Dog population (cont.)

The two comments illustrate EXACTLY what I am talking about. And I don’t mean to pick on their authors–what they said is perfectly accurate about the situation as it is now. And that’s the problem.

1. But then, you’re always going to have those people who would never be able to acquire a dog from a responsible breeder…what of them? Well, I guess in this perfect dog Utopia, they simply wouldn’t be able to GET a dog, right? And boy, wouldn’t that be ideal…

2. I don’t think you’re ever going to get rid of BYBs. Standards may be encouraged to rise a bit for most of them (as in, more that do breed-specific health testing) but since the majority of people are not anywhere NEAR as picky about ‘breed standards’ as the minority of quality show breeders, they are often happy with a dog that is less-than a quality example of a breed, as long as it ‘mostly’ looks like whatever breed it’s supposed to be. I see people with ‘Chihuahuas’ that are not only HUGE but their entire structure is only vaguely Chihuahua-like. Their owner doesn’t even notice — they’re perfectly happy with their wierdo-Chi, and to -them- it is exactly what they wanted. BYBs cater entirely to people like that, and they’re the majority.

I have to admit that someone like me, who only wants a pet dog yet is obsessed about their breed’s standard and history, and is VERY picky about a breeder’s lines looking ‘just so’ in accordance to the standard before I’d consider buying a dog from them, is simply not the norm among dog folks.


This is the problem. We tell people that they should only do things a certain way. But either we’re lying, because we don’t really mean it, or we’re completely resigned to the fact that they’re not going to do it.

Either result is wrong. We shouldn’t lie to people, and we shouldn’t give lip service and have no commitment. 

With some rather stunning exceptions, PEOPLE ARE NOT STUPID. They are not intractible, they are not out to kick puppies and make bad decisions. What they are is UNAWARE.

Think about it: How many purchases to you make that are over a thousand dollars in one place? Not many. A car, a house, maybe some of your appliances, your engagement ring… probably not more than one or two items a year. When you are getting ready to make that purchase, what do you do? You research. Some do it on the Web, but most just ask around. “Hey, nice fridge. How’s it working for you?” “Wow, that is one gorgeous rider mower. You get a good deal on that?” 

Now let’s look at a dog purchase. For whatever (good or bad) reason, you’ve decided you want to buy a purebred puppy rather than rescue one. Who are the people you are asking? Think about your family or your friends or your work colleagues – do you know even a single one with a beautifully bred dog? I doubt it. So you don’t have a high-quality Chihuahua to look at, and nobody’s extolling the virtues of their show-bred Spinone and telling you that it’s totally worth paying the extra little bit because you get these fifteen advantages.

And why don’t they have a beautifully bred dog? Because there’s a perception that they’re unnecesary. Why? Because no one has seen the difference between a well-bred dog and a poorly bred one. Why? Because there are so few well-bred dogs out there. Why? Because there’s an assumption that they’re super expensive and difficult to find. Why? Because there are only a few hundred thousand good breeders out there, they’re mostly invisible and not involved in their communities, and the average “career” of a show breeder is five years. Why? Well, I don’t know all the reasons for that, but the fact that show breeders seem to put ten times as much effort into telling everyone what a bad breeder Diana is because she doesn’t X, or because she does Y, than they do into either attracting or supporting new show breeders, may have a little to do with it. 

The fact that ANYBODY thinks that there are people who “would never be able to” get a dog from a good breeder shows how truly horrendous the situation is. Why on earth would you not be able to get a dog from a good breeder? The answer is you CAN, but the fact that the assumption exists should make us duck our heads in shame.

If anyone is reading this who is not a breeder, do you know that most of us are middle income, even decidedly on the low end of that? Did you know that we routinely give dogs to each other not just because we know that they’d be well taken care of by a friend but because we know our friend can’t afford our normal puppy price? Did you know that you can tell the handler side of a show site from the breeder side because the handlers all have RVs and big new vans and the breeders have a raggedy line of ten-year-old Astros? I promise you, if you can pay your bills every month you CAN get a dog from a good breeder, even if your house isn’t huge and fabulous (whatever it is, it’ll probably be better than ours!) or you don’t have thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account. You can start with a retired dog, you can start by fostering and then come to a breeder once you’re known in the rescue community, you can save up half the price and add $50 a month to the account while you wait for your breeder to breed and raise the litter. It’s completely doable and NOBODY is going to look at you and say “No designer purse, no dog for you!”

It’s obvious that we’ve created a gulf between the “normal” owner and the show breeder. And it will only get worse. If we are perceived as a source that is not appropriate for the normal/average/middle income owner, they will keep on going to the breeders who tack up a sign at the end of their driveway; they’ll keep going to the friend of a friend who has chi-weenie puppies. If we cannot clearly and convincingly show the difference between the well-bred and the poorly bred dog, they have no reason to come to us. If we look like an exclusive clique, they will go elsewhere. 

This is not a problem that can be solved by expecting irresponsible breeders to raise their standards. They don’t care and they never will. This is a problem that must be solved by removing the market for poorly bred dogs. This is a BUYER problem, not a seller problem. Everybody should think of poorly bred dogs as a waste of their money and a questionable ethical proposition. As it is today, they think of SHOW-bred dogs as a waste of their money and quite possibly unethical!

And, tragically, they don’t want to do what we do. They don’t want to become exhibitors and breeders themselves, but they do want to make a little money back on the cute little Chessie-Poo they just bought, and the cycle will be perpetuated.

There is no question that the “sports” associated with the animals and with the outdoors are declining. Shooting, hunting, archery, agriculture, fishing, they’re all falling off in membership. The response of most has been to work aggressively to recruit as many as they can – the rifleman associations get kids involved in target shooting, the bird-dog folk are encouraged to grab every niece and nephew and get them out in the field. Meanwhile, aside from the tireless and un-thanked trainers who keep steadily cranking out junior handlers, we show breeders put every ounce of effort we can muster up into discouraging people from breeding.

Why are we DOING this? Why have we bought the lie that infrequent breeding is better than frequent breeding, and the best kind of breeding is no breeding at all? Why do we immediately throw away the applications of any puppy person interested in eventually getting a litter from a bitch we breed? Why do we call EACH OTHER puppy mills when we know perfectly well that the person we’re hanging that placard on has happy dogs who are well cared for?

Think about the fundamental issue that was revealed by the very existence of Pedigree Dogs Exposed and its ripple-effect programs in the US and elsewhere. Dog owners and dog lovers were [US] and dog breeders were [THEM]. And a very creepy, snobby, odd “them,” too. The fact that people watching were so instantly willing to see dog breeders as hostile to the very notion of dogdom, that breeders were arrayed against those who love their dogs, highlights how dire this divide has become. It was literally like going to an Army base and going on for 90 minutes about how much Lieutenants hate the soldiers in their platoon. It should have been exactly that laughable, with everyone saying “What a ridiculous notion; of course that’s not true.” 

We SHOULD be able to offer ample evidence that there is a difference between well-bred purebreds and the “counterfeits” that are poorly bred dogs. We SHOULD give the impression that every puppy buyer is foolish not to buy from a good breeder because they’re getting ripped off if they go anywhere else. We SHOULD be the very first thought that any family has when they’ve decided to buy a purebred puppy. And we should be friendly, supportive, active recruiters of new exhibitors and breeders.


4 thoughts on “Dog population (cont.)

  1. When I said that certain people would not be able to get a dog period, I meant those folks who REALLY shouldn’t have a dog. Not unaware innocent people who don’t know better, or perhaps can’t afford a well bred dog, but the neglectful, abusive, dog-lives-in-the-backyard, fighters, baiters. The Michael Vicks of the world, if you will. The people who leave their dog in the backyard when they move. The people who throw sacks of newborn puppies off of bridges. You know who I’m talking about…I’m sorry I was misunderstood.

  2. I am one of the non breeders who are reading your blog. My experience with this topic is that I have found breeders to be only fond of their group of similar breeders. A “know nothing” like me cannot hope to understand how to choose a breeder that will have the type of puppy that I require. It is difficult to take the word of strangers on who is doing a good job of breeding and who is not. But……..I guess you have the same thing. How do you know that a prospective owner is telling the truth on a puppy application? This is what our world has come to. No one can trust anyone these days. (Excuse the rant)

  3. I showed my PWC in Juniors and breed. He was my first dog and first experience into dog sports. I was coming in from the outside, so to speak. I really could have used a mentor to help me navigate the show world. With my next purebred, I would like to do some kind of performance, probably obedience, but not show again. I know how important showing and breeding is, though.

    I was in another state, I went to a show. The atmosphere was entirely different. I overheard a GSD person telling a young man and his family about all the dirty tricks and under the rug stuff used to doctor up dogs. It made me feel slightly ill. That’s not how you bring people in and build ethical practices.

    But yes, you are exactly right- there is a divide in public perception of show and byb and you stated it much more clearly than I can.

  4. You are truly a unique voice in this milieu.
    After this entry in particular, I a very much looking forward to your ‘buying a purebred dog’ topics mentioned in the sidebar. I mean that in a completely non-sarcastic or snippy way.

    (I also really like the idea of listing future topics)

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