Getting to Know Purebred Dogs
By Alison Preiss
At Pet Valu, we love ALL dogs. While mutts are marvelous, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about purebred dogs. Purebreds are a great option when considering your next pet, and here’s some of the factors that make them the leader of the pack in their pet parent’s eyes.
What is a purebred?
According to Lance Novak, the Executive Director for the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), “A purebred dog is a dog that is a product of a mother (dam) and father (sire) of the same breed which has been registered with a recognized national kennel club and has a confirmed pedigree (family tree).” All of this carefully documented breeding results in similar types of dogs, “Purebred dogs carry traits through their genes, making them very similar to their parents, siblings and all other dogs of that breed,” explains Lance, “so they are predictable in their physical size, coat length, temperament and activity level. Each breed of purebred dog was bred to help people and has an original purpose, for example, Bouvier des Flanders dogs were bred to help farmers herd their livestock and protect the family farm.”
That is a key advantage of purebreds: Consistency. As such, many pet parents fall in love with a breed, and stick with it, dog after dog. This means as an owner you have a better idea of what to expect from our puppy. However certain characteristic traits – such as shortened nose (called brachycephalic) seen in boxers, bulldogs and pugs, or the shortened legs and long backs of Dachshunds and Corgis – can also come with related health issues. It’s important to properly research breeds of dogs and know the risks so you can do your best to mitigate or prepare for them.
Which breed is right for you?
When it comes to purebreds, you might fall in love with looks first, but how they fit into your lifestyle should be the ultimate deciding factor. We spoke to two breeders who have produced really well-rounded dogs, Shawna Wiebe of Kinring Australian Shepherds and Heather Rodger of Oakhollow Siberian Huskies (who is also a Pet Valu franchisee), they suggest that “It’s very important to research breeds. You want a good fit for your family. If you are an outdoorsy, active family, you want a breed that can keep up. It’s a fun process for the family.” They add, “Some breeds may not be suited to apartment or condo life. Some breeds are very protective. Some breeds don’t get along with other dogs, while some don’t do well with cats. Some breeds require specialized, regular grooming. Some breeds require many hours of intense exercise EVERY day. Breeders should be advising you of special requirements, but we love an informed buyer.”
So how do you go about researching your soulmate breed? “I recommend that you talk to as many hobbyists as possible. Attend the local dog show, or dog sports arena. It’s nice to see the breeds in action, whether in the show ring, obedience, agility, rally, or breed specific venues. When they aren’t busy, talk to the owners, look at the dogs, find out about their breed traits and characteristics,” offers Heather and Shawna. Adding that the Canadian Kennel Club, and your local library will have great resources for your research.
Breeders know best
Think of breeders as part matchmaker, part godmother, and part encyclopedia. Most breed dogs as a hobby, and very much consider themselves guardians of the breed. The key is finding a reputable and responsible breeder.
“A reputable breeder will want to know about you, your family and your lifestyle so they can ensure they are placing their puppy in a happy, loving home. Many CKC member breeders will invite prospective puppy buyers to their kennel, which should be clean and offer ample space and the dogs should be healthy and well cared for with confirming documentation. Breeders will discuss the needs and/or problems associated with the breed and show prospective puppy buyers their dog’s official CKC pedigree featuring detail about the puppy’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Most importantly, a puppy buyer can expect a happy, healthy CKC-registered puppy, with registration papers, and a lifetime of love and companionship,” offers the CKC’s Lance Novak.
“A reputable breeder stands behind their dogs for the entire lifetime of that dog,” Heather and Shawna add. “One of the most important things a reputable breeder does is take back any dog of their breeding, at any time, for any reason. A reputable breeder is NOT adding to dogs in shelters or rescues. They are there as a safety net for the dogs that they breed.”
The price is right
Purebred puppies are often more expensive than their rescued or mixed-breed counterparts. The higher price tag is not a cash grab and responsible breeders are not in it for money. Here are some of the factors that go into setting the price of a puppy:
- It costs a lot to be born: Breeders want to breed their dogs to the very best, which can sometimes mean pairing two dogs from opposite sides of the country or even the world! ‘Stud Fees’ as they are known, can be thousands of dollars or a ‘pick’ puppy. Both mom and dad will often have health tests before they meet, and artificial insemination and caesarian births are also not uncommon in the purebred world, meaning breeders can sometimes be out thousands of dollars before the pups are even born.
- They come prepared: Purebred puppies must be tattooed or microchipped before they go to their new homes, and they should also be vet checked, vaccinated, dewormed and registered with the CKC.
- Commitment: If the initial cost of a puppy leaves you with sticker shock, you may want to consider if you are financially ready for a dog. Between supplies, vet appointments and vaccines, basic obedience and food, the first year of your puppy’s life can easily cost into the thousands of dollars. A higher price tag shows the breeder that you are serious about a puppy and providing for their whole life.
Adds Heather and Shawna, “All reputable breeders should be active in the show ring, performance ring, the field, or breed specific activities. That adds up to a LOT of weekends and a LOT of money.”
Is a purebred perfect for you?
The decision on where to get your next pet is a deeply personal one, but if any of these apply to you a purebred is worth considering:
- You need your future dog to fit into a certain perimeter, for example: your building only allows dogs below a certain weight; someone in your family has an allergy; or your future dog will have a job (such as helping on a farm, or you’re really into a certain dog sport).
- You are the type of person who loves to research and plan, and you don’t like a lot of surprises.
- You love a certain look: From the smushy French Bulldog face, to big Corgi ears you might become a fan of a breed of dog based on their looks alone. As long as that breed’s other traits fit your lifestyle, there is nothing wrong with falling in love with a certain breed based on looks.
- You want that best in show ribbon: Only registered purebreds from recognized breeds are eligible to compete in dog shows. Or as Heather and Shawna put it, “If you are looking for a family pet, and you want specific traits, characteristics and personality; if you want a dog that you can trace those traits back through a pedigree; if you want a healthy, genetically sound puppy; if you want breeder support for the life of your puppy; then choose a registered purebred.”
Questions to ask your breeder
Part of the puppy adoption process will be a meet and greet with the breeder, think of this as an interview – you two will be in a long-term relationship when it comes to your dog.
- What kind of health testing has been done on the parents? Do you have documentation?
- What made you decide to breed these two particular dogs?
- What health problems are the biggest concern for this breed? How long do dogs from your line typically live?
- What kind of ownership agreement do you have with puppy buyers? Will I receive the registration papers?
- Do you have a waiting list for puppies? How often do you breed a litter?
- The breeder should have just as many questions for you as you have for them, so don’t be shy! You can also ask for references such as past puppy buyers, fellow breeders or their veterinarian.
Not feeling the puppy love? Adopting an older purebred is an option too!
According to a 2016 study by the National Animal Interest Alliance, only 5% of dogs in US Shelters are purebred, however it is still possible to adopt a purebred:
REHOMING Many breeders have a clause in their purchase agreement that state that if a family is unable to keep their pet, it is returned to the breeder. As such, adult or senior purebreds are occasionally available for rehoming.
BREED RESCUE CLUBS Breeders form a deep affinity for their breed, and many purebred clubs will have or support a rescue program.
Understanding Breeder Talk
THE CANADIAN KENNEL CLUB & THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB. When you purchase a purebred puppy it should be registered with the CKC or AKC, and you will receive papers indicating your puppy’s registration. Don’t be surprised if your puppy even has a fancier registered name – these are meant to be unique so sometimes they can be pretty creative.
CHAMPION. Show dogs earn points by defeating other dogs of the same breed in conformation shows. conformation or ‘Dog Shows’ are sanctioned by the Canadian Kennel Club and American Kennel Club and a dog earns a certain number of points to become a champion.
DAM. The mother of a dog is the ‘Dam’ and the father is the ‘Sire.’ Bitch simply means ‘female dog’, boys are referred to simply as ‘dogs’.
PICK PUPPY. Another way of saying the ‘pick of the litter’ this is the puppy that breeder feels has the greatest potential as a show dog (or sport dog, depending on the type of breeder).
PET QUALITY. Don’t feel hurt if your breeder refers to your pet this way – it means that while your puppy is sure to be a wonderful pet, they may have certain characteristics (such as markings or body shape) that would make them less successful in the show ring. Pet quality puppies will often come with stipulations that you spay or neuter them at the appropriate time.
CO-OWNERSHIP/BREEDING RIGHTS. If a breeder feels your puppy might have a future in the show ring, and you seem open to it, they might discuss co-ownership or breeding rights with you. Co-ownership would mean you both own the dog (though the dog would typically live with you for the majority of the time) but the breeder may show or breed your dog. Breeding rights allow the breeder to use your dog for their breeding program in the future.