IMPORTANT - READ THIS: There are a LOT of terms thrown around: "backyard breeder", "puppymill", "breed steward", "puppy peddler", "responsible breeder". It can be overwhelming to decide where or from whom you should obtain a pup or adult dog. This guide attempts to break down - truthfully and with no bias toward breeding or rescue - the pros and cons of the many methods by which a purebred pit bull can be obtained. I am both a breeder and a rescuer/ rescue advocate. I believe there is a place for both "camps" and NO place for the disrespect and hostility sometimes expressed by one group for the other. Having said that, I will say that the irresponsible breeder and the irresponsible rescuer are both "the enemy" of the breed and all those who treasure it.
There is, however, one simple truth you MUST understand: the American pit bull is in the midst of an overpopulation crisis. Please read this page before you consider breeding.
A "breeder": anyone who allows two dogs to mate and is responsible for the offspring. Obviously, there are many, many levels of professionalism within this definition, from the person who leaves his bitch tied out back to be bred by a neighborhood dog, to those who devote their lives to the stewardship of their chosen breed.
.A "backyard breeder": backyard breeder (BYB) is a much used and abused term to generally describe someone not serious or ethical about their breeding. However, there are breeders and rescuers who call just about anyone they don't like "backyard breeders" and the term is just used to death. I define a "backyard" breeder as someone not serious about the breed, but more interested in having and/or selling puppies for their own gain/enjoyment.
The problem with the term "backyard breeder" is that it seems to imply that anyone with a small, select breeding program based out of their home is a "backyard" breeder. Just my opinion, but I find there are just as many "backyard breeders" who have large kennel operations.
Typical reasons the backyard breeder give for breeding are:
- all my friend's want a pup like her/him
- he/she has papers THIS long!
- he/she is so beautiful it would be a shame not to breed him/her
- the kids want to see puppies born
- she/he has awesome papers
- I want another one just like him/her
- I paid "X" amount for him/her - I'm getting my money back
- "red" / "blue" (you name it) nose dogs are rare - that is why I am breeding
- his head is (insert size) inches around!
A "puppy peddler": when a breed becomes popular, some people see an opportunity to make money selling puppies. Their operation can be large with a fancy web site and "expensive dogs" or as small as one dog and bitch in a backyard. Some love the dogs, but jump in before they understand even the basics of breeding. Like the backyard breeder, the puppy peddlers do not meet the minimum requirements for an ethical breeder. Like the "backyard breeder" they harm the breed by flooding communities, shelters and rescues with poorly bred animals.
A "fad" breeder: worse than the "puppy peddler" and "backyard breeder" is the "fad breeder" who does significant harm to any breed which falls prey to them. These types commonly breed extremely poor or even crossbred animals and try to pass them off as "new and improved" or "rare" specimens or colors. Often they are very successful, selling truly poor quality animals to novices for very high prices. This in turn will attract other fad breeders to jump on the money making band wagon. In the 1970's, when the Doberman was the fad breed, fad breeders crossed Dobermans with Great Danes, calling them "Doberdanes" or King Dobermans" or "Gladiators" and trying to convince the uninformed novice owner that "bigger was better". Even to this day you will find people crossing Dobermans and trying to pawn off the crossbreeds as somehow "super special" dogs. They are, in fact, mixed breed dogs of no real value. The so called "Canis Panther" is a perfect example. According to the web site, these Doberman mixbreeds were bred because "...the breeders here who had these excellent dogs with the working backgrounds, would not sell their dogs to us in the inner city, especially if they knew we were personal protection dog trainers. Faced with this dilemma, the only solution was to create a dog, not just a dog, the ultimate dog for personal protection." Indeed, reputable breeders are smart to steer clear of fad breeders who make their living by selling dogs to anyone who will give them money.
In the American pit bull breed, today's "Doberdane" and "canis panther" is the mongrelized "American Staffordshires" and "American pit bulls" being produced by crossing in numerous other breeds to produce, on the one hand, very large (over 90 pounds) "American pit bulls" or very short, squat dogs also represented as "American pit bulls" or sometimes as "American Bullies". These dogs do not meet the time honored standard for the real American pit bull (an athletic, agile dog, 30 to 65 pounds) and tend to have numerous health issues including hip dysplasia and coat difficulties. The breeds most often crossed in to produce oversized "pit bulls" are the cane corso, the presa canario, the American bulldog, the Dogue de Bordeaux, and the Neopolitan mastiff. Breeds used to produce "short and low" dogs most often is the English show bulldog and a crossbreed of the show bulldog, the "Olde English Bulldogge". There are dozens of new pit bull spin off breeds, each claiming to be better in some way than the the pit bull.
Fad breeders can be identified quite easily; they will state things like the following:
- "Other breeders are jealous of my dogs."
- "I'm improving the breed." (by breeding non standard or mixed breed animals)
- "People pay high prices - so they must be good."
- "I don't need to health check - my dogs have never had a problem."
- "Other people don't know what they're talking about."
A "puppy mill": to "mill" means to mass produce, so most commonly "puppy miller" means someone who produces a good number of dogs for public resale. They are not breeding for their own use; they are producing a "product" to sell. Unlike an ethical breeder who only breeds when they have a waiting list of customers who have deposits down on a pup, the puppy miller breeds a litter and then sales them through ads in newspapers, web sites, or contracts with pet stores.
A "responsible breeder": is someone who "does things right". By whose standards? This can be a difficult question. There are as many opinions on "what is right" as there are breeders. So called "breeder code of ethics" are a nice attempt at showcasing what show dog breeders feel are important points. But to play devil's advocate, I can point out that highly respected working/sport dog breeders would fall far short of meeting an AKC breed club's "code of ethics", and yet these same individuals are breeding healthier, more useful animals than the "code of ethics" breeders.
CLICK HERE to see a sample Code of Ethics and learn how one breeder's "ethics" may be another's "no-no".
A "breed steward": a rare person indeed. To "steward" something means to serve it. A breed steward serves the breed - not the other way around. They don't make money of the dogs; they give back to the breed by becoming a judge, or helping new fanciers, or in some other way. Stewardship means the breeder protects the breed from modern fads; protects it from everything - and attempts to hand the breed to the next generation in the same form but with improvements in health and temperament, than they received it. They do not attempt to change the physical standard nor the nature of the animal. They do try and improve the breed within the guidelines of the original standard for the breed.
They make sure that the animals they place go into well screened homes so that no animal they produce ever causes bad publicity for the breed. And they always take back any dog they breed which is displaced.
The breed can be served in many ways - too many to list. Some do it by breeding sound show dogs, other by breeding useful working dogs, still others by maintaining a line of dogs true to breed type. All breed stewards have one thing in common - they put the dogs before their own gain or ego.