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Finding a Good Breeder

excerpted from "Thirty Years of European Rottweiler Breeding"

By Guy Verschatse

Since adding a Rottweiler puppy to your family or breeding program can be a huge step, and because there are now a large number of people breeding these great dogs, it is becoming increasingly important to be very discriminatory when choosing a breeder. The first step is to realize that there are several types of breeders, each of whom has various distinct characteristics.

First is the "commercial breeder", who may keep several different breeds specifically for the retail market: in other words, for the money. These operations usually produce several litters a year with little thought for genetic screening and are generally associated with the term "puppy-mill". Since money is the motivating factor, the production of a large number of dogs takes precedence over the production of quality dogs.

The second type of breeder is the "backyard breeder", this type of breeder mates whatever two dogs happen to be in his or her backyard with no thought for the consequences. The quality of dogs in this type of breeding is usually low and there is no goal in mind for the final product.

For these reasons, it is better to purchase a dog from a "hobby or performance breeder". This type of breeder, whether breeding for conformation or working competitions (VPG/SchH/IPO/Ringsport) had definitive goals in mind and is dedicated to the dogs.

There are several traits to look for in a reputable, conscientious breeder. First and foremost a good breeder will have a "breeding program" and no dogs are bred at random. By this I mean that the breeder has a clear goal and will be able to tell you why two dogs were mated.  Maybe they compliment one another physically or they both have ideal working drives, maybe both have excellent hips and stable temperaments.  A reputable breeder can explain what traits they are breeding for and how they are trying to accentuate those traits through the use of out-crosses, line or in-breeding.

Secondly, a respectable breeder will be knowledgeable about the history and true purpose of the breed, he will be a member of the national and German breed club and have the breeding stock registered in these clubs. Being a member of these clubs also provides other benefits such as the ability to participate in sanctioned shows and working events.

Another sign of a dedicated breeder is the depth of their involvement with the breed. You can be sure that a breeder who participates in some form of competition and takes his or her dogs chooses his breeding stock with great care and takes more than a casual interest in the puppies that are produced.  Many Rottweiler breeders are heavily involved in conformation, obedience, agility, or one of the many protection sports such as VPG/SchH/IPO or Ringsport.  Such breeders will undoubtedly have ribbons, plaques, trophies and certificates to prove their superiority in one area or another, which will reflect in the quality of dogs bred.

Also, the facilities a breeder uses may speak for their competence and dedication. The whelping areas should be relatively clean and the puppies well socialized and outgoing. There should be up to date health records of the puppies with the vaccination and deworming histories. Temperament testing and puppy-evaluations can also be valuable tools used by good breeders. In this way puppies can be placed in appropriate homes and show or working prospects can be separated from "pet" puppies.

Possibly one of the most important aspects of a reputable breeder is the way in which they screen their breeding stock. The temperament of the parents is highly heritable and should be well thought out. Shy or nervous dogs should definitely not be part of a solid breeding program and many breeders will not breed their dogs unless they pass some form of temperament evaluation such as a BH, VPG/SchH exam or Breed Suitability Test (Ztp) offered by the Rottweiler Club.  Temperament is only half of a good dog, however and with all of the structural problems within the Rottweiler, a reputable breeder will be screening for health problems as well.  After all, what good is the dog that has the drive to go out and theoretically fight a Helper but will never have the chance to prove it due to health problems such as HD (Hip Dysplasia)? Within the last years, several physical abnormalities have come up within the Rottie-breed: entropian, ectropium, hip and elbow dysplasia, ligament problems, etc.  All of these traits should be taken into consideration when breeding a litter and the buyer should not be afraid to ask for certification to prove any claim the breeder makes.

As can be seen, the problems affecting our breed are numerous and substantial, this may explain why the price of a good puppy can range from $1500 (pet quality) to over $3000 (show/ working quality).  Most superior breeders make substantial investments in their dogs through training, competition, health care and genetic screening. Therefore most breeders struggle to break even and the prices of the puppies do not represent all that is invested in them. In general you are getting what you pay for, and that cute puppy that seems priced too good to be true, probably is.

Lastly, find out if the breeder guarantees their puppies and if so, what falls under the guarantee? Many breeders will replace a puppy (not refund the money) once evidence of congenital problems is provided: however, this guarantee usually applies to the first puppy and the buyer is just as likely to end up with two poor quality dogs. That is why I must emphasize again the importance of screening both temperament and physical traits. Many people would rather purchase a puppy from parents with sound temperaments and certified health without a guarantee, than take the chance of purchasing a puppy from uncertified parents with vague guarantees of puppy replacement.

Upon the purchase, make sure all paperwork is in order, including any pedigree or registration that may be provided. Ask the breeder to substantiate all claims, ask for references from previous puppy buyers and try to see grown pups from previous litters. This may sound like too much to take into consideration, but nothing worthwhile comes without work.


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