“Pet-Quality”: The Difference Between Show Dogs & Pet Dogs
The first to thing to understand about the difference between a "show quality" puppy and pet puppy is that it is entirely in the eye of the breeder.
A breeder must determine the degree to which each pup meets their Breed Standard and select accordingly . Knowing the Chihuahua Breed Standard – and how to interpret it – is how we select our next generations to improve the breed.
In addition to health screening, some Breed Standards have disqualifications, which prevent dogs from entering the show ring, such as cryptorchidism (only one descended testicle).
For Chihuahuas, the obvious disqualifiers are merles (it's not a naturally occurring Chihuahua gene, so somewhere up the line there's been a whoopsie - either by accident or on purpose), size (a bitch might be too big or too small to safely breed from) or bite - a show dog needs a level or scissor bite. A less than perfect bite may not in any way hinder a long and happy life in a pet dog, but it's not going to make a winning show dog or a sound breeding prospect and it's irresponsible to breed when you have such an obvious fault which you will then bring through to future generations.
There are many other considerations in the mix and a breeder has to make this call when a pup is still immature. A "late bloomer" might be considered a pet as a puppy, only to blossom into a real stunner as an adult and every breeder has a tale to tell about "the one that got away."
There is an excellent article here by Denise Flaim on the AKC site about Pet v Show quality that goes into much greater detail.
The bottom line is, all dogs are pets. Some just win ribbons every now and then and some have "titles" but a title is certainly not a guarantee of quality. Believe it or not, there are some particularly competitive breeders who will go so far as to sell a stunning, potentially show winning dog to a pet home, simply because they're keeping a littermate and don't want the other pup competing against them in the ring.
If you are looking for a healthy pet to join your family, whether or not, in the subjective opinion of one breeder it is "show quality" - and there are some wild variations on what that means in every breed - is a fairly minor consideration and in no way should affect the price of a dog or the expectation of a healthy, happy puppy.
Lastly, all Dogs NZ breeders are required to provide papers for their dogs and are explicitly prohibited from charging for them (if they do try, report them to Dogs NZ and they will be fined). Registration costs a bit over $40, so don't be fooled by an unscrupulous breeder trying to gouge you for hundred of dollars for papers they are required to give you for free.
And while on the subject of papered dogs, all Dogs NZ breeders are required to register every puppy in their litters so a breeder offering you a "papered" versus and "unpapered" pup from the same litter, is also up to something sketchy and you should report them. Oh, and don't buy the puppy, either.
If you want to understand more about the faults show-dogs are penalised for, watch this comprehensive video from the American Kennel Club which breaks the Breed Standard down, feature by feature. It goes for about 17 mins but it's very interesting if you want a better understanding of what makes a "show" Chihuahua.
Pet v Show Dog? - Meet Loki and Narci
Loki (the black and white) was our first Chihuahua. He is from a reputable breeder sold as a pet because he was cryptorchid.
Narci (the white dog) is a European and NZ Champion we imported from a Crufts-winning breeder in Greece.
Both stunning, both healthy, both adored pets and neither of them knows or cares which one is the champion show dog.