|Untangling Webs: Finding a Newfoundland Puppy|
The Internet can be a great thing. If you're reading this article, hurray! If you're, instead, browsing sites you found on backyardbreeders.com, then it's not good.
For legitimate hobby breeders (and by that I mean people who show dogs, breed carefully, do health checks, screen puppy buyers better than the CIA, etc.) a web site can be a wonderful thing. It can show prospective buyers photos of their dogs, pedigrees, contracts - you name it. Everyone can save time: buyers can get a sense of what the breeder has done or is doing with dogs, breeders can answer the Frequently Asked Questions online instead of on the phone. (Yes, that's what this page is designed to do!)
But for every "good" breeder who has a website, there are probably 50 "bad" breeders who also have websites. So how does anyone know? Obviously no one titles a site Baddest Breeder in Missouri - Home of the World's Sickliest Newfoundland Dogs.
Before you go any further, you might want to become familiar with some basic terms: puppy mill and backyard breeder. Since this is the web, just click those links and READ. These sites will open in new windows, so you'll have no problem coming back here to find out more about Newfs on the web.
So now that we all understand the meanings of the terms hobby breeder, backyard breeder and puppy mill, you, the prospective puppy buyer, still have to figure out how to tell who's legitimate and who's not. Unfortunately for you, the web has spawned probably hundreds if not thousands of unscupulous and careless breeders who are making a big bundle of money off people just like you.
But wait - before you read any further, I want you to understand where I am coming from, because I, too, have my biases and you should understand them. If you don't agree with them, then perhaps backyardbreeders.com is the place for you, not here. So here's my credo:
So, if you're still with me, let's surf the web and see if we can spot the baddies from the goodies. To keep myself from being sued, I'm going to give you examples from actual sites, but I'm going to let you find them for yourselves.
What's on a bad breeder's web site
You will see some blurry photos of three or four female Newfs and one scruffy male. He is "our stud dog," and the girls are "our brood bitches." You will not actually be able to tell much from the photos because 1) bad breeding and bad photography must have something to do with each other 2) professionalism isn't part of the package here. The idea that a prospective buyer would actually like to judge the conformation of a sire and dam doesn't seem to occur to these people. If the photos should be in focus, you will probably notice that the dogs aren't well groomed. Some of these people seem to think that matted coats are part of the Newfoundland Standard (which they've probably never heard of or read). They will also, often, boast that their stud dog weighs 220 pounds. That Standard they've never heard of states explicitly that the average weight for males is 130-150 pounds and 100-120 pounds for females. What you should immediately be able to gather is that this "boy" is let loose on the "girls" every time one of them comes into heat. That's why the puppy supply is continual.
You will not find pedigrees. These are the people who will tell you that pedigree isn't important - that's something only those snobby show people care about. But remember this - all dogs have pedigrees, even mutts. A pedigree is just a record of where the dog came from. It's not a guarantee of anything - it's just a record. You might also ask yourself, how come they're breeding dogs that they know little or nothing about?
If there should be a pedigree on one of these web sites, look at it closely. You might see that this dog comes from "champion lines." What this means is that six generations back there were two dogs named CH Goodkennel's Glorious George, CD, WRD, OFA and CH Bestkennel's Magnificent Millicent, UD, WRD, OFA. In fact, there are, for the next two generations, several dogs from the Goodkennel and Bestkennel breeders. But then something happens. Suddenly you see that the kennel name becomes "Luckybub" or disappears. I can spot a puppy mill pedigree almost instantly by looking at the names. I can guarantee you that Lucky Bob is not the name of a current show champion. That is not to say that kennel names don't change - they do. I buy a Bestkennel sire and a Goodkennel bitch - I breed them and put my own kennel name, Betterthangood, on them. This happens all the time in dogs - but if you never see the Betterthangood name again, but in the next generation it is Lessthanwonderful, then something may be wrong. There should be consistency in the pedigree to some extent.
And guess what - a champion six generations ago doesn't mean anything. By the time the puppymillers and backyard breeders have done their worst to that dog's genes, he might as well have been a junkyard dog - because that is what his progeny are becoming.
You will see photos of the latest litter - usually in a corner of the laundry room in an old plastic basket. Often you will see the owner's six kids each with a two-week old puppy in their laps. How cute! How dangerous! How utterly careless.
There will be an email link, usually right below the Visa and Mastercard icon, where you can email the breeder to ask about availability. You will receive a reply something on the order of "We have three boys and two girls left. Tell me which one you want and we'll ship it to you on Tuesday. We accept all credit cards."
This is the most telling - the willingness of a breeder to sell you a dog as soon as the money changes hands. You're an axe murderer? been convicted of animal cruelty in six states? you intend to tie the dog to a tree in the yard and let it breed with the neighbor's cocker spaniel? No matter - if your money's good, you're OK.
So you buy the puppy and in six months you find out he has severe hip dysplasia. You use that email link again and get no response. You're outta luck, in more ways than one.
What's on a good breeder's web site
You will see photos of the dogs, along with their pedigrees, titles and health clearance numbers. The photos may well be show photos, not because these are the most artistically pleasing but because the show pose or stack shows off the dog's topline and angulation. You may not be looking for a show dog, but isn't it nice to know that the parents are structurally sound?
You may find club affiliations or photos of the Newfs doing working things like swimming, pulling carts, acting as big pillow for kids. (Grown Newfs, not baby puppies!)
You will probably find a wealth of information about care and feeding, training, shows, health. You might also find a sample contract along with the breeder's expectations for the care of a puppy. If you don't agree with the terms, you can go elsewhere. Most of the puppies will probably be sold as Limited Registrations, which means they cannot be shown in AKC conformation shows (but they can be shown in obedience and working events) and they cannot be bred. This, of course, is to ensure that they don't end up as puppy mill or backyard breeder's dogs.
Most importantly, the first email you send or phone call you make will be just one of many. You will be interrogated. It doesn't matter if you have a million dollars - you have to prove your worthiness to own one of these very special puppies. And isn't that the way it should be?
And now while you're thinking about, go to the Newfoundland Club of America website and look at the breeders' list. Not all the good breeders in the USA are on that list, and some of the breeders on the list don't have websites - but it's better than starting at apup4u.com - believe me.
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