Dogue de Bordeaux Club of Australia

Purchasing a Puppy

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Breed drift – It sounds like something that you, as a puppy buyer, doesn’t need to think about. But, this is an important thing to consider when you are deciding which breeder you want to purchase a puppy from. This is not a time to be searching for a bargain or trying to get more bang for your buck. It’s not about what is available at this moment or how long you might have to wait to get what you want. Remember if something is cheaper, there is usually a reason why and what you want is often worth waiting for....

Breed drift is what happens when people start putting two dogs of the same breed together and breed them without regard to how they may or may not meet breed standard. 

This usually happens when what are commonly called "backyard breeders" get into breeding for the purpose of providing pet puppies as a side business. While these breeders are often good people with a genuine love for their dogs, they may even be registered with an applicable organisation. They are not educated breeders.

Consider this comparison; In manufacturing there is something called "manufacturing tolerances". A product is manufactured to meet a product specification. The product specification may say something like, "This item is a 2", sky blue block," and it may allow the colour to vary by .05% and the size to vary by .025%. The variations are known as tolerances. 

At the end of the manufacturing run, every item is measured against the specification to see if it falls within tolerances. If it does, the item is approved for sale. If it doesn't, it is thrown into the bin and discarded or sold as a "second".

Breeding works the same way. Educated breeders compare each puppy against the breed standard (specification). If the puppy falls within the breeder's tolerance for variation, it is classed as a show or performance potential puppy. If the puppy falls outside the tolerances, it is classed as a pet puppy. That puppy may be approved for certain performance events based on whatever the conformation faults are. But, pet puppies are "binned" from the gene pool. While show puppies are approved for the gene pool. These pet puppies still make wonderful pets; the conformation fault will likely require an educated eye, be unnoticeable or not even be visible. It is simply not sought after for the gene pool.

After the puppy approved for the gene pool begins to mature, the puppy is presented before several judges who act as secondary quality control. If the puppy or dog falls within the judge's own tolerances, it may be awarded points that count towards its championship. If the dog or puppy is outside of the judge's tolerances (or if another dog entered that day comes closer to the exact standard/specification) the dog is not awarded points on that day. 

Champions have been approved by several judges as falling within the breed specification. After that, and relevant breed health testing, they are then approved for breeding. This is the purpose behind dog shows. Ensuring that the dog intended for breeding adheres to the breed standard and is fit for the function which the breed was originally bred for. 

When uneducated breeders breed, they know nothing of specifications and tolerances. They do not know how, or if, their dogs meet or fail the breed standard. They have no idea they are supposed to be creating a sky blue block that is 2" square or how to do that. Many don’t health test, because they believe their dogs are healthy.

This results in the too long muzzle getting passed on and possibly made longer. The stop becoming less and less pronounced. The back becomes shorter or longer or both in differing puppies. The heads become shaped differently. The rib cage and shoulder assembly turn into something that won't work efficiently. We see increases in health issues and crippled dogs. Perhaps the dog's temperament, mind and native abilities become diluted or lost and increasingly generic. 

This is why purebred dogs from uneducated breeders rarely look much more than a shadow of the original breed. These breeders are just putting whatever two dogs they have available together or using one male to all their females. The problem is, they got their pair of puppies as pets, and they didn't develop to to compliment each other for breeding purposes. Those putting the same male to all the females aren't considering the females are all different, they have females with different strengths and weaknesses. They are not comparing the resulting puppies against a breed standard or mental specification. If the puppy has four legs, it is moved forward into the gene pool. Puppies are excluded from the gene pool based on whether or not their new owners are interested in paying more for breeding rights or have an inclination to breed, not on whether or not the puppy falls within "breeding tolerances".

Not only is this pretty flawed and short sighted as far as breeding is concerned. The result is puppies that move further and further away from the breed standard. The breed standard that depicts how the breed should look and behave, the look and behaviour that people actually want when they purchase a specific breed.

And that, is why show/performance/working purebred dog breeders cringe over uneducated "backyard" breeders. Why they study breed standards and pedigrees. Why they show and title their dogs. They use different stud dogs for different bitches and sterilise pet puppies. They are not snobs trying to prevent others from breeding or trying to make it difficult for anyone to own the breed. They are trying hard to preserve the breed they love so much.

Why should you as a puppy buyer consider all this? Because the educated breeder is doing their upmost to provide puppy buyers with healthy, happy puppies. A puppy true to the breed type and temperament you as a puppy buyer are looking for.

So, when you see a puppy ad, it’s absolutely adorable and you want that puppy. You want to pick it up, cuddle it and kiss it all over (we all do, it's a puppy). Ask yourself, is that a Dogue de Bordeaux? It’s breeder thinks it is and is selling it as purebred... But, why are they all available on main register and why is that decision up to me? Why is there no health testing or an excuse for that unwanted result? Is that the a 2", sky blue block I want... or is it a 2.75”, royal blue block? Does it represent what you expect when you think of a Dogue de Bordeaux?

Does it mean you can't buy a nice puppy from the “backyard breeder”? No. But what it does mean is that your puppy may not look or act exactly like the purebred breed you so admire and have chosen.