adopting a rescue dog, buying a puppy, Dog Health, General, Responsible Ownership

I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.

This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they’re looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don’t want a show BREEDER – don’t want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don’t want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they’re getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for $150.

I want you to change your mind. I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog. And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that’s the rip-off. And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she’s getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they’re buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.

Here’s why:

If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you’re not going to talk about how much you like their color. You’re going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat, temperament, and so on. You’ll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you’ve heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.

The things you will be looking for aren’t the things that describe just “dog”; they’ll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.

That’s where people have made the right initial decision – they’ve taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be.

Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible.

You need to realize that when you do this, you’re going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the “Audi” plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a ’98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little.

It is no bargain.

Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of “dog” are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.

If you don’t NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you’re saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.

If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you’re walking away with more than a label.

Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you’re considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off.

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  • Reply Tiffany Yancey July 13, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I love your blog! Do you mind if I post this on my wall.. I think more people need to be aware of all these important topics that you write about!

  • Reply Kathy J July 13, 2010 at 6:48 am

    In my experience, you can pay the breeder or you can pay the vet. I love my vet but I would rather pay the breeder. Those snappy joint replacements are REALLY pricey!

    • Reply Tia June 21, 2013 at 3:10 am

      Very true, Kathy! Wonderful blog, Joanna. I couldn’t have said it better! I have the most wonderful Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever that is a Grand Champion…just what I was looking for AND he is a great friend and smart as a whip. I have a wonderful Chocolate Labrador Retriever that is sweet and gentle and has a nose like no other. No training in the field for these guys, no 6000.00 bill to a trainer because they do what they are bred to do. I have a wonderful Pomeranian that is funny, quirky and playful! She loves a good lap and looks gorgeous at all times just like she’s supposed to. I paid $1200.00 for the Toller, $1000.00 for the Lab and $2000.00 for the Pom. We don’t just love them the community loves them! They visit convalesent homes!

    • Reply Kelly M June 27, 2013 at 6:33 am

      Love this comment :-) Totally agree… I wish everyone understood. There’d be a lot less dogs looking for homes….

  • Reply Amy Kinsey July 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

    fantastic can we borrow it too!

    • Reply shibacheri November 3, 2012 at 12:17 am

      boy, does this make sense!!!!
      I just glanced at the blog and loved what I did read.
      Most people think they are getting a great dog for a cheap price. If you want a dog for cheap don’t go to a breeder because we put our heart and soul into our dogs. All of my puppy owners know
      the time and effort I put into my dogs so they are socialized, well behaved and for the most part trained before they leave my house at 8 weeks. Granted I have a great breed who does not want to soil where they live so it is easy to train them and they look like a teddy bear so what’s not to like

  • Reply Tammy Kozoris July 13, 2010 at 9:16 am

    reposted to facebook. Because people NEED TO SEE THIS!!!!!

  • Reply Sherry in MT July 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Once again WELL DONE! I love it when people can rationally write what I want to RANT about! :)

  • Reply Joanna Kimball July 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Yes, of course, cross-posting is always allowed.

    • Reply Tia June 21, 2013 at 3:15 am

      Wonderful, I love to rant about dogs, too! I grew up at dog shows and my mom was a reknowned breeder of Old English Sheepdogs. She bred, showed in conformation and obedience and was an obedience judge.
      Great job, Joanna…sharing!

  • Reply Joanna Kimball July 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    And thanks :).

  • Reply Jamie July 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I really like this! Is it ok if repost? I found your blog a couple of days ago and its great. I’m new to corgis (I don’t have one) and am learning/researching more about the breed. They are great dogs.

  • Reply Tiffany Yancey July 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    okay! yay thanks! Just figured i’d ask first :)

  • Reply Tiffany Yancey July 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    okay! yay thanks! Just figured i’d ask first :)

  • Reply Micaela Torregrosa-Mahoney July 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    ::applause:: Will be posting…

  • Reply Miriam Dalfen July 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Excellent post, this is the point I’ve been trying to get across on a Basset form for the last couple of weeks.

    Would it be possible for me to use some of your posts as articles in our club magazine? Right now I’m thinking of the one about marketing puppies, but there are others too that I think would be good (like this one).

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you; that is very lovely! And yes, all my posts are free to reprint or crosspost as long as my authorship and the blog address ( are intact. And let me know how I can change/edit to make them better!

  • Reply Kim (LittleRockstar) July 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

    But I don’t want a show dog and I do want my dog to be a pet (family member) first. What I mean when I say that I don’t want a show dog is that I’m probably never going to attend or participate in conformation shows. I do want a healthy dog who can keep up with us, wants to go everywhere, and is sound enough to participate in at least one dog sport or activity – tracking, protection, agility…something.

    There is a vet tech in-training working at my vet’s office for the summer who has been looking for a Doberman who she says she wants to act just like my dog, a German Shepherd. The vet gave her a few breeder numbers to call and a few places to check out. All was going well until she saw the ad in the paper for Doberman puppies for $300. She bought one because they even gave her the “pretty face” discount. Then she wanted to have the ears cropped because she wanted the “whole Doberman experience.” My vet wouldn’t do it, so she took him elsewhere. My vet was telling me all this with her in the room and I spoke a bit loudly at her. Everything I wanted to say was readily available thanks to you and your blog. After my lecture (rant), the vet pointed out to her that all the the people who owned the dogs she most admired were telling her the same things. She nearly cried. I sincerely hope this dog doesn’t break her heart with health problems (for the dog’s sake), but I hope she has learned something. When should I return her keys?

  • Reply A Morning at the Vet « Bona Dea Australian Shepherds July 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

    […] the reason I have a dog with such a poorly constructed rear is because I didn’t read this wonderful article before I bought Lyla a year and a half ago. There are plenty of really great topics on that blog […]

  • Reply Anonymous December 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

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  • Reply Renee Pellegrino December 4, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I have a wonderful two wonderful breeders and let me explain to you why?

    They are looking out for the bloodlines, they know about temper, intelligence and structure.

  • Reply Shelley December 4, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I would love to have your permission to post this on my website, (I breed Labradors) or at least a link to it. I would certainly give you full credit for it and link back to your Blog. Please email me if you would consider granting me permission.
    Thank you, great article!

  • Reply Lab Breed Question December 4, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    […] was circulating around the internet the last few days, it might make for interesting reading: I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.*|*Ruffly Speaking Even if you prefer the look/style of the hunting lab, please do not buy a dog based on price, buy […]

  • Reply The Other Shelley December 8, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Funny, my oldest dog is a Lab and her name is Shelley too.

    Let me chime in and say, BUY FROM A BREEDER. What’s more, buy from a reputable breeder who doesn’t do ONLY conformation – some performance discipline whether it’s obedience, hunting, agility, flyball, tracking, whatever — will ensure that your dog has the intelligence and physical ability to be a good pet, even if you never enter a hunt test or an agility trial.

    One thing you should note re Labs — the conformation (show) Labs and the field trial/hunting Labs have diverged so much that we are almost to the point of different breeds.

    I say this as somebody who owns a half-and-half dog as my oldest – a very reputable breeder of conformation and obedience dogs here had the opportunity to breed her champion sire to a daughter of the only Chocolate Lab ever to win the National Field Champion title. I was a first time dog owner, read a lot of literature and decided that a Lab who was half show and half field might make a pretty good compromise dog for a first time owner.

    And she has. She is no looker although she managed a Conformation Certificate at the National Specialty here a few years ago (she has excellent body structure but a very narrow houndy head), but she is smart and sound and healthy and extremely talented in Agility and Hunting Retriever. She has her AXJ, AX, AD, JH, HR, CGC, and late in life (she’s almost 11) has taken up Obedience and has two legs of her Rally Novice and one leg of her CD.

    With both my younger dogs I’ve tended a bit more towards the field type – since everybody’s real love has turned out to be Hunt Tests – but I’ve made sure that each of them has a little conformation breeding. And I would make sure that if I tended towards the conformation side that all my dogs had a little of the field breeding in them too.

    This avoids embarrassments like all the show Labs whose owners brought them out at the National to try to get a Working Certificate . . . I was one of the two gunners for the test, and I would say that about half the show types had no idea what to do with a dead mallard and would not pick it up or bring it back across the line. Part of that is no doubt some owners thinking that they could just expect a dog to pick up a dead (or not quite dead) duck with no familiarization at all, but some of it is definitely that many show Labs have lost the desire to retrieve. We see them at training days for the hunting club, and it’s really too bad.

    Come on, guys, Labs ought to retrieve, that’s why they call them Retrievers!

    • Reply rufflyspeaking December 8, 2010 at 3:15 am

      Great comment! Thanks – and I’d love to see a picture of your dog.

    • Reply martha June 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Amen to this, the same is true of so very many breeds, I don’t want a show dog I want a healthy pet/companion that can do what the breed is meant to do. Nothing wrong with show dogs just not what I want in a dog.

    • Reply Tia June 21, 2013 at 3:25 am

      Well-said! We have had Chocolates since 1977. I have never shown a Lab; ours were for hunting. I always ask for show quality because I want and English type, not a field type in looks. I have found that in most breeds, especially sporting and herding, the breeders will have their “show” type which look better conformation wise and they are calmer. The “working” type is maybe not super in the conformation, though they should be, but they are more “hot” more “wired” for field work, agility, fly ball and such. My Mom always told me this and I have had Labs always with Aussies, Tollers and Poms. This advice has always worked for me.

    • Reply Tia December 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      So true, “the other Shelley”. I have always bought from breeders that bred for conformation and brains. Yes, our Labs should be able to retrieve without thousands of dollars of training. When field bred dog owner put their noses up and say, “well I have spend thousands to make this dog perfect”. I want to scream and turn my double barrel on them! You should not have to do that! Know what your dog is bred to do and how the breed acts socially. They are all different.
      Great fun for us to watch our Lab retrieve a bird after our Toller has worked the waters edge to move the birds. They are both doing what their breed does and it is poetry in motion!

  • Reply Breeder Qualifications December 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm

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  • Reply question for experienced breeders December 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    […] that type of thinking is what keeps these idjits breeding. Read this…in your quest for research: I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.*|*Ruffly Speaking. You've obviously not done enough. Dani, Rider & Rookie SHR Watson's Safari Rider, JH, WC, […]

  • Reply Annie December 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    With all due respect, I’ve met lots of show breeders who breed for how their dog LOOKS (i.e. to whatever trends are currently winning), but don’t give much if any thought to how their dog ACTS, or to whether their temperament is breed appropriate. I have seen many show breeders choose to breed dogs with downright “iffy” temperaments if they have the right “look.” Also I have met many, many show breeders who do NO health testing.

    Do you acknowledge that there are irresponsible show breeders?

    • Reply Renee June 23, 2012 at 12:08 am

      Not in my breed…

    • Reply Verjean June 23, 2013 at 12:18 am


      Of course there will be those that are less ethical in their practices. And that is why it is important to educate puppy buyers on what to ask whens shopping for a puppy from a breeder. Ask to see the health tests, and ask if they are posted on OFA’s website. If not, ask why…but there are not many “good” answers, if not. Also, meet the parents…visit the breeder…see where the dogs are raised. Your gut will tell you much. Ask what the dogs “do”? Are they actively shown? Do they also compete in any type of performance events, i.e. obedience, tracking, hunt tests, etc? Are they Canine Good Citizens, or have they obtained therapy or search/rescue certifications? If a breeder just breeds WITHOUT “testing” their stock competitively….then they probably aren’t breeding for the right reasons. And if you insist on purchasing a designer breed, (and there’s nothing wrong with that…) be sure that the parents are health-tested, and are currently being vetted with regular, routine care. No designer breed should cost more than a pure-bred. But any dog bred with care, insuring it’s health, and the health of it’s offspring, should take into account the additional expense to the breeder that entails. But yes, Annie…there are unethical breeders out there. Just as there are irresponsible owners. Wherever humans are involved, there will always be those doing it for the wrong reasons.

    • Reply Diana Lovejoy June 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      You left out the most important thing, can they do the job they were developed to do. Some of the show dogs I have watched don’t look like they’d last a hour working for a living. When I see a dog gaiting, and it looks like his rear end wants to get in front of his or her front end, when it appears they are walking on their whole foot, instead of their toes, I am dismayed. Show rings are beauty contests, and breeders will breed to emphasize those traits that the judges are placing, often to the point it is detrimental to the health of that breed.

    • Reply EngineerChic December 4, 2013 at 4:25 am

      I have seen this phenomenon as well. Some of the breed standards are to blame – emphasizing conformation that is NOT sound is horrible IMO. I think the article is skewed toward breeders and ignores that sometimes people have many criteria for a dog and would STILL be better off going to a rescue. Something about the phrasing makes it sound like the author is saying, “if you know you want the abilities of a certain breed, go to a great breeder but if you aren’t that picky then go to a rescue.” That’s borderline elitist, and if you have truly challenging needs you might be better off with a rescued dog (purebred or mixed) because you’ll see their personality better if you adopt a dog who is over 6 months old as opposed to just 8-10 weeks old. I’m as opposed to lousy breeders as the next person – my current dog was rescued from a BYB and bears the psychological scars – but please don’t pitch rescue as the option for people who don’t have specific needs or haven’t figured out what those needs are.

      • Reply Joanna Kimball December 4, 2013 at 5:37 am

        I’ve done a LOT of rescue. I just want to assure you of that before I reply. I have never seen a rescue’s eventual personality be apparent in the shelter environment. NEVER. I get some hints because I am very experienced at evaluating dogs, but I don’t see what I would call an accurate picture for 30 days or more. By the time the dog is demonstrating truth in potential and personality, you are long past any normal trial period.

        So I stand by my statement that very specific AND NON-FLEXIBLE needs usually equals good breeder who knows their dogs very well and can tell what their puppies are going to turn out to be, personality-wise, even as puppies. If you get a dog from a breeder who does not evaluate well, who does not know their dogs forward and backward, and who can’t support you and help you work through challenges – and who will not take the puppy back and/or replace the puppy (depending on your original agreement) if your non-flexible needs are not met by this dog – you are absolutely not any better off than going to rescue, and you should go out there and save a dog.

    • Reply Tia December 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      I will acknowledge that there are breeders who breed for “pretty” only. They give up “brains” to do it. The real crime is the in-breeding they do to get “pretty” because then the health issues begin. My Toller is very well-bred, but he has had a type of cancer that is showing up a little too often in Tollers. What do the Toller breeders do? They start a study on that cancer in the Tollers and we are a part of that. We submitted blood-work and his pedigree so the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital can follow the lines and find where the problem started so the breeders can stop using those lines. Shit happens! Hip Dysplasia in large breeds, heart problems in many breeds, brain tumors…These things get started by the few bad breeders and they can be weeded out by their own breed clubs. Buyers need to do their due diligence also. There are red flags to look for. I once was looking into a Toller puppy by a breeder that I didn’t know well. She was very friendly, so friendly and I think a bit tipsy one evening, that she let it slip that it was an “oops” litter of a sister to a brother. OMG people! I let her have it! Later, when my Toller was, once again, kicking her butt in the show ring, she changed. After being thrown off show grounds for throwing a fit, again, at a judge. She started to pull it together and I must say her Tollers are now doing very well. She bought in “new blood” and started listening instead of ranting. It can happen, a Dalmation can change it’s spots!

    • Reply Jeanne M. Yovicich March 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      There are irresponsible breeders involved in showing, but doesn’t mean that all show breeders are irresponsible. Most are responsible, they work hard to breed sound, healthy, happy dogs who are good representations of their chosen breed. Sure, there are some well-bred show dogs who end up with health issues, temperament issues, or even training issues, but these are often due to something in the background of the lines, not just the breeder involved. Many years ago I had a well bred male Curly-Coated Retriever that I was looking for a mate for. Someone gave me a pedigree of a litter that they were expecting, I took it to my dog’s breeder and show pointed out an issue in that particular line for temperament problems. Instead I went with another breeder whom she knew who was expecting a litter and got a very nice, showy, and well-bred female from. Unfortunately my female was injured as a pup on a hind leg and didn’t pass with OFA (this happened during a critical developmental time for the pup) and I didn’t intentionally breed her because of this. But I will never regret having her, she had all the other characteristics that I asked for, trainability, temperament soundness, and beauty. She did have her championship and also a CD on the other end of her name, she was a Therapy Dog as well. I have seen many poorly bred dogs end up in the shelter due to the fact that they were “cheap” dogs and have issues that can’t be resolved due to the fact that their problems are, in fact, bred into them. Sad.

  • Reply JalandMocha June 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Hi TheOtherShelley!

    i have to admit, i absolutely adore your Shelley! She is a looker! I admired what you did to find the right dog, a wonderful mix of show and field lines. Although i personally don’t (actually hate) show bred Labs because they are huge and overweight, or well it seems. I got my chocolate Lab from strictly field lines, although they did all the necessary testing. I was only 13yrs old when i was looking for a dog, so i wasn’t in any sort of way a genius and i wasn’t 100% sure how to look for a well bred dog. These breeders of course were reputable breeders and a lot of their dogs had great titles, surprisingly my dog’s dam and her bloodline showed a lot of great titles in the field, compared to her father who didn’t have much titles in his lines. But when i was looking a neighbour who got her show bred Golden (who actually has a poorly aligned jaw) helped me find a breeder. I still talk to the breeders because i would like to know how her parents are doing especially now that they are 10 and 12. My two cents, is i’m not generally a fan of show bred dogs for many reasons. I have met several show bred dogs with many jaw alignment problems, and one dog with a severe bone growth and severe hip displasia due to his bone growth.. maybe i am not meeting the right show bred dogs? Anyways here is Mocha, you can see some of her bloodline but there isn’t much descriptions of her parentage but i do have her papers. Also, i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t be able to show my Lab because of the many faults she has. I spoke to a person before because i did consider to show my dog but i was pretty much turned down, in the picture gallery you’ll see why.

    • Reply The Other Shelley June 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Mocha!
      She’s a nice looking little field dog — actually looks very like my Shelley. The tuck-up in the loins is typical, as is the relatively narrow head.
      Here’s the pic I sent to the HRC when I provisionally registered Shelley for hunt tests – you can see her conformation a little better.
      And here she is on the second bird of a water double the day she picked up her final pass for her HR title.
      She is an excellent hunting dog, but we got through HR by the skin of our teeth because she doesn’t particularly like to handle (respond to whistle and hand signals in the field).
      What big dogs are back of Mocha? Shelley is Storm’s Riptide Star, Candlewood, and Way Da Go Rocky on her mom’s side, Kelleygreen, Sumo, and Mardas (in Yorkshire) on her dad’s. She was bred by Patti Block of Sumo Labradors here in Atlanta.
      Have you thought about starting Mocha in field work? If there’s an HRC club near you, they will be pleased to help you go just as far as you want to. I started out thinking, “Oh, we’ll just see if she likes this” and then I got bit by the bug . . . but it’s fun.

    • Reply Diana Lovejoy June 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

      I agree with everything you said; and not all the people who breed their dog, and don’t show or compete are incapable of making a good decision re breeding. Some like me have become disillusioned with the show ring, and what is happening to some of the breeds that I grew up with. I am thinking of GSD in particular. So over angulated they move like cripples.

      • Reply Tia June 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

        I agree with you on the GSD, perfect example! How about the Labrador Retrievers that are so overweight they can hardly waddle around the ring? I don’t know how these bad traits get going and by that I mean perpetuated. Breeders should know an over-weight animal or over angulated, bitchy faces, tail and ears sets, etc. Right now you can go to a show and see nothing but fat Labs, German Sheppards moving on their knees, stiff-legged Bernards. What are the judges thinking? Clearly they need to go back and read breed standards!

    • Reply Tia December 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      I’m so sorry that you wanted to show and couldn’t. I’m sorry, but never in a million years could Mocha be shown. She does look like she is fit and healthy though! She looks like a classic field/show mix. AKC has actually talked about splitting the breed into American Labrador Retriever…looks field-bred…longer legs, whippy tail, larger ears, smaller head, shorter hair, longer snout and a more accenuated abdominal “tuck” with a deeper chest. English Labrador Retriever…the original Labrador has heavier bone, a thick otter tail, heavy water repellant double coat which is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, feet not splayed, but tucked into a nice compact foot. The English Lab has a deep chest, but not such a pronounced abdominal “tuck”. The head is blocky, shorter in the snout and wide between the ears and the ears are shorter and close to the head. This is a generalized comparison, of course! But it gives you an idea from someone that has had Labs since 1977.

  • Reply Mary Deats June 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    A fellow Schipperke breeder put your link on Facebook and I just LOVE what you have written so eloquently. I would like very much to not only put the link on my FB page, but also to reprint, with your permission and full attribution, of course, in my Schipperke breed notes. I have been the Schipperke breed note writer for the UK weekly canine newspaper, “Dog World” (check us out on FB!, they have a FB link!) since 1984 and would so much like to bring to the fore what you are saying. Our breed is a fantastic little mini-agility dog and can also do, with the right training, obedience. But folks seem for the most part to just look at the show side. It is far more important to stress not only the conformation/structure, but also temperament and intelligence of this breed, as well as its agility. They are such a character breed, not one that is often cited for its beauty in the show ring, but for its personality by us discerning owners/breeders. All too often in the past 30 + years I have had people here in the UK get a Schip from me and then say, ‘If I had known what it was like to have a Schip, I would have never had a **** to start with.’…again, its the willingness to research isn’t it? Anyway, look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
    Mary Deats
    Aradet Schipperkes

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 8, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Hi and thanks so much! And yes, reprints are always allowed for responsible organizations. Credit Joanna Kimball,; nothing more complicated than that. Thanks for doing the great work you do!

  • Reply Wally OBrien June 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I’m going to have to disagree a bit.

    I’ve been involved with dogs for over 35 years. My wife and I bred Rotts for about 20. I also happen to be an AKC tracking judge and an ASCA tracking and obedience judge.

    Prior to this blog, I have never heard of anyone using the term show bred dog. Inferring a difference between show bred dog and a pet bred dog.

    While I fully admit that there is a difference with breeders, I feel that you are mixing terminology with a show quality dog versus a pet quality dog.

    In reading the blog, my opinion is that you are not going to change anyone’s mind on the issue because you are talking apples and oranges.

    BTW. It’s the breeders and the AKC that came up with the concept of show quality dogs versus pet quality dogs (and the pricing differential) a LONG time ago.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Hi – I don’t think “show-bred” as a term is rare; I certainly didn’t come up with it and google says it’s all over the place in dog websites. People use show-bred or field-bred versus pet-bred as a polite way of saying “well bred” versus “crappily bred.” I have owned a bunch of poorly bred dogs, but I know that not everybody likes having their dogs referred to like that. But I think your bigger point is how we ended up in this situation, and I think that’s worth discussing. I think it’s incorrect that breeders and AKC came upon a situation and changed it. When KC and then AKC were new, there were purebred dogs doing jobs and there were purebred dogs being bred as objects of beauty. Nobody owned purebreds as replacement children the way they do now. The KC and AKC didn’t need to differentiate between a huge population of horribly bred purebreds and a tiny population of well-bred purebreds, and neither did breeders. A bunch of the oldest board members got their first purebred dogs – even their first champions – from pet stores, because back then there wasn’t the same kind of pet-store-breeder horror show that there is now.

      It’s become necessary to use the words – show-bred, show-potential, pet puppy – because people don’t understand anymore. Everything revolves around the emotional connection, and the overwhelming majority of all purebred breeders are producing puppies only to feed that connection. It used to be that we could use real words – we could say “I really liked one of the puppies” and everyone understood that meant it was the best breeding prospect in the litter because of certain established rules of body type and soundness and ability. Now that most dog owners actively resent the fact that we’d ever think that the value of a dog rests in its appearance, we have to very carefully explain exactly what makes one puppy available to them and another puppy not, or what makes one puppy a good purchase and another a bad purchase. So we find terms – NEW terms, not old ones – to express that.

      In terms of the price difference – I find that fewer and fewer are pricing pet/show puppies differently. I think that’s a great change.

      • Reply Tia December 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        That is it in a nutshell! Dogs were first shown in breed rings so that the people could pick out the animals that best represented their breed. Those dogs where the ones used to keep breed lines going. These were working dogs and a dog show was the same as a stock show or a horse, rabbit, chicken show. To pick the best representatives of their breed. It should be the same reason to show now, but society has changed and so has the job of showing and breeding.

    • Reply Laura Perkinson July 8, 2012 at 12:49 am

      Walley , I have shown and bred AKC dogs for over 50 years, in that time I have heard this same statement many many times. So much so that I have had to find a way to say in many different ways just what was said in this blog. I love this Blog story. it truly is what I see and hear more often then not. BTW I would be willing to bet you that in fact AKC had zero to do with then Pet or Show dog terminology . in fact breeders yes and the pet buying public. Bred Chow Chows in the 60’s for 24 years and heard it then, bred Shiba Inus for the last 25 and hear it all the time.

  • Reply Crystal June 9, 2011 at 12:53 am

    We have 6 dogs.. 5 of which were thoughtfully bred or purchased (all costing close to and over 1,000) and one of which is a rescue girl. I lvoe them all .. but that 75.00 pound puppy we have is the most expensive dog I have ever owned. Between her allergies and misformed jaw (because of the cross of dog she was) She has easily cost me close to 10k in vet bills… whereas the other ones have never had anything other than their yearly visits :) You can pay now or pay later!

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 9, 2011 at 1:23 am

      Oh, man – that is the truth! My very worst one was a pound puppy who cost us $5 to pull and $1200 by the time the weekend was over – seriously, we couldn’t even get a couple of days? – but they’re all variations on a theme. You never ever rescue to save money. We love them all but the show dogs are by far the cheapest!

    • Reply Victoria Clare June 21, 2013 at 7:15 am

      I’m sorry to hear you have had this experience with your rescue pup, but – really, this experience is not in any way typical.
      Phone any insurance company and say you would like to insure a crossbreed puppy and a pedigree puppy of pretty much any recognised breed. The pedigree insurance quote will come back way higher than the crossbreed, because on average, vet bills for crossbreeds are lower.
      Of course there are dogs of no particular breed with problems, as there are dogs of all breeds with problems, and crosses between two unhealthy dogs with pedigrees will likely inherit problems from both sides. But the idea that crossbreed dogs routinely come with expensive health issues is just incorrect.

      (15 year old crossbreed dog sitting by my feet right now, only vet bill expenses until he was 14 were a couple of times when he cut himself running about having fun & needed stitches. Now he needs heart medication to be able to keep on having fun- but at 15 I’m just glad he’s still enjoying his life.)

  • Reply Jim Mapes June 9, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Interseting title, and not disagreeing with the content. The thing I found frustrating as I was looking to get a Belgian Shepherd was that the breeders and breed rescue were mostly (not all, a few were helpful at least) arrogant elitists. “You don’t have acreage, you can’t own this dog (breed). A number of other fictitious and frankly insulting reasons; the one telling me as a male I shouldn’t own them because they are sensitive to correction and men are more “harsh” in dealing with animals. News flash lady (the breeder in question, not here), that breed was created by sheep herders, mostly male, of the area around Belgium – not by rich housewives on country estates with lots of money and no job obligations.

    I did finally get my dog, of sorts, from a rescue after months of searching. She is Belgian Shepherd likely mixed with some GSD. She still is all black, has some of the traits of a Belgian but is a bit larger boned & longer than the breed standard would suggest. The more helpful of the Belgian Shepherd breeders dug up some info that she resembled examples of a line of dogs in that breed from back in the 1960s in the area of the country I got her from.

    I don’t intend to do dog shows, or likely organized dog sports. I have 3 other shepherd mix dogs, they all play together as a pack. I take them places, they play with each other a lot of the time (my oldest & youngest being toy fanatics keeps both of them 3/4 tired out most of the time). My Belgian does get into some mischief, like digging in the yard, but its being handled – not me abandoning the dog or abusing her.

    So I guess the thesis on this is – I don’t want a show dog etc, but the *damned* breeders won’t let me acquire a pup if I am not. So what then, most people wind up going to the puppy miller & doing what you are saying not to – because to get the dog breed they want, the breeders leave them little choice.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 9, 2011 at 2:23 am

      I absolutely understand, I really do. Sometimes you’re encountering not “difficult to get a well-bred dog” but “this breeder is just a flat-out idiot”; I would have laughed in the face of someone who told me that they didn’t sell to men (SOMEBODY has an issue with guys, but it’s not the dogs). I don’t think that attitude is typical, but I DO think we breeders tell ourselves some lies about show puppies versus pet puppies. We SHOULD be producing mostly puppies who go into pet homes, not defining success as minimal numbers of pet puppies produced. If we say over and over again that you should only buy from a good breeder but then brag about how most of our dogs are show prospects, we’re deluded. And I am telling myself that too, believe me.

    • Reply Diana Lovejoy June 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      You are right; I before I got my Bouvier, thought I wanted a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The breeders I communicated with acted like I might be a criminal. So I started talking to Bouvier breeders, what a difference; I still have regular contact from the breeder I finally bought from, and my canine companion is a sound, delightful, does the work she was bred for, herding. and acts at times as a therapy dog for people with mental illness. I guess this shows that some breeders of some breeds are elitists.

  • Reply Dannielle June 9, 2011 at 2:55 am

    may I have permission to crosspost this onto my website, with appropriate credit to the author?

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 9, 2011 at 2:55 am

      Yes, absolutely!

  • Reply Janet Warner June 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Absolutely love this! I wish to also put on my website. Will it just link back to this? Thanks!

    • Reply rufflyspeaking June 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      Yes, I am fine with that! Linking back to is fine.

  • Reply Alex June 10, 2011 at 2:53 am

    (In response to Mr OBrien)
    I live in North Carolina and I have come across plenty of people who sell “pet bred dogs.” People who say, “Oh, I just breed pets, I don’t need to show them.” Consequentially, the dogs they produce bear little semblance to the breed standard physically or in temperament. Maybe just a matter of terminology? I didn’t find anything in the post I’d disagree with. I mentally substituted “breeder who pursues any sort of relevant titles on their dogs” for the phrase “show breeder,” so I had the working folks in mind as well.
    I work in a pet store (one that never has nor ever will sell puppies) and I come across people all the time who are looking for such and such a breed. I’ve tried to help them understand how and why to find a responsible breeder in terms of health, but I’d never thought to point out personality traits. I think that’s a wonderful point! I can see someone coming in and asking me where they can find a… Saint Bernard, for example. I ask, “What do you like about Saint Bernards?” They answer, “Their size, that they are smart and trainable, that they are good with kids and have low exercise needs.” Then I could explain to them how if they want to actually have a chance at getting those traits, they need to go to a good breeder! I love it! I think this could hit home more often than a discussion of potential health problems.
    I think one of the big things that keep pet stores in business that will be hard, if not impossible, to quell without legislation, is the ability to feed impulse buys. If someone wants a dog right now, sees one in a pet store they like, and they don’t understand the importance of a good breeder, why on earth would they spend the time to find a good breeder, the hassle to be interviewed and possibly visit or have a home inspection, to then WAIT for that puppy to be born… I think there’s a huge population that just does not care enough no matter how many ways you try to explain the differences between a backyard breeder, a puppy miller, and a good breeder. Why isn’t there yet any legislation banning the sale of dogs in stores??

  • Reply Diana September 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I don’t want a Show dog I want pets, but I will buy a show dog because I will never buy from a breeder who just breeds for money again. I had two rat terrier litter mates the loves of my life. They have numerous health problems due to over breeding! I would tell anyone to check out who you are buying from make sure they have healthy dogs. I miss my dogs every day and so wished I could have fixed their health problems. They were so smart and I gave them the best life possible and it was cut short because some lady wanted to make a quick buck selling dogs. I’ll pay the show dog prices to get good healthy dogs that I can snuggle with and love for many years to come. I will someday soon have two more litter mates in my home to love and care for hopefully for many years to come. I don’t buy dogs for breeding just for pets and to be a part of my family to bring me joy and happiness.

  • Reply Cynthia September 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    How about dogs who weren’t bred to show, but were bred to work?

    Rather than going with a PWC who was bred to show, we decided on a PWC that was ultimately cheaper, but came from an actual farm where they would herd the farm animals and be able to play out in the open. That doesn’t seem like a rip-off, especially for herding dogs?

    • Reply Victoria Clare June 21, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Rescues often run into problems with working-lines dogs in pet homes, because working dogs have a lot of energy and drive which pet homes are often not prepared for. So you end up with the border collie that destroys the wallpaper and herds the kids, because she’s the kind of dog that desperately needs to herd *something*. Or the cocker spaniels that repeatedly escape and go straying, because an hour’s onlead walk doesn’t begin to dent their energy levels, but the owner has to go to work…

      If an owner has the time and energy to own, train and entertain a working lines dog, then it’s worth that owner considering breed rescues rather than buying direct from the farm, as the rescues are likely to have very similar dogs that are at risk because they don’t fit into most pet homes. Farm dogs are overbred too, and although they probably won’t be as unhealthy as dogs that are just bred to have the right label, they probably won’t have all the health tests done.

  • Reply shibamistress December 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for this. It is SUCH an important message! I bought the “cheaper” dog, and 10k later, she’s certainly not the cheapest, and that only counts the monetary loss, not the absolute heartbreak of having an unhealthy, temperamentally unsound dog who is by turns terrified of people and so aggressive to one of my other dogs that she nearly killed him.

    I got her from a place that was really a puppy mill. I just didn’t know it at the time. So in addition to getting an unhealthy dog, I also supported someone who was breeding dog after dog with little care from their health or their lives. So the other thing I tell people, if the money argument doesn’t sway them, then they should consider the fact that if they buy from a mill, broker, or even some of the worst backyard breeders, they are supporting a life of misery for the adult dogs who are bred repeatedly and have miserable lives in cages and kennels.

    And I went through some of the not so great breeders too–ones that didn’t like me because of the breed of the dogs I already had, or what have you. But when you’re adding a dog to the family, you’re making a committment of 12-15 years, and wouldn’t you take your time and be sure about that if it was a person you were committing to? Do it with dogs too–make sure you get the right one!

    Thanks for this great piece!

  • Reply Narda March 3, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I Love this post!
    I believe in responsible breeding and the effort it takes to maintaine breed standards. I will gladly pay a reputable breeder for their efforts in making sure their puppies are the best they can be. In the long run a person will pay for what they get. I grew up with pure breed German Shepards and have rescued 4 pure ( Smooth H Collie, Rottie, 2 Border Collies) 3 mixed breeds ( Belgian Turv./GS, Aussie/puppy mill & Border Collie/Lab.) in the last 25+ years. Only Betsy & Maggie remain (11&9 yrs. old) We take our dog ownership very serious and have to admit that our rescues have taken more time, effort and vet visits healthwise. I knew full well that by rescuing we would have to deal with unknown health issues. That makes us the exception to the rule. Backyard breeders don’t take into account that their in discriminatory breeding will result in more abused, abandoned and finally euthanized pets.

  • Reply Great blog about show dogs & pets June 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm

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  • Reply Shelley June 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    May I put this on my website, do I have your permission please?

  • Reply Tori Earls - J Cross Catahoulas June 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Fabulous! Trends today often demand one getting the “new” “rare” “blue eyed” puppy only to realize they’ve gotten far more than they bargained for. As a breeder, I would like to add the “flip side” twist to your fantastic post. As a BREEDER, it’s MY job to do my homework where potential puppy owners are concerned. It IS hard to maintain a consistent level of excellence in any breed, regardless of that which we choose to select as “our” breed, it’s equally as demanding that we select the homes as carefully as possible to ensure the pup has the mental and physical stimulation that it requires to be a successful addition to it’s home. THANK YOU for this very well spoken blog article!! With your permission, I’d love to share it on my website.

  • Reply Judi Elford June 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    WONDERFUL catalyst post to get people talking about this subject. I too will be sharing, thank you!

    It’s true, “good” purist breeders work very hard to ensure that they produce dogs that are fabulous pets first, and winning show dogs second. That is NOT to imply the two can be separated successfully. They can NOT. I’ve spoken to breeders who yes, show now and then, but admit that they are breeding only for pets because they think the world needs their puppies. In fact history shows that they summarily and often repeat the same mating over and over and over, and generally with in-house resident dogs that are cheaply accessed. What could the possible motive for this sort of breeding be? Clearly they are not testing new genetic combinations to improve their stock, nor add hybrid vigour. Clearly then they are breeding for market, for a true breeder will work tireless and invest the income from litter sales towards the next breeding to a great sire – perhaps living far away. They will do the genetic testing and generally move mountains to produce ever better puppies. Yes, some of these are hoped to be retained to produce the next generation at the kennel, but the often very beautiful litter mates from the same gene pool are shared with the dog loving public.

    Shows may not be your cup of tea but it remains that when dogs are titled, some independent arbiters (generally multiple) have passed judgement that these animals meet the breed standard in most area INCLUDING temperament, size, type, etc. The poster who said he knew of show dogs being bred with bad temperaments, I can only say as a judge that we have guidelines for this and dogs can be excused or disqualified for inappropriate temperament for their breed.

    Sure there are some show breeders that I wish would just wander off somewhere to breed ants. We have some really scary freaks and nut jobs walking amongst us. So does every corner of everything that mankind has ever touched his hand to. We humans are a pretty randomly bred lot, and temperament has definitely not been very standardized! And there are no doubt also some BYB’s (backyard breeders) who will give buyers a “love and fuzzy feelings experience without tripping the radar, and be highly thought of by them.

    When you look at a breeders website or speak with them directly, how are you to tell the difference? Generally the evidence IS there if someone is really searching to know which category (or somewhere in between) a breeder fits into. Is he an expert, who in addition to really loving his dogs, has LOTS of unbiased accolades trimming his walls and trophy cases – or is he really a BYB making $$ off of a casual, repetitive breeding scheme where mediocre dogs are bred together again and again and represented as being “show bred”? Maybe there are enough show ribbons and photos to bluff the buyers into thinking the breeder is one who has the best interests and future of the breed at the heart of their breeding decisions. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell. What I can say is that the latter type of breeder generally sells puppies at or just under the price of the legitimate progressive breeder, but their profits vary DRAMATICALLY. The progressive show breeder of course is investing all kinds of money to ship their girls to or import semen from the best studs. Their girls are rarely bred a lot, and are removed from the breeding program entirely if their puppies are not superior. It’s not just about producing puppies, it’s about trying to produce GREAT puppies. Of course some breeders as much as they try are just not talented in this regard and while they spend money breeding, success does not follow suit. Once again a savvy consumer can probably get a jist of the level of quality a breeder is attaining by an examination of show records, notice of other kennels (domestic and foreign) who have chosen this stock to import for themselves, etc. Taking the time to find a quality breeder BEFORE going to see puppies is a must, as ALL puppies are VERY hard to resist and you could lose your shirt and be set up for multiple problems down the road. Ask to see the breeder’s guarantee. Do they have a comprehensive health guarantee (you as buyer may have some obligation in this as well)? Will they take their dogs back if you cannot keep the dog for any reason? Do some homework.

    Two people of wisdom to pass on then I’ll give the floor to someone else …

    “You reap what you sow.” – my mom (obviously not hers originally but she drove it deep into my brain). And …

    “The condition of the pet IS the condition of the breed.” – Thank you Kay H. To me this meant don’t breed just to produce an occasional winner. It meant try your dangdest to produce quality across the board. Of course we don’t always hit the bar, but in an attempt to do so we need to aim above it. Thanks for listening!

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  • Reply Maureen June 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I was lucky enough to see this on Facebook. I do breeder referral for my all breed club and the first thing I hear is ” I don’t want a show dog, just a pet.” I always co under with, ” to get a dog that looks like the breed you want, acts like the breed you want and is as healthy as possible, buy it from a breeder that shows. They are breeding to keep something for themselves, but the same amount of thought and consideration that went into the show puppy they keep and the pet puppy you buy, are the same.”

  • Reply Mary Lynn D'Aubin June 26, 2012 at 12:47 am

    this is absolutely wonderful and so true. May I share?- I fight the labradoodle, petshop labs, byb/newspaper labs and free to good home labs..and spent years in lab rescue..sigh- Thank you SO much for this!!

  • Reply Sandi Carter June 26, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I have to totally agree. Several years ago we purchased two little Miniature Dachshunds. We loved them both totally. We racked up numerous expense though due to various health issues, thousands of dollars. Many of which were Genetic. They both came from the same Breeder. One had a crippled back leg, both had heart issues, back issues, arthritis, tumors and I could go on and on. Folks when you purchase a New Baby save yourself a lot of heartache and money. It is so hard to watch an animal suffer due to careless and poor Breeding without a thought for the animal. Over the years it has been so very hard for myself and my husband watching our two Babies suffer. It broke our hearts. We would like to have been able to have had one of their Babies but obviously with their Health Issues that wasn’t even open for discussion. Anymore babies we purchase will come from someone that has a genuine love for these Little Babies first and foremost not greed and a love for money. Granted health Issues can and often due arise but with Selective Purchasing & Selective Breeding this can be perhaps not totally eliminated but at least slowed down to some degree. We need to all work together on putting these careless Breeders & Puppymills out of business or at least to some degree slowing them down. Purchase your next Baby from someone who truely loves the Breed and puts their welfare first and foremost. God Bless You! Thank-you for sharing this…..

  • Reply Léo Washburn June 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Well said.

  • Reply Stacey July 9, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I have a purebred Spanish Mastiff, who came from parents who have numerous titles between them. While he was bred ‘to show quality’, he ended up with a narrow jaw in relation to the breed standard, and so he is now my boy and my companion. He will never be shown, just loved. He did not cost me any less than his litter mates who conformed to the breed standard completely. I am very thankful that his breeder took such care in raising him and choosing his parents.
    I really loved this post. I am surrounded by people who want a purebred dog, but don’t want to pay for it, or wait for one that would be perfect for their family, so they buy on off kijiji for way less and wonder what the matter is with this purebred dog they got.

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  • Reply Ann McMillan June 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Personally, I would never sell “just a showdog”. All my dogs/pups are first and foremost pets. Many of them are showable, winnable and compete in numerous dog sport. If the home is not a loving pet home first I would not sell them a dog.

  • Reply Nancy June 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    It is a good piece, and I really value a puppy that comes from a breeder that understands the ENTIRE needs of the dog. My preference would be to go to a breeder that breeds working lines though, rather than show lines. Conformation lines can be really messed up in terms of temperament, and sometimes even health. It is discouraging to talk to well respected breeders whose dogs are dying young because they have been over bred to emphasize specific characteristics. I also value breeders who raise litters in the house, with the family, and have a progressive socialization schedule, where the puppies interact with LOTS of people, experiences, surfaces, toys, etc, within the first few weeks of life.

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  • Reply Blue Ghost Hunter June 22, 2013 at 5:23 am

    We occasionally raise weimaraners in my family. It takes us a long time to find a male we deem worth of breeding to our girls. But you are right finding quality breeders is very hard. I have a male out of imported lines that I rescued and I knew his bloodlines so I tracked back to the breeder hoping they still had the bloodlines I loved so much. To my joy I was lucky to find not only that they still had this bloodline but the dam’s father was my males brother. So I committed to buying a puppy from the next available litter. Threw the months I had several conversations with the breeder and I had told her about my wanting to have the option to breed my girl if I found a suitable stud for her. My mother raise imported German Shepard Dog’s and imported Doberman Pinscher’s she always focused on one breed at a time and she would not breed if the lines crossed in twelve generations. That was the way I was raised and that’s what I see as a standard. So when I was explaining this to the breeder she said that was limiting the breed. Plus she told us things that I had never heard before. Like not to let them in to water they will get arthritis and other things that a Hunting dog should do!!!! We hunt our dogs. They do water retrieval, they run, they jump, they face down Mountain Lions everything this breed was bred to do. We don’t show our dogs because our males are fixed and my females are Blue and Steel Blue. It makes me angry when I hear that this breed is unmanageable that there retarded. I love taking my dogs places and answering questions and dispelling the misguided beliefs that the public have about this breed. But I also tell people that if they are considering getting a dog wither it be my breed or any other to do there research and to meet with qualified breeders or to hang out with dog groups get to know them before making a decision. Here are my five Weims they walk beautiful for me and everyone else gets the five headed monster!

  • Reply Jean June 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Ever since I bought my first show-bred Rough Collie, and got a dog that didn’t have any semblance of herding instinct (I needed family dogs that could help work the cattle on our property), I have only purchased working-bred dogs – dogs bred for health and the instincts that their breed was originally created for. Dogs who are out in the fields working, not in the show rings. Those who are physically unfit for the job are weeded out – bad hips, bad eyes, they just don’t last long on the range. When I wanted my working bitch bred, I had a heck of a time finding a working dog that met my specifications. I didn’t want a show-ring dandy, I needed a sire for pups who could keep us working the farm. Even though the cross happened more than a hundred years ago, show-bred Rough Collies seem to be more Borzoi than Collie these days. I’m ready to go to England for my next dog, to buy a Farm Collie – among the few descendants of the old Collies who escaped the Borzoi genetics. I’ve also seen the Border Collies lose their amazing working ability since being admitted to the show ring. The intensity and desire that was in the dogs I worked with in the 80s just isn’t there in modern Border Collies. It has been bred out so that they can relax in the show ring and not look like they’re going insane.

    • Reply Pamela Van Nest December 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Jean, have you considered an English Shepherd? They are a wonderful breed–robust both mentally and physically and extremely smart. Being as the breed organization has kept itself separate from the AKC (and intends to continue doing so) the breed has maintained the characteristics of an old fashioned farm dog. They are able to hunt, herd, guard, protect–do just about anything required of a farm dog. When you look at those old sepia photos of the farm family gathered on the porch with the family dog, that dog was probably an English Shepherd. My English Shepherd, Annie B, is amazing. She passed her ATTS Temperament Test at just 1 year of age. As a matter of fact, all the English Shepherds who have taken the test have passed. She is always more than willing to try anything and catches on to what it is I want faster than any dog I’ve ever had. Check out the breed–it may save you a trip to the UK.

      As for Border Collies, I know exactly what you mean! My Border Collie comes from working lines–her father is a Scottish Import and son of the European herding champion. She looks very different from the show ring Border Collies, and acts VERY different from them. Although she’s not crazy hyper, she is always ready to work. Always! She, too, has passed her ATTS Temperament Test. She also has her AHBA Herding Certification Title as well as her ABHA Junior Herding Dog Title–and this was accomplished without her having hardly any herding training and very little practice. As a matter of fact, during both legs for both of the titles, the judge’s comments to me while working were “Leave the dog alone and just walk! She’s got the sheep–Don’t bother her!” Could she go into the show ring? No way! Her coat is there for protection–not for show. She’s built for speed and agility–not for stacking.

      All that being said about my lovely Border Collie, if I had it to do over, I would have gotten an English Shepherd instead. The English Shepherd has all the desire to work of a Border Collie and–in the case of my two dogs–even more intelligence and problem solving ability, but is able to “turn off” and be a snuggler when the time comes. The Border Collie wants to be doing something all the time. Has to be doing something!

      Like I said, give the English Shepherds a look. And here’s the Wikipedia article: As you can see in that article, they are pretty much like the original old farm dog.

      • Reply Joanna Kimball December 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

        Pamela – I think the perception of breed talent split in BCs is much worse than the reality. The Australian BCs, which are the main source of show-bred BCs in the US, have a lot more hair and bone, but they’re not useless. They’re just plusher. And they are incredibly fast and agile and have fully functional BC brains and talent. Trust me, I bought into the whole “working BCs for working, show BCs for show” thing too – until I got to know a whole ton of show and dual-bred BCs and watched them work and realized that they were just prettier. Not less capable or able. And they’re usually a crapton better socialized and prepared for life than working-bred BCs.

        • Reply Pamela Van Nest December 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          Good point, Joanna. Unfortunately, I’ve run across a few of the “dumb beauties” at performance events. Good to know that they aren’t becoming the standard! I’m just very leery of the conformation breeders.

          For example: A few months back I was at an event with several different breeds. I mentioned my English Shepherd and another woman piped up that she knew all the AKC breeds and had never heard of an English Shepherd. When I explained to her that it was not an AKC recognized breed and was adamant about never becoming an AKC breed she huffily replied that she could not understand that at all. Why in the world would a breed NOT want AKC recognition? I had to bite my tongue as her dog was a German Shepherd that was so stretched out in the back end he could barely walk much else do any meaningful type of work.

          Granted this is not true of all show breeders of all breeds, but it happens often enough–GSDs that can hardly walk, LGDs that have lost all the traditional guardian dog traits, Labs as mentioned in previous remarks, Collies that won’t/can’t work, and that epitome of conformation breeding gone crazy, bulldogs–that it tends to make some of us very, very nervous.

          My problem with the original article is the implication that show dog breeders are the only ones who can be trusted to have puppies that are representative of the breed. In many cases–not all, but many–that is just not true. The show is not the be all and end all.

          What I do think is that you should know what you want in a dog and look for the serious, educated, reputable breeder who breeds for that, be it a breeder of working lines or a breeder of show lines or dual-purpose lines.

  • Reply I just want a pet dog (why you want a proper breeder or rescue not a petshop special) June 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    […] I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.Ruffly Speaking | Ruffly Speaking this person says it so much better than I can. They compare going to the classifieds or pet shop and buying a "cheap puppy" to going to a used car dealership and buying an old Japanese lemon with a BMW badge on it thinking you're getting a bargain – when what you're buying is not a new BMW at all and will cost you more all up despite the seemingly cheap up front price. Forum Moderator: forum rules Puppies for Sale Link approved by moderator Reply With Quote […]

  • Reply coyhaven June 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    This is a nicely written article and expresses a good viewpoint-
    However there are some people I would not buy from even though they breed for show and are well know names. I have a rescue here from a “show breeder” who is a mess because he was kept in a cage most his life. A lovely AKC CH so pretty to look at yet afraid of his own shadow most days
    On the other hand I have met people who love the breed(were talking shelties) and just wanted to breed good temperament pets or dogs suited for herding or agility, they were breeding lovely registered dogs-from good strong lines. They were great dogs happy healthy and lived fantastic lives in the agility ring, as 4H projects and pets. Some people just love to have puppies in their lives,like some people run daycares because they want to be surrounded by children. Yes there are nasty people out there looking to make a quick buck, but some just want to share the joy of puppies with others
    The problem with some show breeders is if they are breeding for “Show Puppies” they don’t always consider that temperament issue. I have seen some breeders breed the heart out of a sheltie-oh they produce lovely Ch dogs but most of the are little robots with no heart and no soul.
    So basically if your looking for a puppy do your homework ,and make sure anyone you get a puppy from has done their homework and knows about the breed top to bottom-there is good and bad in all ends of the spectrum.

  • Reply Debbi Willis June 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    As a breeder of working German Shepherd Dogs… this is what I hear most…”your price is too high”… “I can buy one down the road for ….” …. “how come you can’t come down in price?”…. it’s very annoying when they know everything they’re getting… and references. This article says it best and it’s going to be part of my new puppy packet with a congratulations on the wisdom of their purchase now… thankyou for articulating it so well… I’ll be posting this on my facebook pages and website!

  • Reply Pien June 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Great piece!

    Can I please translate it in Dutch and publish it in Holland? I will put your name under it of course.

  • Reply Howling Hearts June 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    This here is pretty much saying any dog OUT of STANDARD isnt worth anything. I paid 600$ for my boy, a Husky. He has siblings in the show ring and I thought for half a second about showing him but he’s semi wooly which means by SHOW standards his hair is too long. I personally LOVE the wollies and I know many others who do as well just because someone doesnt focus on SHOW doesnt mean the dogs arnt worth it. I know for a fact I couldnt at the time have afforded at 1800$ dog, 600$ was pushing it. And I wont even start on my other breed of choice since theres no way this breed would EVER step into any event! (Wolfdog). I stand behind my dogs 100% they may not be 2000$ dogs but they are loved and trained. As for my first litter. Ive spared no expense on them. They are going to be going to homes with all health checked out atleast twice before they leave they will be prespoiled, eat only the best (raw diet) I will take back any puppy at any age no matter what. But I guess since they are not show or any event quality that just makes me a bad breeder.

    • Reply Diana Lovejoy June 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Yeah, I to don’t show, or compete; but my dog is sound, is a good representative of her breed, has great temperament, and can do the job her breed was bred to do.

  • Reply Wendy June 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I insisted on a working bred Pyrenees for years. A show bred dog is not what most Pyrenees owners are looking for. We want a dog that will stay with it’s companions and protect. Some of these working dogs are completely unfit for public, but they do an excellent job at what they are intended for. A puppy from a pair of vicious working dogs can easily be raised to be an awesome family dog, if you are OK with a dog that is probably going to have issues with some strangers on their territory.
    A few years ago, a friend was trying to find homes for her Pyrenees Mastiff pups. I brought one home, and have been so happy I did. He has enriched our lives more than any animal I have ever known. Sometimes I dread the day he will no longer be with us. I will have to replace him someday because he serves a purpose by guarding our chickens and our home. But finding such a great dog again is not likely.
    Fact is there are a lot of mutts out there that can be much better than any dog you can go out and pay for. And while breeding can create a dog more likely to fit into a roll, training is just as important to having an outstanding dog.

  • Reply Bernadette Wixson June 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Saw this post on FB and it irritated me. I bought my goldendoodle from a pet store. At that time, I am embarrassed to say that I really didn’t realize the negative implications. Ignorant for sure. But now I know better and this is something I will never do again, despite the fact that I have the healthiest, most loving companion I could have ever dreamed of. I will always rescue from this point forward. Sorry, but I really think breeding ANY dogs of ANY breed “quality” is irresponsible when there are so many perfectly good dogs in shelters and rescues looking for homes. Unless you do plan on showing the dog, go to a shelter or rescue. Sure, you won’t be able to hone in specific qualities of a breed, you are offered no guarantees. But there are SO many dogs out there in need of homes, surely you can find ONE that comes close to what you are looking for. And if you are a dog person of any sort, you will fall in love with it. Breeding more dogs only compounds the problem.

    • Reply Patty June 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      I think you have a valid point that there are too many dogs being bred, for silly reasons. But to say that “breeding ANY dogs of ANY breed quality is irresponsible when there are so many perfectly good dogs in shelters and rescues looking for homes,” is a different issue! If careful breeders stopped breeding quality dogs, where are the genes for future generations of pets? Mutts can be the BEST pets, but some people can only handle dogs with specific traits (size, shedding, safe with kids, gentle with old people, etc.) I have Lakeland Terriers, a small, non-shedding breed with a very specific temperament. I am breeding to ensure the survival of the breed, and to provide a small number of people with delightful pets that meet their families’ needs. You want to judge and label me as irresponsible? So be it.

  • Reply Donna June 22, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I’ve always bought puppies from show people, except for my first puppy, which I bought at a pet shop because I didn’t know any better at the time. She turned out to be a wonderful dog who lived to be 15, but her entire back end was always a mess…luxated patellas (grade 4, which means it’s permanent), hip dysplasia, and whatever else going on back there. Basically, she was put together by drunken monkeys.

    I’m originally from Washington, DC, where there’s a bit more education than there is here in the country of the Southwest where I live now. IME, most BYBs out here are completely clueless about why they shouldn’t be breeding. They basically think if it’s AKC registered, it must be OK, and use terms like “full blood” to mean purebred. They really are idiots. They don’t understand that breeders do all the health screenings and endeavor to breed healthy, show-quality dogs. Pet puppies are not what they strive to breed — they want show champions — even though there will always be pet puppies in every litter. My point, however, is that a show breeder’s expectations are a lot higher than a BYB who just wants to run a “business” of breeding dogs. Ergo, you’re far more likely to get a healthy puppy from a breeder, even if you have to pay a bit more to get it. Well worth the price, IMO.

  • Reply Everyone should read - Forums - Yorkshire Terrier Community June 23, 2013 at 3:56 am

    […] should read This was shared with me and I wanted to share with all of you I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.Ruffly Speaking | Ruffly Speaking __________________ Teri Galen Jameson Frazier Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Saber Tooth Tiger […]

  • Reply Diana Lovejoy June 23, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I enjoyed your article, Now I have an answer for all the people who ask me why I paid so much for my wonderful dog. I have rescued many dogs, and they are as smart, as attentive, and as wonderful. They also cost as much to feed, groom, and vet. as my purebred.

  • Reply Great article on how to buy a puppy June 23, 2013 at 11:53 am

    […] I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.Ruffly Speaking | Ruffly Speaking ♣ Laura ♣ Reply With […]

  • Reply Jay Horgan (UK) June 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    What a brilliantly written piece. So spot on.

  • Reply Monica June 24, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Fantastic article! This should be read by anyone wanting a dog! I’ve shared this on Facebook and Pinterest!

  • Reply Isabel June 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Fantastic article, agree in all!!

  • Reply Sancha Samoyeds » Reservations being taken … June 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    […] […]

  • Reply Sandra Reiley-Lince June 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Well done; great article! This is exactly what most of us long-time breeders try to tell people when they tell us that dreaded ‘we JUST want a puppy, not a show dog!’… They fall in love with a particular look, attitude, size, etc, and how to they suppose these specific traits just happen to exist?!? Might I have your permission to print and share?!? TIA!

  • Reply Ros Leighton July 8, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Joanna, May I reproduce this article in a Vizsla Club newsletter in Autralia?

  • Reply Barbara Davidoff August 4, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I would like to add this to my website, with complete credits, of course. It is the most well written explanation I’ve ever seen about the topic. Wonderful.

  • Reply Jim August 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    This reasoning sounds a bit racist. If you applied this same reasoning to people, you would be a supporter of Hitler’s Aryan Race, for basically all the same reasons he thought it was a good idea. the science of evolution doesn’t support your ideas either. In nature, the best-gene pool is the widest gene-pool. A very restricted gene pool creates genetic diseases, in animals or in people. Google “founder effect” and become aware. This is the cause of many terrible genetic disorders in pure breed dogs today, such as Hip dysplasia and cardiomyopathy. Your view of mixed breed dogs is really quite uninformed, and you shouldn’t be spreading false information to support the pure bred snob culture.

    • Reply K March 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      So you think that domestic animals shouldn’t exist. Dogs only exist because of human interference with breeding – what you propose is the death of all breeds (and all domestic animals) and the reversion of dogs to feral type (i.e. Dingos). A genetically healthy population doesn’t mean animals that are individually healthier – it can mean the opposite, in fact, where you have 50% young deaths but from a variety of things instead of the same thing. The author is not saying that the purebred dog comes from the genetically healthiest possible population but that it is better to get a dog you can live with than a dog you can’t. Does it do the dog or me any good for them to live to be 18 banished to the backyard because our needs are incompatible? Or would it be better to have a dog live to 12 where it and I bring each other unspeakable joy every day?

  • Reply Michelle August 6, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Sadly the VAST majority of breeders are the ones just breeding for “breed name.” Look at all of the brain-dead show dogs that aren’t ANYTHING like their breed was created to be. The conformation ring has largely destroyed most of the breeds out there. Herders that don’t herd, guardian breeds that “love everyone”, companion breeds with paralyzing anxiety, small game dogs that could never go to ground, hunting breeds that are too big to get in and out of a boat…. and the list goes on and on and on and on….

    If you want a breed, you DON’T want a “show dog” you want a WORKING dog – one that does what it was made to do. And of you don’t want those qualities, as the article says, just get a mix.

  • Reply Alexis Phillips August 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    hmmmmmm………the best and most healthy dog we ever owned cost 20 pounds from a private address. Just because they come with papers is no guarantee as i have found out more recently. Its a lottery and sadly there are some greedy breeders out there. if youre not being advised to spay/casterate your puppy then beware!

  • Reply Sharon Young October 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Well said Joanna!! Some people just don’t realize the time, energy and $$ we put into showing, breeding, health checks (ie: hips and elbows ex-rayed, DNA test for other genetic health issues etc.) so we can produce the healthiest dogs to the best of our ability with good temperaments. You cannot place a dog with a bad temperament. If you do, your gonna get it back, or the owner who’s too afraid to contact the breeder will just dump at Animal Control.
    I had a gal who was going to get one of my puppies, but decided it was too much money. So what does she do but go to a Pet shop and buy a puppy for even MORE $ with no knowledge of the dogs lineage or anything. ARGH! Why do people snub their nose at paying good money for a well bred puppy from a responsible breeder, but don’t even flinch at paying big bucks for a pet shop puppy or so called designer (glorified mutt) breed? I don’t get it. Or, get that bargain priced pup where they get the puppy, hand the person a check and it’s see ya later Bye!

  • Reply Margaret T November 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I said those words, but I didn’t mean what you thought. What I meant was, “I want a dog from someone who breeds to breed standard, who does all the health testing, who titles their dogs in one way or another, but I don’t care if the ears aren’t set quite right, or the tail is a little long…. I’ll pay the price, because I want all the knowledge and experience that good breeder has, because I know in the long run I’ll get the temperament I want in my pet, and I’ll avoid health problems and vet bills, and I’ll have good advice if I ask.”

  • Reply Karen December 4, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Try to forgive my generalities here, I understand there are all sorts of show people just like there are all sorts of pet people.

    Time to work on understanding that a show quality dog doesn’t come with the expectation of breeding or showing. Both sides of this need to work on understanding the meaning of pet and show dogs. It can be hard to pry a show quality puppy from a breeder. They don’t want to lose the possibilities of the line down the road.

    It is also hard for someone to understand why you are charging full price for a dog you don’t feel is fit for showing. You need to be able and willing to explain why.

    It would help if show people didn’t talk about ‘pet homes’ in such disparaging tones also. I have cringed a couple times hearing people use that term. Why would someone want to pay 4k for a dog to be dismissed as a ‘pet owner’?

    I paid full show price for my pet. She had the temperament, history, upbringing and parents that I wanted. Yes, she is sound and healthy. Worth every penny and worth every bit to spay her. I didn’t want a show dog, I wanted a pet.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball December 4, 2013 at 5:29 am

      I honestly have a hard time with the whole concept of different show/pet prices. I understand that it’s very common, but I think it’s faulty on a couple of fronts – first, what people are paying for SHOULD be the support and predictability that comes from a breeder. That’s not going to change depending on the dog (I hope!). Second, the average show buyer is a lot more financially stretched than the average pet buyer.

      We always discount for anything that the new owner is going to have to pay to fix – for example, a retained testicle, which is going to be a more expensive neuter, or an umbilical hernia. But not for having a head that’s half an inch longer than another. And we charge more VERY occasionally, for a variety of reasons, but not for the accident of being show versus pet.

  • Reply Roxy December 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Good article overall but I will take a working line dog over show line any day in most cases. There are great show breeders out there but I’ve noticed you are more likely to find temperament issues in show dogs. A working dog has to have the right temperament to do their job. A show dog just has to let a judge touch them for a few minutes. I own two show dogs, so I’m certainly not anti show. I just have met a lot of iffy temperaments along the way.

    • Reply Tia December 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      I totally disagree! A show dog has to have a good temperament or they couldn’t be around all the dogs and people on the show grounds! They have to have their manners, especially around all the children that come running up and pet them. Which is tough on the handler when the dog has been groomed to perfection and ready to go in the ring! I have always gone show lines and I have never had a bad temperament, diggers, chewers, snappers or barkers. Except for the herding breeds, they are barkers when they try to herd your chickens or your kids…

  • Reply Debbie Schnulle December 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Love reading your posts – make me smile and shake my head in agreement with your thoughts.

  • Reply Collie Rescue December 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    I do not like the sound that you can get a rescue dog from shelter/rescue for free. I run a rescue and none of my rescue dogs are free. We don’t just adopt out our dogs to anyone, either. We thoroughly screen people and match a dog to a right family.

  • Reply Dana Brigman December 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Unless and Until we solve the spay/neuter problem with back yard & irresponsible breeders and dogs abandoned in shelters (including precious show-dog quality pure-bred dogs) — this insistance on show-dog quality is off the mark, and a death sentence to millions.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball December 5, 2013 at 1:29 am

      Dana, I want to respond directly.

      I’ve been involved in rescue for a long time. I have never, and I do mean not once, seen a show dog end up abandoned. I’ve seen a few cases where formerly good breeders have had to have dogs go into rescue when the situation badly deteriorated at home, but those dogs are handled by national breed rescue and not ever abandoned; the chain of custody doesn’t have a break in it. The term “show quality” is an interesting one, because in some breeds literally any registered dog could be show quality because there are no DQs in the breed. If by show-quality you mean well-bred and legitimately show-potential, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen one in a shelter. In each of those instances the dog had been sold on a contract to a pet owner who then did not return the dog to its breeder as was contractually mandated.

  • Reply Gayleen December 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

    I agree 100% about getting a purebred and not trying to get a bargain. As they say, you get what you pay for. But when many people say they want a pet, not a show dog, what they are really saying is they don’t want to be bothered with the showing of their family pet. Let’s face it, it’s a hassle and it’s time consuming and it can be very frustrating. If you’re not the breeder who is trying to improve her line, showing can be a real drag. Showing is an absolute necessity to keep the breeds going in the right direction. But not everyone who wants a quality, pure bred dog wants to show….or have their dog taken weekend after weekend to be shown. It’s not all about the money.

  • Reply PBurns December 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I want a bird dog … Or herding dog…. Or running dog…. Or sled dog…. Or livestock guarding dog…. Or protection dog…. Or coon dog… Or rabbiting dog… Or working terrier…. So I should get a SHOW dog? Nope. No one SERIOUS in the world of TRUE working dogs goes to show breeders. Show breeders select for SHOW not work.

    Another point is the notion that temperament or health are selected for in show dogs. Not true. The AKC and other registries give show ZERO points for health and ZERO show points for temperament and ZERO show points for work.

    You have basically said here that if you want to find a nice healthy, smart girl with a winning personality, you should go to a beauty pageant. I’m not sure that’s what you intended to say, but it’s what you said.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball December 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      OH MY HECK IT’s PATRICK BURNS. You may want to back away slowly.

      Basically, you’re wrong. A lot wrong. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience with watching show dogs go on to become (or come back from being) serious working dogs, so I have the comfort of knowing for sure that you’re wrong. I would invite you to get the same experience, as a breeder and an exhibitor, before you come insult the process. I believe you’ve never been either, correct?

      • Reply PBurns December 5, 2013 at 6:35 pm

        Sorry Joanna, but I have shown dogs AKC (probably before you were out of grade school, LOL), and I have worked dogs too. Not a closely hidden point.

        I also know folks who run sleds with dogs, chase rabbits with dogs, run races with dogs, herd sheep with dogs (for a living, not as a hobby), etc. This country is neck deep in fox hunting packs (the national association is just up the road), but the American Foxhound is one of the rarest AKC breed for a reason. You go to American Field for a bird dog, not the AKC field trial gang. But hey, if you want to double down on being wrong, and wave AKC field trials around as the real thing, go right ahead. The Secret Service is still not getting AKC dogs, the sled dogs are still run by honest mushers without AKC paper on their dogs, and American Field is still strong. As for track dogs, no one goes to the AKC. Not happening. Here’s a question: there has only been one AKC champion Greyhound who was a top winner on the track. What was his name?

        • Reply Joanna Kimball December 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm

          Sled dogs are virtually all mixed breeds; of course they don’t have AKC papers. However, what has blown open the racing world is the addition of the pointer and german shorthair pointer, both coming as registered purebreds from Europe. And, what is far more important, sled dog breeders know conformation inside and out. They are just as intensely concerned with conformation as any show dog breeder is, because they know it means something.

          What you’re saying is that conformation, which is what AKC shows evaluate, doesn’t matter when it comes to working. That’s just completely false. The serious breeders of ANY discipline, whether or not they use AKC as their conformation peer review, care incredibly deeply about conformation. A working terrier with too short a loin cannot turn around in a hole. One with shoulders that don’t lay back well will take more strides to go the same distance, meaning more wear and tear on its joints. One that is unbalanced in front and rear angles will strain tendons. One that moves from its elbows instead of its entire front assembly is causing biomechanical stressors on its joints. The foxhound with long pasterns will pull carpal ligaments on landing from a jump. The one with very fine bone will lack the substance it needs to push through terrain. Who cares whether the Master of Hounds has AKC hounds or not – he’s making the same decisions that the AKC breeder is, using the same criteria.

          EVERY serious breeder must be a student of conformation and must breed it. Heart and talent can help a dog overcome a poor body, but that dog will be in pain more quickly and will pass along its poor body assembly to the next generation, which may not have the heart or the talent. So all they’ve done is make a painful family pet. If you don’t care about conformation you can make a nice sweet dog, but the chances are a lot higher that it’ll be a nice sweet dog with arthritis who bites your kid when that kid touches her feet. The dogs that the breeder keeps have to be not only average-good but fantastic, in order to reliably produce average-good. That’s why EVERY working kennel shows their breeding dogs stacked, not just running. It’s because they know that view is as important to other working dog breeders as how hard the dog hits the sleeve.

          Some fact-checking: 1) The military gets its dogs from whatever their contractors are for that year. Those contractors get their dogs from all over the world, including the US, and they have some of the best eyes in the world. They are harder on conformation than almost any strict show breeder.
          2) There’s no such thing as “show points” in the way you describe. Nobody says “I got lots of show points for his head.” So I am honestly not sure you’re that experienced in the world of showing dogs. If you mean is working ability evaluated in the show ring, of course not. Not any more than conformation is evaluated in a field trial. They’re different venues, and if you forget that your show breed should be able to work and your working breed should have fantastic conformation, you’re a bad breeder.
          3) I’d argue that NAVHDA is pulling ahead of American Field, but it really doesn’t matter. Open either one – what you see on the front are DOGS STACKED. Because conformation matters, and serious dog breeders know that.

      • Reply Pamela Van Nest December 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        Joanna, I believe I have to agree to some extent with Patrick.

        We all agree that the best dog is the one that can walk out of the show ring and straight into the field and excel in both places. The truth is that show ring breeders select for the show ring. What would be the point if they didn’t? That isn’t to say that there aren’t dogs that cross over. Sure there are. There are a lot of cross overs. But there are also a lot–a whole lot–of dogs that can never ever cross over. What about the Labs described in previous posts? What about LGDs that are bred to be so easy-going and laid back that the judge, a total stranger, can no only approach but lay hands on the dog? What about severely angulated GSDs? What about the non-working Rough Collies discussed above?

        Breeding, whether it be with horses or dogs or any animal is a process of selection. The reputable show breeder would not want to introduce conformation-only faults such as a flatter head, a narrower jaw, into his line than a working dog breeder would want to introduce a non-worker into his. But, and this is a big but, the show ring breeder would more readily overlook the non-worker trait if the conformation was right just as the working dog breeder would overlook the slightly more narrow jaw if the working traits were there. It’s all a matter of what you want and knowing where to get it. Not everyone likes the same brand of chocolate ice cream.

      • Reply Michelle December 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm

        Joanna – I believe it is you who is wrong on this one. There are two camps in most breeds – the performance people and the show ring people. Are there SOME cross overs? Of course there are. Are they the majority? Not by a long shot!!

        In my breed, the dogs are shown obese in AKC. Most visibly jiggle, and you can’t see a rib or a muscle anywhere. At that weight, if they did any performance (including anything over basic obedience) they would quickly fall apart. My dog’s brother is the same size he is, at healthy weight my dog is 46 pounds, his brother shows at 68!!!

        When was the last time you saw an AKC conformation titled Golden that was small enough or agile enough to get in and out of a boat in the water? That’s what they are supposed to be able to do. Or one of those rediculous kegs-on-legs Labrador Retrievers? Or a Saint Bernard that could actually work (and breath) in cold weather?

        If you approached a livestock guardian breed that was work bred and started touching it all over you’d probably end up losing a body part or two. But instead of respecting what the breed SHOULD do (not accept strangers) they are show bred to have none of the instinct that they are supposed to have.

        • Reply Pamela Van Nest December 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm

          To me, there are two types or subsets of conformation: There is functional conformation such as a well laid shoulder, nice straight hocks, good balance off a nice back, etc. Without these things you are looking at a badly put together animal that will have physical problems its entire life. Then there are the things that are nothing more than cosmetic and do not affect the physical soundness of the dog. Unfortunately, the show ring breeders value these cosmetic points more than they do the natural instinct of the dog. After all, they are breeding for the ring and the closer they get to the “ideal” the better results they will have.

          In addition to this, there is the problem of show ring breeders who essentially breed out the dog’s natural instinct–as with the LGDs–in order to get an animal that will perform correctly in the show ring.

          There is one huge elephant sitting on top of this thread that no one is mentioning: The Bulldog.

          (I have deleted everything I’ve typed from this point as I think the Bulldog pretty much speaks for itself.)

          • Joanna Kimball December 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

            Pamela –

            As a show ring breeder, I can assure you that you are very wrong. It’s impossible to say something about ALL show breeders, of course, because anybody can breed and show dogs. You don’t have to pass a test. However, we have names for people who don’t breed sound dogs but focus only on the cosmetic aspects of type, and those names are not nice. Across the board, the touchstone breeders in every breed, the ones we all aspire to imitate, know soundness inside and out and NEVER sacrifice for it.

            I’ve also known many LGD breeders and have seen no evidence that they are breeding the guardian instinct out of their dogs. LGD breeders are some of the hardest-working breeders out there in terms of educating buyers that their dogs are NOT big white teddy bears who can just live on your couch. The newer trend in ranching LGDs is crossbreeding, because of the unique combination of predator pressures in the US, so the number of purebred LGDs out there working stock is going down (which is fine), but there is no “split” in working/show purebred LGDs. If you import a Maremma from Italy to work your ranch or import one to go in the show ring, you’re going to the same breeders by and large.

        • Reply Joanna Kimball December 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

          Michelle –

          There are not working/show camps in most breeds. There are working/show camps in a small handful of breeds. Of the almost 200 breeds that the AKC registers, the overwhelming majority are either companion breeds or do not have contemporary jobs anymore. There are no fox hunts with terriers, there are no otter hunts, there are no (legal) dogfights, there are no bull baiting rings. And, what’s even more interesting, those jobs disappeared long before the breeds even began to be registered. The last time Keeshonds were popular as barge dogs was centuries before they entered a registry. The AKC (and the KC, until recently) always been very concerned with codifying and preserving dogs that would otherwise disappear without breeders keeping them going.

          Of the breeds that still have contemporary jobs, most do not have a show/working split. But because the few (Border Collies, Labs, Pointers, Goldens, etc.) that do get so much animosity (mostly directed from the working breeders toward the show), you may have the impression that there are many breeds with a split. But that’s just not true.

          What IS true is that there’s a split between dogs bred for a purpose and dogs bred for the pet market with no standards or criteria. That’s the only split in most breeds.

          Getting back to your statements about specific dogs, you have pit bulls, right? Or do you have AKC Am Staffs? Because you may be able to show a fat AmStaff in AKC but you sure the heck can’t win with one. In the group ring they’re hardbodies. Anybody who thinks they have to show a dog of ANY breed 20 lb overweight is just plain wrong; I have heard handlers tell owners to put 2-3 lb on a slim dog to try to bring a topline down (when they’re super thin the topline often looks roachy) but a 20-lb overweight dog would look ridiculous. And that includes the Labs. I would take five or ten pounds off many of the Labs out there, and I agree that they should be slimmer in the ring, but the show Labs are also just plain built BIG. When you have your hands on them you quickly realize what you thought was fifteen extra pounds is actually five. And, thankfully, the weight trend in Labs is going down, not up.

          Since I know some fantastic Saints, I’ll take your comment to mean that you’ve not met enough Saints. And since my good friend breeds field champion and AKC champion Bassets (and they’re the same dogs), I can stop you before you bring up Bassets. Your question on Goldens – ummm… last week? No, two weeks ago. The last show I was at. I had to deliver a cute little Golden bitch to her handler. She wasn’t above my knee and she was easily liftable, which I know because I lifted her. Don’t be deceived by coat and grooming. You can stand ringside and watch the Goldens jump higher than their handlers’ heads for treats. Under the coats, especially the bitches, they’re nice and hard and slender.

  • Reply » ” I don’t want a show dog, I just want a pet” – So good – I had to borrow this post! December 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    […] by Joanna Kimball on July 13, 2010, 101 comments […]

  • Reply I don't want a show dog -I just want a pet. - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums December 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    […] this today and I thought it was well written and timely given it is Christmas and puppytime. I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking […]

  • Reply NewEngland Breeders? - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums December 6, 2013 at 3:52 am

    […] good posts to help explain why this is important. One of our members shared this link just today: I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking Some of my favorite quotes in that article are: "Those things that distinguish the breed […]

  • Reply Bette Isacoff December 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    May I have your permission to post this on my website? Thank you.

  • Reply Ursula December 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    May I have permission to reprint this article in our Erie Canal Schipperke Club’s newsletter?

    • Reply Joanna Kimball December 8, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Yes, permission is always given as long as the article is reproduced in full and the link is intact. Thanks so much!

  • Reply Breno December 7, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I liked so much your post that I’ve taken the freedom of translating it into Portuguese, my languish, and I’ve posted it on facebook. If you don’t want it to be there, just tell me and I take it off, ok? Thanks a lot!

  • Reply Judith Larkin December 10, 2013 at 2:41 am

    I am the editor of the Pacific Northwest Gordon Setter Club and would like permission to reprint this article for my club’s newsletter. We have printed an article of yours before with permission and hope to do so again.
    Thank you.

  • Reply Joy Van Veen December 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    If you change the words “show bred” to purpose bred”; I would agree with you 100%. Many breeds were developed for a specific purpose. The breed characteristics which distinguish that breed from any other began from that purpose breeding. In some breeds the show bred dog has diverged considerably from the purpose bred in the breed considerably. I do not look for guide dog candidates out of show bred stock. And the pups out of the guide dog purpose bred matings which won’t go on to be guide dogs make fine pets which are true to the breed. The same can be said of many purpose bred dogs of specific breeds.

    • Reply GJ January 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Joy, I completely agree. Yes, you should buy a good dog with a traceable background (both parents tested) but most show dogs (cocker spaniels) are completely useless for their intended purpose (hunting). On the other side, there are the working spaniels with hardly any testing (beside a hunting certificate). Ideally, you want to combine both qualities as much as possible (show/field) and strive to get a wide baseline of healthy dogs with a low inbreed coefficient.

  • Reply Shelly Fields January 1, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Joanna, I am also a dog breeder, and the VP for my Cavalier Club here in AZ. I would like to ask permission to cross post, or use your article that is so well written.

    Thanking you in advance,

    Shelly Fields

  • Reply Question about breeding and pedigree - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums January 1, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    […] healthy. Here is a great blog that talks about show bred dogs. She is knowledgable and witty. I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking __________________ Laura, Jinx and Tilt UKC CH Wildfire's A Kind of Magic CGC […]

  • Reply Dave January 8, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    While I agree with your premise, it doesn’t always hold true. I am all for responsible breeding and eliminating the so called “puppy mills”, but good dogs don’t have to come from champion blood lines. Case in point…My dog. He is full blood chocolate lab. I found him in my neighbor hood by a kid that bred his two choco’s. $250 A little risky, maybe, but I would do it again if the guy had another litter. My dog is intelligent, well behaved, and relatively healthy. He is a great house dog, as well as coming along as a great upland hunting dog. He has no champion blood lines, and no fancy titles. I guess my point is, that you need to be careful, but you also need to be smart and know what to look for in any dog. That includes being able to see the dam and sire. I work in the dog world, and I see all sorts of animals. I know plenty of others who have not spent tons of money and gotten a pretty good dog.

  • Reply Frances January 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    And I would add: I adopted a 4 year old from a reputable breeder, and when she accidentally ran out the front door over thanksgiving, the breeder AND her foster mom drove down to help me look for her and get her back. Ethical breeders care about their animals for life. They are always available to answer questions and offer advice. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  • Reply Getting a lab this summer! Concerns! - Page 2 February 20, 2014 at 10:01 am

    […] now confiscated toy box. Oh, and here is an article I found useful why go to a reputable breeder: I don I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking Hope this helps. Good luck with your search! My sunshine doesn't come from the skies, it […]

  • Reply Price for golden puppy - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums February 25, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    […] with clearances that go back several generations. Well, here, this says it better than I could: I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking Also $2k is on the higher end of what you might find in your area but not […]

  • Reply What type of dog should we get? and other questions? - Page 5 March 30, 2014 at 1:42 am

    […] well for me its not an issue of pet vs show quality but I have to say and I say this as a university student who is in debt and spent last summer cleaning toilets. Its not wise to pick a breeder on affordability. Personally I prefer a breeder who breeds for a purpose even if I would buy the pet quality pup from a show quality (or other titles especially working titles with certain breeds) breeder but thats a discussion for another thread. Health tests and that doesn't mean a visit to the vet that means DNA testing, X rays ect. Also registration with a reputable kennel club (in europe member of FCI) is a basic as it not only guarantees that the pup is purebred but also that the breeder at least in theory has been able to research into the family history of the dam and sire to assess their health and compatibility. But I think this might help the OP. BYB's, Puppymills, Petstores and Reputable Breeders Puppy Mills, Pet Stores and Back Yard Breeders (BYB's) I think this article sums up my view on breeding and many here on the forum. If you don't go to a rescue going to a good breeder is more important than many realise. I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking […]

  • Reply Anna May 27, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I wouldnt advise anyone to go directly to a show breeder. Sorry, but at least in my country, show breeders are after looks much more than anything else. I dont want a dog thats looks like my breed, I want a dog that behaves like my breed.

    I often advise people to think about WHAT it is they want and then ask breeders SPECIFICALLY about that. It is often hard work and I end up helping most of them, still, I never say “pick the show breeder”. I say “pick the one you trust, the one you feel is passionate and embrace invasiness”. One that point I agree with you.

    All show breeders are dedicated to their program but sometimes what they are breeding for is way way different than what their breed was. Specially for working dogs and with the growing of dog sports, working dogs are more and more desirable. But well, in the breeds I like, show culture has put behavior traits aside, less important than their cousin, the looks.

  • Reply Katherine June 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    This really hit home for me. We had a really bad experience with a “Breeder” some years back. I had wanted a chocolate lab since I walked a dog for some grad students when I was a kid. We found a breeder that only had chocolate labs…and they weren’t too expensive – great deal, right?! Nope. I spent almost $4k on him in vet bills in the first year alone – he was allergic to everything and had some weird personality characteristics and some weird issues with his body. He had to be on special food and had chronic ear infections. He ended up dying at just 3 years of age – and I attribute all of the above to poor breeding. I am just super happy to see that this breeder isn’t in business anymore – – this is a true story of “You get what you pay for”.

  • Reply Your opinion on where to buy a pup. October 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    […] These points are important even when you don't want a show dog, this blog sort of explains why I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking I would add to that blog though that i don't think its necessary for the dogs to have conformation […]

  • Reply Regular Guy April 14, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Man when The fuck did rules and regulations come out to dog owning. If someone wants to own a damn dog, let them own one. Dont tell us why or why not we shouldnt get a dog. Everybody has their own reasons to want a certain breeds for certain reasons. So gtfo

    • Reply Tia May 1, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      I really don’t think you need to state your case with that kind of language. A lot of people like to buy from a reputable breeder because then you know what you’re getting as far as temperament size how much exercise they need how much grooming they need because of the type of fur they may have. Four instance I would never get a rescue dog if I had small children around because I don’t know what is in their head. I have had rescues and will have more rescues but not with small children around. I have purebred dogs from reputable breeders because I knew what I wanted in a dog and you can find that with a purebred. In other words to each his own!

      • Reply Shawn Harkness August 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

        I have bought only from reputable CKC registered breeders (two different ones). I researched extensively, visited a couple of times, met the “parents” and some of their other dogs, saw the hip & joint certifications. I did everything I could to ensure I was welcoming healthy, sound dogs (GSDs) to my home. My first one died suddenly at 6 years of age. Cancer. Took her to the vet 2 days before she died and she was given a clean bill of health. I lost my second one this year to numerous ailments including severe hip dysplasia, degenerative joint disease and edema (ACLs, elbows, hocks) and a systemic infection caused by the breakdown of her immune system which set in days before she was due for surgery . Five different vets and over $5,000 in two weeks and we still lost her. She was 4 years old and it had damn near killed me — in fact it’s still killing me. We have her younger brother and he has ACL trouble. There will never been another purebred dog in this house. In fact when we lose my boy, there won’t likely be another anything. It’s just heartbreaking.

  • Reply Michael Romanos May 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Of course in every country regulations concerning dog ownership apply. The welfare of the dog is paramount and careful managed breeding takes into account the health of the pups that are eventually distributed to new owners whether the dogs are of a certain breed or mixed bred. In most countries and states certain breeds of dogs considered typically dangerous are banned in one way or another which is another set of regulations to protect ownership and communities including other dogs and animals.

  • Reply Knut J May 29, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I do not want a show dog but I want a working dogs that I can train for K9 search and rescue. Working dog as they are breed to be healthy and to be able to perform a demaning task. Most working dog are not registered in the kennel clubs and are often cross breed dogs..

  • Reply Samantha K July 29, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Love the basis of this article! So important to consider the health and structure of the parents of your dog. How often do people go get a puppy and not even look at the parents, let alone meet them?!
    I agree with what many people have said, how important it is to not just look at the breeders show ring success. I own/show/trial/love Australian Shepherds, a breed who not only needs to look pretty but needs the agility, brains, temperament, etc to be a well rounded dog. With this breed I’ve noticed more than a few people who focus solely on showing and I believe that is hurting the breed. While correct conformation is important to do their jobs/agility/sports correctly, the strict “show lines” are so heavy boned, and frankly dim-witted. Which is why when I got my most recent girl from a conformation/herding line cross. She is the perfect, well-rounded dog, who excels in agility, rally and has beautiful movement. And soon she’ll be producing some amazing companions for others too!

  • Reply Leon August 3, 2015 at 2:29 am

    I’m 68 yrs old and have owned numerous pets, and have loved all my dogs the most. I intend on getting another dog soon. Every dog I’ve had, but one, came from the local animal shelter or someone’s pet gave birth at home etc. The one that was from a breeder, Charlie the Irish Setter, was the only one I had to give away. He dug holes, ruined screen doors, jumped fences and chased cars. I’m not caring to analyze the causes for that and am certainly not blaming the breeder or the dog, because truthfully I’m not knowledgeable enough life to make that sort of judgment (and there can always be anomalies and maybe it was ME!). I’m just saying that was my experience.

    Each of the other dogs I’ve had were mixed breeds from the pound, and all bar none, were incredibly sweet and loyal and most were quick to learn and obey (altho my expectations on that are always simple, I am definite about some things).

    So I won’t go to a breeder next month (I’m not saying Charlie was the breeder’s fault necessarily), because of my personal experiences. I normally spend weeks and sometimes months visiting the pound and meeting every dog till I find that unmistakable connection. It’s always worked for me. I’m willing to train away bad habits for the ‘right’ dog. :)

    So maybe most people see me as misinformed or ignorant, but I have to tell you I love dogs with all my heart and think they are the best companion creatures on earth – and next month I will again start my treks to the local shelter.

    By the way… cats are probably my least favorite pets generally, yet every cat I’ve ever had (many) has also come from friends, shelters, parking lots, alleys, etc. and all but one of them were exceptionally friendly and gentle and loving, and enjoyably eccentric, and very aware of their owner’s expectations.

    My sister, on the other hand, has always had purebreds (terriers and wolfhounds for past many years) and as beautiful as they are, and as much as I love those larger breeds, I wouldn’t want the personalities. So, a purebred Lab or Retriever might work well for me, why not save a dog who also saves me?

    Incidentally, because I love dogs as I do I’ve spent much time over the decades reading and studying and talking with owners about most breeds, even those not so available in the US, and my conclusion is it may not be for me. I know exactly what I want in a dog and have found it to exist in almost every mix I’ve taken in – so I’ll go that route again.

    Just my experience.

    • Reply Joanna Kimball August 3, 2015 at 3:31 am

      Getting a dog from a shelter or pound is a wonderful way to add to your family. My concern is not that people are rescuing – of COURSE you should rescue! – but that they are looking for “cheap” purebreds to buy, thinking they’ll get a good experience for less money, when in fact they’re getting the exact opposite.

      • Reply Leon August 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

        Mea culpa for not reading your post closely enough. I agree totally… if I were to get any purebred I’d only deal with the best of the best in breeders. In fact, an improperly bred/raised purebred could be dangerous – especially in the large breeds I like.

  • Reply Reluctant Mom August 5, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I just screamed HAIL MARY at the end of this post. {and I am not Catholic}

    I have been trying to explain this concept for years and have failed – eventually I get so angry I just want to punch people randomly in the vag.ina.

    But this article encapsulates everything I feel — and just puts it in better english with less sweary words than I would of used.

    {the universe applauds you}

    • Reply Joanna Kimball August 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm


      Also, snaps for putting a PERIOD in the VAGINA. (snork snork)

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