The other day I got into a mini-argument on Twitter –well, in 140 characters it’s got to be pretty short — with a dog breeder who extolled the virtues of “hobbyists” as opposed to “professionals.” The tweeter proclaimed that hobbyists breed dogs for love whereas professionals do it for money, making the former preferable to the latter.
To me, the term hobbyist connoted backyard breeder, someone who just wants to make a buck off their unspayed pup and is clueless about the breed. In contrast, my sense of a professional was someone who cares about the dogs, who becomes an expert at knowing a breed’s particular health issues, etc.
So, feeling cantankerous, I challenged the tweeter, saying professionals were preferable.
And got blasted back. Among other things, I was told that it was a slippery slope from professional (read: for profit) breeder to puppy mill, that many professionals were more interested in producing show dogs than in producing healthy ones. Browsing around various websites, I discovered that several of my favorite bloggers, those who are interested in ethical issues such as breed rescue, described themselves as hobbyists.
I hate being wrong and I especially hate having to admit it in public. But I want to maintain credibility (not to mention good karma). So mea culpa.
I think. Because I still don’t know enough about the issue. I’m looking for two breeders, one self-described professional and one hobbyist, to write guest blogs for me. Yes, that’s an invitation to contact me if you’re interested.
In the meantime, I do know some things, including what to look for in a reputable breeder — whether hobbyist or professional. The following is adapted from — shameless self-promotion alert — Am I Boring My Dog.
Before you choose a breeder, choose a breed
Because one of the things that makes breeders reputable is their focus on one or, at the most, two breeds– thus allowing them to acquire in-depth knowledge of everything from standard appearance and temperament to health problems — you first need to decide on the breed you’re interested in.
If possible, check out the breed in action
Attending local dog shows and agility trials is a good way to check out different types of dogs in action and to meet breeders. However, these shows–which are not held in every town–don’t give you the chance to make the acquaintance of less peppy and performance-oriented pups.
After you decide on a breed, seek referrals through friends, veterinarians, and groomers. The American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club also offer comprehensive lists of reputable breeders throughout the United States.
Look for someone within easy visiting distance, because no matter how much you trust a referral, you’ll want to check out a breeder’s premises personally.
To be continued. I’ll next discuss what to look for during a visit.
In the meantime, don’t blast me for talking about breeders instead of rescue. In the best of all possible worlds all dogs would be rescued before any more were bred. But we’re not living in an ideal universe, so it’s in the best interest of the dogs as well as of people who love them to discuss the one we’re actually in.