Category Archives: Finding a Dog

How Much Is That Doggy In The Advert?

What should a dog cost?

This is the question I am wrangling with today; what is the value of a dog?  Fortunately, the days of a dog being ‘free to a good home’ are gone, on the whole; we value our dogs too much to let them go lightly.  In fact if you ever see an advert for a dog that is free, please advise that person that the dog may be scooped up and used as bait for dog fighting, sadly.

Generally though, you should expect to pay for a dog.  It would be lovely to think that the more you pay, the more valuable the dog, but sadly that is definitely NOT the case.  If you pay a vast sum of money for a dog, you are probably being conned. So what should you pay?

Pedigree puppies

Here is an example of some prices for pedigree puppies:

  • Border Collie – £850
  • Great Dane – £1100
  • German Shepherd – £950
  • Cavalier King Charles – £1200
  • Cocker Spaniel – £900
  • Labrador – £850
  • Pug – £1250
  • French Bulldog – £2000
  • Bulldog – £2250

This perfectly demonstrates that the ‘breeds of the moment’ cost more than breeds that have been popular for a long time.  Those which have been around a while will be bred by responsible breeders, whereas the popular breeds may well be imported or bred by those doing it for commercial reasons.

Crossbreed puppies

  • Labradoodle – £600
  • Cockapoo – £400
  • French Bulldog x pug – £650
  • Staffie cross – £400
  • Chugs – £750
  • etc

I wish I hadn’t looked at this – it’s so depressing!  Monsters being created.  If you mix a toy breed with a terrier, what do you get?  Something that sits quietly on your lap, or something that runs off after rabbits?  If it’s cute and fluffy and looks a bit like a wolf then guess what? It might grow up to be like a wolf!

Why do pedigree dogs cost more?

I know I go on about it all the time, but the reason is simple: pedigree dogs are bred on purpose to be healthy, happy, perfect examples of their breed.  Not just “I’ve got two dogs, wonder what will happen if I let them mate?”  Pedigree breeders have to find a suitable, health tested sire for their litter.  They pay to have their dog health tested.  They make sure that they have suitable whelping facilities. They feed their bitch expensive food to supplement her diet.  They health test the puppies.  They make sure they are microchipped. They spend time socialising their puppies and helping them to grow into confident dogs.  They provide a puppy pack, with guidance and support to the new owners…  And above all, you know EXACTLY what you are getting!

Rescue puppies/dogs

I looked on the Battersea Dogs Home site and it says:

Our rehoming fee is £135 for dogs (over six months) or £165 for puppies (under six months). The cost includes a full veterinary and behavioural assessment, microchipping, initial vaccinations, a collar, identification tag and lead.

Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? It might be cheaper, but it’s not necessarily easier.  You will definitely be vetted, with a home visit.  You might not qualify, if you have other dogs, or young children, or you work full time, or you have a cat, or your garden is not secure…

You will definitely be doing a good thing, having a rescue dog, but you may get more than you bargained for!  I would definitely say, don’t get a rescue dog because it is cheaper!

Top tips regarding the price of dogs

  1. Please don’t have a breed or type of dog just because everyone seems to have one?  Try and decide on a particular dog on its own merit?
  2. Please don’t be determined to get a certain ‘look’ or colour?  An unusual colour might mean the dog is not what you think it is!
  3. Please don’t think that the more expensive a dog is, the more valuable it is?  It might just be that people are jumping on the (French Bulldog) bandwagon and realising they can charge more because everyone wants one.
  4. Please try and take account of the way a dog has been raised and the care that has been lavished on it?  That is the true value of a dog.

Ask for help?

Yet another area with different issues!  Fortunately there is plenty of help available.  If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page.  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

What type of dog should you have?

What dog will best suit you?

Where do you start when choosing a dog for the first time? It’s such a minefield. The Kennel Club lists over 200 pedigree breeds of dog and of course these day there are numerous crossbreeds to add to the confusion. I think we should start by considering what we should NOT be thinking about.

What should you NOT consider when choosing a dog?

In my opinion (humble or otherwise) you should NOT start your search for your best friend thinking about:

  • Cuteness – puppies are cute, dogs not so much
  • Ugliness – oh it’s so ugly – bulgy eyes, snuffley nose, wrinkly skin; all equals unhealthy
  • Cuddliness – do you want a dog, or a stuffed toy? Or a cat? Lots of dogs HATE being cuddled
  • Fashion – just because everyone else has one, does NOT make it the right dog for you

Types of dog

What are the criteria for choosing a dog?  The Kennel Club categorise dogs into 7 different Breed Groups.  This is for showing pedigree dogs, but I think it’s an interesting place to begin.

The groups are as follows:

  1. Gundogs – eg Spaniels.  Dogs originally trained to find and retrieve game.
  2. Working – eg Schnauzers. These are mainly used for guarding and include the Boxer, Great Dane and St Bernard.
  3. Pastoral – eg Border Collies.  These are herding dogs, usually working with cattle, sheep, reindeer etc.
  4. Toy – eg Bichon Frise. Companion or lap dogs.  Not all small dogs are toy dogs, some are terriers for example – there is a difference!
  5. Utility – eg Poodles.  These are breeds of a ‘non-sporting origin’, including the Bulldog, Dalmatian and Akita
  6. Terrier – eg Bedlington.  Dogs used for hunting vermin. Brave and tough
  7. Hound – eg Beagle. Breeds used for hunting by scent or by sights.  Also includes Greyhounds.

Straight away, there are all sorts of difficulties.  A breed might be small, but is not a ‘toy’ breed.  It might be a terrier, but be really big, such as an Airedale terrier.  The Utility group in particular is described as being a varied group of miscellaneous breeds!  So it’s not really much use to us when thinking about the kind of dog we want.  However, don’t dismiss it completely, as it will give you an indication of the type of work the dog was originally intended for and therefore what drives its behaviour.

Other ways of defining dogs

What kinds of criteria are we actually going to have when choosing a dog?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Size – definitely a key point to consider.  These days, people tend to live in fairly small spaces.  We usually live in a town or a city and we don’t have a big garden.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have a dog, just that we need to be aware of how that animal will fit into the space available.  One dog will pretty much fit anywhere though, so it does start off with your personal preference.  It’s not so much about how big they are, as how active they are.
  • Activity – some dogs really do need more exercise than others.  Having said that, ALL dogs need exercise, just as we do ourselves.  They all need to go outside to toilet, and they really do need to have the mental stimulation of a walk.  Even toy dogs need this!  However, toy dogs and a fair number of other breeds, manage perfectly well with a small amount of exercise, which with today’s busy lifestyles can only be a good thing.  Surprisingly, Greyhounds do NOT need masses of long walks; they are sprinters, so generally spend their time pootling about.  Similarly, very large dogs, such as Great Danes, do not benefit from long walks.
  • Hair – a key criteria for many people.  I think many people have had experience of a Labrador, where the whole house is covered in hair.  They are classified as a ‘shedding’ breed, which means that their short coat is continually being replaced (and therefore ‘shed’ all over the place!)  People seem to consider this to be a major drawback with having a dog.  Personally, with today’s hard floors and efficient vacuum cleaners, I cannot see why it is a problem.  There are many other drawbacks to dog ownership and I don’t think this is the worst!  Other breeds might ‘moult’; this is when the coat comes out all at once, usually once or twice a year, eg Border Collies.  You can make a replacement dog from the hair at these times, but it’s only for a few weeks.

I think it is worth highlighting here that if a dog doesn’t shed or moult, they will need to be clipped.  This is a regular, lifetime requirement and costs money!  Of course you can learn to do it yourself but either way, the coat requires regular maintenance.  Moulting and shedding dogs’ coats are generally self-maintaining.  You obviously need to check them over regularly, but you shouldn’t have to spend a great deal of time and money looking after their coat.

  • Temperament – this is really the heart of you thinking about your dog and what you want from it.  Do you want to cuddle it?  Many breeds of dog do NOT like to be cuddled.  You should find that a well-bred puppy raised in a sympathetic environment will enjoy sitting on the sofa with you, but this is by no means guaranteed.  Toy dogs have been specifically designed to be picked up and carried around, but remember this does not include all small dogs.  Equally, some large dogs really love a snuggle, but just because it is hairy doesn’t mean it likes you in its face.  An Afghan Hound would be a good example of that kind of dog.
puppy reunion
Happy boy! Mowgli
  • Trainability – some dogs are easier to live with than others!  People believe that because Border Collies are intelligent that means they are easy to train, but it is not quite that simple… If you don’t need a dog that can read :p, turn left or right on a word command or need you to do something with it for several hours a day, don’t get a collie.
  • Health – it’s a bit worrying that this is so far down the list, but there you go, it’s not the most important aspect of choosing a dog, in most people’s view.  People think that pedigree dogs are unhealthy compared with crossbreeds, or mongrels, but in fact the opposite can be true.  Responsible, pedigree dog breeders are working extremely hard to produce the best dogs possible and to breed out anything that can be tested for.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Different Types of Breeder

What is the right kind of breeder?

KC-Approved_BS_p2617

I’ve just received confirmation that I have passed my assessment to retain my Assured Breeder Status with the Kennel Club; all measures marked as ‘satisfactory’ (the top mark) and no required improvements recommended.  I am very proud to remain as a member of this accredited scheme and believe that it demonstrates breeding to the highest standard.  However, not all breeders ‘need’ to meet this standard.

What other kinds of breeder are there?  I found this great article on the Junior Bulldog Club website.

Pet Breeder

This is by far the most common type of breeder.  Someone who just fancies having a litter from their dog.  They probably own less than four dogs.  They have a limited range of knowledge and expect everything to be easy.  This breeder wants to keep a pup from their dog and thinks that the rest will go to family and friends.

Being a pet breeder is fine if things go according to plan.  Unfortunately, ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’ as they say and many challenges can occur.  Ideally, such breeders will enlist the help of an experienced breeder, to act as a mentor.  I have been lucky enough to have a number of experienced breeders engaged in supporting me over the years and have learnt a great deal from them.

If you fancy having a go, Please CONTACT ME to discuss this first?

Hobby/Show Breeder

This is actually how I would classify myself.  Someone who has less than 10 dogs (I’m working on it!) and has around 1-2 litters per year.  We breed because we are looking to demonstrate skill and competence of breeding the highest quality dogs, with health and breed type being extremely important to us.  As the article says:

“They usually voluntary health check their dogs and are active in the canine community whether that being from exhibiting, supporting charitable canine events, education days and may belong on breed committees and sub-committees.  They are actively keeping pace with developments and progression in canine care and will normally actively encourage and engage  new people to the breed and offer assistance and help where possible.”

Puppies from a breeder like this will be advertised on their own website, on breed-only websites or on the Kennel Club.  We usually send our puppies to pet homes, including new dog owners.  Breeders like this will ‘vet’ homes rigorously, so expect to be questioned closely.

“These breeders tend to have a waiting list due to the infrequency of their breeding but you’ll probably benefit significantly by waiting!”

 

Licensed Breeder

This type of breeder takes things seriously.  They breed on a larger scale and will have over 10 dogs.  They will probably keep their dogs in outdoor runs or kennels, or adjacent buildings.

“They will have adhered to various regulations with respect to the living conditions of the dogs they own.”

These breeders are likely to have additional dog-related businesses, such as grooming, boarding kennels  or training classes.  Breeders who take out a license want to do everything well, including health testing.  They will be well-known within dog circles.  They are likely to have a waiting list, but will be able to meet demand, as they have a number of litters per year.  Usually, puppies will be advertised on their own website and the Kennel Club.

A word of caution here. Having a Licence to breed dogs from the local council does not necessarily mean the breeder meets the standards set out by the Kennel Club in the Assured Breeder Scheme.

HIGH VOLUME BREEDER (or puppy farmer)

Number of dogs unknown. The dogs/puppies are classed as ‘stock’ and they breed for profit. They are most likely to sell to the pet market for an above average price due to the demand for the puppies they have. At first glance it may not seem apparent and they can seem reputable. 

Puppies will probably hold all Kennel Club registration papers, although these might be forged, so won’t be given to buyers. NB: if you are buying a PEDIGREE dog you need a registration certificate from the BREED REGISTER, NOT THE ACTIVITY REGISTER. Because their main priority is to make money they need to keep costs low, the question is how?

Look out for some of these signs!

  • Using their own or local stud dogs
  • Having multiple (5+) litters from females (they won’t tell you this, but you can ask)
  • Mating females on consecutive seasons, giving little time for her body to recuperate (they won’t tell you this – ask how many litters the bitch has had)
  • Dogs and puppies are reared on lower quality foods
  • They seem to have a constant supply of puppies because they own many breeding females or selling puppies that other people have reared for them
  • They have no older dogs because they rehome them once they no longer earn them money
  • Cut corners – puppies may not have had full worming treatment or veterinary treatment they required, leading to serious illness and death
  • They may breed only ‘rare’ types e.g. colours or size because they can charge more (they are rare for a reason)!
  • Dogs and puppies lack the voluntary health initiatives and as breeders they have little interest or education on the benefits they will bring
  • They may have multiple other breeds that are easy to breed which will maintain cash flow
  • They are likely to advertise in a lot of ‘free’ pet classified websites for exposure – a Google search of the contact telephone number will always give you a rough idea!

In conclusion

I think this is a great summary of the different types of breeder, so I wanted to share it with you.  The article also talks about ‘pitfalls to avoid’ including buying from imported dogs, breeders ‘boasting’ that their dogs are related to top show dogs.  It talks about avoiding breeders boasting ‘rare coloured bulldogs’.  This applies to all breeds – you may want to have something unusual, but don’t pay a premium for it.  It may be a crossbreed and therefore not actually what you expect it to be.  The article says to avoid ‘flashy’ websites – not many people write as prolifically as me!

Finally, the Junior Bulldog Club website advises caution when looking at the Assured Breeder List.  Prior to the assessment visits, it was possible to become an Assured Breeder just by filling in the form and paying the fee.  This made it easy for a puppy farmer to register.  Nowadays the requirements are much stricter and it is unlikely that a commercial breeder would qualify. 

The article suggests that you should buy from KC Assured Breeders with at least 3 of the accolades available: Breeding Experience (which I have), Kennel Club studbook recognition (which I can’t get as I don’t show my dogs) and Breed Club membership (not desirable for me as I don’t show my dogs). I think that advice is outdated.

Ask for help?

As you can see, it’s a minefield!  Fortunately there is plenty of help available.  If you are buying a puppy, start by looking at the Find a Dog page.  Or if you want to breed, read my Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Rescue or Breeder?

Should you always try to rescue a dog?

Who wouldn’t want an adorable dog like this?  He is lovely and in the right home, can be a huge success.  I have rescued dogs myself (twice, albeit from family members) so I know that it’s a great way to get a dog.  But..

Sticking my neck out here, it’s not perfect.  There are pros and cons to rescuing dogs.  Let’s have a look at a few?

Pros for rescue dogs

  • You are doing a great thing, saving a dog from a ‘horrible’ home.
  • Sometimes dogs are in rescues for unavoidable reasons.  People’s circumstances change – their job, their relationship, their home, their family.  All of these can impact on someone’s ability to keep their dog.  A dog may need a new home because the owner has died – clearly that is a good reason for a dog to go elsewhere.
  • You can get the dog you want, straight away.  If you look hard enough, most dog breeds can be found in rescue.
  • You don’t need to have a puppy, so you don’t have to go through the challenges of house training, coping with chewing and everything else a puppy brings!
  • It’s better to get an adult dog if you work, because it is easier to leave it.

Cons with rescue dogs

  • Rescue centres have stringent vetting processes for people wanting a dog from them.  Often they won’t allow a rescue dog to go to a family with young children, or to a home where the owners work full time.  Or a home with cats.
  • You don’t know what you are getting.  Of course you can usually tell more or less what breed a dog is and how old it is, roughly, but you may not know much else.  Rescue centres are great at providing a history of their dogs, but they may not have been told the full story.  That’s because..
  • People lie.  That lovely young border collie, perfect for agility?  Actually has a physical defect which is causing major pain and lameness.  This might need surgery to correct, which is traumatic for you and the dog, not to mention expensive.  You will then need months of rehabilitation and training to restore fitness and confidence.
  • Dogs have issues.  Dogs that have been mistreated are fearful, which in turn leads to aggression.  This can be with other dogs, or with people, or just with children.  Or with cars, or bikes, or loud noises….  All of these issues can be worked through and progress can be made, but dogs with issues can be irreparably damaged and it may take the patience of a saint to deal with these.
  • Poor behaviour.  Dogs belonging to ‘dog’ people who are familiar with dogs and have owned them for many years are not placed into rescues.  Dogs in rescues have often belonged to people who don’t know what they are doing.  Worse still, they don’t care about their dog enough to train it and manage it well.  So you are taking on those problems and have to undo them before you can start training effectively.  This might be something as simple as persistent barking (very persistent barking!)  But re-training this behaviour can take years.
  • Easy-going, confident, well-behaved dogs are not placed into rescue centres.

It’s difficult isn’t it?  You want to do the right thing and feel that because it’s not the dog’s fault (it’s almost never the dog’s fault) they should be given a second chance.  Still, there are a few keys points you must also bear in mind:

  1. If you rescue a dog, you are condoning its abandonment in the first place.  You are effectively saying “It’s OK if you can’t be bothered to take care of your dog properly, I will do it for you.”  You are accepting the fact that we live in a disposable society where people demand instant gratification and don’t care about the consequences.  As long as rescue centres exist, people will think they can just get rid of their dogs.
  2. Yes of course I know that people get rid of dogs anyway and that rescue centres are run by saints and heroes.   Yes I know that people make honest mistakes and circumstances change.  However, in my experience, people who make honest mistakes are big enough to own up to them and do something positive about it (returning their dog to its breeder, for example) and people whose circumstances change work as hard as they can to find a solution from amongst friends and family.
  3. If ALL dogs were bought from responsible breeders, who were supported by a legislative body that monitored breeding and the welfare of dogs, then people would expect to wait for a suitable dog.  Guidance would be given to buyers about the right kind of dog for their lifestyle.  Breeders would provide good quality dogs of appropriate temperament and health, saving the owners money and psychological anguish.

The reason dogs are NOT all bought from responsible breeders is that demand far outstrips supply.  Responsible breeders cannot breed sufficient dogs, without scaling up their breeding into a commercial enterprise which becomes, yes you’ve guessed it, a puppy farm.

What is the solution?

In my view, the solution is to education the public about dog ownership.  Dogs are not toys.  They might be soft, fluffy and cuddly, or have cute faces, but they are LIVING BEINGS.  They have thoughts, emotions, feelings and opinions.  They are sentient creatures, who deserve a good life.  This means that if you let a dog into your life, you are responsible for its care.  You will need to invest time and energy into managing it and caring for it.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”

My opinion is that we can teach people to be more critical about the place they get their dog from.  If they know what a great dog looks and behaves like, then there is a possibility that they won’t be satisfied with a dog that flinches every time you go near it, or barks constantly.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will happen naturally.  We will probably need the ongoing support of that legislative body I mentioned, the good old Kennel Club.  But I believe that we can do better for our dogs.

Remember..

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.

Buying a puppy – busting some myths

How can I get the healthiest puppy?

Myth No 1: Crossbreeds are healthier

I was asked recently if I knew any ‘Maltipoo’ breeders.  No.  I don’t know any breeders of crossbreeds.  I suggested they bought a Maltese.  Why does it need to have a bit of ‘poo’ in it?  It seems that everyone is obsessed with having a poodle cross, so that there is no dog hair.  That is great, except that you are still going to have mud, wee, poo (actual poo!) and chewing.  You still need to be 100% committed to having a dog and taking care of a LIVING BEING.

I looked up Maltipoo and found the info page on Pets4homes/maltipoo which I thought was really informative.  It lists the health issues for the ‘breed’ along with whether or not these can be tested for.  Crucially, the site says “Today, there are first generation (f1) Maltipoos, second generation, third and fourth generation Maltipoos, but what are considered the healthiest are first generation dogs“.  How will you know which generation you are getting?  For pedigree dogs, the heritage is known, but crossbreed breeders rarely provide that level of information.

It was interesting to read about the health issues for Maltipoos.  The page lists 13 health issues for Maltese, of which only two can be tested to prevent.  Poodles (toy and miniature) have an additional 23 possible health issues, or which only 4 can be tested to prevent.  Wow, I’d be concerned about this, particularly as some of these issues have serious implications for the quality of life of the dog.

By contrast, the page for Pets4homes/Border Collie, lists 8 health issues, ALL of which have health tests available, other than for epilepsy. This means that you are far less likely to have health issues from a PEDIGREE Border Collie.

Myth No 2: I need to see both parents to know if I am getting a good dog

When you are buy from a responsible breeder, you are unlikely to see both parents.  Most pedigree breeders want to have parents that are unrelated, so they are usually owned by different people.  When you are buying a pedigree dog, you can check the health and parentage of the parents before you go and look at the puppies.  So you will know what they are like.  The Kennel club – mate select lists all the registered pedigree dogs with their health tests for you to check.  In addition, for Border Collies we have the Anadune database which gives us a great deal of information.

If an owner has both parents, they are usually a casual breeder who has just thought it would be ‘fun’ to have some puppies.  Often a crossbreed (see above) and often without bothering about available health tests.

Myth No 3: As long as I take it to the vet when I get it, that will be fine

Yes of course you should definitely get your puppy checked over by a vet when you get it.  But that won’t make it healthy!  The vet can tell you whether your puppy has been well raised and nurtured, from a health point of view.  They can give their expert opinion about whether or not it is from good stock.  It might be possible to identify serious health issues, such as a heart defect.  You might then decide to take the dog back to the breeder, who might then sell it on to some other poor sap.

However, it’s already too late for most health issues.  Again, it’s about having the dog bred from healthy parents – that is the crucial factor in determining long-term health.  Many of the issues that will end up costing you money in the long term cannot be identified by the vet at 8 weeks of age.

“We will still love it, even if it has health issues”

OK, that’s fair enough for you.  But what about the poor dog?  You are sentencing it to a life of pain and suffering, because you couldn’t be bothered to buy it from someone who tried to ensure that it would be as healthy as possible.  Not to mention the stress, anxiety and suffering that you will go through alongside your dog, every time it is ill.  Oh and don’t forget the thousands of pounds you could pay in vet’s bills, especially if the insurers can determine that it was a ‘pre-existing condition’.

Anyway, why would you do that?  Why would you choose to buy a dog, without being sure that it is as healthy as it can be?  After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without knowing it was safe to drive, would you?

Remember..

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.

Pedigree or Crossbreed? You decide…

Why would you want a pedigree dog?

When you breed a pedigree dog, you are deliberately choosing to mate one particular dog, with another.  You examine their breed lines and consider their individual characteristics.  I am going to write about choosing a stud dog separately, as this is a whole challenge in itself.  But basically, the breeder decides what kind of dog they want to create.

Personally, I started out by wanting a red and white border collie – Sunny.  Then I wanted to have more red and white dogs, so I found a stud dog who was also red and white (actually Sunny is a chocolate and white, as she is so dark, so that led me down an even more specific path).  The choices I have made since then have created puppies with very particular characteristics.

I can show you many examples of my puppies and dogs and how alike they look.  I can also give you many examples of how alike my puppies are in their temperament.  Because I have so much contact with my puppies, I know that they continue to bear a strong likeness to their parents. Here is just one for you:

Bea

Bea’s dad, Oz

I like this particular example because Oz has such distinctive ears!  And this is a trait he has clearly passed on to his daughter(s)!  If you met these dogs in passing you would struggle to tell them apart, wouldn’t you?  When my friend Jane and I put Luna and her sister Nell together, even we struggle to tell them apart!

If anyone has ever told you that you look just like your parent(s), or that your children are the spitting image of you, then you can go some way towards understanding pedigree dog breeding.

What is a pedigree dog?

Let’s look at a definition:

“A pedigree dog is the offspring of two dogs of the same breed, which is eligible for registration with a recognised club or society that maintain a register for dogs of that description. There are a number of pedigree dog registration schemes, of which the Kennel Club is the most well known.”

The Kennel Club is the organisation responsible for managing the registration of all pedigree dogs in the UK and they also register all dogs whose owners want to take part in dog activities, such as obedience or agility competitions – these dogs can included crossbreeds and dog of unspecified origin.

The Kennel Club start off by setting a breed standard for each pedigree.  The KC website defines a breed standard as follows: “A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.”

In other words, the very definition of a pedigree dog is that it is fit and healthy, with a good temperament and being fit for purpose.  Breed standards then go on to define aspects of each breed in more detail, which for a border collie includes:

Characteristics

Tenacious, hard-working sheep dog, of great tractability.

Temperament

Keen, alert, responsive and intelligent. Neither nervous nor aggressive.

After this, various aspects of their physical appearance are detailed, including such details as:

Tail

Moderately long, the bone reaching at least to hock, set on low, well furnished and with an upward swirl towards the end, completing graceful contour and balance of dog. Tail may be raised in excitement, never carried over back. 

In other words, a ‘pug tail’ would be defined as a fault – that is not what a border collie should look like.  Once these characteristics are defined, breeders can select dogs that they feel are good examples of the breed and put these forward for showing.

You can see from the few details I have given here, that it is not just about looks.  And if you look at the full breed standard, you will see that for Border Collie at any rate, there is a fair amount of variability.  Having said that, of course judges looking at a selection of border collies in a show ring, will always choose:

  • the one they personally like
  • the one closest to ‘the classic look’
  • the one best presented (shiny coat, bright eye, lively gait etc)
  • the one that the public will want to buy

This final point is the heart of it.  What the public want to buy is what drives us to create a pedigree dog in the first place and what drives us to create variability within the breeds.  That is what pedigree breeding is about – creating a dog that suits the owner. 

Predictability is the key

When I put Busy to Sox, I was able to look up on a database – Anadune and see what mix of colours I was likely to get.  This turned out to be pretty accurate; I got my rainbow litter!I also got what I was expecting with regards temperament; Busy and Sox are both pretty chilled, gentle natures, so Ounce (and her siblings) are proving to be just the same, which is what I wanted.

What about crossbreeds?

“A crossbreed generally has known, usually purebred parents of two distinct breeds or varieties.”

In theory then, we are still putting two clearly identified dogs together.  However, we are then introducing far more variability.  If I want all red (or chocolate) puppies, I must use a red and white stud dog.  If I don’t mind other colours, I can use a dog of a different colour.  (And if I want all black and white dogs, I use a black and white stud dog who doesn’t carry colour, which can be tested for.)

If you put a poodle to a labrador, the resulting puppies will have a mix of poodle and labrador.  They will have the brains of the poodle and the curly, non-shedding coat, with the gentle nature of the labrador.

OR

They will have the boisterous, simple nature of the labrador, with its shedding coat and bulky body, together with the sharp wits and yappy barking of the poodle!  It depends which bits get passed on.  Hmm, but that wasn’t what I wanted!  That is what can happen though.  Of course all the variation can be lovely, but if you want something specific, you want a pedigree.  After all, you don’t look exactly like your siblings do you?  Not unless you are an identical twin.  It’s the same for dogs – the more different the parents, the more varied the pups will be.

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