Lots of people buy dogs every year. Lots of people buy puppies every year. They get them from a pet store, or the newspaper, or Craigslist. They get them from a breeder that advertised their litter on the AKC web site. Every day.
So, what's wrong with this?
I didn't know there was anything wrong with that. I didn't come from a family of animal people, not really. Somebody would occasionally get a "free cat" from the paper; "free to a good home", probably an oops litter, I didn't think to think about it ever. That's where my first cat, Ripple, came from. The subsequent kittens, Piper and Gracie, came from shelter adoption events.
Elka came from what might commonly be referred to as a "back yard breeder". The litter was advertised on the AKC web site. Her sire and dam were registered purebred Dobermans. No titles. No real health testing; I knew to ask about health testing, but I didn't know what answers to actually look for. I knew their vonWillebrand's status. Subsequently, the breeder did post that Elka's dam tested negative for the DCM gene. The last time I visited the breeder's web site, Elka's sire was dead. He'd passed away in December, apparently. He was 9. Her ears were cropped, because we opted for a cropped Doberman. She was sold to me on a full registration.
Elka's litter was in one room of the breeder's house. A litter of Border Collies was in the other room. We didn't see any other Border Collies. We didn't see any German Shepherds, though there were some on premises somewhere. We saw one female Great Dane, not old enough yet to be bred.
I'm not calling Elka's breeder a puppy mill; that isn't correct. This individual would certainly fall under the category of "back yard breeder", however. No health testing is a red flag. No titling of adult animals is a red flag. Selling on full registrations with no prior relationship and no mentorship (or experience in the thing one would be mentoring in) is a red flag.
Most reputable breeders will not sell an uncropped dog. However, some working breeders are leaving their dogs natural nowadays, and this on its own will never make somebody a "bad" breeder. Look at all the pieces of the puzzle.
Multiple breeds on its own is not enough to make somebody a "bad" breeder, though more than two different breeds might make it difficult to be fully dedicated to the breeds of one choice. Multiple litters on the ground at all times is worrisome.
Both parents on premises is not necessarily a good thing. It's nice to be able to meet your dog's sire and dam, I don't disagree with that. Elka's dam came and investigated us, and did the signature "Doberman lean", and if my fiancè wasn't petting her, then she needed me to be. Definitely a thing that sold me on the breed. Elka's sire was not released from his kennel (there were outdoor kennels for many of the dogs), but he showed off some of the tricks he knew.
He was also a big, big dog. Breeding outside of the standard is another red flag. While size is not a disqualification in the Doberman ring, the Doberman is a medium sized breed. People selling "warlock" or "king sized" Dobermans are using back yard breeder strategies in order to make their dogs seem the most unique, totally stand out, the dog everybody will envy. Your Doberman should not be 125 pounds. Should not.
In the pages on the top, I have "Picking a breeder", where I try to cover what to look for if you're looking to add a Doberman to your home. These are things I wish I knew when I was looking for a dog. I didn't know the AKC was just a registry, and is no guarantee of the quality of the breeder providing papers (if they provide papers) and the quality of the animal you're buying.
I didn't know that dogs in pet stores came from puppy mills, and were trucked in from Missouri, or Kansas, or wherever else they found them. I didn't know just how much health testing was available, and for each breed. I didn't know the things that plagued different breeds.
You know what? Puppy Mill Awareness Day was on September 22. I don't think I saw anything about it. I posted about it two years ago, but not this year. I'm not a total expert. I'm inexperienced and still trying to do right here, and give out good advice. I can't reach everybody, and not everybody wants to hear this. One of my college friends is on Facebook, and when his little Dachshund is in heat, will post asking about intact males around. When I asked him about health testing, or if she's titled, I got ignored under the deluge of people squealing about the possibility of cute puppies. I still ask, though. If one person sees that, and thinks twice, that's a step in the right direction.
Puppies are cute. The cutest. Having a litter of puppies can be very, very expensive. And time consuming. Worst case, your female could die, could get mastitis. Any number of "what-if's", I know. But does that entire litter of puppies have guaranteed homes? What kind of homes are they? Do those people want to breed their puppies? And so on, and so on.
I wish somebody had told me, but they didn't. We wouldn't need things like the Tuesday tails blog hop if every breeder was responsible, and if every owner was educated and ready for the dog that was going to come into their care. Life happens sometimes, that is true, and not every home can be a forever home. Even up here on my soap box, I can't be that judgmental. Sometimes you can't keep a dog you thought you would have forever. Sometimes that dog needs somebody else.
I understand that not everybody is going to go totally dog crazy the way I did. They're not going to have a degree in psychology, they're not going to read every book they can get their hands on about dogs, and dog training, and dog behavior (and I can't claim to have read every book, but my fiancè occasionally remarks that he didn't even know there were that many dog books, when I've come home with another.)
Dogs are "just dogs", right? But they're also our responsibility. They don't have a choice, not any kind of choice. We do. We have the choice to educate ourselves, and to do the best we can for the animals in our care. I'm still learning about dogs, and Dobermans, and the more I learn, the more I want to share, whether people want to hear it or not. I don't know how many minds I've changed, if any, but I still try. I link to shelters, I link to rescues. I link to breed information and breed health, if somebody I know wants a dog. I try to find out what to look for in a good breeder. I try to get the person to consider whether the dog they'd like is the best fit for their lifestyle. Cute and beautiful though they may be, dogs are not decorations. They frequently have their own idea of what they want to be doing in the course of a day, and what they need. These are important things to consider. These are not things that everybody considers.
I wish I knew. Now I did. I hope that by talking about this, perhaps too often perhaps not often enough, I help somebody else, and help other dogs.