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There are a lot of terms for breeders that can be very confusing. For example: "Backyard Breeder" Usually that term is said with disgust. But why, you might be thinking, would anyone object to the home bred dog? Isn't it good to have dogs that are loved instead of bred like cattle? Isn't it good to raise puppies in a home instead of in cages? And you are right. Both of those things are good. But that isn't what being a "Backyard Breeder" means.

The term "backyard breeder" has nothing to do with backyards - it is just a shortcut name for a careless or clueless breeder. That would be someone without the knowledge or concern to breed for good health and permanent placement.

The typical backyard breeder loves their dog. They may love the idea of having puppies. They might think it would be cool to make back their purchase money. They don't see themselves as breeders, and they don't think they are doing it for the money. The problem with the backyard breeder isn't lack of caring, it is that lack of knowledge kills dogs.

Most"backyard breeders" have no idea that their dog can appear to be healthy, yet can pass on serious genetic disease. Most have never heard of sexually transmitted diseases in dogs. And most sincerely believe that they can find good homes, but they have no idea how to make that real enough to protect their dogs from dying in shelters. The problem with backyard breeders is that they add dogs to the population without taking any steps to help reduce the numbers with serious genetic disease, and failing to know how to protect their dogs from ending up in shelters. So their dogs die.

Then there is the so-called "professional breeder." This does not have a consistent meaning in the dog world. For some it means someone who uses a high level of knowledge and skill in breeding and placement. Those people use the term "professional" to indicate that high level of knowledge and skill. For others "professional breeder" is a dirty word because they use the term "professional" as a synonym for "income producing." And the problem with breeding dogs as a source of income is that the needs of the dogs are typically shortchanged in that situation. A person cannot do all the health testing, all the pedigree research, all the puppy buyer support and follow up, all the registrations and all the other steps - and still make a consistent profit. The problem is not the profit. It the behavior of the breeder that matters. It really doesn't matter what the motive is, if the breeder behavior doesn't protect the dogs, there is a problem. If the dogs end up healthy and in permanent homes, then the breeding motive is irrelevant.

The hobby breeder is a term used with reverence by some, and scorn by others. For those who like hobby breeders it is intended to reflect a breeder who breeds purely because they are driven by a love of the breed, and a love of dogs. Their commitment to learning is unbounded by financial sense, money is spent because it satisfies the drive for the sake of the activity itself rather than any sense of investment. For the users of the term in this sense the hobby breeder is the top choice, the one that breeds bases on dedication rather than income. Others see the term "hobby breeder" as reflecting a sense of frivolity. It leaves the impression of one who breeds for fun but without the necessary depth of commitment to knowledge and to the welfare of the dogs.

A "show breeder" is seen by some as the essence of what a breeder should be. That would be an individual committed to breeding "for the betterment of the breed." A show breeder is at least typically in an environment where knowledge is readily available. Yet others look upon the "show breeder" with a jaundiced eye. They feel that in too many cases the "show breeder" is more about their own ego, and less about the welfare of the dogs. There is sometimes a sense that the goals of the show breeder are too narrow e.g. looking for beauty but ignoring health or temperament. Often the show breeder is viewed as shallow in some senses, and overly focused on small things.

The commercial breeder is pretty clearly one who breeds dogs for income. While many reject that at least on an emotional basis there are some who feel the sheer volume provides the commercial breeder with a level of experience unattained by those engaged with fewer dogs. Certainly the commercial breeder wastes little time or effort on issues such as permanent placement. If the dog loses its home after it is sold the commercial breeder does not view that as something that they can or should take any responsibility for.

The puppy mill ... no one ever thinks they are a puppy mill. The general consensus is that a "puppy mill" is a place where the dogs are bred in large numbers, without attention to health, temperament or breed qualities. Generally people use the term to reference truly bad breeding conditions, abusive conditions. Nevertheless there are large numbers of people who use the term for any commercial breeder. That is, for some a "puppy mill" is any commercial production of dogs regardless of whether their environment is clean and spacious or cramped and dirty.

Then there is the term "reputable breeder". Sounds good - it is a breeder with a reputation. But a reputation for what? Is a reputation for breeding winning show dogs all we want from a breeder? Or do we want more?

Even the term "responsible breeder" is meaningless as a term by itself. Being "responsible" means different things to different people. But at least the terms "responsible breeder" and "careless breeder" suggest the user's view of the qualities of the breeder. This site exists to suggest some qualities that one might wish to see on a "responsible breeder." Loving a dog, and loving a breed, is reflected in what you do to benefit and protect the dog and the breed.

    Here is an example of a really great breed site for Cocker Spaniels I like it because it is straightforward. It shows love of the breed, but leaves out the worship. It greets the reader in an intelligent way avoiding hyperbolye. If every breed were filled with this kind of sensible dedication we would have very few dogs in shelters and rescue.

Additional Resources:
Articles on dog breeding issues and related topics.
Books and videos on breeding and genetics from Dogwise.

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Copyright © 2000-2003, Diane Blackman     Created: January 18, 2000     Updated November 12, 2007

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