Category Archives: Dog Sports

The Dog Who Could Do All

This is probably one of the hardest blog entries to write right now because it means the finality to the loss of one amazing shelter dog who crossed the rainbow bridge barely twenty four hours ago. This story, however, is one of the main reasons that we work on putting high drive dogs into working homes with people who can handle a dog like this – to give them that job that they crave and need to be canine ambassadors.

Nubs came from a local shelter near where his owner, Cindy Coffman, lives in 2007. He had been surrendered after his former owner had joined the military. He sat there and waited for three months before Cindy happened upon him after letting her past APBT mix, Carter, cross the rainbow bridge. Despite the fact that Nubs didn’t have an amazing tale of battles fought before finding the perfect home, he was still burdened with the battles of being an under-socialized adolescent dog. Cindy definitely had her hands full from the beginning.

Despite the uphill battle the pair faced, Nubs showed he had what it took to be a budding sport dog. He had all the right drives and he, thankfully, had landed in the hands of someone with the crazy dedication needed to turn Nubs into a performance dog – the blood, sweat and tears type of dedication that many can’t or won’t provide. If you have Jacuzzi at home, a natural hot tub water cleaner can be very important to keep it working in a good way. 

Nubs was UKC registered as DM’s Nutter Butter Nub and that redhead fit the name to a T – right down to his best feature, a docked tail that furiously wiggled at the thought of getting to do something with his owner and “doggie mom.” He did well in anything Cindy asked him to do until the fateful day that changed it all and not on the weightpull track as many naysayers to the sport would have you believe but on the lure course field.

Nubs had torn his ACL. It’s not an uncommon injury in high impact sports, unfortunately, but given the fact that Nubs was an incredibly active dog proposed a problem or two for Cindy after having it repaired once the cause was isolated. Unfortunately for Nubs, he never returned to what he once was pre-injury and was never truly able to return to what he loved to do and so he was forced into an early retirement.

This didn’t stop Nubs from enjoying life as a pit bull breed ambassador as his “mom” and “sister” kept him doing small, low impact things to keep his life fulfilled as he aged. His little sister, Peanut, even succeeded him as a working dog by getting certified as a SAR K9 with the MISAR team and his newest little brother, who is also a rescued pit bull like Nubs and Peanut, is following in her footsteps too.

As with all good things though, there is an end. Nubs was diagnosed with CHF and had to go on medications to help his heart and continue to give him a good quality of life until he told Cindy it was time to go and join Carter. This was all good until a few days ago when Nubs took a turn for the worst and told Cindy it was time. He spent the night before his last ride cuddling and enjoying his time on this world – with many of us who had known him sending kind words to his Mom. This was no easy task to look forward to as Cindy and Nubs had been one helluva team for so many years but it was the right call and he was ready.

We lost a good dog. We lost one helluva sport dog and pit bull breed ambassador. In the end, no matter of papers or accomplishments mattered but he sure put some large paw prints on the world and the hearts of those whose lives he touched and those he will continue to touch with his story of rags to riches and landing in world that needed him.

Rest peacefully, Nubs.
A heart may heal slowly but you will NEVER be forgotten.

Frozentozen 2013: Workin’ in the Snow

ryker-frozentozen2013-8739On Sunday, we went out to watch the afternoon pull for the World Wide Weight Pull Organization (W3PO).  I honestly didn’t go with the intention of doing anything but watching a bunch of good pullers have fun on a really challenging surface but little did I know that I would be poked and prodded until I actually caved and agreed to let old man Ryker have some fun on the snow pad.

For anyone who’s ever pulled on snow, they know that if the conditions on the pad (snow track) aren’t absolutely perfect in both weather and actual track conditions, it can be a puller’s worst nightmare because of the difficulty of that particular surface.  Ryker has always excelled on snow because he learned early on what it took to break the sled when it started to freeze to the track but it has been many years (January 2011 was the last time we did snow) and I never thought we would see the surface again so all of those habits for breaking the sled free have long since been broken because they are unsuitable for wheeled or rail tracks.  Thankfully, the harder it got, the more pissed off he got and the harder he tried to beat that cart…until he couldn’t any longer.

It was, by far, one of the sloppiest days because the temperature sat at forty-something degreesryker-frozentozen2013-8722 all day and made the track slushy until the sun started to fall – then it froze and fast.  One by one, dogs bowed out – unable and unwilling to work against the fast freezing track with its ever increasing difficulty level.  Ryker was one of three remaining pullers at the end with the other two being a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog named Royce who weighed in at 115 pounds and a Newfoundland weighing much more.  It was an honor to be in the last three pulling – especially with both dogs weighing well over double the forty-six pounds that Ryker weighed in at.

In the end, Ryker bowed out at 28.97 times his body weight.  This translated to 1,333 pounds on a slushy, difficult track.  He fell short of the Most Weight Pulled per Pound (which is based on the percentage of weight pulled versus the gross weight) that was a little over 32 times the dog’s body weight which was done by a nineteen pound Basenji named Roxie that pulled that one off!   It was, none the less, a very impressive day.  There were many dogs who pulled well into ryker-frozentozen2013-8779the 20x range – including the relatively new pulling dog, Royce, who at only two years old shows a LOT of very good promise.

We are aiming to hit the W3PO’s next snow pull the weekend of January 11th in Luna Pier, Michigan.  This relatively new organization has given us bubbling new hope for the sport that we adore with the camaraderie that was ever present at the Michigan United Kennel Club (UKC) pulls prior to the big alteration of their weight pull program to dissolve the actual competitive aspect of weight pull.  We highly recommend anyone looking to get into the sport check out the group’s new page on Facebook or check out an upcoming event and be prepared to have some fun with your dog.

Perseverance Pays Off!

foxvalleyadba-august2013-1238Many folks who know me personally know how long and hard I have campaigned in the ADBA with Ryker, my brindle guy.  In a conformation ring where conditioning matters, a brindle dog is at a disadvantage under many judges because it’s a million times harder to see the muscle tone in the coat pattern unless it’s a really light brindle color.  To add insult to injury, I didn’t really get started in the ADBA ring until he was in one of the hardest classes around – the 2-3 year old class.

We had many shows where he didn’t even get looked at.  He was flashy, he was fiery and he was more than willing to show himself but he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and in classes with 10-12 foxvalleyadba-august2013-0889males his own age doing just the same thing it was a hard pick.  We started to get noticed finally, though.  I got better at conditioning and handling in that venue and he learned how to conduct himself better and hold a free stack longer while running off at the mouth (which he enjoys doing at every corner!).

We didn’t travel often so he only got shown at a handful of shows a year (with a max of about 4 show weekends) so it was hard chasing those points.  We also were double committing and weight pulling at the same time for his Ace (which he still needs to earn!)  so we had to pick and choose but at the Fox Valley show under honorable judge Mary Cullifer we finally did it.  It was the 5 and Over class and there were some pretty darn nice dogs in his class but he pulled a first off and came home with 109 points – 9 points more than he needed to become an ADBA foxvalleyadba-august2013-0907conformation Champion.

It was a long road.  We had many, many people tell me he just wasn’t the right fit for the ADBA but I knew, in my heart of hearts that he was and he could do it.  I wouldn’t have traded the learning experience for all of the tea in China though.  He and I learned a lot with the help of many good friends and it will only lead to better chances available for future dogs with his legacy.

Congratulations, Ryker.  You earned this and you deserve it!

North Meets South ADBA Show

On the weekend of June 1st and 2nd was the Great Lakes Pit Bull Club’s annual show.  This year, the club was joined by the Southeastern APBT Club from North Carolina.  With four shows and two weight pulls, it was a long and grueling weekend since we worked the club being members of the Great Lakes club but it was absolutely amazing.

In recent years, many clubs have seen a massive decline in entries due to a variety of reasons with the largest one being economic and financial setbacks.  The ‘North Meets South’ event, however, didn’t seem to have much of that concern with well over 100 entries in conformation alone for each show.  Weight pull was no different with record numbers coming to pull.  We had some Class A pullers from all across the US who rocked it out on a less-than-favorable track and had two dogs finish their Ace titles as well!  (Congratulations are in order to Clay of Team No Fear with Boogieman and Dave with Bende.)

Our own personal crew did pretty well despite the fact that my husband and I were both running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  Ryker took three 3rd place ribbons and a 2nd which gave him the elusive 99 points – one point shy of finishing his ADBA Champion title.  Mika was shut out all weekend and Lyric made her debut as an ADBA pull dog and landed a 2nd place (and first 5 points of 100) toward her Ace title.

All in all, the show was a huge success.  Both hosting clubs did exceptionally well and the exhibitors all seemed to have a good time (I know we sure did!) and many said they can’t wait for our next one.  Here’s to many more phenomenal shows and  a fantastic rest of the show season.


The Nose Knows


Scent detection has been around for years with detection, search and Schutzhund work but the sport of canine nose work is a fairly recent activity that is sweeping across the canine sport circles like a wildfire.   I remember when a friend who was in the PNW had mentioned about it and how fun it was.  I was very, very interested since we’d tinkered around with various aspects of scent detection from the inexperienced side around home and the dogs loved it.  Sadly, there weren’t too many options open to me here in Michigan that gave us the opportunity to learn this phenomenal activity – until recently.

My friend Missi, one of the co-founders of the phenomenal rescue group Detroit Bully Corps., had mentioned she was going to start taking a nose work class pretty local to her.  I, of course, had to know the details because the closest thing I’d found was in Lansing and that was well over an hour away from us and not exactly feasible for extended classes (though I had still contemplated it because I wanted to do the sport pretty badly) so she spilled the details for me.

The Intro to Nosework class was to start on May 2nd through Pawzitively Positive, LLC.  The cost was only a hundred dollars for six weeks of fun and learning and a chance to do something I’d wanted to do for quite some time.  I was so in and rushed to find out by emailing Terry Jacobus, the instructor/owner, to find out if there were openings in her class to which she gave me the answer I was hoping for – ‘yes!’.  The rest is obviously history.

We’re on week two of class right now – well, just finished it last Thursday.  It’s been one of the most wonderful classes Ryker and I have done together (since he tends to be my guinea pig for learning new things in regard to dog sports) in a long while.  Ryker’s doing incredibly well and absolutely loving every moment – well, I hope so anyway since he practically drags me to the search area every time it’s our turn – and I’m having a pretty good time too since Terry is positively wonderful.  (I tend to get REALLY nervous and hate feeling like I’m looking idiotic, even in a class so this is a super good thing!)

This coming Thursday, we will hopefully graduate into closed boxes (no scent other than hot dogs just yet!) since Ryker is zooming through even very hard box placements with the open boxes.  Once we do that and get that down, we’ll get to start adding scents like anise, lemongrass, clove, birch, etc. to the menu after that and who knows where we’ll go after that or what games or tasks he can learn after that with ordinary smells, etc. outside of competitions through groups like C-WAGS, K9 Nose Work, possibly even through the UKC as a potential recognized sport (or I’ve at least heard rumors it may be happening there – can anyone confirm?) and many other organizations.

That being said, this activity is a great bonding experience and the Roo and I are having a grand time and I personally look forward to Thursday evenings and training class.  (If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Terry and Pawzitively Positive for her force free training methods and she does way more than just nose work too!)  The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see where we’ll go as a team and once I get the hang of it would like to start introducing the rest of the pack into this phenomenal sport.

Ryker in week two of class.

Do Over Dog: Back to Basics

I’m sitting at my laptop after a pretty darn successful weekend at the Cinco de Mayo NWDA pulls that were held this weekend locally to me and thinking about how far I’ve come as a handler, a trainer and a dog owner.  I brag all the time on Ryker and all of his successes but in reality, he was the easiest dog in the planet.  He’s biddable and willing to work.  He’d do anything just to do things with me.  He and Luna spoiled me on trainability and success.  Anything I’ve asked them to do, they’ve done and done it well.  Then Lyric came into the picture.

Lyric wasn’t that easy dog I was used to.  She was stubborn and incredibly determined to do things her way when she wanted to do them.  Sure, she loves me and wants to be with me (well, up my ass would probably be the best definition) but as far as doing something because I asked if it involved not running at warp speed 24/7?  Forget it.  She’s a true free spirit and she utterly loathes being restricted.  (It’s pet peeve numero uno in her book.  Seriously!  She told me so.)

She loves flirtpoling, lure coursing, agility (when I’ve tinkered with her on obstacles) and things that allow her to do her thing without being hindered by a leash or strict rules – especially if they involve food or a rousing game of tug.  Those are fun for her…weight pull, yeah, it definitely wasn’t her thing.  At least it wasn’t initially.

I pushed her in weight pull.  I figured if I worked her like I did Ryker and Luna, I could convince her that it wasn’t so bad.  I used the same methodology, the same training, the same everything and I did it so incredibly wrong with her.  I seriously almost ruined her for weight pull (and many other sports too!) by forcing her to do something she wasn’t comfortable with and when she wasn’t ready in a manner that wasn’t conducive to her learning. Yeah, she got her United Weight Puller in UKC but she wasn’t happy while she was doing it (and I have the photographs of the looks of death I got for it as a reminder too!) and it bothered the living daylights out of me because I detest doing something that upsets the bond I have with my dogs.  They’re my buddies and their happiness and wellbeing is paramount in my book.

I put her in pseudo retirement from weight pull after she earned her basic weight pull title in UKC.  I told myself that she’d never make a weight pull dog.  It wasn’t her “thing” and we’d find something else that she loved to do or keep doing things she loved – like showing.  (Seriously, this dog has a thing for flaunting her little terrorist self in a “look at me” fashion and it helped in finishing with a Best of Opposite in ADBA to earn her Championship!)

Unfortunately, Mother Nature nixed our show career in ADBA when she developed pyometra.  It sucked immensely.  All the hopes and dreams of getting her Grand Championship in ADBA went poof since they don’t offer altered classes like they do in UKC.    I seriously had to sit down and ask myself what we were going to do to keep her zero to warp speed brain mentally stimulated and allow her to shine when she couldn’t do the one thing that she loved more than the flirtpole or fighting me on a tug.  I had a LOT of time to think since she had to heal from her emergency spay.

After months of healing (and driving me batty!), I decided to go back and give weight pull a try.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt and we could do some light drag work once she was into it to keep her in good physical shape and tire her out a little so she wasn’t so bounce-off-the-walls-and-drive-mom-nuts kinda crazy.  We went back to the beginning.

I came to realize that this was where the real start to our problems had happened.  It was the part where I, as a handler and trainer, had failed her.  I had compared her to my two super stars and their distinct “Throw another at me!” fashion.  I realized then that I had to go slower with her or I’d mess up again and likely do irrevocable damage to her as a sporting dog.  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t let myself fail her again and so we quite literally started from the puppy basics – the introduction and positive association with the harness.

It’s been a slow couple of years.  We’ve been doing drag weights and a few competitive pulls here and there but nothing really big.  We’d pull one weight and handler withdraw and then work her through one more just for practice.  I never let her fail.  The second she started to get frustrated, I had them push the cart.  I never wanted her to think she couldn’t do it.  I had to let her think she was free and the almighty queen of the track.  It worked.  I couldn’t believe it, but it worked.  Lyric had finally decided weight pull wasn’t the bane of all things and she stopped looking like she was a poster child for the ASPCA commercials.

This weekend she proved it to me again that she was still the little hellcat that could.  That she was willing and ready to do things if I showed her that they were pretty darn awesome and that she was pretty darn awesome for doing them.  She’s worked past all the hang ups I’ve had and she keeps improving each and every time I put her on the track and the best part?  She wags her tail the WHOLE time.  Today was no exception when she broke her personal best not once but twice – first in the morning with 1,374 pounds for 35.23 times her body weight of 39 pounds (and taking a 2nd place with four dogs in the class!) and then once again in the afternoon by pulling the next increment up of 1,442 pounds for 36.97 times her body weight and another second place!  (We’re a LONG way from being competition for the first place dog – Team Puggle – in that class, so it was a good spot!)

I’m still in shock, honestly.  Had I been asked if I thought she’d come this far years ago I would have A) looked at you like you were crazy and B) told you it would never happen in a million years.  I was dead wrong and it took a lesson in humility, a life changing situation and a phenomenally wonderful dog to show me that sometimes change is the best thing to happen and that starting over isn’t so bad.  It also reminded me, once more, that you don’t get the dog you necessarily always want but you always get the dog you need.

Thank you for proving me wrong, Lyric.  I am so unbelievably proud of how far you’ve come and so excited to see how far we’ll go.


Lyric at a previous NWDA weight pull with her tail waggin’.

Road Trip!


It’s hard to believe I’ve not take a dog event road trip in a little over a year.  I’ve stayed local for the most part because of work and personal obligations but finally had a chance to take some much deserve time off and go to a faraway place known as Waynesville, North Carolina for the Palmetto State APBT Club show with my buddy, Ryker.  It was three days of fun with one of my best buddies doing what we do best – working together and having a good time.

We went down hoping to try and get those last 18 points we need to finish Ryker’s ADBA conformation Championship.  (Because the last points are a PAIN to chase down – especially if one has a brindle dog.  They do NOT show conditioning well at ALL!)  We managed to eek out three with a third place under honorable judge Frank Rocca out of a class of ELEVEN(!!!!!!) 5 and Over Males.  It was insane.  I was constantly trying to move Ryker so he had the best vantage since he was more preoccupied on being a brat.  It was insane.

Quite honestly, I almost died and went to heaven when the judge came over with the 3rd place ribbon.  To be picked among so many nice older boys still vying for the same thing we were.  It truly was an honor and I’m pleased to have placed in the top three and believe many of those dogs deserved the honors of being in the top three as well.


Photo Credit: Laurie Jane

We also puttered around in weight pull that weekend for Saturday and squeaked another 3rd place there before pulling him out to go show in the first show.  He pulled 1,300# that weekend on a very hard track with the top pulling dog (who weighed 82#) pulling just about 3,400# and six dogs in his class (45-55# males).  I was pleased with what we did.  Should I have kept him in longer and forfeited my conformation entries?  Maybe but I didn’t really feel like pushing for much more beyond that.  We’ll get our Ace in due time.  He’s still a young man after all.  It’s not like he’s turning seven years in July.  (Which he actually is, but try telling him that!)

Overall, I had a good time.  It was nice to return to the ADBA circuit.  It gave me a chance to see old friends and meet some new ones.  I got to spend time with my Ryker-man and work that bond that we’ve been so blessed to have for all of these years.  The break did us good.  It gave me a new perspective and reminded that at the end of the day, I still have my wonderful boy and win or lose, he’s still #1 with me and we will just have to put the work in to show everyone else how awesome I already know he is.  Now…to get those last darn points!

K9 Explorers

With spring finally starting to actually happen, the world is starting to blossom and the urge to get out and do things is finally starting to creep in and set fast.  Winter is always a tough season for me (and the dogs) because I have to drag myself out to do things because I hate the extreme colds it produces.  Yeah, we weight pulls in the winter months but it was indoors but that was pretty much the extent of it.  (No snow pulls this year for us!  Brr!)

My husband and I have been looking into doing other things with the dogs outside of competing.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have my competitive “We can do this!” spirit with the dogs but I’m settling down a bit and just want to spend time with the dogs and do things in time.  That is what brought us to finally biting the bullet and looking into joining K9 Explorers.  It’s a really awesome group of people who get together just to DO things with their dogs and even help the community with different projects too.  I’d been following them for a couple of years but it really never kicked that it was something I wanted to do seriously until this year when I got the guts to as the founder, Heather, if I could tag along on one of the hikes.

We had a blast.  The dogs were tired.  We were tired.  We got to hang out with like-minded people who thoroughly enjoyed their dogs and their company.  These were people who enjoyed doing things with their dogs for the heck of it.  Sure, there were a few dog sport competitors in the group like Abby and Therese from Team Puggle (seriously awesome team, by the way!) but for the most part it these were folks who just genuinely loved their pets.  It was such a wonderful treat that we were hooked.

We’ve decided to make the plunge to join and enjoy ourselves and help out in the club to make sure things run smoothly.  It’s going to be a blast earning badges like we could have in Dog Scouts of America since they wouldn’t accept a couple of our dogs for not being particularly doggie friendly, helping the community and enjoying doing things with the dogs outside of the normal competitive setting and I highly recommend the group for anyone in the Metro Detroit area too! (If you’re interested, you can find out more about them here.)


Ryker playing on some of the agility equipment at the first meeting of the year.

The Leash is In Your Hand

The bond created between dog and handler is something that is unique to that dog and that handler.  In this post, our friend Jen of Vom Haus Huro has shared with us some of her inner wisdom and thoughts in regard to the teamwork, training and goals set forth for her dogs and herself as a trainer, handler and owner and what that means in terms of approach.  Enjoy!


There will come at least one time in life in which you will be faced with a decision in training. A moment or series of moments that can and will shape the future of your training plans and, in most cases, form either a base to build upon for the future or a derailment of training that can take you months to fix, if you are lucky enough to be able to recover from it at all. Everyone will have an opinion on your issue(s) and advice will flow at you from all directions. Which, if any, you choose to follow will ultimately decide your fate and that of your dog.

I believe that the most important thing is to consider who you are as a trainer, who your dog is as a dog and what your ultimate goals in training are going to be. There is always a lot of talk about drives and thresholds. “Oh, my dog has unbelievable pain thresholds”, followed closely by drive. “My dog has true fight drive”. Everyone is quick to brag about what their dog has and what it is. What is of even greater importance, however, is what the dog is NOT.

There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Each and every dog could have a little less of one drive and a little more of another. Each dog could be more balanced in a particular area and each dog will respond differently to different types of training. Focus first on what your dog is NOT, improve it to the best of your abilities in that area and then consider your next step at that point. When you put your dog on a pedestal of perfection, you forget to work on those small cracks that, in time, become large craters to your progress.

Another very important aspect is who you are as a handler. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your commitment levels. Remember that your most important job as a handler is to protect your dog. You set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations on what is acceptable both from your dog and from those involved in the training with you.

I have seen people whipping their dogs with wooden dowels for a cleaner heel and to me, that is a line I am not willing to cross. Will they be getting better scores than me? Perhaps. It is entirely possible and more than likely probable that they will beat me, but there are no points in the world that are worth enough for me to do that to my dog. That is a line I have drawn as a handler and one that my dogs and I can all live with. That is what training boils down to. A relationship with your dog or dogs, based on trust, forged over time and tempered with time spent, miles traveled and trials faced together. Stay true to who you are as a handler and as a team. Stay true to your dog and the relationship and bond that you have created. Stand firm in your convictions and your beliefs and do not let the popular (or unpopular) beliefs persuade you to do else-wise. The leash is in your own hand. Not that of your trainers and fellow competitors, but yours and yours alone. You hold the responsibility right there in your palm. At the end of the day, it will be you and your dog(s), and you alone have to sleep with the decision that you have made. I hope you make good ones, my friends, and that your dreams are sweet.

Yours in training and sport,


Jen and Icon (UCH VP1 SG (NASS) Icon Vom haus Huro CGC BH CD CI NAT Puppy CH OFA)

The Good, Bad and Ugly: Puppy Hunting

When I finally made the leap into hunting for a dog from a breeder, I knew it would be a long and tedious process.  I made myself a list of things I wanted to do with the dog as it grew up, what characteristics I wanted and what look I wanted the dog to have.  Looking back, that was the easy part.  The two years that followed were agony because I couldn’t have my puppy right then and because there was so much that I had to do to find “the one.”  Ultimately, it was worth all of the headaches, sleepless nights and research because I got not only the dog I wanted but the dog I needed.   (And yes, I still made a ton of mistakes but those mistakes still blessed me with some very wonderful dogs despite my naive and ideal thoughts.)

Since I took the leap 6 years ago, I’ve gotten two more dogs from breeders and have learned to fine tune my requirements and limits to what I won’t put up with.  Admittedly, I’ve become even pickier as I’ve grown from experience.

Breeder Code of Ethics

Every responsible breeder should have a strong set of ethics and morals when they breed or plan a litter.  These two things are what separate these individuals from the puppy peddlers in the world and set the offspring they produce apart from every other “breeder” advertising puppies on Craigslist or the local street corner.  For the American Pit Bull Terrier, these should be fine tuned because of the state that this breed is in because of over breeding and the breeding of sub par animals that should have been altered in the first place.

Some of the things that I personally look for when I start looking at breeders for a new prospect are as follows:

1.)  Health Testing – This breed is prone to a lot of health concerns from cardiac issues, luxating patellas, hip dysplasia and so forth.  When picking a breeder I would prefer to see some level of health testing on the stud dog and the bitch with a minimum of hips and heart tested through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and/or PennHip.

Health Testing Available for the APBT: Hips (OFA/PennHip), Cardiac, Elbows, Patellas, Thyroid, Ataxia, CRD2 (Dayblindness), CERF (Eyes – annual test).  Hips and elbows are done at 24 months through the OFA and hips can be done as young as 16 weeks through PennHip.  The rest of the above health tests can be done at 12 months.

2.)  Conformation and Performance Titles – While I personally put more strength in performance titles overlooking conformation would do the breed an injustice since form must follow function, in theory.  Since the original function is no longer valid for the APBT, performance venues like weight pull, agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, etc. have been birthed to fulfill the need to showcase the versatility of the breed.  The ideal minimum, in my opinion, is a conformation Champion title in the dog’s respective registry and a working title of some variety – preferably not an entry level title.

3.)  Temperament – Let’s face it, these are terriers and terriers are supposed exude confidence.  A shy or reserved dog around people is not supposed to be a common trait in this breed but it is becoming more and more common coming from certain bloodlines and breeders. (The scary thing is some of these breeders seem to try and justify this behavior and continue to breed offspring from siblings of dogs who have shown temperament flaws like shyness.)

4.)  Knowledge of the Breed – You want to go to a breeder who knows these dogs, their traits and behavior traits – like the common occurrence of dog/animal aggression that is common in most terrier types and especially true in the APBT because of its founding history as a canine gladiator.  This doesn’t mean that you discount someone because they haven’t been breeding for X number of years or have only produced X number of litters in so many years.  Most good breeders breed infrequently and typically when they want to hold something back for themselves. Be very wary of breeders who have an excessive number of litters a year.

There are so many more things you can nitpick for when you look for a breeder but the ones mentioned above are the critical ones.  There is a premade Code of Ethics out on the web that gives more in-depth criteria.  It can be found here.

We will say, for theory’s sake, that you’ve picked your ideal parents and now it is down to the nitty gritty with the breeder.  (Contracts, co-owns, pricing…oh, my!)

We’ll start with co-ownership and what it entails.

Co-ownership is the process of two (or more) people sharing ‘ownership’ of a dog.  Co-owning a dog can at varying levels.  It can be for the purposes of retaining breeding rights, ability to show the dog in the bred by class or even just outright controlling behavior.  If your breeder wants to do a co-ownership make sure that you get everything in writing that is expected of you, the breeder and the dog.  Often times co-owning a dog comes at a reduced price for a show quality dog so this may be a bonus if you can live with the intrusion of the breeder into your plans with the dog.

Now, since I mentioned getting everything in writing we’ll get into the contract.  There are some breeders that will sell (or even give) you a dog without a contract but they are few and far between.  A contract is almost a staple when purchasing a show/sport puppy.  A contract should protect the buyer and the seller but most importantly, the puppy.  A contract will let you know what you should get/expect from the breeder and what you, the buyer, are required to do or maintain, co-ownership requirements from both parties and finally the clauses designed to keep the puppy from harm.  When you purchase a puppy and a contract is to be involved make sure you have a copy of it with the breeder’s signature and yours and keep your copy in a safe spot.

Finally, what are you willing to pay for your puppy? Price is a relative choice.  For many show breeders, $1,000 is the standard price for a show quality dog but it can go much lower or higher depending on who you talk to.  Personally, I think anything above a grand for a show-quality puppy is asking a bit much since the puppy is unproven even if his/her parents are titled up the ying-yang.  The personal preference is yours there and what you feel you can afford but remember that a puppy is a gamble and that puppy may or may not turn out.

Once you have that squared away and figured out, you only have to wait until your puppy is born and ready to go home.  The eight weeks following the birth of your puppy will drive you batty and you will probably call (or visit if you’re lucky!) your breeder a million and one times and beg, grovel and hunt for photos of the puppies – I know I did!  It is well worth it once you have found the right breeder for you.

Good luck and happy puppy hunting to those who choose to go the breeder route.  Please remember when you do find the breeding of your dreams that the likeliness of your breeder turning into a total witch can happen. Don’t buy from a breeder that you wouldn’t want as a friend because they are typically with you for 15+ years. Buying from a good breeder is like expanding your human family.