Visit the Breeder?
I'm sure everyone has read all the articles recommending that before you buy a puppy, you take yourself from one breeder to another to see the parents, meet the breeder, and inspect the facilities. I would like to say something TO the people who write this kind of irresponsible drivel, but chances are I won't get the opportunity.…..In my opinion, the people who wrote these articles have obviously never been on the receiving end of those endless visits… or more importantly, they have never faced the ravages of PARVO. Well we have. Never again.
I understand that you may want to meet the breeder & see the facilities. This expectation appears to be a very logical request, but be prepared to have breeders who are serious about the health of their dogs be reluctant to have you visit their facilities.
We used to regularly invite people to come visit us, and play with the puppies. In fact every Sunday we usually entertained prospective buyers. People who had put deposits on puppies would come every weekend and play with their babies until they were old enough to go home. But things were getting out of hand. People would just show up and start playing with puppies, even if we were not home. Finally, we had to change our open-door policy, after one lovely family let their children play with the puppies for the better part of an afternoon. We were horrified when one of the children remarked, “these are much nicer puppies than we played with this morning.” When asked where they had been earlier that day they informed us that they'd been at the home of another breeder. They had taken absolutely no precautions before coming to our home. That other breeder we knew was under investigation for SPCA violations due to sanitation & disease problems, and has since gone out of business.
We immediately went into lockdown and put all our dogs into quarantine. Yes, we had vaccinated our dogs, but Parvo doesn't always respect vaccinations. And what about the unvaccinated puppies that they had looked at? Within 2 weeks of that nice family's visit to our home, we lost 9 of 11 three week old puppies to Parvo. To be fair, we can't actually prove it was them that brought Parvo into our home, but if it was, do you think for a minute that “nice family” would take any sort of responsibility for their actions? Furthermore, even if they did bring it here, they most certainly didn't know any better, but we SHOULD have. We will not make that mistake in the future.
Not only is it very dangerous for the dogs (and upsetting to a Mom with babies) to have visitors, but it has become simply exhausting for us. We have had to draw the line somewhere. We get approx 8 - 12 calls & e-mail inquiries a day. At LEAST half of those, if not more, want to visit and spend a few hours with us, play with the puppies, but many are saying “we might want a puppy in the future and are interviewing breeders now”, or “we think we want a bulldog but have never actually met one”, so they want to come visit our dogs to decide if they really like bulldogs. We can understand why someone would want to do this, but we simply can't accommodate everyone who wants to put a field trip into their research.
Can you imagine how many people would be walking through our home if it were open house everyday? I woke up to 4 e-mails & I've had one phone call so far this morning and it's not quite 9 a.m. When we have puppies we go to bed at midnight, have another feeding at 4 am, then are up for the next feeding at 8 am. People call during meals and want to talk for hours, we answer e-mails at 4 am..... we have had to draw the line in order to simply have a life. Our evenings and weekends would be full of people wanting to visit our dogs. Even if we are not supposed to have a life of our own, when are we supposed to have time for all the people who just want to view the facilities? THIS IS OUR HOME . We've had people treat us as if we are a petting zoo. Some even ask if they can ride the horses.
Now only SERIOUS buyers come here. We are prepared to assist in any way we can on-line or over the phone. We send photos, we give advice, we answer questions. If someone wants assurance that we actually exist, that the dogs are in fact purebred, that we take the best possible care of them, our vets are more than happy to give recommendations. Simply ask us for their phone numbers. You can also check us out with the Canadian Kennel Club. We can give references if required.
We are not expecting to meet people somewhere in a parking lot like we were doing some sort of drug deal, although I do know some breeders do that now. But we have to make a compromise. If someone wants to come with their cash in hand to buy a puppy, we are happy to accommodate them. Not a couple of visits to make up their mind, or “I'll come back later with the cash”, but fully prepared to go home with their puppy. If they decide upon coming here that they don't want the puppy, then that's fine too, but quite frankly that almost never happens. Prepared people know what they want.
What we try to either enlighten or avoid are those people, usually young girls, who have this fantasy of sitting on the lawn surrounded by beautiful, bouncing puppies, and have that special one come over, put their little feet on their chest & look them in the eye, so they can say “This is the one”. I expect accompanied by violins, slow motion & fields of daisies. We can either educate these people into caring about the health of the puppy, or we can't. Some people don't let facts & common sense get in the way of the fantasy. They feel that if they are going to spend the money on a puppy, they want the fantasy with it. No matter what the very real problems they could be causing. Restrict the other guy maybe, but they and their fantasy are somehow different and the restrictions should not apply to them..
Some people are honestly worried about being scammed. These people are much more reasonable, and we can answer any questions they have to set their minds at rest. There are some real doozies of questions…. But we can answer them.
We don't misrepresent what we have, and if someone wants a sweet, healthy, purebred, English Bulldog puppy, then we can make them happy. If someone has unrealistic expectations, and doesn't like the lack of access we are prepared to give them, then we are relieved to have avoided an unpleasant relationship with them for the life of their dog. Because in our experience, demanding and unreasonable people are just that. We do like to avoid them where at all possible.
So, when people ask if they can visit our place to see the dogs, this is what we reply:
Due to virulent strains of disease in the Central Alberta area, our Veterinarians have advised us to limit visitors to our home while we have unvaccinated babies in the house. Because we can't determine where a visitor may have been, now we only allow visitors to our home to actually purchase & pick up their puppies. We must limit access.
As for those breeders who do allow visitors, by all means do business with them if you like. Just think, if they allow you to visit, who else has been there, and where have THEY been? Sometimes that fantasy can turn into a nightmare!
As for those people who continue to write articles advising that people “ Visit a number of breeders and compare the dogs, the facilities and the breeders.” Your advice is at best naive, at worst dangerous and irresponsible.
Choosing a Breeder
Remember there are plenty of cute puppies available. They are in every newspaper & website, but buying from the right breeder can make or break your bulldog experience. So now that I’ve told you that “visiting the breeder” is not possible or advisable, you are probably asking then how do you choose the right breeder?
Do your research. First of all decide if you want to chance flying one in from far away, or if you want a breeder from your area. There are pros & cons...but generally unless you are experienced with the breed it is better to buy local. That way when you pick up your puppy you can look the breeder in the eye, see the parents....you know, all the stuff they tell you to do....but....not just pick up a puppy from the airport. That way if you have problems your breeder is close and can recommend their own vet, they know what brands of dog food are available in your area, they can point you at local bulldog owner clubs, etc. If you run into trouble and your breeder is half way across the country....good luck.
The internet is a valuable recourse in finding breeders in your area. But once you've found a breeder don't just assume they are good breeders. Do a search on line...do they have a website? Read it and see if their views agree with yours. Contact the Canadian Kennel Club and make sure the breeder is a member. Contact other people in your area with Bulldogs and ask them about their experiences. If you've found a breeder, or a few breeders, then talk to them...ask some questions.
The most important thing is to use your head. Think about things. Ask yourself the question and then think about what kind of answer you would like to hear. And why.
Some things you might want to think about in evaluating breeders are:
In talking to the breeder, as well as the questions & answers, try to get a feel for them as people. This is someone you may end up having a relationship with for the life of your dog. Do you have personalities that are compatible? As breeders we also must make this same decision. We are pretty straight forward, as you may have noticed. Some people deal with our no B.S. style better than others. There are times we have regretted selling a puppy to someone because of differences in personality. We have also refused to sell to people we get that feeling from. These were not bad people at all. Just not compatible with us. We have refunded deposits and cancelled sales contracts to avoid conflict. In these cases we have found that our instinct was correct. These people would not have had a happy outcome with us. Perhaps downright conflictive and even nasty. It’s hard to make people understand it’s not a personal rejection and all about them; it’s about what is best for the puppy. We don’t need the unpleasantness, the buyer doesn’t need it, and the puppy certainly will not benefit from it. So, keep personalities in mind as you consider the other questions
Have they been breeding bulldogs for many years, or are they new to the breed? Think about - have they a long term commitment to the breed or have they noticed that bulldogs were popular and thought they could make some money? How could the answer to that affect the quality of the puppy you hope to buy?
- Where did your breeder get their breeding dogs? Have they researched & purchased the best quality dogs they could find for their breeding program, or have they simply bought a couple of pets and decided to breed them. This might be a great time to make sure that they have the papers for their dogs, and they aren’t simply pets that they don’t even have the breeding rights for. See our article “yes, you do want papers”, for the reason you want to check this out. Sometimes breeders sell puppies with genetic defects as “pet only” - is someone is breeding that puppy to sell to you?
- Bulldogs are a breed that have had their share of problems, and indiscriminate breeding can result in more problems in the breed. Keep that in mind...is this someone who is likely to be serious about their breeding program & improving the breed... or is it someone who has the occasional litter just so they can sell them? Or has someone got a dog they love and just think that it should have puppies, regardless if it is a good representation of the breed or not?
- Do they have multiple generations of their own breeding ? It just makes sense that if they have multiple generations of their own lines, then they know what, if any, health issues are likely to be in their lines. And you will at least have some idea of what your dog is likely to look like when it grows up.
- Not all new breeders are bad. But if this breeder is actually a new breeder, are they buying the best dogs they can for their breeding program? Do they have a knowledgeable mentor-breeder assisting them and available to answer questions from their puppies buyers that they can't answer themselves? Experience in the breed is very valuable, and almost imperative, but it has to come from somewhere. So don’t rule out the new breeder, but ask more questions.
- Keep in mind that the largest majority of people who start to breed bulldogs do one, maybe two, litters of bulldogs then decide it is too expensive, labour intensive, & heart breaking to do it again:
* If you have a question next year, is your breeder likely to still be available?
* If, heaven forbid, your puppy has a serious problem and the health guarantee calls for the puppy to be replaced, where will your breeder be? Do they do one litter a year, meaning you will have to wait a year or more for your replacement puppy?
What is in their pedigree? Now here is where a pet buyer’s eyes might glaze over....but hear me out.....Let me make it very clear. Lots of great breeders don’t show their dogs. We have found some truly outstanding & amazing quality dogs in non-show kennels. And it’s painfully obvious that not everyone has the temperament to show dogs...I know we certainly don't...but ultimately the only way to compare a dog with what a bulldog should look like is to have them evaluated by someone other than the breeder. That means to have them judged by a representative of the Kennel Club. That evaluation means to actually show them, I'm afraid. In a dog show all dogs are evaluated against the "official breed standard” which is the perfect bulldog specimen. Those that measure closest to the standard are ultimately awarded a Championship. (All B.S. and politics aside)
All puppies are cute, but if you want a bulldog that looks like a "BULLDOG" then it makes sense to make sure that there are Champions on their pedigree. The more Champions, especially the parents or grandparents, the more likely your puppy will look like a bulldog when it grows up. And you can usually buy “pet” puppies from Champion lines, even Champion sired, for the same price as those with less star studded parentage. So if given the choice, why not go for Champion lines?
- Do they allow visitors when they have unvaccinated puppies? This is a personal choice of each breeder. However as a buyer you should consider the consequences the same as the breeder does. Do you want to purchase a puppy that may have been exposed to a fatal disease? Some breeders take the risk to make the sale...even some breeders that I KNOW have lost entire litters to parvo. That risk is passed on to the new owner when they take home their new puppy. An exposed puppy can still pass a vet check if it is incubating the disease. So a buyer will get it home and have time to love it before it dies. Perhaps they will get their puppy replaced if it dies....if they can prove that they were sick before they bought it. But it is still DEAD. Once again think about it...consider the judgement of a breeder who knowingly risks the lives of puppies just to make a sale. What other risks have they taken? That is a pretty big one.
- Do they sell all their puppies with full breeding rights? Now this is a very important clue to a breeder’s integrity. Bulldogs are extremely difficult to breed & raise. Even the best breeders loose puppies, and sometimes even the mothers. Despite many years of experience & the very best, knowledgeable, care, even the most experienced bulldog breeders have heartbreak & tragedy. So, if we choose to sell a puppy to people that don’t have a clue but will breed it...and risk its life....and we knew that we could stop that from happening with just a minimum of effort....and we simply chose not to bother....what kind of people would we be? I have a whole LOT of names for that...none of them very nice.
If someone wants to breed and wants the advice & guidance of an experienced breeder, that is fine. But to simply wash your hands of responsibility and say “it’s your dog”, is deplorable.
Good breeders take responsibility for their puppies for their entire lives. They do NOT sell with full breeding rights to just anybody, and they DO require that any unwanted puppy be returned to the breeder. Good breeders care about their puppies. For their entire lives. They do not sell indiscriminately with breeding rights. PERIOD!
Now a lot of people say that they don’t care about a lot of that stuff...they just want a puppy. The least expensive the better. They don’t care if is from champion lines. They don’t care if it is registered. They don’t even care if it is purebred. The only thing they care about is if it is healthy. But just think about it for a minute.... If a breeder doesn’t care about any of those other things.... if they don’t care about it being well bred, or papered, or even purebred... what makes you think that they are going to be a stickler for health either?
Serious breeders do a lot of research into their breeding. If you don’t want a quality puppy from a quality breeder.......then why have you read this far?
Keep in mind that puppies from good breeders with good quality dogs are usually the same price as those puppies from the not so good breeders. So why not look for a better quality?
Once again...think about it. Someone with questionable scruples has a lesser quality item but they can sell it for the same money as a good quality one...and the buyer won’t be able to tell the difference for a long time.... Hummmm. How many times will they say to you “oh, I’ve got this lesser quality puppy so I’ll be really honest and sell it to for less money because I know you are going to be a really good home”. Think about it.... How many people would do that?
Sometimes it does happen though. You will occasionally see an ad for less expensive puppies... and knowing we cannot hope to ever keep up with demand for our puppies, ask yourself why they are in effect giving away that $1,000 per puppy. Think about it. Is it to sell fast to avoid people looking too close at them?
It is up to you...I’ve given you things to think about. If you actually think the questions through then it is not that difficult to find a quality breeder. Now make up your own mind what kind of breeder you choose.