When it comes to dog breeders, no two are the same, but they generally fall into one of three categories. They include professional breeders, puppy mills, and the backyard breeder. It is important to be able to identify these breeders as the environment your puppy comes from will greatly influence their overall health, temperament, and look.
Allow me a few minutes to explain the difference between these three categories.
Professional breeders/exhibitors breed and exhibit a purebred Labrador that adheres to the Labrador standard set by the parent club, The Labrador Retriever Club (LRC). Not only do they adhere, but they promote the breed and their goals are focused on the betterment of the breed’s future. Their dogs are exhibited in a variety of shows that prove their excellence in conformation and behavior by a recognized judge. They are well educated on health and behavior issues of the breed and seek to educate others. These breeders can have as few as one litter a year up to having a large scale kennel that has several a year. Their emphasis is on quality, not quantity.
Subcategories of professional breeders can be :
Show breeders breed for excellent conformation that conforms to the LRC for size and proportion, front and rear angulation, straightness and reach of gait, head type, pigment, and all the other traits important to maintaining the breed according to the standard. Many of these traits are important in the long-term health of the dog and why having a puppy from a show kennel is relevant for the pet owner. Show breeders take responsibility for certifying and screening their dogs against problems inherent to their breed, such as hip/elbow dysplasia. Their efforts minimize genetic health issues in their puppies.
Sporting/working dog breeders concentrate on working drives and retaining strong instincts to perform the duties the breed was designed to excel in. These dogs are genetically predisposed to perform their line of work whether it is herding, trailing prey, flushing birds from the bush, energetic searches, or performing in the Schutzhund field. These dogs are not necessarily beauty contestants as temperament and workability are the priorities. Health is important, so they are also screened and certified against health problems.
How to identify a professional breeder:
1. They offer health guarantees. This is an indication of confident, well-considered breeding.
2. They screen their dogs for health issues according to the recommendation of the LRC and offer proof when asked. You can see their recommendations here.
3. Puppies are vaccinated, wormed, and microchipped
4. They will sell their puppies on limited registration and will require extensive screening for full registration.
5. They regularly exhibit their dogs in conformation, field, obedience, etc.
6. They belong to a breed club or kennel club
7. They will work with other reputable breeders
8. They will show you pedigrees and the pedigrees will have titled dogs (look for abbreviations before or after the dog’s name such as CH, CD, JH, MH, etc.)
9. They will identify their dogs by their function, show or field generally.
10. They are a lifelong learner of the breed. They try to stay up-to-date on the latest research regarding the health of the breed.
11. They will educate you! Professional breeders are passionate about their breed and will jump at any opportunity to share any and all information about ways to promote the betterment of the breed.
12. They want to be involved for the life of the dog
Commercial Kennels/Puppy mills/ pet stores: The bottom line is profit and volume. Their dogs are generally not evaluated for health, behavior, or confirmation. Puppy mills and commercial kennels are the main contributors to pet shops. Their goal is to produce lots of puppies for profit. Puppies are a commodity. Puppy mills may be raided by animal control for horrid, deplorable conditions. Quality is not a top concern in this part of the industry. Puppies are often sold to pet stores at wholesale prices and resold to the public at “show ” prices. The cost of overhead requires the store owner to charge exorbitant prices for their “products.” Compulsive buyers and the high degree of foot traffic support these establishments. Before making a financial and emotional commitment, prospective buyers should contact the area’s humane society and Better Business Bureau for information. These types of breeders should be avoided COMPLETELY! These puppies can go for $100 to several thousand dollars. The price of the puppy does not always determine the quality.
How to identify commercial breeder:
1. They don’t offer health guarantees
2. They can’t present proof of health clearances
3. They won’t take the time to exhibit their dogs in shows
4. They won’t show you parents or invite you to see where the puppies are raised.
5. They don’t screen their potential puppy owners
Backyard Breeders are the main contributors of puppies. This term applies to all who breed with little knowledge of the breed standard. Their dogs are not screened for inherent problems prevalent in the breed, nor are the dogs proven under the well-educated eye of a judge in the show ring or at a trial. They have not taken the time, money, or effort to ensure they are breeding better dogs than the next advertisement in the paper. Many backyard breeders confess that they are not breeding show dogs and don’t subject themselves to the show or performance breeders’ rigorous attempts to eradicate health problems or to maintain proper structure or temperament. Despite this, they will still charge an exorbitant amount of money.
How to identify a backyard breeder:
1. They will use key phrases such as: “Designer breeds”, “champion bloodline”. “excellent bloodline”, “German or European bloodline”, “oversized”, or “rare colors.” Rare colors like silver, champagne or charcoal are advertised as unique, but are often contributed to be major faults according to the breed standard and may be linked to genetic health problems. “Excellent bloodline” is nothing more than a family tree if the breeder has little or no knowledge about bloodlines.
2. They will use the term American/English Labradors to describe their dogs. This is an incorrect use to identify the type of Labrador and is not used by professional breeders. We only use the term “English” if our dogs are actually imported from England.
3. They may offer AKC paperwork, but that does not ensure quality. Just about anyone, even mixed breeds such as the silver lab can be registered falsely with the AKC. Look for titles in their pedigree to ensure quality.
4. They do not screen their dogs for health issues or do limited screenings
5. They do not exhibit their dogs.
6. They do not know the breed well enough to educate others
In conclusion, puppies are like children, they are all cute, but they do eventually grow up to be adults. If you prefer a specific breed over a mix or rescue, choose a puppy with the best potential to grow up healthy, properly proportioned, and with the correct temperament distinctive to the breed. We encourage all families seeking a new furry companion to do their research, ask hard questions, and be prepared to walk away if the breeder is not the right fit for you.
Breed Standard, brief history, current Labrador news: Labrador Retriever Club https://thelabradorclub.com/
In-depth history of the Labrador Retriever: The Labrador Retriever: The History-- the People, Revisited by Richard Wolters