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I just read an excellent statement about buying from a reputable breeder. It said: "Saying "I don't need a dog from a breeder who shows" is like saying "I don't need a house from a builder who builds to code.""
 

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My thinking has come a full 180 on this subject since joining this forum. I literally did not know better before.

I equated "show dogs" with adjectives like high-strung and neurotic. It seems honestly so absurd to me now, especially when I watch dog shows and see, plain as day, the importance of temperament.

Note: I could pretend I've always known what I know now, but that's not going to help anyone, so please go easy on me. Education really is so important, but compassionate education. Shaming doesn't work.

That said, I get it. I admittedly cringe now when I hear, "But I just want a family pet!" People genuinely don't realize the qualities that make a good, stable, healthy family pet are some of the primary goals of ethical breeding.

Part of the challenge, I think, is that when someone encounters a dog with a poor temperament that also happens to be a recognizable breed, that makes a connection in their head. Suddenly, "Purebred poodles are crazy." This doesn't happen with mutts.

Add to that the moralistic chantings of ADOPT DON'T SHOP, and well.....
 

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When I was researching breeders my husband thought I was crazy because after reading this forum and many websites I insisted on genetic testing and a breeder who shows and has champion dogs because it shows conformation. I agree completely. It is so important, however many people do not know better.


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I love how you phrased it, "I don't need a house from a builder who builds to code."

I think most people’s also think conformation is elitist when it’s not. through my dog sports I know lots Of breeders and they are not elitist type people, they are just interested in breeding the best dogs.
 

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My thinking has come a full 180 on this subject since joining this forum. I literally did not know better before.
Same.

My family lucked out with our first dog in terms of health and temperament. Second family dog, temperament was perfect but her health was bad. When I finally got my own dog, I went by word of mouth, and I ended up with a highly anxious dog with health issues. He's the sweetest dog ever and gives so much love, and he does not deserve the issues he was born with. So, I will not be making that mistake again.
 

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Johanna, I've always liked this blog post too. Thinking like the quote you posted can never be revisited too many times.


I Don’t Want A Show Dog; I Just Want A Pet. by Joanna Kimball on July 13, 2010

This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they're looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don't want a show BREEDER – don't want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don't want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they're getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for $150.

I want you to change your mind. I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog. And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that's the rip-off. And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she's getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they're buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.

Here's why:

If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you're not going to talk about how much you like their color. You're going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat, temperament, and so on. You'll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you've heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.

The things you will be looking for aren't the things that describe just "dog"; they'll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.

That's where people have made the right initial decision – they've taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be.

Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible.

You need to realize that when you do this, you're going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the "Audi" plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a '98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little.

It is no bargain.

Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of "dog" are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn't mean you won't get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.

If you don't NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you're saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.

If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you're walking away with more than a label.

Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you're considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off.
 

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Yes, rescues certainly do not work out for everyone!

My rescue girl would not work out living in most homes. I lucked out finding a poodle that ended up being the perfect fit for me.
It's just such a one-size-fits-all slogan for a deeply complex issue. If the only people buying dogs were the ones buying from unscrupulous shops and breeders, and everyone else was "rescuing," there'd be no end to the problem. We'd only be chasing the symptoms,

A snappy slogan about only supporting ethical breeders might actually help treat the root cause.

I'm glad your girl worked out well for you. So many don't and it's extremely sad watching a dog's adoptability and quality of life drop sharply with each return to the shelter. Our trainer said the absolute worst cases are people who import rescues from overseas. People just have no idea what they're getting themselves into. It's a noble project for someone who's extremely dog savvy, but unfortunately that's NOT most people.
 

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I am living with the hard consequences with my desperate uneducated buy after I lost my first poodle in a freak accident.
My sweet Beatrice I wouldn't trade her for the world but I am devastated that she has had such an avoidably painful short life and that she won't live to be old.
As for buying the very best dog I could, well there is Leonard purchased from one of the best show toy poodle breeders, he is wonderfully healthy, a excellent temperament and so ridiculously handsome.
Nope I cannot just get a poodle from anywhere anymore.
 

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If you don't NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you're saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.
This is a rare and excellent perspective—one which acknowledges and honours the complexity of our companion choices while providing practical guidance. Thank you for sharing.
 

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Sorry - this is long. But I think purebred people (who often spend their whole lives devoted to dogs and dog-research) sometimes miss this as a reason people choose crosses and unregistered dogs.

The reason I hear from most people that they don't want a dog from a "show" breeder is they don't want the health issues. I think with the pursuit of beauty, a few breeders lost their way and produced some really unhealthy, inbred dogs (probably more so 20-50 years ago than now). I think for some people, the fact that show breeders health test their puppies is a mark against them - if show dogs weren't unhealthy, why would they test them?

My parents had two CKC papered dogs in the later 80s/early 90s. Both were lovely dogs with big vet bills. My whole life I've been told - never buy a purebred dog.

And here I am, with a 1 year old standard poodle with champion (health tested) parents.

What changed? Well, it took me about 5 years of wanting a dog before I got one, so I did A LOT of research in the meantime.

I started out wanting a poodle mix, like my childhood cockapoo. I'm asthmatic, and wanted something hypo allergenic. I really liked a sheepadoodle I met, and that's what I wanted. So I researched, and researched. I learned that doodles weren't guaranteed to have nonshedding coats. So I decided I needed a 75% poodle doodle.

Doodles (and poodles) are in very limited supply at rescues here in Canada - only older ones, with huge temperament or health issues I didn't want to deal with were available. If I wasn't asthmatic, I might very well have a "Second hand" teenaged german shepherd cross. (My family never gets dogs from rescues - but often gets dogs "Second hand" from people who no longer want them. Rescue people often get mad when I call them this - as if only rescues can rehome dogs, or they tell me that it's demeaning to call a dog "Second hand" instead of "rescued").

And then I learned about the Amish puppy mills in my area. And I swore I wouldn't buy a dog from one. Only a "responsible" breeder of home bred doodles, or a home breeder of poodles (not a dreaded "show" breeder) who did temperment testing and socializing and health testing.

Sometime in there, my mom bought a non-papered 16 week old Yorkie puppy. She's a sweet dog - now- after 4 years of socialization - but still neurotic, nervous, etc. I honestly don't think she'd seen indoors before Mom got her let alone a city street or a garbage can! I remember with a sinking heart hearing about the breeders, when she got her - but it was too late. The dog was terrified of me, and Mom kept asking "well what do you want me to do? Give her back?!". No, but I wished she'd chosen a dog from a responsible breeder! The breeders ghosted her - but not before mentioning the dog had the same temperment as her mother, who should never have been bred. Her temperment would NEVER had made it in the show ring!

And after reading the websites of A LOT of breeders, I realized what I really wanted was a poodle from a show breeder. The doodlers, and the non-registered/non-show breeders just didn't seem to care the same way the show breeders did. I wanted a breeder who did ALL the health tests (not just a "DNA test" or "my vet says my dogs are healthy"), preferably competed in dog sports, and did tons of socialization.

So yeah - that's what I've got (minus the dog sports)! But it took a few years of research to get to that point. If I'd gotten her immediately when I wanted a dog, I might have chosen differently. And I suspect most dog owners don't wait 5 years before deciding they are ready to get a dog!

And she's a wonderful girl, beautiful inside and out. I get compliments every time someone meets her. And when someone asks me "Did you rescue her?" (like 6-12 month old poodles are in big supply in rescue?). I smile and say - "No. I got her from a responsible breeder."
 

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I am living with the hard consequences with my desperate uneducated buy after I lost my first poodle in a freak accident.
My sweet Beatrice I wouldn't trade her for the world but I am devastated that she has had such an avoidably painful short life and that she won't live to be old.
As for buying the very best dog I could, well there is Leonard purchased from one of the best show toy poodle breeders, he is wonderfully healthy, a excellent temperament and so ridiculously handsome.
Nope I cannot just get a poodle from anywhere anymore.
I'm sorry you lost your poodle in such an awful, unexpected way :(

I, too, was shocked and devastated by the death of my girl, despite her advanced age. And when our foster dog was unexpectedly snapped up in just a matter of weeks, I panicked and chose the puppy that was available now rather than making a more measured decision.

I'm not sure what the future of Peggy's health will be. Her breeder's certainly not the worst in the grand scheme of things. We keep in close touch, which is comforting. She really loves her poodles. But I've since learned so much more about what to look for. I clearly missed some red flags that would have been obvious to many of you.

For now I'm just going to consider myself lucky that Peggy so far is beloved by all who meet her, and that she's proving in adolescence to be a wonderful companion. Her digestion is good. She's highly trainable. And I like that her mission in life seems to be converting people who have preconceived notions about "frou frou" poodles. One recently marvelled, "She runs like a gazelle!!"
 

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"Saying "I don't need a dog from a breeder who shows" is like saying "I don't need a house from a builder who builds to code.""
I have to remember this !

I’ve been getting dogs from reputable breeders for a few decades and I always will. Unfortunately I can’t go the rescue way because my allergies require that I only get specific breeds, which are not readily available through rescues.
 

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I think purebred people (who often spend their whole lives devoted to dogs and dog-research) sometimes miss this as a reason people choose crosses and unregistered dogs.
YES! To all of this. I always assumed "good" breeders were only breeding for looks. I didn't realize those aren't actually the good ones.

I knew two registered dogs growing up—both were utter messes. Nervous. Neurotic. Just....weird. And I, too, was always told: "Mutts are healthier. Always get a mutt."

Looking back now, I can think of plenty unidentifiable mixed breeds that were messes, too. But it's more convenient to demonize expensive dogs with recognizable features.

What confuses me now, though, are puppy mills like the ones run by the Amish folks you speak of. In some cases, people are paying them WAY MORE than they'd pay for a well-bred dog. That just doesn't add up for me.
 

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Our trainer said the absolute worst cases are people who import rescues from overseas. People just have no idea what they're getting themselves into. It's a noble project for someone who's extremely dog savvy, but unfortunately that's NOT most people.
This drives me crazy! We need to find homes for the dogs in this country first! And people do not consider the diseases these animals are bringing here. We had a group of very sick dogs brought to my state last year, and what they had could not be cured. But that's a whole other issue. :( Sorry for the rant, lol.
 

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At the risk of producing a TLDNR rant, I think the breed clubs should take a good hard look in the mirror when they wonder why the public doesn't understand why good breeding and good breeders matter.

Any time a show standard is set, there is a tendency to reward breeding for extremes. These extremes introduce health problems. Luckily, poodles as a breed mostly dodged this bullet. Yeah, poodles have dangling ears prone to yeast infections, and poodle hair is pretty extreme. For the most part, though, show poodles are structurally pretty sound under all that hairspray.

The same cannot be said of many other breeds. Anyone paying attention to the dog show scene was aware of Crufts taking the unusual step of disqualifying several best of breed winners for being unable to pass a vet check after winning their classes. There was also a controversy at Westminster, when a winning collie was discovered to be the offspring of a blind & deaf sire. The sire had been a deliberate double merle cross, done by a breeder who understood the health risks of a double merle cross and chose to do it anyway. Ugh

It's bad that Crufts was forced to start handing out public shamings. It's bad that mainstream media jumped all over Westminster. However, it's not surprising. Many individual breed clubs have fought tooth and nail to stay in their Victorian era time warp despite the health impact on the dogs. One example is the Dalmatian breed. Dalmatians, due to a genetic bottleneck, lost the gene to properly process uric acid. All Dalmatians, every single one on the planet, was genetically predisposed to serious and painful urinary tract problems. A vet researching the problem did some outcrosses to pointers, restoring the healthy version of the gene to his breeding lines. It took 30 years before the kennel club would agree to admit his outcrosses into the books. In a similar vein, the Great Dane Club of America has a breeders code of ethics that permits harlequin to harlequin breedings (which can result in health issues) while forbidding blue to fawn breedings (which merely produce non-standard colors.)

Tail cropping is another aesthetic standard the AKC is clinging to as the rest of the world leaves it behind. Most of Europe no longer permits tail docking (except for some very narrowly defined health related exceptions.) Some of the stricter countries, like Switzerland, will not permit their citizens to import a dog with a docked tail at all, even if tail docking is legal where the dog was bred. There is currently quite a bit of discussion in the agility community about whether dogs with docked tails will be able to participate in international competition in Europe.

So, when the breed clubs are seen to support standards that:
  • Fail to protect the health of the dogs
  • Appear to be arbitrary aesthetic decisions
  • Conflict with the moral and legal codes of many regions, impacting pet owners and competitors
We really shouldn't be surprised when the general public loses faith in the wisdom of breeders closely aligned with the breed clubs. I think that loss of trust is very unfortunate for the dogs, the breeders, and the pet owners.

Some further reading:
Article about offspring of deliberately bred blind/deaf double merle winning at Westminster:

Article about double harlequin breedings being encouraged by Great Dane Club of America. (This article is hopefully soon to be outdated, as the breeder's code is currently under revision according to the GDCA website.):
Edited to add an even better article about the misguided Great Dane color standards: Mismark Case Study: Great Dane Revisit and Expansion

Articles about the 30 year fight to get LUA dalmatians approved:

Articles about medically unsound dogs being disqualified at Crufts:

Link to agility competition in Finland:
 

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This is a great discussion. I decided I wanted a puppy because I have a pet rabbit, and it is very difficult to find a rescue dog that is both drivey enough to do agility while still not driven to kill my rabbit. I needed a puppy that I could introduce to the rabbit at a young age. You cannot get a puppy from a shelter or rescue without it having been spayed/neutered at way too young of an age, so this was not an option for me. No fixing before growth plates are closed if you want a healthy agility dog. I decided to go with a hypoallergenic dog because my boyfriend has considerable dog allergies. For the type of personality I wanted in a dog, I first considered doodles. Why? Because I was worried a poodle would be a hard sell to my friends due to the stigma. But I quickly realized they are not as hypoallergenic as poodles, and I also did not like the practices of the doodle breeders I was finding. They seemed all about the money, and many would spay/neuter pups before sending them home! So I started to consider a small standard or large mini poodle. Temperament was the most important thing, followed by structure and health. I did a lot of research on these forums, and learned why a mini poodle breeder that shows might be a good choice even for an agility dog. It only took me two weeks of research to decide on a poodle, and then another two weeks or so before I had put down a deposit. I have been so happy with Misha. He is a wonderful dog and breed ambassador.
 

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Gracie is my first dog from a responsible breeder. I did have one other purebred dog, a Golden, but as mentioned previously, he was a “second hand” dog. He came to us at age 5 from a friend who could no longer keep him, and his beginnings were from a puppy mill.

I have loved all my dogs, but Gracie is very different. Drop dead gorgeous, but her temperament is also amazing. She does much to dispel the myth of the neurotic poodle, this dog is fearless, which is great as she will compete in agility.

Cow and Pony brought up some good points, and the Dog Fancy does need to do a better job of policing itself.

Going forward, I will always have poodles. I’m not excluding a rescue in the future, but it will have to be a poodle, and a special rescue. I have gotten more involved in agility, and a performance prospect is a lot easier to find from a good breeder. Not to mention, the other qualities Gracie has that make her a good pet as well.
 

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I always find everyone’s different experiences so interesting! My first dog was an Airedale from champion show lines and from a breeder we are still friends with 17 years later (our dog passed at 14). That being said it was 2002 and I was a kid so I’m not sure generic testing was a well known thing yet, but she ended up being the lemon of the litter. SO many health and behavior issues in her but she was still deeply loved by our family. So I decided to try out a mix the next time around since I volunteered at an AC and met a lot of dogs I liked. At the time I also wasn’t sure what specific breed I wanted so I went looking for an individual I clicked with.

My heeler mix now is from a shelter and he is the best tempered dog! And no health problems. But I spent a lot of time looking before I met him and obviously it was dumb luck I happened upon him. I haven’t had the same luck looking for a second companion.

I’ve decided I want another purebred dog this time around and I’m currently awaiting a litter of toy poodles to be born which will be our next dog. I’ve been thinking and looking for a year and decided on a breeder after meeting some of their previous pups. That breeder is also the most reputable toy breeder I could find in a tri state area that still actively breeds. They don’t show but I couldn’t find one that does! They do genetic test and and will allow me to visit the parents first and again when puppies are arrived to personally pick. Which is also to say I will back right out (no money down yet) if the parents temperament is not acceptable. I’m hopeful it will turn out well.
 
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