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.