What is a "backyard breeder"?
You’ve probably heard the term “backyard breeder” (also known as “BYB”) before but aren’t quite sure what it means and what the impacts of buying from one are.
There are many types of BYBs. The most common type is the average dog owner who breeds his or her family pet. This type of BYB believes that their dogs are great pets. They think everyone deserves to have one of their adorable puppies. They don’t test their pets for painful and/or fatal genetic health conditions before breeding them. They don’t get any titles on them to show buyers that they are stable in temperament, are trainable, and can do the work for which they were originally bred. They don’t show them in Kennel Club conformation shows to prove that they are bred to standard. They can’t offer buyers a reasonable guarantee that their puppies won’t be debilitated from hip dysplasia at the age of two or dead from a heart defect at the age of five. They can’t guarantee anything!
When people buy puppies from BYBs, they are taking a shot in the dark that they are getting a healthy, temperamentally stable pet. Some people avoid adopting pets from shelters, especially older dogs, because they “don’t know what they’re getting.” What they don’t realize is that when they buy from a BYB, they really don’t know what they’re getting. There is so much more to a dog’s health and temperament than what is visible. In a shelter or rescue group, dogs are given a thorough temperament test and are provided all of the vet care to give them the best possible start to life.
Six signs that you’re dealing with a “backyard breeder”
- Puppies for sale in the newspaper or online classifieds – Ethical breeders line up homes for their puppies before their parents even breed. They often have a waiting list. Why would anyone who really cares about their dogs want to bring puppies into the world if they’re not sure that each one of them has a home lined up?
- "Champion bloodlines” – We see this wording a lot, but does it really mean anything? Almost every dog you’ve ever known has a show champion somewhere in its background. Even champion-bloodline dogs produce puppies that aren’t to standard, so a puppy should be born of parents (i.e. “champion sired”) who are champions, not just great-great-great grandparents who are champions.
- “Rare colors” – Ethical breeders do not sell puppies based on color. Color, unless it is one of the “fault” colors of the breed (which some BYBs actually breed FOR!), is the least important aspect of a puppy. Breeders who advertise their puppies by color are showing that they don’t take health or temperament into account when breeding.
- “Health guarantee” –This sounds great on the surface, but it only means that the puppy will be healthy at the time you buy it. It doesn’t offer a guarantee against genetic disorders that don’t show up until the dog is older.
- “5 weeks old and ready to go home” – Responsible breeders don’t let their puppies leave the litter at 5 or 6 weeks. Even though puppies may be eating solid food, they learn behaviors from their mom and littermates that help them to be confident and stable in their future interactions with other dogs and people. Also, you can’t evaluate temperament until about 7 weeks, which is important in making sure the right puppy is going to the right family (i.e. a dominant puppy to a home with a lot of experience).
- Breeders who don’t keep at least one puppy from the litter – It means that they don't stand behind their breeding. They know they've produced puppies of inferior quality, and they don’t want to deal with any health or temperament issues that may pop up in a dog they’ve produced.
There is no shortage of puppies to adopt, so breeding puppies for the purpose of making money and providing family pets to people is unethical. When people buy from BYBs, they are telling them that it’s okay to breed dogs irresponsibly. As long as people support BYBs with their wallets, they will continue to produce dogs that wind up in shelters on a daily basis. If you are looking to bring a dog into your home, please check with animal shelters and rescue groups first. They may not have what you’re looking for, but they can put you on a call list if a dog you’re interested in becomes available. If you decide to buy from a breeder, remember that not all breeders have their dogs’ best interest in mind. A majority of them are BYBs. Look for a responsible, ethical breeder who has Champion-titled and health-tested dogs. They may put you on a waiting list, but the wait will be worth it when you end up with a healthy, temperamentally sound dog!