Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bargain Doberman is Not a Good Deal

Because I like looking at pictures of puppies, I frequently poke around on Craigslist, or Want Ad Digest, sites like that. While there are many many adorable puppies on there, I would never purchase a puppy from such a venue. In fact, more than once, I sent somebody on Craigslist an email that their "Free to a Good Home" Doberman might be better served at Doberman Rescue Unlimited, or that the Doberman Assistance Network might give them some good advice.

A $650 puppy is a tempting prospect, I know. Dobermans are expensive. You can buy a computer for what you'd pay for a Doberman, cropped and docked and hopefully with health testing done. And sometimes you luck out with that $650 dog. And other times, you get what you pay for.
Example: Do you want your Doberman's ears to look like this? Though a painting, this was included in a puppy advertisement, and not representative of a "correct" crop.

You may have noticed my newest page, Picking a Breeder. In it, I include a list of the health tests that, ideally, an ethical Doberman breeder will have done. As you might imagine, this level of health testing costs quite a lot. That's in addition to the cost of training and titling the dog, because there should be some outside measure of the quality of a sire and dam. We dog owners all think our dogs are amazing. That's what dogs are for. Does it mean that every pet dog should be bred? No.

Example: what is wrong with those puppies necks? They should, say, have fur.

For a dog to get a championship, in addition to being conformationally correct, an owner must pay handlers, and entry fees, and travel costs to attend the shows at which the dog will be judged. The standard for each breed exists for a reason; for a working dog like the Doberman, the squareness of measurements and the degrees of angulation represent a dog's physical ability to perform the work for which she was bred.

For a dog to be titled in Shutzhund, there's even more involved. There is intensive work in obedience, tracking, and protection, and a requirement for the dog and handler to have a wonderful working partnership. The dog must be of correct temperament, for an unbalanced dog will not be a sound working dog, but rather will be too skittish, fearful, or reactive. Obviously, I'm summarizing here, but I'm also aware that Elka doesn't have a working temperament. She doesn't have the drive, and can sometimes be skittery.

Example: These puppies are rather young, and my conformation knowledge is growing, but these fawn Doberman puppies don't. Seem. Quite. Correct.

It's strange to highlight your own dog's faults, and it doesn't mean I love her any less. At current, and certainly not two years ago when we got her, I couldn't have really handled an actual working dog's drive. Now? Maybe. But I'm not sure how happy Elka would be with a super drivey and hyperactive little brother or sister. And that's another thing when you're looking at "discount Dobermans": if a breeder offers you two puppies at once, say no. For a lot of detail, here's the article Raising 2 Puppies at Once: Why It's a Bad Idea. But, additionally, some breeds (like Dobermans) may have problems with same sex aggression as they get older. So, those brothers (or sisters) that you raised together and loved and treated right from the day they came home? Once they get closer to sexual maturity might actually just want to tear into each other.

So what's the problem? A lot of people ask. Titles don't make a good dog. I'm not going to show my dog. You don't need all that for a pet!  Well.

You don't want your pet to develop hip dysplasia at the age of 2 or so because the sire and dam had poor hips and passed them along. You don't want your dog to have a heart murmur and die of congestive heart failure because the sire or dam wasn't Holtered (though even there, there's no guarantee). You don't want your dog's vision to fail because the sire and dam weren't CERF'ed. You don't want your dog to have behavioral problems because the dam had a problem with her thyroid.

What's the problem? A lot of heartache. A lot of expense. Loss of companionship. Shop responsibly. Pick a breeder you can trust and who will talk to you and answer your questions. Pick a breeder who stands by his or her produced dogs for life.

Example: Those ears? Also, blue and fawn Dobermans may develop Color Dilution Alopecia, which involves a loss of hair that may also be accompanied by skin problems.


  1. While all this is true if you plan on going to a breeder, dogs also deserve to be rescued even without all the testing and such done on them. I answered a "Free to Good Home" ad and brought home my beloved dog Koira, who, aside from serious metal allergies, has been an amazing dog. However, I would say no one should ever PAY for a dog without health testing (except a small fee at a shelter for the car of the dog while there and current vet work)

  2. Yes! Excellent points. A shelter or rescue dog is likely to be from the sort of breeder whose pictures I posted above (well, it was a bit of a survey), but while such breeders should not be supported, the dogs still deserve loving homes!

  3. I've always loved having mixed breed dogs. But getting my Golden Retriever Honey from a breeder gave me a new appreciation for all the work that goes into creating healthy puppies.

  4. Just like you Jen, I often frequent Craigslist looking at the never end posts for puppies. I got Sadie from there and definitely got what I paid for. She was 5 months old and needing to be rehomed by her family, but little did I know they had gotten her from a backyard breeder. She had so many health issues and that is what happens because of poor breeding. I would say almost all of the posts I look at that claim to be purebreeds, do not look right at all. So many ignorant people are out there breeding their dogs who should never be bred! I work at a vet clinic and we have dogs with severe allergies or other genetic health issues that keep breeding their dogs!

  5. I had never seen a dobie with floppy ears (like those pups before cropping) and I LOVE THEM! sweet. I had no idea their ears were docked (I'm not a fan of the practice, to be honest) and I just love the floppy! I have a friend who shows and breeds beagles and there is a ridiculous amount of work that goes into it. She is lucky to break even once all the health and temperament testing is done. My rules of thumb? Good breeders want to know where their pups are and they want to ensure they are never bred willy nilly or end up in a shelter, so they require any pup be spayed/neutered or bred only as a part of their breeding program, and if a pup has to be re-homed, it needs to go back to them and they will do it. Those Craigslist ads make me so sad.

  6. @Pamela most of the dogs that I've known through my life are what we (VERY LOVINGLY) refer to as mutts. Elka isn't the first pure breed I've known (my aunt has 2 pugs), but this entire experience has been, and continues to be, educating!

    @Doodling Dogs Craigslist makes me sad and mad now, despite how cute the puppies are! We're not really looking for a second dog right now, so my fiance strongly discourages me from looking. I still do, of course, and am occasionally able to email somebody who responds to me favorably (I in fact have yet to receive an "F-You!" style reply back, which is kind of nice)

    @Kolchak in some countries, both cropping and docking has become illegal, and there are a lot of floppy eared Dobermans out there! In this country, unfortunately, the rescues are full of them (because it's cheaper and less time consuming to sell an uncropped litter) and they have a hard time getting new homes. I myself really like the "look of eagles" that a cropped Doberman is supposed to have, and love the mobility and range of emotion that Elka shows with hers!