Why There Will Always Be Back Yard Breeders- “I have seen the enemy, and he is us”

Posted: June 12, 2013 in "Best Practices", "Don't give up on that dog", At Home with dogs., Canine Well-Being, Choosing a German Shepherd., Dog training Research & Development, German Shepherd

Recently, a certain Facebook page has been a battle zone because an individual posted questions about breeding her German Shepherd.  The poster was obviously new to the idea, uneducated, and woefully unready for the task ahead. I’m not saying she was “unworthy”, but that’s the way the boards took it. As can be expected,  she got flamed by several hundred people from every strata of the dog community.  Many of the comments were heated, many were unprofessional, many were quite correct.  What was accomplished?  Absolutely nothing of value.  I’m positive that it will be her last post on what is the largest and most popular German Shepherd page on Facebook, but I think we’ve once again shot ourselves in the proverbial foot.  Here’s why:

Every professional breeder of dogs stands by their dogs as “The Finest”, “Exclusive”, “Best Temperament”, ” German Lines”,  “We sell to the US Military” or some such other claim, whether true or not so…And we ask some fairly high prices for our product.  Which is fine.  If an individual will pay $30,000.00 US Dollars for one of your dogs, more power to you.  That’s wonderful.  And I’m not going to ask anyone to stop pushing that envelope…If you can get a Million Bucks for a dog, Yippeee!!!  I’d take it in an instant.  By my crude calculation, we will have cornered 0.00002% of the Canine buying market that can afford those prices.  I know as well as you that breeding and caring for a new batch of puppies from a fine pedigree is NOT a huge money-making scheme with the overhead involved.  Veterinary bills, food, kenneling, and other sundry expenses eat profits like potato chips.  If we sold our dogs for too little, we’d be paying people to take puppies.  Too much, and we’d have no facility to properly keep them.  You’d end up on an episode of “Hoarders” or the local 6 ‘o clock news.  Therein begins the problem…

We all get on Facebook, or our websites and extol the virtues of our German Shepherds.  We do all the right things for them, and  produce beautiful, well performing, temperate dogs.  Then we charge $2000.00 for a pup.  Untrained.  For many prospective buyers, that’s pretty steep.  Especially if the buyer is NOT interested in PSA, or Schutzhund, or any other discipline.  They just want a family dog.  But,  “$2000.00??!”   they’ll moan.  “Well I can find a German Shepherd in the newspaper for $100.00!”  And they’re right.  Because there’s a market for them.  Yes, those dogs aren’t fit for breeding, working, or many times, trusting. However, outside of our collective of serious, professional breeders, trainers, and handlers, there’s a lot of customers waiting.  And there are, and always will be, less than concerned people who are willing to do volume business over anything resembling improvement of the breed.  These people skip the overhead, feeding the cheapest “food” they can find, skipping veterinary care, proper whelping facilities, and socialization.  Proper care?  Fat chance when they  have 10 litters on the ground…Some of these even have the temerity to register their litters with AKC.  To a large part of the population, “AKC Registered” means much more than it deserves.  It’s nothing to BYB or Puppy mills but a “Selling Feature”…

There will always be people to whom a “German Shepherd”, (or any other breed) is a status symbol, or a weapon in untrained hands.  They give no regard to the fact that some of us value the quality of our dogs.  They don’t care if we ridicule them on Facebook either.  What can we do about it?  Not much. Trying to stop them with legislation doesn’t work.  Ever seen those signs around schools that declare a “Drug-free, Gun-free Zone”?  Yeah, I’ll bet those signs made every parent of a child  in that Connecticut Grade school feel safe too…It’s the same effect.

We, as protectors of the breed, could also use some lessons in diplomacy.  When people ask uninformed or outright ignorant questions, it does NO GOOD to flame them out, and tell them that  they’re idiots.  They WILL find a dog somewhere, and the cycle begins again.  Frankly, I don’t know how to stop substandard breeders and their ragged product.  Give Well-Bred dogs away?  Not Likely.  Lower our prices?  Not practical or advisable.  Hunt down and eliminate back yard breeders? Torch the puppy mills?  Enjoy prison.  Some of them have great dog training programs for inmates.   Legislate spaying and neutering for every dog that doesn’t meet a “Standard”?   Just whose standard shall we use???

I’m convinced that the only thing we can do, is educate, educate, educate.  Calmly.  Professionally.  Thoroughly.  Train our dogs well, and use every opportunity to show the interested the how and why of our well-bred dogs.  For those who have the means, find a young person that would love a dog, but may not have the means, and make an apprentice out of them for a couple of hours a week.  Everybody wins in that situation.  There has to be more ways to encourage preservation of the great dogs, than just the petty warfare so often found on the internet.  The real effort may be in the losing of EGO among some of us…Every Facebook page, and every forum has several “EXPERTS” only too happy to spew vitriol at anyone they deem unworthy.  Who died and made them God?  I don’t know, but I do know that we, and the breed, will lose this war if we don’t find a more effective way of causing change.

  1. Vicki Gresser says:

    Interesting article and there is a lot,of truth there but rescue’s are not the only,one with dodgy temperaments some of those $1500 To $2000 dollar dogs from reputable breeders can just as easily have bad temperaments and there are breeders who refuse to acknowledge it in their lines, just as there are some lovely rescues with lovely temperaments.

  2. david reeve says:

    great article and true. ive always said research research research… and you cut the chances of messing up.

  3. Laura says:

    So well put. But I think if we start with fixing laws on number of litters allowed, thats a start. If breeders or anyone was only allowed 4 litters a year max, and no matter if you have 40 dogs or 100. You have only 4 litters. That is the owner of the dog. The dog also may not have a litter before they are OFA certified. If they are not OFA certified then they cant breed them till they are 7 years old.Same with males. You dont breed them till they have an OFA certification, that way they are done over the age of 2 years.
    The reason 4 litters 5 max is that from birth to 8 weeks is 40 weeks for 5 litters of time needed to socialize the pups. over that, how can you say the pups are being well taken care of unless being checked on.
    Then EVERY dog, pup bought sold and traded must have a microchip before it is in new home. If it stay with breeder, it must be by 12 weeks. That no Veterinarian clinic or hospital is allowed to take in any animals with out a microchip. The information on the chips will be done by the breeder, with breeders information. Number of dogs they have owner, years they have had puppies, number of puppies they have produced.Where are her old dogs now.These people breed, collect retired champions, didnt do any of the work, the anxiety of loosing and winning, the time in the training.
    Great breeders raise their dogs, love their dogs and have a bond. People that see their dogs litters dropping from 6 a litter to 2, they go out and throw away the dog and replace it. so sad.
    If a dog comes into humane society, the breeder is called and they have to pay the fees. Then they can go after the person who lost the dog.
    There must be a site that lists breeders, the names of their dogs they have, how many litters they have had, when they started breeding, what tests they have done. I my self have started with rotties and have ACD’s since 1988 I have only had 25 litters, have kept from these litters 15 to keep the bloodlines improving.I have NEVER missed a birth, and All are born inside the house, not in a she, not in a barn, not in a kennel, in my whelping box.NEVER had a litter with Parvo. Strict rules work for honest breeders, but not for those in it for money.
    They need to grade breeders, the breeders that show thir dogs, take them to shows, go into the ring with their own dogs.. get the highest praise. Those who go out and buy only retired champions so they can just start breeding.

  4. Nancy Grosglass says:

    Very well written editorial.

    I only have rescue dogs now. I had a similar experience recently with a rescue page and small rescue. I paid the adoption fee for a 2 yr old American Bully female. I was told she got along with female dogs, but not males. Since I had bully experience, I brought her home. Found out immediately that she really didn’t like female dogs either.

    I brought her into the house and my other dogs were separated from her in another room. This girl broke my leather leash and attacked my 86 lb female GSD. I didn’t think I would get them apart! This happened twice with the second attack completely out of the blue. They had been getting along after a couple weeks of introduction tho my GSD was very wary of her. The 2nd attack was much worse resulting in a trip to the vet for my GSD.

    I stayed in daily contact (from day 1) with the rescue discussing whether or not I could keep the bully. I told them I was NOT going to endanger my other dogs to save one. They assured me twice they would give my adoption fee back if I brought her back to them. (4 hour drive one way)
    I took her back after a month. They told me they didn’t have the money with them at the time. I said no problem, mail me a check. When I got back home, they had unfriended me on fb and sent me a nasty email stating I had mistreated the dog and they had video to prove it. They took the video after they got her home but I never saw it. They said she shyed away when approached with a leash.

    I was shocked and appalled. I have never, EVER in my life mistreated a dog. When I went to the group page and asked a few questions, (politely, I might add) I was crucified! They told me I was ridiculous for wanting my adoption fee back. I told them I was planning on finding another dog to rescue with that same fee. That they had told me they would give it to me. I was called some terrible names and banned from the group. Not once did I say hateful things to them, yet several of them were just firing hate filled comments at me.

    After having Am Staffs several years back and losing them all to cancer, then this farce with the APBT rescue, I will not own a bully again. The pairings the BYBs have and the resulting unstable pups are just too much of a risk.

    I rescued my GSD when she was 2 and she’s now 11. She had been abused by a man and she bonded with me immediately. Unfortunately she has had to have some cancer removed and is going to have to go back in a week or so for another growth. If anyone has some holistic ideas on how to keep the cancer at bay, I would greatly appreciate the feed back.

    I’ve owned several different breeds over the course of my 50 some years, but I can say I will never, ever be without a GSD. I had 2, but I let my ex keep the Czech male. He cost me $2500. and I couldn’t get the papers from the breeder. I told him I could fill the transfer out myself. When I got home and couldn’t read the language on the transfer I asked for his assitance in filling them out. That would have cost me another $500.00. For heaven’s sake. He never said that in the beginning. Later I found out he had screwed over the police dept’s. in the surrounding area as well, and soon after he started importing Dobes instead. Needless to say, I had my male neutered anyway.

    I’m sorry this is so long. It just goes to show that the buyer should beware no matter who the breeder is. It’s just so sad we honest people have to be so leary because of all the crooks out there just making a buck.

    I know not everyone is the same and there are honest people out there. I’m one of them. It continually shocks me when I come across the liars. All I can do is shake my head.

    I love this group. I love your pages. Your stories make me cry at the abuse and laugh with joy at the good stories. I only wish I had the money to save several of them. So many so far away in Cali and Tx.

    Keep up the good work. You folks are amazing!

  5. Maggie says:

    I bought a beautiful GS from a backyard breeder. She was the smartest and the most beautiful GS I have ever had and I have had a total of 5. We had to put her to sleep at the age of 6 months because she was born with kidney problems and, therefore, developed kidney failure. I believe this was all due to overbreeding. I never got my money back, we still cry for Khaleesi, and I hope Karma catches up to him. I have remained with my chihuahua and I can’t even think of having another GS. Just too traumatized.

    • Robert says:

      I am so sorry for your loss, and the way it turned out. Like you, I am a lover of every breed, and I sincerely hope that your little chee-hooey-hooey is with you for many happy years!!!

  6. A well-written article. Thank you.

  7. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for this post! My family is like what you just described. We want a GSD but don’t have the funds for a $2000 puppy. I have no interest in confirmation or schlitzhund but do want a dog who’s parents are OFA certified. I’m worried about the potential of a backyard bred dog that’s $300..Sure they’re AKC registered but what does that mean anymore… But what do you do when there seems to be no middle ground?

  8. I was a GSD breeder for many years in Canada. Bred dogs with good hips and elbows good temperaments. LIve in an area where we could ride out TW’s over mountains and swim rivers.always took 3 to five dogs with us males and females together.for 5 to 25 mile rides. We showed did obedience and tiled our dogs. I carefully screened prospective buyers of my puppies (maybe a litter or less a year).Spent a lot of time educating buyers many became long time friends. I did turn people away that were “lookin” for a mean dog” some people you just can’t fix.Educate and mentor beginners You as breeders have a vast store house of knowledge share it with the “newbies” we all were there at one time. I know.I’m going to get some flack but it really saddens me to see the GSD’s with such EXTREME rears it is a wonder they an stand up all for the “side gait” Is that all the breed has been reduced to!?

  9. Andrew Munden says:

    Well said! Whats wrong with informing people on what is involved inbreeding? Do it nicely and they may either change their mind or do it properly…flame them and you’ve lost them for good…

  10. Willimien WJ says:

    what is worse… a ‘backyard breeder’ or a irresponsible registered breeder? Some registered breeders also does not always comply to the rules. Breeding with dogs that should never be bred with, and still charge a fortune for a pup with parents where one of them (or both?) have health and/or other problems in their line, and then just conceal or lie about it. BBC had a very interesting documentary about irresponsible breeding of pedigree dogs (Pedigree dogs exposed – worth watching) For me as the customer wanting a pet, no matter from whom I buy my pup, the heartache is the same if my pup/dog has health or other problems that could (should?) have been avoided.

  11. Very well said–thanks! No one ever changed their ways because someone else called them a stupid idiot (or worse) or screamed at them either in person or from a page. The only way to cause change is to “become the change”–lead by example, and gently coax others to follow. Oh, yeah, that is a lot like the approach we use in training a puppy. 🙂

  12. Tracey says:

    Great article. Well written
    Since you are the well informed, what would you suggest someone who is looking for a family dog do? If your not going to breed or show a dog, where can you get a GSD for a more reasonable price?
    My family has had 2 GSD’s. one female rescue from an abusive home and my boy who was my heart. I lucked out and got him from a breeder who was suffering from burn out.
    Our home is empty without my furry children, but I don’t have an extra 2000 dollars lying around the house. I have no desire to have any other breed of dog. I’m sure you understand why I feel that way.
    Any advice you have is appreciated.

    • dh says:

      Tracey contact some breeders, put what you are looking for out there to dog people. Not every pup in a litter is going to make a show dog or have the drive for a working dog. Most breeders would love to see a pup go into a loving home first and foremost Be honest with them of your plans even if it’s a couch potato you are looking for. You might get a few that will blow you off, but more than likely you will find many, that might not have what you are looking for, but know someone that does.

  13. Nancy Stinson says:

    Well said!

  14. Nan says:

    Very well said. It is not the first time things like this happen on the page you write about. A lot of good people have left because of being attacked when asking for advice. There is a way to say things to try and help the person looking for advice. There are many other GS pages on facebook where people are there to lend a hand instead of hiding behind a computer acting like a know it all bully.

  15. fantastic article and well put!

  16. Debra H says:

    Well said and very true. Educate and offer guidance, or we as a group will lose in the end.

  17. jacki says:

    yes my lady is beautiful….yes my lady is sweet, kind, compassionate,….but to endorse the breed not at all, she has allergies, which I would never wish to share, even to the most un-educated person walking….I personally would prefer to improve the breed not give off a cheap pup, who un-informed will take them on…and no doubt continue to pass on bad genetics’….I for one would prefer the breed to go from strength to strength and produce the best GSD for future generations to ejoy, whether they want to breed, show or just want to have a healthy family pet

  18. Rachel says:

    Very well written. As someone above mentioned I have seen it with raw feeders too who will refuse to consider anything other than a proper raw diet to ever feed their dog, even if that dog has special needs. I have been lucky enough to be seen as an “expert” (though I do not feel I am one) and have been able to patiently educate people that to breed their dogs because they love them, or because they think it will be cool is not the best idea. I have changed several minds by telling them that it is very expensive, and to do it properly to be sure of healthy puppies they should health test before breeding, that xrays during pregnancy are expensive, that they can loose the dam, that each of several visits to the vet can be several hundred dollars even if everything goes smoothly. There are costs in cropping or docking if you have certain breeds, and dewclaws in most breeds. The dog can require an emergency C-section, she may reject the puppies and you have then maybe 12 or 16 puppies that you are feeding every 2 hours around the clock which with a large litter may wind up being pretty much constantly! After hearing that they quickly changed their mind! It was a case of simply not realizing everything that went with it. I never told them not to breed, they figured that out all on their own and decided to leave it to the “pro’s”.

  19. You know, if a person so much as COMES to an expert website looking to learn, they have taken a major step – one that shows they would LIKE to learn and are WILLING to learn. New people into any endeavor do not know HOW MUCH they do not know (I see it with people buying a horse wo do not know the difference between hay and straw.) We must be kind to them, encourage them and do our best not to criticize.

  20. Diana Lovejoy says:

    I personally don’t think all the great representatives of a breed, any breed are solely in the hands of professional handlers, show kennels, etc. I have seen many fine GSD dogs produced by back yard breeder; and some of those pups went on to become working dogs, and show dogs. You don’t have to be a dog show enthusiast to own a great dog, for show or work, and some people do. Perhaps someone should have offered to evaluate this lady’s dog for type and temperament,suggested hip x-rays to rule out dysplasia. Someone honest who if the dog was truly breed worthy would tell her so, and maybe offer a stud service. In my opinion the GSD has been ruined, to angulated, they look crippled, unable to do the job they were bred for; but I no longer own GSD, and when I did they wre family pets, helped my raise my children, herded my cattle
    and gave me great companionship: but they would have been laughed out of the show ring.

  21. […] There Will Always Be Backyard Breeders" Fantastic article! worth a read…. Why There Will Always Be Back Yard Breeders- “I have seen the enemy, and he is us” | Ger… […]

  22. Amanda says:

    VERY well said!!!

  23. Valerie Lynn Diaz says:

    I was one of those backyard breeders back in 1975, and had it not been for a responsible breeder who took me under her wing, instead of telling me how terrible I was, I’d probably never would have learned the valuable lessons of producing and protecting the breed. My breed was not Gsd, but that does not matter. We need to educate everyone in the purebred dog world one backyard breeder at a time. Yes ego does have to take a break at times.

  24. lynne says:

    Two of my best obedience dogs have been backyard breeder dogs, raised in a loving family home and spoiled rotten by the families. They have been great pups. I would feel much more endangered buying from an American show line breeder where the dogs are bred for extreme angulation and not alot more. I have also had three dogs from Germany, two bred by Ernie Loeb, and they have been great dogs too. I think to condemn “backyard” breeders as a group is wrong! I have never and will never breed a GSD because of the difficulties of finding proper homes for this breed…… my dogs are pets and obedience and have been been since the 70’s…… I have paid from zero to $2000 for Shepherds and the only big thing I notice is that in my German dogs I have had no hip or shoulder problems…as to be bred in Germany a dog must pass Schutzhund and confirmation…

    • Jennifer says:

      You’re condemning the show dogs – which you should, I agree – but I’m getting the sense that this is directed more at the American bred working dogs, who don’t seem to have QUITE as bad the standard of angulation as the American-bred confirmation dogs.

      As a trainer that works with several breeders, my definition of “back yard breeder” is probably a lot different than everybody else’s. I define a backyard breeder as someone who breeds dogs to sell. I know a breeder I consider a backyard breeder who has nearly thirty five dogs on her property, I know a breeder I consider a reputable breeder who has less than a dozen. Number or dogs does not matter.

      The lady with the large facility does not DO anything with her dogs. She produces litters, sells them, and produces more. Her kennel is not a puppy mill by any stretch of the imagination – her dogs are taken care of incredibly well, and thought and time go into each breeding. But she does not show her Aussies unless I press her to send one of them. She does not herd with them. She does not do obedience. Ergo, her dogs are being bred for one purpose and one purpose only – income. Even though she’s breeding to get a certain kind of dog, she’s not sending the dog to show to have others confirm she’s making the right breeding choices. I took one of her puppies to the show in Perry, GA last April, and the dog wouldn’t even respond to sheep. It was a sobering moment.

      The small breeder, on the other hand, is precisely the opposite. He has a maximum of three or four litters a year. Each breeding is agonized over, to ensure each bitch is sent to the correct stud. His dogs are all AKC champions – but more importantly, all of the vizslas and German shorthaired pointers in his breeding program are MASTER Hunters. They all hunt – some more than others – but they’re all titled to prove that they can. He is breeding dogs to do a job – and then selecting puppies based on whether or not they are correctly conformed to do their job and then actually DO it. Bam, reputable breeder.

      I’ve heard all kinds of excuses from people for breeding their dogs. I don’t know when it became fashionable or a status symbol to be a dog breeder, but that’s really what it comes down to. The author is right. Until we can educate the public enough about what it means to be a breeder, what “pure breed” means, and WHY reputable breeders breed dogs the way they do, there will always be backyard breeders and puppy mills. I think we need to ask our friends over in Europe what they’re doing right, because you rarely hear about this issue coming out of Germany – instead, they have kept the integrity of their breeds intact.

  25. This was articulated very well Robert, and I agree with you, education is key. The other thing I’d like to see would be an alliance between responsible breeders and rescues, but that sadly, will probably never be. At the end of the day, most people do not take hard line stances on much of anything so if you really want to educate you have to be willing to bend and compromise a little, which neither side of this equation seems ready to do. Maybe someday though…

  26. jane says:

    educate,educate, educate…some people need to be spoon fed information while others learn to do their own research. Breeders get frustrated trying to educate the ignorant and have better things to do than spend their time on a fb page arguing with those that like to take shortcuts and won’t invest time or $ to do it right.

  27. LM Duke says:

    I really appreciate this thoughtful article. Committed breeders are critical to the survival of this wonderful breed. Rescues will sadly also be necessary to deal with those that should never own a GSD and the ravages of the cavalier breeding practices. I have seen some of the unpleasantry you describe you on GSD pages before and it makes me cringe. In this case, an opportunity for a refined, thought provoking conversation was lost and instead of helping this lady to make a more informed decision, I suspect she left angry and will never be back. Particularly sad as she cared enough to ask. The “experts” often are condescending and it’s their way or no way. Just watch questions about feeding – I saw a person so into raw food that she almost took the head off of a person that dared to mention that they feed kibble. The internet has not done much to promote civility – a lot of people hide behind computer screens and act like bullies. It’s a real shame.