There is a lot involved, so if you’re serious, please read all the detail below.
How to Spot a Backyard Breeder?
In general, backyard breeders (BYB or BYBers) are thought of as the snake oil salesmen of the dog world. When interacting with a BYBer, you may see some of the following traits:
- They don’t have a good reason for the breeding. They may say things like, “I wanted a puppy from my dog” or “they’re such beautiful dogs, we had to make more” or "we had people asking for this color".
- They don’t do health testing, and if asked, generally don't know about it or care.
- They don’t title the parents or show you proof of the parents working (if not yet titled).
- They’ll say just about anything to sell you a dog – they’re in it for the $$$.
- They breed dogs under 18 months.
While these are like BYBers, the purpose or intent of the breeding is known, the dogs are health tested and generally titled, and they will answer all of your questions with a lot of sound information, without trying to sell you.
Will I Find a Breeder Close to My Home?
Dutch Shepherds are a relatively rare breed in the US and chances are you will not find a quality breeder a few minutes, or even within the same state, as you, unless you’re lucky. That means that you have to really put in the legwork to make sure you get the right pup for you because you may not be able to go see the parents on site or pick out the puppy.
How Much Should a Dutch Shepherd Puppy Cost?
Contrary to popular belief there’s not a lot of money to be made in good breeding unless you’re constantly turning over puppies. Be prepared to spend $1200-2500 for a good pup. Why so much? It’s not because good breeders want to price gouge, and no, a cheaper pup isn’t necessarily the same dog. The price reflects three things:
Effort on the part of the breeder
Whelping is not cheap. Medical supplies and vet costs associated with deworming and vaccinating the new puppies are also expensive. As for effort, the breeder does a lot of work socializing and interacting with the puppies from birth to 8 weeks to assure they will be well adjusted and mentally healthy in life.
You can always check the breeder's social media feeds or ask for videos of the current litter as a way to get an idea of the health, environment, and kind of care the puppies are getting.
There will be an “up charge” for puppies from well known sires/dams, but this is usually due to imported semen or IV costs.
Should I Care About Health Testing?
Health testing is very expensive (at least $200 per test, if not more). Breeders and individuals that acquire health tests show that they care about the health of the dogs, their puppies, and the health of the breed.
Look for OFA or PennHIP results. The more health testing the better, but as a standard for Dutch Shepherds you will always see hips and elbows evaluated for dysplasia. OFA and PennHIP allow you to check the results yourself on their website. On the site, type the name of the dam and sire. If the dog does not pop up, then you have a problem. If the dog shows up, awesome.
If you’re more adventurous, ask to see the X-rays, but do not take them as proof they were sent into OFA. Passing results are: excellent, good, and fair. Anything under that is failing.
Why Would I Want a Puppy Contract?
They show the breeder cares about what happens to the dog. These contracts will have information about:
- What is covered in the breeder's health guarantee on the puppy.
- Requirements for returning the puppy if it needs to be replaced due to health or temperament problems.
- What to do if the owner is sick and needs to give the dog up.
What Do Those Titles Mean, and Should I really Care?
Titles are not easy to earn. Titled dogs being bred is a good sign - the higher the titles, the better. Yes, you can buy a titled dog, but generally the price goes up with the more titles on the dog, which means not too many BYBers will be breeding those dogs.
Titles are also good indication of drives.
- Confirmation titles means the dog meets breed standard.
- Performance titles (dock diving, obedience, rally, etc) means the dog wants to please/easy to train/a good worker.
- Working titles (sport, nosework, IPO, PH1/PH2, etc) are good indication of a dog that can do more serious work and has bigger drives.
Should I Care About Bloodlines?
Lineage, Bloodline, Pedigree, BRN numbers, CKC, AKC, and UKC. You will see a lot of these while looking at dogs, but here’s the main point: research the bloodlines. If you want a family dog but are buying a Carlos or Arko son/grandson, you may want to rethink that decision. Not every dog is the same and certain breedings take place for specific reasons.
Start by looking at the pedigrees of the dam/sire. BRN stands for Bloodline Registry Number, which are kept by Bloedlijnen, and is how Holland tracks bloodlines. This basically means the dog is unregistered and you cannot register them with the AKC/UKC because Bloedlignen is not a real registry.
If a dog is listed as AKC/UKC, check with the registry and make sure that’s the truth.
You can also check pedigrees through Pedigree Database if the dog does not have a BRN number.
Kennel registration doesn't always mean what you think.There are lots of kennel registries out there. Please take the time to research any particular kennel registry, because some have dubious reputations.
What Should I Do With The Names from the Bloodlines?
Google the dogs you see that are damns/sires, grandparents, great grandparents, or whose names maybe you’ve seen on forums.
Get on forums and Facebook groups, ask about the dogs, watch YouTube videos, and get an idea of temperament and drive.
If people are using “flammable”, “civil”, or “fire” you may not want that dog for family outings. Who is in the puppy’s bloodline is very important because it gives you an idea of what to expect in temperament, drive, and future training.
An honest breeder will talk in depth with you about the puppy's lines and what they expect from the puppy. They will even let you visit, though they may not have both the dam and sire on the property (this is fairly normal). They will also ask questions about you and pair you with a puppy to match what you tell them. So be honest!
Where Can I Find More Information About a Breeder?
The wonderful thing about social media and Google is that you can find a lot of information. If you have your eye on a breeder, ask them for references.
Ask around on forums and groups. Use some discretion (meaning take it to PM [private message]) and use your head when people have complaints. Like Yelp, everyone has their opinions, but opinions aren't facts. However, if you're hearing the same story (nervy dogs, questionable deals, bad ethics, etc) it's a sign you may want to stay away.
What Questions Should I Ask the Breeder?
Questions are always good and never feel bad for asking them. Questions means you’re putting as much effort into searching for a pup as the breeder puts into raising them. Here’s a few you can use and adjust to fit your needs:
- Why did you choose to mate these two dogs?
- What does the dam or sire bring to the pairing?
- What does X bring to the pairing (if you see a notable name that is a grandparent)?
- Is this a repeat litter? What was the last litter like? What did they go into?
- What sort of drives and energy levels are you expecting with this litter?
- Do you show/work your dogs in a sport? Are they titled? (this is not necessarily a deal breaker if the dog is active PD or SAR)
- Do you expect any puppies to be suitable for family companion/active companion/working/sport/military/PD/SAR? (this is very important because you are essentially asking about the type and amount of drive and temperament the grown puppies will exhibit while working)
- Is the dam/sire social to strangers? (important if you want a family dog) Are they neutral?
- Are the dogs quick to aggression? (this is bad if you have kids around)
- Would you trust the dam/sire around your children? (this is a question that may get mixed results, but is important to ask if you have small children. There are some great dogs that produce amazing dogs, but you would never leave them alone with kids or let the kids handle the leash. Fact of life when you're working with working dogs.)
- If I have to rehome my dog, should the dog go back to you? Or is it my responsibility?
- What is your health guarantee?