Backyard Breeder - a breeder who doesn't possess all the knowledge they need to make educated decisions in their breeding program OR one who is too lazy to actually do the things they know should be done in order to properly raise healthy, happy, sound puppies. They usually have good intentions. Puppies are usually relatively well cared for and well socialized. They problem is that they are breeding lower quality dogs (bought cheap from other BYB's or Puppymills), they either don't understand the genetic health problems of their breed or don't think they apply to them because they love their dogs, and they have convinced themselves that breeding "for fun" or for a little extra money doesn't put them on the same level as a puppymill. Unfortunately, they are producing just as many puppies with health problems and temperament problems as the puppymillers are. And because the dogs they are breeding are not sound the puppies they produce are often not good examples of the breed in physical soundness/health or correct/good temperament. This is the type of breeder you might be okay with being GIVEN a dog from - but you shouldn't actually pay for one from this breeder as you can quite frankly get the exact same dog at your local Shelter for less money.
A BYB is usually a breeder who has convinced themselves that they are not doing anything wrong by "just breeding pets". They are the first to degrade a breeder who shows and health tests because they don't actually understand why these are important things to do. Really the biggest downfall of a BYB is their lack of knowledge and education... I say all this... and I will admit I started off as a BYB.
Puppymill - A Puppymill is a breeder who views their dogs as a product. This can be a breeder who has 1-2 litters a year just as easily as one who has 50 litters a year. Their dogs are livestock bred to produce something to sell. It's about profit, quantity, and the sales. It has NOTHING to do with the breed, the dogs, or the person who buys the puppy. Puppies who have health issues are no different than a vaccuum cleaner whose motor goes out 2 weeks after you buy it. They may love their dogs - but productivity is the priority. Puppymills can be clean. Puppymills can be dirty. What truly classifies a breeder as a PM is honestly what they consider okay to cut as corners. Puppymills don't feed good food. They don't provide the same vet care your pet dogs get. They don't have toys or comfortable places to sleep. They aren't trained, loved, or appreciated because all of these things cut into profits. They don't do testing. They don't show. They don't below to a breed club... they just want to breed two dogs together and have puppies. They base breeding decisions solely on supply and demand (which color is popular, what mixed breeds are popular, what size is popular).
What I consider a "good" breeder - is a breeder who is breeding not only for others but for themselves. It is NOT about puppy sales. You sell pet puppies because you need to be able to buy dog food, pay the vet bills, and afford to do health testing, and provide proper care to your dogs. You breed because you love the breed and love how seeing a great example of that breed makes you feel. You want to share great examples of that breed with other people. You are active with your dogs outside of breeding because you take pride in what you do AND because you enjoy doing extra activities with your dogs (I LOVE showing because I love "playing" in the ring with my dogs - it's also why I take dogs through obedience classes - it's fun for me and a lot of fun for them). You are a member of your breed club because you love talking with other people who love your breed and love dogs - AND because you love learning new things about your breed and dogs. Great breeders attend classes, seminars, symposiums... to learn more about health issues, structure, breeding... because they enjoy being knowledgeable about their dogs in order to make good breeding decisions. They breed every litter HOPING that there will be a special puppy in that litter for them. They are invested in their own dogs and it's NOT about making enough money to go to Hawaii or to pay the kids private school tuition.
They do testing on their breeding dogs to make sure they are sound and healthy to breed because they want every puppy they produce to live a long and active life and they know that knowledge is what allows us to make good decisions regarding this. A GREAT breeder never thinks they know everything - but they know they know enough to do YOU, the pet owner, justice.
A really great breeder - is the one whose dogs consume their life. They have taken over the breeder's home. The breeder pays the vet bill for a dental cleaning on their dog before they go to the dentist themself. The dogs eat Innova while the breeder has leftover Meatloaf for dinner. When they sell their pet puppies, you know that money isn't going to buy a new pair of jeans - it's going to get hips OFA cleared on one of their dogs or to pay the bill on the c-section that needed to be done in order for your puppy to arrive into the world. They are a walking encyclopedia regarding their breed, the health issues, etc... You feel like they are your friend and should you have questions, you know you can ask them at any time. A great breeder talks about their dogs like you talk about your kids :). You can FEEL their passion for their dogs.
Once you've encountered a really great breeder... you just know that the BYB's and Puppymills aren't the same thing...
BYB's and Puppymills are not necessarily bad people. Often times they have just convinced themselves that what they do is okay or good enough. Most BYB's have good intentions and love their dogs. They just don't have the knowledge they need to produce healthy, sound puppies.
The big thing that people don't realize when they say "I just want a pet" and they go to a BYB is that those breeders bought their breeding dogs from another BYB, Puppymill, or Petstore. That means they are breeding dogs that they don't know whether the grandparents are really healthy or sound. They may not even really know who the ancestors in a pedigree ARE. That increases the chance of health problems in their puppies. I also personally have a BIG problem with breeders who buy $300 dogs and then turn around and sell the puppies they breed out of them for a lot more than that.
The dogs that a great breeder is using - those "show dogs" - are priced at a lot more for a reason. There is a lot of expense and knowledge and work that goes into producing sound, healthy dogs that will live to be active, and happy into their teens. You don't want a breeder who is using dogs that are the bottom of the totem pole in quality... Most people never think to ask a breeder "where did YOU get your dogs from?"... you'd be surprised by the answer that most BYB's and Puppymills would give you...
Abbylynne, just a comment about your last sentences about where did the BYB and puppy miller get their dogs. I know 'breeders' who sell their retired dogs without a spay neuter contract, that way they can ask a lot more money for them. I also know show/ breeders who aren't opposed to using some black marker or shoe polish here and there, same goes for dye. I agree with your BYB to a point, but I personally know 2 BYB's who actually do test, feed the best food, and have started showing, after years of pestering from me. They love their dogs, and knowledge was what they were lacking, basically. I have to say that I think puppy millers are the scum of the earth, and I don't believe a single one of them loves their dogs. Puppy millers are handling and raising a commodity, just like wheat, except the wheat has fresh air and water. I have absolutely no use for those people, and never will. Just my opinion.
Pen you're kind of agreeing with me in a round about way. Showing doesn't make a breeder a good breeder. It's the whole package. If they are selling retired dogs without spay/neuter requirements then they just fell into the Puppymill catagory (by making that dog a product to sell).
Testing and showing don't make the breeder a good breeder - you can do those things and not know why you're doing them and still be a BYB. Even if you tested your dogs and showed them, if you don't understand how health problems inherit or what the health problems are you still can't make educated decisions about which dogs to breed together. Hence why the general summation of my BYB description is a lack of knowledge needed to be a responsible, good breeder.
There are also going to be breeders who stradle the fence between two "categories". It's hard to pin a breeder down - and sometimes you can't. The best breeders are the ones who are always trying to improve. I think I stated that I started off as a BYB - my intentions were good, but I lacked the knowledge to fully understand how to properly breed for health and sound structure. I will NEVER profess to know everything about my breed or breeding dogs. I will however openly state that I am always TRYING to learn and attempting to be the best breeder I can be.
And a Puppymiller can love their dogs. It's no different than how a carpenter can love a cabinet he built... it's still a product to them however. It doesn't make them a bad person necessarily - but it does make them a bad breeder. I live and grew up in "farm country"... how some people view their PETS would make a true pet lover cringe.
I say that so that people understand, just because a breeder sounds like they are nice and that they enjoy being a breeder does NOT mean they have high standards on any level. Their idea of what a good breeder is is different. You wouldn't believe how many people I've talked to that think if a breeder has 8 different breeds of dog and 75 dogs that it means they are a "professional". Those same people will often complain about their puppy once they realized that being raised as a kennel dog instead of a pet makes a difference in how that puppy will be for them to raise from that point on.
Having spent over two years traveling with two all breed handlers in the USA and Canada. I have a first hand knowledge of what really goes on at dog shows and behind the scenes before and after the show takes place. I know about the drinking,drugs and bed hopping that takes place and also the way show wins are bought or the judges influenced. Professional handlers were very vocal about which judges could be bought and what the current rate was for a breed win , a group win and to be picked as best in show. There were many comments about which judges favored a look at cleavage or nice legs exposed by short skirts or which ones were flattered by a little flirting by someone much younger than them. I also experienced the threats from dog owners who were angry that my dogs were winning on their own merits and that I refused to participate in the less than ethical practices that so many of the dog show people used. It is possible to show a dog on a local level and possibly not run into these conflicts, but once you start to campaign a dog as a special you and your dogs are at risk of retaliation by verbal threats which may progress to your dogs being poisened or stolen. This is why I no longer show my dogs, having my life threatened and actually having my dog poisened and almost die was enough to turn me off showing dogs.Does the fact that I no longer show my dogs mean that I do not breed to the standard or strive to breed high quality dogs or do all the testing that is needed to insure my dogs are the best they can be? I do not think that is true, I am just as dedicated to my breed now as I was when I was showing and feel my commitment to the dogs I produce and to their future owners is the most important part of breeding.
Sorry I think that Abby got it right, I agree that PART of being a good breeder is showing, if I dont think that you need to campaign a dog to top dog in the us or can to be considered reputable. Many breeder handlers I know only attend small shows (CKC) because of the politics, many big handlers stay away from show of 100 dogs because there are not enough points, but I dont think that turning your back on showing is the answer. Besides that there are other ways to compete, obedience and agility, I personally think that dogs whould have titles on both ends of their names.
In my experience a good breeder puts the effort in to be the best of the best, period. They not only want to have the best breed standard they also want to provide pet/service/show owners the healthiest dog they can provide. They have websites that post their stats but usually do not need to advertise (as they usually have a waiting list and other referrals) Some I have found even help in rescue. They stick to their breed and only produce a few litters a yr. Many of their past litters have provided pups for services such as agility and even therapy and they can provide a new owner with refrences. They are out there and although there are a select few, taking the time to find them (ie by asking around at vets, shows, service, and even rescue) can really make it worth it in the end!
A BYB/puppmill provides to pet stores or advertises in local newspapers or online.. They usually provide more than one breed (now even mixes) and have many litters. They can have papers although now prefer to register outside the AKC? Unfortunatley these dogs can have a variety of health problems along with tempermental issues.
As a buyer/adopter be smart... visit the home/kennel/shelter and get a feel for the dogs. Ask for referalls or their vets number anything to get a feel for what type of pups they are providing. Checking the temperment even at a young age can be beneficial as this should a lifetime commitment!
As a breeder Stop being lazy or cheap if you can't afford to breed to better the standard or provide a service don't. If you aren't providing the best of the best you aren't doing any one any good... period.
Your best friend may just be a click away "www.petfinder.com"
You can be a good breeder and not show... it's just a lot harder. I don't think it's about the title. It's about being part of a community you can work with. You could just be a member of your breed club, local AKC chapter, or local obedience club.
But it's primarily about being knowledgeable.
And honestly, I have been fortunate that my experience showing dogs has been pleasant. Though I don't know if I'll ever attempt to campaign many specials. To me, that's more about the sport of it and less about your breeding program. I don't think you necessarily have to FINISH the dogs your using in your program. I show and raise a very subjective breed with a lot of huge natural variables in conformation genetically in the breed. I have a gorgeous little Bi-black bitch who is 13 3/8 inches tall. Our breed standard says they need to be 13-16 inches. Paris is beautifully put together, but I have a feeling I'm going to have trouble finding her majors due to her small stature (in my part of the country, bigger bitches do better as that is what the judges generally hired in this area like). That doesn't diminish her quality. I'll try and show her and see how she does. I'm not going to sink $10,000 into getting her finished. But even if I can't finish her, I will still breed her - but I'll do an intelligent cross fault and breed her to a larger boy with a background known for moderation and more substance.
I agree the dog show world can be nasty sometimes. I attended our breed specialty national last spring and watched handlers get pulled for cuts every time they walked in the ring - no matter what dog they had. I didn't go hoping I'd have the Winner's Dog. I went for the experience, because I wanted to attend the health symposium, and wanted to talk and learn from other breeders. I had a lot of fun. And I even managed to make the cut with a very nice puppy I was handling for a friend (and no one knows who I am :).
I always feel sad when I hear other people have had a bad dog show experience. It annoys me as that's certainly not what it should be about - and it's also not what it's like for all of us (I have never once gotten drunk at a dog show and no one has ever made me cry :).
My question, if you don't show, is how do you learn about the breed standard and what is considered good structure? You can't do that by reading books. You can't do that by watching videos. You need the hands on - and the best way to get that is to show (and hopefully have pleasant people in your breed... I must be fortunate that most Shelties are owner handled or handled by other Sheltie breeders... not a lot of professional handlers will take on Shelties with the amount of work that goes into getting them ring ready). Or at least be a member of a club.
Drogheda - if nothing else, did you walk away from your dog showing experience better understanding your breed?
Pen I'm not sure what you're saying at all - from what I understood about your post, you're saying that breeders who show can still be money grubbing scum. And breeders who other would consider BYB's sometimes still show and test? Am I getting your point? What I was saying was that it's not one thing or another that really defines a breeder - it's the whole package.
But if we're going to put pegs into holes... that was the best way I could sum things up. And it sounded like you were basically saying exactly what I said a little bit differently...
I have always done rescue for my chosen breed and have trained in obedience and therapy work. I attended many dog shows and have shown dogs in AKC,UKC and Canadian Kennel Club shows.I can no longer run an agility course due to severe injuries suffered in a car accident. I was a member of my national breed club until I became so disgusted with the fact that a few breeders were rewriting the standard to fit the dogs they were producing instead of breeding dogs that fit the written standard.I was not the only one who left the club, the president and several other officers of the club resigned in protest of what was taking place. The breed standard has become so "generic" that it could almost be for any breed.After 30 plus years in my breed I think I have a very acurate mental image of what a correct Bullmastiff should look like and how one should move and what is the right temperament for the breed. I know it should not be lacking in pigment or mask, what is a good working size, and how the dog needs to move to cover ground without wasting energy and it should never have the excessive wrinkle like a Shar-pei. I proposed that all show titles be provisional if earned before a dog was two years old and only become perminent after the dog passed OFA certification and that the dog had to be checked as an adult to see if it still fell within the maximum height and weight standards. This would have insured that when a show dog was used for breeding it actually was of a quality that would be an asset to the gene pool. It is amazing I am still alive and my house and kennel were not fire bombed.
Drogheda - It stinks that you're in a breed that things are that political. I'm sorry. That makes me sad.
I think my big question would be - without everything you've been through, do you think you would still be breeding the same quality of dog?
For me, having started as a BYB, I know I've learned more since I became a member of my local AKC chapter, a breed club, started showing, and found a great mentor. In a year, I learned more than what I did in 3 years of reading books and trying to figure things out on my own. I'm hesitant to think a breeder can aquire all the knowledge they need to do things properly by just reading books and looking on the internet.
And I agree with a lot of what you've said regarding showing. That's why I don't so much look at the benefit of showing as actually winning. It's going over other people's dogs and being able to bounce ideas off of the NICE people. Parent clubs can be very political. One of my mentors in the ASSA national treasurer and has been active in the parent club for probably 20 years. So I hear first hand a lot of the BS that can go on. Our problem is less about too many changes, and more about not enough.
And one of my mentors and I have had the discussion many times about watching a puppy walk into a ring and it wins under and all breed judge - and YOU as a breeder know that dog will be oversize and too much 6 months from now, but it goes Winner's Dog because it LOOKS like an adult at 8 months. Though I can also say I've been on the end of the lead with a nice puppy who has gone Winner's or Reserve over mature adults. I am one, however, that wouldn't show a puppy that I didn't think was going to mature to be a nice adult. If I think it may go over, I keep it out of the ring until I know it's staying in.
And I do agree that health testing results should hold some merit as well. I like a lot of your ideas - though can see what more political people wouldn't be fond of them. :) I'm not one of those ambitious people who cares if I ever get in good with the big wigs. I don't honestly care so much if I win even (and since I get my butt kicked more than I do win this comes from the most sincere part of my heart :). But I'm maybe not the norm... I always hope there are other "nice" people out there.
I know Minn shows her lab some and from talking to her, I imagine she'd be one of those really fun people to meet at a dog show - as would the group she works with. I think I've said, I'm fortunate enough that I have a great group of "dog friends" and we really work together and help one another out. It's about the betterment of the breed. Not so much about national ranking or even winning really...
There are a few of us in the Midwest who are dedicated to Bullmastiffs and want to make sure the breed retains the size and physical traits that make it a true working dog .Two of the group are veterinarians and we are maintaining breeding programs that are based on quality of the dog not the number of show wins. Most have been active in this breed for at least 20 years so we do have a good base of experience to draw from. I don't think I learned very much about good quality specimens of the breed from going to shows, but I did see an awful lot of sloppy over-sized, brain dead Bullmastiffs . I learned most by contacting old time breeders and going to their homes and spending time with them and their dogs. I agree that you can't learn everything about a breed by reading books , but you can learn the history of the breed and how it was intended to function and you can educate yourself on past and current health problems and what you as a breeder can do to insure the dogs you produce will live long and healthy lives. I think I have done a good job with my dogs as they mostly live to be 12 plus and do not suffer from the health problems so commom in a breed whose average life span is 6 to 9 years.