A tale of three paperless puppies

When people are thinking about getting a puppy, there are lots of factors to consider - whether to get a "papered" or "pedigreed" dog is just one of the things to think about.

Puppy number one - rescued from the RSPCA.

Today is a very special day for J's niece and her family. Today they are picking up a puppy from the RSPCA - a gorgeous little guy they've decided to call Leeroy Jenkins. Leeroy Jenkins is from a litter that was dumped at the RSPCA on Christmas Eve. He has had the best possible care, and is going to a caring family in time to do puppy classes and learn how to socialise. He is going to be a very well loved family pet.

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Puppy number two - purchased from a pet shop.

I met puppy number two in the pre-Christmas shopping rush. She was sitting alone in a glass box in shopping centre - her brother having been sold already. She'd been alone in that box for a couple of weeks, during that critical period where she needed interaction and socialisation to build up her confidence, her ability to interact with other dogs and with people safely and appropriately. She's no longer in that glass box. I don't know where she went, but I'm worried that her new owners might not have the support they need to deal with such a large breed with a range of issues, especially dog-dog socialisation. Certainly the information from the pet shop lacks detail!

The RSPCA explains why buying a pet from a pet shop is particularly risky here.

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Puppy number three - purchased from a breeder.

Puppy number three appeared on a Facebook group recently, with the comment that he was "pure husky". I queried this with his owner - I wasn't sure if they meant he was your classic naughty Sibe puppy, or if they meant he was purebred. The owner told me that he was purebred - from breeders who had been breeding for a long time, and that they'd gotten to meet both parents. The owner didn't seem to understand my questions about the "line" that the puppy had come from, and was reluctant to name the breeders, which is fine, but the conversation set off some alarm bells of mine.

Unfortunately, people often purchase puppies from a backyard breeder, thinking that "pure bred" is the same as "pedigree". Its not. 

We consider all of our guys pure bred - we know Ishka's parents and littermates, and there's no sign of Alaskan Malamute or any other breeds in any of her family. We don't know anything about the families of our three boys - we don't even have a birthdate for Czar or Bolo! - but looking at them, there's no sign of other breeds in their structure or temperament. So we don't use terms like pure - we would never claim that this is anything special about our dogs - they're not particularly well built, they don't win races or show prizes. They are our babies and we love them dearly, but they are not great examples of the breed, not suitable breeding stock.

When I tried to ask the "pure husky" owner on Facebook about her breeder, I got the impression (and I admit I don't know all the facts, so this is just my opinion, nothing more) that she, the owner, had possibly fallen for a common scam with backyard breeders - lots of talk about "pure bred" huskies, making their puppies sound better and more prestigious. Sometimes breeders even offer a birth certificate that makes the purchaser think they've bought a "papered" dog. However, if the breeder isn't registered with an ANKC body in their home state, if they don't have a kennel/blood line name that they stand behind, if the "papers" aren't those used by the ANKC body, then the puppy isn't properly registered. Its pedigree isn't on file.

To see what the ANKC papers for a Victorian pedigreed dog should look like, click here.

It is my understanding, that all three of these puppies will not get "papers". At best, they may be registered as "associates" in the ANKC records for their state, as is our Czar. This means that they can compete in Obedience, Rally and other dog sports, but can't be bred. Breeding a paperless dog is the hallmark of a backyard breeder - those puppies end up being second class citizens in the dog world, and their grand puppies and great grand puppies will never be able to be registered, no matter how "pure" the breedings may be. 

Does it matter?

For puppy number one - Leeroy Jenkins - is doesn't matter at all. His family deliberately sought out a rescue dog, understanding that he would have to be desexed, understanding that he didn't come with any fancy papers - they just wanted a pet to love and care for. The RSPCA offers them no false reassurances, that their puppy will be perfect, and will encourage them to attend puppy classes, to have the dog well socialised at this critical time in his development

For puppy number three - the "pure" husky - possibly it does matter. Possibly, like me, that owner will want to participate in the dog world and find that certain doors are permanently closed to her because her dog's papers, if any, aren't ANKC registered. Again, that's just my impression - I don't know the person, and I may be wrong. I do hope that the breeders she's been so impressed with remain accessible to her - when her husky hits the terrible twos and starts digging out to chase cats, those breeders should be her first port of call for advice. When someone in the park suggests a cross breeding "because we've both got such beautiful dogs", I hope her breeders have warned her about the risks of such a deal. If she needs to rehome her dog, I hope she calls the breeder first, and they say, yes, we want to be involved, we will take the dog back and find it a home, don't take it to the pound. Because that's what you are paying for in buying a dog from a responsible breeder - a support network that lasts for the life of the dog.

For puppy number two - the Alaskan Malamute - I fear that the owner will have far greater problems than papers. How can a puppy who spent three or more weeks sitting in a glass box, unable to get away from her own wastes, isolated from people and other dogs, have the best start in life? Her owners will probably have far more difficulty house breaking her, taking her to the dog park to socialise, understanding her needs in terms of fencing and grooming, than if they'd gotten her from an ethical breeder.  The pet shop wouldn't be interested in connecting the puppy buyer with a support network like the AMCVHer chance of getting dumped on a rescue shelter or at a pound are unfortunately very high.

The RSPCA publish an excellent set of resources for puppy and kitten buyers - such as this pamphlet.