Updated: Dec 31, 2019
A GDS breeder told us once, that the best thing that had ever happened to him as a breeder was the internet. He had been able to increase his prices from $200 to $2000 thanks to sites like TradeMe in NZ, GumTree in Aus and many other “virtual marketplaces” around the globe, where anybody with 2 entire dogs could put them together, come up with a cute name for the resulting puppies (preferably ending in doodle) and sell them for a tidy profit.
But along with the “doodle” problem, comes the matter of registered breeders using these same channels and presenting an online presence to the world that may or may not be accurate. The internet has facilitated the rise of Facebook and Intagram pages with bought likes, made-up glowing reviews and slick websites that are so fake, they could have been built at a Russian Troll Farm in St Petersburg.
So how does the unsuspecting public tell the difference? How does a prospective owner know if the amazing XYZ Kennels are as good as they claim or just happen to be good at social media management? Do they really know their breed, or do they just happen to know how to build a website and register a domain?
There are ways to tell and hopefully the following 4 basic rules will help you identify the legit breeders from the wannabes.
Rule 1: The quality of a breeder’s online presence is not indicative of their breeding
Many of the most prestigious and reliable breeders in the world are technophobes. They’ve been breeding for decades and were busy out showing and breeding their dogs while the rest of us were buying the latest iPhone and playing Minecraft. Some have sites built in the early 1990s and they not been updated since. Some have only recently mastered email.
Conversely, there are some very tech-savvy newbies in the breeding business. But being Insta-famous is quite different from being a good breeder.
One of the worst Chihuahua puppy-farmers we know of has literally thousands of likes on her Facebook page and a small, loyal following who would defend her to the death as a wonderful breeder. Ring the Chihuahua Rescue Trust, however, and they will paint quite a different picture.
What to look for in a breeder's online presence:
Ignore how pretty or well-designed a site seems, is it a few pages or deep and rich with up-to-date information? Is their site more whitespace than substance?
How many dogs has the kennel bred and from what lines?
What is their breeding philosophy? Do they even have one? Why are they breeding? If their aim is to breed “winners” it’s probable they are not interested in the breed, so much pandering to their own egos.
Do they own all the dogs they claim? Do the dogs they claim to have in their kennels even exist?
Are you able to visit the physical kennel and meet their dogs?
If they claim their dogs have great temperaments, where is their proof?
How long have they been in the business?
What are their credentials as a breeder? If they are new and just learning the ropes, they will state that quite openly. It's nothing to be ashamed of and indicates their fundamental honesty if they admit this.
Stay away from newbies pretending they know everything. Signs of newbies posing as experienced breeders are easy to spot: check how many champions with their kennel name have they bred (as opposed to bought from other breeders).
Are they advertising their breeding or boasting about how shiny their vacuum cleaner is (and yes, there are “kennel” sites that make up for lack of breeding credibility with infomercials).
Links to other related sites are not endorsements. We could link our site to Buckingham Palace, but that doesn't mean we're endorsed by the Queen. It just means they know how to insert a hyperlink in a web page.
Contact the NZ Chihuahua Rescue Trust (or your dog local rescue) and ask them whose dogs they never see and whose dogs they are constantly dealing with.
Rule 2: Watch out for “red-flag” words and phrases
Teacup Chihuahua If you see this word (unless it is in the same sentence as the words “no such thing”), run screaming in the opposite direction. THERE IS NO SUCH THING as a Teacup Chihuahua and anyone selling “teacups” (in any breed) is either scamming you or completely clueless about breeding.
Micro/Mini see Teacup
Boutique Breeder Google this term and it takes you straight to the Backyard Breeder page on Wikipedia, which says it all, really. A few years ago, when we first established Kitaco, we naively used this term on our site because we thought it meant “small yet exclusive”. Couldn’t change it fast enough when we realised what it really implied about a breeder.
Raised in a loving family home This is emotionally manipulative bullshit, implying that somehow serious breeders have all their dogs caged in the backyard and they never see or feel the warmth of a loving human hand. You tend to see this more with toy dogs than larger breeds (try keeping a litter of 14 Labradors in the living room once they can get about on their own!) The pups of every serious breeder we know, are whelped with the breeder sleeping at their side for the first few weeks and are socialised as much as possible both inside and outside the home. In fact, if the pups never see anyone but the breeder’s family before they leave the nest, you may find they have missed the valuable socialisation window for dealing with strangers and other challenging environments and may develop anxiety issues in the future.
“Purebred” as opposed to “pedigree”
A pedigree is an actual list of a dog’s ancestors, maintained by the Kennel Club, and a valuable tool for a breeder as it enables them to follow bloodlines to prevent inbreeding, track health issues to eliminate them and it proves the dog you are buying is what the breeder claims. Should it prove to be false, it’s more than just a rip-off, it’s actually a criminal offence. “Purebred” with no proof to back up the claim, on the other hand, is not worth a thing. Ask the Chihuahua Rescue how many “purebred” Chihuahuas they have rehomed that a DNA test revealed had not a drop of Chihuahua in them at all. Be aware, also, that if someone has an unpapered purebred dog, the breeder who sold them the dog in the first place has consciously NOT registered it, because they didn’t want the poor animal bred from, usually for all the above reasons (inbreeding/health/etc.). You should ask, why then, is this person using the dog as breeding stock, when the expert determined it unsuitable for that purpose?
Rule 3: Understand the huge difference between "vet checked" and "health tested"
Vet checked means the litter got their first vaccination at 6-8 weeks, and the vet gave them a once over. If the puppy has 4 legs and a heartbeat and no obvious flaws, it’ll pass.
Health tested, on the other hand, means the parents were tested prior to breeding (including DNA screening) and cleared for a variety of health issues from heart murmurs to PRA and slipping patellas, depending on the breed. A health-testing breeder will gladly let you have copies of these tests and can probably provide DNA proof of parentage, too, if you need it (a requirement in some Australian states to register a pedigree dog).
Rule 4: If you buy a dog from a “boutique” breeder, you haven’t rescued it, you've helped them make a profit.
Cute as the puppy might be, as much as you want to save it, if you buy from a sketchy breeder you’ve enabled them. Your pup might be fine, but you've paved the way for many more puppies to be produced by them who might not be so lucky. Giving these people money just keeps them in business.
Be strong. Walk away. The only reason sketchy breeders are breeding is because its profitable. Don't make it worse and then justify it by convincing yourself you "rescued" the dog. You didn't. You made the problem worse. There will always be people who breed dogs for less than noble reasons, and not every dog will be problematic, but the people who set out to fraudulently portray their kennels and themselves to make money off breeding without placing the welfare of their dogs and their breed as paramount, should not be rewarded for their dishonesty.