How can you tell an Ethical/Responsible breeder from a backyard breeder or puppy Mill?

I get asked this question all the time – aren’t breeders all the same? How can I tell the difference between an ethical breeder and a backyard breeder or a puppy mill?

Well, the answer is simple. No. They are not all the same.

And more than that, just because it is “pure bred” does not mean it was “well bred”.

For this blogpost, I want to define that an ethical/preservation breeder is someone who breeds to improve the breed as their primary focus. They are not in it for the money and having puppies is not their income source. A backyard breeder, for this blog post, is defined as someone who has a dog that has “papers” and wants to have a litter to have fun or the experience. They generally don’t do any health testing. They sometimes will purchase a male and female and just breed them together. A puppy mill, for this blog post, is a breeder who breeds solely to make money. They are not always the horrible images we see on TV (although there are extreme puppy mills that do treat their dogs like that), but mostly they cut as many corners and costs to maximize profits. The health and safety are not really a priority and so the dogs have limited routine vet checks and don’t usually have the recommended health tests. Some of these puppy mills have beautiful websites and photos and so as a buyer you have to really be vigilant to make sure that is not where you are buying your puppy from.

I also want to make something else clear – AKC is a pedigree registry. It is a place that records the history of your dog’s parentage so they can prove that it is (or isn’t) a pure bred dog. Each breed of dog has a written standard of what they should look like. It does not monitor how close they are to the standard and so it is up to you as a buyer to check that your breeder is adhering to what they need to, to keep to the standard.

Many ethical breeders will show their dogs in conformation shows. This is not just for prestige – although the ribbons and awards are certainly fun. Most of the time it is to make sure that the dogs they are producing are adhering to the standard. When you get together with other breeders, you can compare your breeding stock with other breeders and see if you are “on track”. You also get feedback from impartial judges. It helps many breeders try not to have “mommy goggles” as lets be honest – we all think our dogs are the most beautiful in the world.

What separates ethical/preservation breeders from backyard breeders or puppy mills is their commitment to the breed itself. By showing their dogs, a breeder shows their commitment to keeping their dogs to the standard. How can you tell if your breeder is committed? Ask your breeder what clubs they belong to. Ask them if they do any sports with their dogs such as tracking/scent work or barn hunting or obedience or even good canine citizen awards. Even if they don’t show their dogs (their is no reason not to) they should be committed to being part of the local clubs – this requires them to adhere to ethical standards of breeding, and accountability.

If a breeder talks about their dogs “champion bloodlines”, they are probably trying to trick you into thinking they show their dogs, or that they adhere to the standard in their breeding. However, this “champion” could be far back in their pedigree and pretty meaningless.

Health testing also sets ethical/preservation breeders apart from those just in it to make money. AKC has a list for each breed, of the health tests recommended by each parent club. The images below are the beagle and CKCS recommended health tests.

Ethical breeders will have these tests and have proof that they are done. There is a registry for health tests online called www.ofa.org – here you can look up any dog by it’s registered name and verify information given to you by the breeder.

However, I will note that it costs money to register the results online so many breeders do the tests but don’t put the results online, so make sure you ask if you don’t see them.

For Hearts, check that the check was done by a cardiologist, not just a vet practitioner. Breeders that are not taking their dogs to a cardiologist are not adhering to the standard and are cutting a very important step but pretending they aren’t.

Cavalier hearts should be checked every year. Many backyard breeders and puppy mills will do them once (if at all). So, check the dates and ask questions if they are not current.

This is an OFA eye check – this girl has extra eyelashes (distichiasis), but her eyes have no eye disease. It’s important to read results thoroughly and feel free to ask or google anything you aren’t sure about.

The final way to tell an ethical/preservation breeder from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill is by looking at if they are working towards making their breeding program and the breed better by their breedings, or if they are just pumping out puppies.

An ethical/preservation breeder will search out the best match for their dams (moms). Most of the time, it will not be in their back yard. They are not afraid to import semen from overseas, across the US or from their network of breeder friends. A backyard breeder or puppy mill want to save as much money as possible to maximize profits and so use the same stud and dam for every single litter. If they never use any other studs, it should be a red flag.

Every puppy will be cute. So, don’t base your decisions on a cute puppy. Ask questions and be prepared to walk away if you are not liking what you hear. You deserve to get a puppy that has had the best start in life.

How to tell if your beeder’s OFA heart certs are legit

Both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Beagles should have their hearts checks before breeding.

CKCS should go one step further and have theirs checked every single year, since our breed is plagued with a heart disease that can develop over time.

Hearts, while they can be checked by a general practitioner, *should* be checked by a cardiologist. Cardiologists train to hear the difference in the clicks and ticks that hearts make and what these noises make. They are trained to see things on echocardiograms to understand how the heart valves work and blood flows.

To know if your breeder is having their hearts checked properly, check their documentation. Have a look to see what is written. I will show you two examples.

This beagle was seen by a cardiologist as you can see on the bottom right.

This cavalier was seen by a regular vet (unfortunately).

As I mentioned earlier, heart clearances for cavaliers are only valid for 1 year. If your breeder is breeding dogs that haven’t got current clearances, you should ask them why not.

Not every breeder posts the results online – it can get expensive to do so. So, they can just show you the paperwork that would be submitted to www.ofa.org. Below are some examples for you to look at.

If you want to know more about what a heart murmur is, there is a little video about it here:

I want to say thank you to Su Ann from Lucidity’s cavaliers for the inspiration and a couple of the images for this article.

Nick is #2 15 inch beagle in the USA

We are SO excited to announce that the February statistics of the “Canine Chronical” shows that Nick is the #2 15 inch beagle in the USA (All Breed points) and #3 15 inch beagle in the USA (Breed points). He is also the #15 Hound in the USA.

He has had group wins and placements under judges such as Mr Raymond V. Filburn Jr, Mr Dana P. Cline, Mr James Mitchell, Mr Thomas Kirstein, Mr John P. Wade, Mrs. Linda Hurlebaus, Mr Allen L Odem and Ms. JoAnne Buehler.

We can’t wait to see what the march statistics show, and what the rest of the year has in store for us. This boy certainly makes us feel like all our Christmases have come at once.

Charlotte and Zakk’s cavalier pups are 2 weeks old

2 weeks flies by so quickly. As a breeder, I can breathe a little sigh of relief as it means I can start getting a little more sleep. I don’t have to wake up every hour or two through the night anymore to check on them. Not that I mind – but my bed is calling after 2 weeks of broken nights of rest.

The puppies are thriving, and by all accounts a little on the advanced side. Because cavalier puppies are born “early” (by dog standards), they tend to be like preemie human babies that can be a little developmentally delayed – they get there eventually but maybe a month or two behind their peers sometimes (or in puppy cases a few days or a week behind what i would expect a beagle pup to do).

However, these little guys, the two blenhiem pups decided day 10 was the day to start opening their eyes. This means that they are also starting to hear and they are moving around the whelping pen more. The two tri girls are not far behind and at 14 days both have slivers of eyes opening.

I can’t wait till we start seeing their little personalities emerging. For now we are just enjoying their little blobby snuggles. Enjoy the photos of them growing up.

*please note that they are not available at this time. *

Fergie

Kate

Archie

Victoria

Charlotte’s cavalier puppies are 1 week old.

Time flies when we are having fun and our Easter gift this year is that Charlotte’s puppies turned a week old. They are all thriving and active. They are nursing well and gaining weight like they should. Charlotte is healing well from her c-section and is a wonderful mother, taking great care of them. They are clean and bonny. What more could we ask for?

Without further ado, I know what you are here for – photos of the little dumplings. Enjoy.

*please remember that none are for sale at this time. *

Fergie. Now 9.88oz

Kate. Now 11.78oz

Archie. Now 10.05oz

Victoria. Now 10.55oz