Finding an Ethical Breeder Dog Business today is Big Business -- and every get-rich-quick schemer out there has discovered this and gotten in on the action. The greatest advantage a puppy buyer can have today is knowledge -- knowledge of what constitutes ethical breeding practices so they can begin their search for the perfect pup fully armed. Asking for a full written money-back guarantee is a good start, (see "The Kind of Guarantee You Should Ask For"). A lot of breeders will not give such a guarantee, because they know they aren't breeding temperamentally or genetically sound stock. For those that do give such a guarantee, don't take that as "proof positive" that this is an ethical breeder. Familiarize yourself with the "Dog Breeders Code of Ethics" section. This is the criteria with which the Dog World evaluates its own, and it will work just as well for you. Ask the breeder these questions, wait for their answers, then ask for references. And check the references. If something sounds fishy, find another breeder. Having spoken with dozens of unhappy owners seeking help from us because their own breeder would not (could not?) help them with their genetic or temperament or training problem, I can safely say that the key to success is not to search for the Right Pup, but to search for the Right Breeder. When you've found an ethical breeder, the right pup is sure to follow...
Select a breeder that understands and is honest about the genetic health of the breed. There are over 350 genetic diseases in dogs today, with an average of 10 more being identified each year. If your breeder doesn't know what genetic diseases affect Caucasians today, or if you get the feeling that they are minimizing the threat of it in this breed, find another breeder. Either that breeder is not knowledgeable enough to be breeding, or they are minimizing the threat for their own reasons. There is a very high incidence of Canine Hip Dyplasia (CHD) in the Caucasian Ovcharka -- the parent club, USCOPS, states between 50%-80% of the population is afflicted -- so at a minimum your breeder should be evaluating hip x-rays through OFA or Penn-Hip (not their local vet), evaluating elbows through OFA, and obtaining CERFs (Canine Eye Research Foundation certifications) on their stock BEFORE they breed.
Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a breeder of a rare breed is their access to a healthy gene pool. "Inbreeding Depression" is a series of problems including shortened life-span, reduction in size, and a predispostion towards genetic disease that is found in canines and other species that have a limited gene pool. Inbreeding Depression has already occurred in many well-known breeds of dogs, and is very likely to occur in rare breeds since there is naturally a smaller gene pool to select from. Caucasian breeders that have one or two pairs of breeding dogs are very limited in their selection of breeding stock -- what happens if the sires they have don't complement the dams temperamentally, physically, or genetically? Where do they go? Most of the time, these breeders breed what they have, just because that's all they have. This is how poor breeding decisions are made, and how breeds are ruined. For rare breeds, select a breeder that has multiple sires and dams to chose from, and who is pairing their breeding stock to improve on the parents. No dog is perfect, and each dog has some areas where improvement could be made. An ethical, knowledgeable, breeder will be intimately familiar with the faults of their breeding stock, and should pair a sire and dam which will complement and improve on each other in order to produce pups which are better than the sum of the parents. Make sure your breeder is able to describe and defend why this pairing will improve on the parents, and not just increase the population of the breed.
The final thing to keep in mind when selecting a breeder is experience. No matter how ethical a breeder is, if they don't truly understand how to evaluate the temperament of the prospective dam/sire, then their ability to make effective decisions on breeding pairs is seriously hampered -- as is their ability to help you as a puppy owner with your questions/issues/concerns. The Caucasian Ovcharka is far too aggressive of a breed for the inexperienced or unknowledgeable to attempt to breed. Much like with the handling of dynamite, inexperience can lead to disaster: An unknowledgeable or inexperienced breeder can make poor breeding decisions that will result in unstable temperaments in the pups -- a time-bomb, waiting to explode. We have seen fear aggressive and dominance (owner) aggressive Caucasians (the two worst kinds of temperament problems) used extensively in breeding programs in the U.S. and Canada, all through ignorance. Only decades of hands-on experience in dog breeding, training, rehabilitation, and canine behavioral modification can enable a breeder to effectively evaluate a Caucasian’s temperament, instincts, and training ability, and select a mate that will enhance and improve upon that dog. Breeding in this age has become far more than putting two dogs together. It has become a Science. And achieving excellence in this science doesn’t just require great breeding stock — it requires knowledge, the kind of knowledge that must be gained through experience. Select a breeder with sufficient background and experience to support you with sound advice over the entire lifetime of your pup.
The Kind of Guarantee You Should Ask For
Your Caucasian pup should come with a written, 100% money-back, lifetime temperament and genetic health guarantee that does not require the return of the dog to invoke the guarantee. A guarantee that requires the return of the afflicted animal is no guarantee at all. Breeders who offer this kind of guarantee know that you will not part with your beloved family pet to collect on the guarantee, so they look good without having to deliver. Breeders should believe in their breeding program, and should back it with a guarantee that does not require the return of the pet, but only a letter from your veterinarian. (We recommend that breeders use an implanted microchip for positive identification of the dog during the veterinary examination.) Sadly, too few breeders today believe enough in their breeding program to put their money where their mouth is! (We had one gentleman tell us that over the past two years, he has contacted over 70 breeders of various guardian breeds, and not one of them had this guarantee!) Ask your breeder what their guarantee is -- if it doesn't match this criteria, find another breeder.
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