choosing a breeder 101: health

‘Don’t choose a puppy. Choose a breeder.’


If you choose well when you choose a breeder, almost everything else is taken care of, for you. At least, until the point where you get your puppy home — then it’s all down to you!

(By the way, I’m going to talk about rescue puppies in a later post. I’m not over-looking them, but they are a special case.)


Body and mind

There are two parts to a dog: Her body and her mind.

Or we can think about it as physical health and psychological health.

When you choose a breeder, there’s a lot you can do to ensure you find someone who’s going to give you the best shot at realising both of those, in your puppy.

I’m going to focus, in this post, on one part of physical health; how to choose a breeder who’s going to give you the best chances of a puppy who lives a long and healthy life.


The breed you choose

First, though, before choosing a breeder — you have to choose a breed. Or a crossbreed. And that, in itself, has health implications.

Dogs have been bred by humans into some very extreme shapes and sizes, and some of these shapes and sizes cause suffering for the dogs.

Flat-nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs have breathing issues, frequently needing surgery to open nostrils and airways.

Shar-peis, neapolitan mastiffs and basset hounds can have droopy eye issues and/or so many wrinkles, the dog can’t see.

Many German Shepherds suffer terrible rear end problems because they’ve been bred to have such exaggerated, sloping rears, to the point that they can’t freely move.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

There are fifteen breeds which were originally on the Kennel Club’s high profile or ‘category three’ list, subject to vet checks at KC shows. In the Kennel Club’s own words, these breeds are:

on Breed Watch, due to to visible conditions that can cause pain or discomfort due to exaggerations

The list has since been adjusted, but it is a good starting point. The breeds are:

  • Basset Hound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bulldog
  • Chinese Crested
  • Chow Chow
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shar-Pei
  • St Bernard

If you want to know more about the health conditions inflicted on dogs by breeders who select for ever more exaggerated features, check out the two documentaries called Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The original documentary is here:

http://youtu.be/JVpDduN_dRY

Then, three years later, a follow-up was aired, and the first part of that follow-up, you can view on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2706500427376

For updates on the various breeds and the progress (or lack thereof), you can read the Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog, set up in the aftermath of the documentaries.


When it comes to cross-breeds, it’s very difficult to tell what you will get. Especially in a baby puppy; you can’t know what she will grow into.

Sometimes a crossbreed really is an equal mixture of two different breeds, so that any exaggerated features are less exaggerated in the cross. But sometimes you keep an exaggeration, as it was in the original breed. Kind of like the puppy could take after mum, or dad — or be a blend of both, on any small, detailed, trait. When you move further away from a first-generation cross, it becomes even more difficult to predict the outcome.

Genetics is very complicated and the outcome from any crossbred litter is impossible to predict. There is a myth that crossbred dogs are necessarily healthier than pedigree dogs. As you can see, this is not true.


If you are going to go ahead with one of these listed breeds, it would pay to do lots of extra research into the health issues of the breed, and to seek out breeders who try to mitigate them. It is extra important not just to buy a pup out the back of the JEP, or from Jersey Insight, without doing any further checks.

Next up, will be a post about making sure your puppy’s parents are health-tested and checking how inbred they are…

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