How Shitty is Your Breeder? Another Dog Snob Guide to Life

23 Aug

A few weeks ago a loyal reader sent us a suggestion. Normally, we don’t take suggestions but this one happened to hit home so, here goes.


Every dog person starts somewhere. Sometimes it’s with a dog from a shelter, sometimes a rehome from Craigslist and very rarely, people get their first dog from responsible breeders. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, Real Dog People (™) have very humble beginnings. That’s right, It’s very common for future RDP to get their dogs from backyard breeders (Occasionally,  wannabe RDP get their second and third dog also from bybs…. but we won’t continue to beat that dead horse.)


Since Backyard Breeders get sneakier by the day, we’ve compiled a list of red flags that your dog might be from less than honorable origins.


1) Your breeder has a shitty website or a presence on the web in all the wrong ways. … and by shitty we mean like our previous post . We don’t expect world class here, but a slick website with easy purchase options, half-filled out health info, and fake, or shall we say creatively exaggerated, titles are a bad bad sign. Other bad signs include where they advertize (Puppyfind? EBay? Craigslist? Nextdaypets? Come the fuck on) what they advertise (Super tiny teacup titweasels!) and realistically who they associate with (Dawgs 4sael 4Cheep on Facebook does not imply quality).

2) How much do you spend at the vet in your puppy’s first year? We aren’t talking normal puppy stuff like shots or that time Fluffy inhaled the contents of your trash can. We’re talking genetic issues and those lovely little surprises that come from puppies raised in less than sanitary conditions. Bad things happen to good breeders, of course… but a puppy with ten different kinds of worms, missing one or both balls, or just generally poorly configured is much more likely to have come from a shitty byb than from a good breeder… and suddenly that 600 dollar puppy isn’t looking better than the 1,000 dollar puppy from the good breeder down the road. 

Not Relevant, but Potnoodle loves sloths and creepy pick up lines.


3) You’ve never actually been able to verify any health testing records with OFA or anyone else and the breeder is cagey about their existence or keeps saying they’ll show you but they never actually surface. Option B of course is your breeder doesn’t believe in health testing. If it were a problem it would have been an issue with the parents, right? Sure, except the parents are usually too young to see degenerative conditions and gone to other pastures by the time the issue appears later in life. Out of sight, out of mind. Also that’s not really how most genetic issues trail on down the lines.

Well, we can… Average puppy buyer, not so much.

4) You haven’t actually heard from your breeder since you picked fluffykins up from the Wal-Mart parking lot. Your breeder doesn’t respond to your inquiries about poor health or your accomplishments until you drop the “Looking for another puppy” bomb. *Ka-ching* noise is all they hear and it’s all they can do not to pee in delight.

5) Your contract or agreement is less valuable than the Sonic napkins we pitched this evening. While most contracts are borderline unenforceable and heavily favor the “Possession is 9/10ths of the law” ideal, most breeders at least put together something halfway decent so you don’t wind up with a genetic and temperamental nightmare. Some simply will hand you a health certificate and toss you and your puppy out on the unforgiving aisles of the Walmart parking lot. Something is writing is great, shit that matters in writing is better.

You could say we were ‘thirsty’ for pictures in this article. And no, we won’t apologize for that awful pun.

6) You mention your breeders name at your first dog event and people that have the same breed start making shifty eyes. “I’ve never heard of them” or “Ohhh… tsk” the more polite ones will say, while the more straightforward owners lecture you on the horrors you are in for in your puppy’s future. Most of us will just wince and nod in the corner. You’ll learn one way or another.

Your Breeder Sounds… nice.

7) Your dog looks different from those pictures you saw online while researching your breed. You got pulled in to the rare colors scheme. Every breed guess is “*Intended Breed* Mix”. Turns out, a breeder that breeds for good pets and therapy dogs…. doesn’t always hit the nail on the head.

Should have done your research.

8) Your breeder is breeding dogs across multiple registries, particularly if they are the same breed but registered differently.. If “Papered” is used as an attribute anytime in your correspondence that”s a bad sign.. While for most breeders papers are a foregone conclusion (AKC, UKC, Canadian KC, KC, FCI, KNPV etc) for crap-pushers they are a sure sign to Joe Stupid that the dog is A) Valuable B) Worth Breeding and C) Healthy. Crap-registries have been created specifically to exploit this completely false equivocation. Some less than savory breeders will breed within this framework until they manage to get their hands on their more legitimate AKC/UKC counterparts. Most will continue to breed their crap dogs ignoring health testing, actual quality, soundness, the market and common decency while preaching about their working dogs who incidentally are usually 20-40lbs overweight and have never actually seen a decoy or a cow in the entire span of their existence.

Actually worth more than ContKC papers.

9) Your puppy is health certified, but not guaranteed past a couple of days. We know, this one can be confusing. A Health certificate verifies that the puppy you are being handed is healthy… right now. A Health guarantee… well it guarantees that your puppy will be healthy for the foreseeable future. This isn’t going to save you if you’re stupid and take your 8 week old puppy to the dog park, but it will protect you if any genetic health issues pop up.


10) Your breeder is not a member of your breed club. While this isn’t always an indicator, since some breed clubs are snobby and elitist (Here’s looking at you, PCA) and some are moderately psychotic (Hahahaha, yeah not going there), your breeder should be involved with a local breed club,local kennel club, or even a working club if that’s their focus.


This  is hardly a complete list, but if your dog came from a breeder that fits into one or more of these categories…. you might have fallen prey to the dreaded BYB. We forgive you, until you do it again. Then we will mock you.


Speaking of shitty breeders, the AKC just released their list for nominations for Breeders of the year. Congrats to the good multiple breeders on the list! We admire your dogs and your dedication to your breeds’ health, integrity and temperament. Many years of continued successes and furthering your accomplishments…. To the shitty breeders on the list, well, we hope your raging case of karmic herpes clears up sometime in the next few reincarnations. We doubt it, but you know, trashy behavior begets trashy karma.

25 Responses to “How Shitty is Your Breeder? Another Dog Snob Guide to Life”

  1. bgszap2 August 23, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Good breeders accidentally become bad breeders by striving too hard for that perfect puppy and breeding too many times too fast. I have seen this happen to wonderful breeders who became one step shy of a puppy mill. Find out how many litters a year your prospective breeder has out of how many bitches. If she has two bitches and 4 litters a year, go elsewhere. If she has “Puppies Sometimes” check it out.
    By the way I don’t currently belong to either breed club for the dogs I have because I haven’t got the money to pay them and enter shows both. I did belong in the past but fixed income does funny things to your choices.

    • antonialangr August 23, 2014 at 5:01 am #

      Alright, honest questions from a new “Real Dog Person”: Shouldn’t a good breeder actually breed quite a LOT of litters? I mean, I can’t imagine breeding a “good litter” (meaning that I got what I wanted, or what I expected) on the first, or second, or eve fifth or sixth try. Don’t people get good at things by practicing them? And if a breeder has time for three or four litters/year, and the bitches being bred are in good condition, whether they were just bred or not, is there anything to criticize about that?

      Based on the number of well-bred dogs (AKC only registered about 800,000 dogs last year, and they surely weren’t ALL well-bred), and the number of homes looking for a dog each year, there is a serious supply problem for well-bred dogs. Shouldn’t we encourage good breeders to breed litters as they are financially and physically able?

      • Dawn August 23, 2014 at 8:28 am #

        It’s not so good for the health of a bitch to be constantly pregnant. The Kennel Club in the UK has recently introduced restrictions on the total number of litters and the time between litters for a bitch.
        A good way of testing the ethics of a statement is to see how it would seem if applied to humans – “Shouldn’t a good parent actually have a LOT of children?”

      • Lisa August 23, 2014 at 11:44 am #

        And where do all the puppies go from that “quite a lot of litters”? A person striving to be a good breeder should research the hell out of their breed, the medical issues, the lines, and then get a good healthy dose of genetics lessons. If you don’t understand genetics, time to learn before you start throwing dogs together. While the mentor system has sadly started falling by the wayside having an excellent mentor in the breed is a fab idea. Then carefully selecting what you are breeding and understanding the whys means you aren’t blindly throwing darts at a board in hopes of getting something decent. Quality vs quantity.

      • pommom101690 August 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

        And this, ladies and gents, is how puppy mills are made.

        I want to echo what Dawn said. Responsible breeders not only care about improving the breed, they also care about the health and integrity of all the dogs in their program. Breeding a bitch every heat, like a puppy mill would, can be devastating to their bodies. I am the treasurer for a 501c3 rescue in Alabama, and we have taken in many puppy mill surrenders and seizures over the years. I have seen first hand what overbreeding does to a dog.

        Our rescue’s VP used to show and breed Shih Tzus and Scottish Folds. The dogs were two or three years old before they bred them. This gave them enough time to prove themselves in the show ring, and they were old enough for genetic testing to be done accurately. They typically had three bitches in the house at one time, and they only had one litter at a time, so each dog was bred about every third heat, and they were only bred until they were 5 or 6 years old, so about two litters. This was in the 70s and the pups were $1000 each, and they were only sold with limited registration, meaning the new owner could not breed them or show them in confirmation. They also made the new owner sign a spay/neuter contract. These breeding dogs were happy, and healthy, and a good example of their breed.

        The issue here is that to produce this quality of dog can be expensive, and thus, the price is much higher. Most people don’t need a well bred dog enough to shell out thousands of dollars on the initial purchase. For instance, I have three purebred pom, a purebred long hair chi, and a purebred Frenchie. The highest adoption fee I paid was $250, and each one was fully vetted (altered, vaccinated, hw-, chipped, dental, etc). I feel that your business model would flood the market, and then that good breeder would either be stuck with tons of pups or they would be lowering prices and handing dogs out in Walmart parking lots just like a BYB.

      • Assegai Rhodesian Ridgebacks January 4, 2015 at 2:19 am #


      • Assegai Rhodesian Ridgebacks January 4, 2015 at 2:32 am #

        Of course you don’t breed 6 month old bitches or un tested males…and you don’t breed 10 year old bitches, but healthyadult animals were actually “designed” to produce offspring with every breeding cycle. If the female mammal in question (whether dog, cow, cat or wildebeest) is sufficiently nourished during pregnancy & lactation back to back pregnancies SHOULDN’T “be devastating to their bodies” if it is, something is wrong.

  2. Vienna August 23, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    -I’m probably going to get backlash for this-
    but some back yard breeders actually do a pretty good job, because they are just people who have a litter and arent looking for a profit. Have a Brittany right now that came from a ‘backyard breeder’; he wanted to breed his hunting dogs to get another one, but he did his homework. The dogs were health tested, saw paperwork for hips and other genetic problems that they were clear, met both parents, which lived on a million dollar estate, and they took very good care of the pups, even to let her stay an extra week with mom because they lived a few states away. Some back yard breeders are genuine people who want to home their pups, but I know not all are like the one my girl came from. Just make sure you do your homework well.

    • TheDogSnobs August 23, 2014 at 2:47 am #

      They were health tested, worked and bred for a specific purpose… aside from literally being bred in his yard, what makes him BYB rather than miniscule-scale hobby breeding?

    • Deedleleedee August 23, 2014 at 4:02 am #

      Backyard breeder is usually a term used for Dude and Dudette Annoyingface who just slap Fluffy and Stella together because “they’re so sweet” and “she passed her puppy kindergarten because she’s so smart!” Breeders like the one you describe are what I’d term a hobby breeder, which most reputable breeders are. Litters occasionally, always for a purpose, well-researched and taken care of. Fluffy and Stella, on the other hand, are a God-only-knows concoction that even Maleficent wouldn’t drink.

  3. Marie August 23, 2014 at 2:42 am #

    I’m glad you posted this. I’m ashamed to admit that I now know that my pup’s breeder is less than reputable. I had an inkling at first, but was so excited that my husband had agreed to getting the exact breed that I had worked with and knew I loved, that I was afraid to question it. While I know that the breeders dogs are all well taken care of, I will never get another dog from her. I also make sure to never recommend her. I’m usually very vague when people ask where I got my pup, partially out of shame, and partially because I don’t want to point people towards a less than reputable breeder.

    A year later I am embarrassed, but hopefully slightly wiser.

    • tide-eyed August 23, 2014 at 4:46 am #

      I may know something about doing something similar to this… possibly. *sketchy, guilty face*

      I mean… I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  4. Jen August 23, 2014 at 2:58 am #

    While almost every bit of this is true and quite excellent I do have one comment. Cryptorchids can happen to anyone, reputable or not. When reputable breeders get them, it’s invariably the best show quality puppy you’ve bred in a while. Offffff course.

    • Robin August 24, 2014 at 3:19 am #

      All to true, it can happen to the best breeder, and usually on the best male in the litter.
      What distinguishes the reputable breeder from the rest of the herd is how they treat that pup. The honest breeder sells the pup on Limited Registration, and requires it be neutered. The dis-honest breeder that can’t sell the pup as a youngster (cuz a few people know to stay away if they are looking for a stud dog….) tells a prospective buyer that ‘hell yea, you can breed him, he got stung by a wasp and the 2nd nut shriveled up – nothin’ wrong with him’. As spooky as that sounds, I heard it from they idiot who bought the dog from a puppy miller.

    • Assegai Rhodesian Ridgebacks January 4, 2015 at 2:37 am #

      Yeah, and the finished Champion that hunts like a dream, has normal elbows & excellent hips is usually the one that turns up on testing as autoimmune hypo-thyroid…

  5. LydiaG August 23, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    Guilty. I got my Husky from a breeder who I thought was a good breeder, but later I realized I could have done better. They weren’t horrible- all the dogs were health checked, we’ll taken care of, and had great temperaments. After digging deeper, I realized mom is from a kennel that is basically a puppy mill (although dad has fairly impressive lines with lots of champions and grand champions).
    I ended up with a decent dog, though. Awesome temperament, amazing work ethic in harness, and not completely embarrassing in the show ring. She’s not ever going to win best in show, but she has fun and I like learning new things.

  6. We3Beagles August 23, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    You should never be ashamed to tell people where your puppy came from. I fell into the same trap the first and second time because I had no idea what a “backyard breeder” was or how to identify one. You should be open and begin the discussion so people can benefit from your now clear knowledge of what a good breeder and a bad breeder looks like. And although I got my first (and second puppy) from there, I still wouldn’t have traded them for the most expensive, well bred puppy in the world.

  7. Rosemary Hoffman August 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Re: the AKC Breeders of the Year list.

    For my breed, not only was the national Breed Club NOT consulted, but the awardee was long ago ejected from the club and after much wrangling was banned from prominently displaying his old membership number on his website, implying that he was still a member in good standing. I remember exactly where I was when I was researching my current breed and he told me that he “doesn’t need to do hip x-rays on his dogs because they work”. OTOH, he does produce a ton of dogs and therefore lots of registration fees for AKC.

    I hope the situation is different for other breeds.

  8. agilitycreatures August 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    Yup, bought my first dog for 40 pounds from preloved at six months old, safe to say four years later she’s still here and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I learned and went to a responsible breeder for my BC. Its odd having one dog you know absolutely nothing about other than what you have learned from living together and then having another who you get to stalk lines and heaklth tests and meet siblings and parents regularly. Not to mention his breeder is now a very good friend. Its inevitable pretty mcuh everyone has/had a dog from a byb at some point, it doesn’t make the dog any less valuable in your heart. The sad thing is when you know people who know all about responsible breeding, ask you for advice, and yet STILL go to a shitty byb just because its easier. Cheap puppies on demand beat waiting for that ever so wonderful responsible litter, right?

  9. Brittany babe August 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Having my first dog ever come from an awesome breeder is something I’m both proud of and grateful for. I spent a long, long time looking for a good Brittany. None of the local breeders had the type of dog I was looking for (local dogs are bred just for hunting, not dual-purpose, and are huge and pretty rough-looking). Outside my region, one breeder never got back to us despite a few emails, another seemed a bit too eager for us to take one of several 6-month-old females they had, and eventually the search reached a dead end.

    A few months later ran into someone with a Brittany pup which looked quite healthy and handsome, and who raved about their breeder, and we were off again. That breeder wasn’t having any pups for this year, but ticked every box on the list. She recommended her sister, who lived in the US, and breeds very occasionally but had a litter at the time. And that’s how my first dog came from over 2000 km away. Doing a long-distance dog was a interesting for a first dog, but she somehow picked the perfect pup for us. She’s stayed in contact with us throughout the years, and is just lovely. Mick has wonderful temperament and no health issues, six years later. He’s also looks just like the all the “pictures online”, and everyone we meet who knows the breed raves about what a good-looking dog he is.

  10. chris August 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I was recently amused to see the an AKC Grand Champion Breeder who had gotten a lot of shit for her breeding practices changed her website to Its hilarious, and super shitty. You got it right, a good website doesn’t mean you are a good breeder, but a shitty website speaks volumes.

    • Deedleleedee August 25, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      It’s amazing how she’s bred “hundreds of champions” and yet is somehow unaware that it’s “conformation”, not “confirmation”. Hoboy.

      • Assegai Rhodesian Ridgebacks January 4, 2015 at 2:46 am #

        Also intereting that they have several litters of Malinois available & not one of the dogs pictured in “our dogs” or on the home page are identified!

  11. Susan Upton-Hughes August 26, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    I am a RDP and yep, I got my first Australian Shepherd from a BYB. A cowboy at the Garwood Saloon had this gorgeous dog under his barstool. He said I’m gonna breed her, want one? Wrote name and number on a matchbook cover. Over a year later got a call and my first Aussie and Katie bar the door! Now, back in those days, Aussies were registered with National Stock Dog Registry (that IS a crap-registry) or more likely with the Australian Shepherd Club of America. NOT a crap registry. AKC *recognized* the Aussie about 25 years or so ago, and has since opened and closed and opened the Stud Book to ASCA registered Aussies again, seemingly with as must rhyme or reason as Forrest Gump’s feather. ASCA is not a crap registry, it is and was the largest single-breed registry in the USA. I’m not so sure that AKC recognition has been particularly beneficial for my particular breed.

  12. View from 4 Inch September 6, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    Actually, the AKC Pet Partners program can be misconstrued as “papers” for mixed breeds and murkily bred purebreds alike.

    See my blog post on the subject. I wrote it after a relative purchased an “AKC registered Morkie” from a newspaper ad. The “registration” was an AKC pet partner certificate that was issued on the puppy when it was originally purchased at a pet store.

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