Friday, June 17, 2011

The Value of a Dog

Samsung 46” LED-LCD HDTV: $2099.99*. Expected lifespan: 50,000 hours.

Canon EOS 7D 18.0 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera: $1,899.99*. Expected lifespan: 8-10 years, maybe?

Apple Mac Book Pro with Intel Core i7 processor: $1,799.99*. Expected lifespan: Many say about 4 years.

Alpine 50W x 4 iPod/Satellite Radio/HD Radio Ready In-Dash navigation CD Deck for a car: $1,149.99*. Life expectancy: 4 – 10 years, maybe?

Ford Focus compact car, bare bones with nothing added: $16,270** MSRP. Expected life span ~12 - 14 years.

Well bred, genetically clean, healthy purebred puppy from a stock of healthy parents produced by a GOOD breeder who will stand behind him for his entire life: ~ $800-$2,500. Expected life span: 8-16 years.

Think about that for a second. Among this list of things many of us buy, the only thing that will likely be around as long as our dogs will costs us over $16,000. (and I don’t know about you, but my dog brings me significantly more joy than my car ever will) So WHY is it people look at me like I’m nuts when I say $1,500 for a puppy is perfectly reasonable? Why do people think they should be able to pick up a dog that requires literally hundreds of hours of his breeder’s time for a couple hundred bucks or less? Why do SO many people fail to see the value of a healthy, well bred companion?

* prices taken from Best
** price taken from

I talk to people all the time who tell me their dog came from a GREAT breeder, but when I ask them a couple questions it becomes apparent that what they really mean is that their dog’s breeder was very friendly, easy to talk to, and more than likely MEANS well. What I find is that the buyer often knows nothing about the health of the dogs who produced the one on the end of his leash and as far as he knows, neither did his breeder. He’s likely not seen or heard from the breeder since the day he took the puppy home, and he looks at me like I’m speaking french when I ask him about OFA ratings and CERF tests.

So, I ask you: Would you buy a car without checking out the spec sheet? Would you do a little research and see if there are any known issues with the model of that year before you forked over your hard earned money? If you found out that the little motor that operates the trunk latch tends to burn out would you talk to the salesman about it? Would you tell him you want some kind of assurance that they are doing what they can to prevent the problem and to know the dealership will stand behind the car should your trunk latch stop working?

What about a computer? Or a Camera? Do you go online and check the reviews to see how the products have been performing before you buy? Do you consider the reviews the company has gotten on previous products it has manufactured? Do you choose not to buy ones that get poor feedback about their quality?

Have you done the same kind of research when you bought a dog?
The argument can be made that it’s unfair to compare a dog to a car, but is it? Which do you think is more important: that the car doesn’t have a faulty trunk latch motor or that a dog doesn’t end up with a debilitating genetic disease that can easily be screened for and prevented?

Who is this GOOD breeder that’s going to charge you $1000 for one of her puppies?

Truly good breeders screen for everything they can (which, by the way, is NOT cheap), and they don’t breed dogs who will pass on unhealthy traits. They screen with the most effective and up-to-date testing they can and they are always looking for more ways to produce healthier dogs. Many other breeders MEAN well – they take their dogs to the vet when they’re supposed to, they give them lots of love, and they often try to breed what they view as a “great temperament”. The fact is, meaning well just doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t prevent blindness, it doesn’t significantly reduce the chances of a dog developing hip or elbow dysplasia (among other things), and it doesn’t maintain the proper structure and temperament that will provide a great life for the dog.

Do you really need a show dog, though?
Many people say they don’t need a show dog, so there is no reason for them to buy a puppy from that expensive “show breeder”. This way of thinking is a failure to recognize the true purpose of dog shows. It’s also a failure to understand the goals and values of GOOD breeders who show their dogs. What these people often mean to say is that they do not require a “show prospect” puppy. Certainly, they don’t mean that they don’t require a healthy puppy simply because they don’t want to show it.  Every GOOD breeder does something – showing, hunting, herding, trialing, sledding, etc. This is not simply for bragging rights, it is for the very important purpose of selecting the best individuals among their stock to breed. When a breeder takes her dogs to a show, they will be judged based on their structure and movement – this structure isn’t written in the standard simply for fun, it has purpose. A dog with proper joint angles will excel in the work he was bred for and he will maintain healthier joints because they are functioning efficiently and without the need to compensate for weak links. It makes no difference if you’re hoping for an Iditarod racer or a couch warmer – any dog, and any dog owner, should appreciate good health.

Nearly all litters produced by show dogs will contain puppies who will be unlikely to excel in the show ring. These dogs are often sold as “pet quality”, but the genetic health screening that went into producing them is no less valid (and no less expensive). The structure of even the “pet quality” puppy produced by exceptional parents is quite often very good. As a just-a-pet owner, what more can one ask for than a puppy who is highly likely to go through life free from the genetic problems his parents were screened for?

What about rescues, you ask? Why can’t I just go buy a dog from a shelter?
Oh, you can, you absolutely can. In fact, if you find a dog that suits your life and your home perfectly, I truly hope you do. I own two rescue dogs, and while they both had some issues when I got them, I simply could not love them more. They were both purchased as full sized young adults and I knew exactly what I was getting with both of them.  The unknowns are, however, certainly something to think about when considering a rescue. For all I know, my German Shepherd’s sire was severely dysplastic and carried the gene for cataracts and heart problems. I saw no test results to say otherwise. I am taking a risk, but it is a risk I am willing to take if it means giving a loving companion a good home. $200 for a neutered and vaccinated rescue dog is a reasonable price to pay for such a dog. It is very important to recognize, though, that a $200 dog can get MUCH more expensive very quickly if he happens to have one of those preventable diseases a good breeder screens for and eliminates from her program.

What about the “Means well” breeders?
The lady down the street breeds Pugs and she only charges $7-800 while that show breeder I’ll send you to charges $1000 or more. Why should you pay more for the fancy show dogs when clearly the lady down the street is able to produce them for less?

First, they’re not the same dogs. They may be the same breed, but they’re as different as a Sauder table from Walmart and an Amish handcrafted dining set. If the lady down the street isn’t doing the appropriate health testing, the dogs she’s selling are truly no different from a rescue at the pound. Unknown health is unknown health - it doesn’t matter where you buy it. So what on earth makes the lady down the street think her dogs are worth so much? She hasn’t put the proper things into them to make them that expensive (the good breeder spent hundreds of dollars on her health tests). In fact, by charging you so much money, the lady down the street is flat out ripping you off. Would you pay $800 for a dog from the shelter? Would you pay “new”price for a refurbished computer or name brand price for knock-off products just so the person selling it can make more money? Why would you do it for a dog?

By buying a dog from the lady down the street, you’re taking a home away from one at the shelter. The good breeder is producing a completely different “product” that you can’t get at the shelter. The shelter can’t provide proof that a puppy’s parents were both OFA Excellent rated, they won’t tell you that the puppy is genetically free of this disease or that one, and they won’t necessarily take back the puppy in 5 years if you are suddenly unable to keep him. This is what a good breeder produces, and it’s the reason she charges you what she does – to cover her costs. Puppies from good breeders don’t go to shelters, their contract requires it, and if the unthinkable should happen there is a whole network of breeders who will communicate and do everything they can to make sure he makes it back to his breeder or finds a suitable loving home.

It’s all about making educated choices.
When it comes down to it, choosing to buy from a good breeder or from a rescue organization are both excellent choices. Neither choice is “better”, they are apples to oranges of equal merit in the right homes and the right situations. Hopefully, this article will help potential buyers to understand the choices available to them. When we buy a puppy from the "means well” breeder, we are telling her we support what she is doing and we think she should continue. If we take the time to understand that her actions, while meaning well, aren’t in the best interest of our dogs – we can choose to direct our support elsewhere. Instead of berating good breeders for what we perceive to be an attempt to rip us off, we can seek to understand the true value of what they produce; and if it’s right for us, show our support for them by choosing to buy their dogs.

Written by Amanda VerBruggen. 
Please feel free to share with proper citation.

Read another perspective here.
Then, PLEASE read this.  I simply couldn't have said it better myself.


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