeder’s paperwork requires that you “sign away” any of your
legal rights, run don’t walk to the next breeder you’d like to interview!!
Remember, the internet is helping you gather information about Danes. The
internet can also assist bad breeders, so that they can successfully mask their
ADVICE: Make sure that your selected breeder is knowledgeable,
caring and willing to share. If there is an abundance of glitz or an overload
of info that is over your head, be careful. Remember, if you don’t
understand the information presented, it is not much good to you. Make sure
that you are totally comfortable with the breeder and would not be uncomfortable
calling the breeder to discuss health, temperament or training issues.