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AKC, CKC, Puppy Mills, Pet Stores, Show Breeders....
What Really Matters? 
Table of Contents

Kennel Clubs & Genetics

The basic function of any Kennel Club is to keep a database of of pedigrees or genetic heritage. The AKC is probably the most well known Kennel Club among the general public but it is not the only one.

Many puppy buyers have complained lately that the AKC is misleading in that puppy mills are allowed to register their pups with the AKC. Please realize that it is not the function of the kennel club - any kennel club - to verify the health or proper raising of puppies. Their job is to keep track of who the pup's parents are and who the pup's future offspring are. Getting mad at the kennel club for registering a "bad" puppy is like getting mad at the DMV because the car you bought is a lemon.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) sets the standard in the United States but it is not the only kennel club. There are many others. The one we come across most often in this area is the CKC (Continental Kennel Club) and occasionally the UKC (United Kennel Club). All of these clubs issue registration papers that provide information on the heritage of the animal and provide certificates confirming that the animal is a purebred. Dog shows and events are generally put on by the kennel clubs and are only open to dogs registered to that particular club so if you want to show a dog the club it is registered to matters a lot. We do not deal with show dogs (although there is a champion or two in our stud dog's background who is registered with both the AKC and the CKC).

There is little doubt that the best dogs in the United States are registered with the American Kennel Club but the fact that a dog is AKC registered is no guarantee that it is a good dog just as registration to another kennel club is no guarantee that it is not a good dog.

Many breeders in our area have switched from registering their dogs with the AKC to registering with CKC. There are a variety of reasons for this. The CKC places fewer demands on the breeder and is cheaper but there are additional reasons, especially for poodle owners. Many poodle breeders are crossing poodles with other purebred dogs. The resulting dog is not a purebred so cannot be registered with the AKC. The CKC will issue a certificate for such dogs which states that the puppy is the offspring of two purebred dogs. Additionally some breeders are upset with the AKC stance on parti poodles, on breeding legislation and a host of other issues.

The UKC which is another old and respected kennel club, better known by those interested in hunting dogs, now allows parti-poodles to participate in conformation events. 

Parti poodles have recently become very popular and it is sometimes difficult to find good breeding stock since many AKC breeders will not sell partis with full registration (which allows the buyer to breed the dog). For this reason we are using some dogs who are CKC registered in our breeding program.

Most of us will agree that there are wonderful pets available at Humane Societies all over the country about whose genetic heritage absolutely nothing is known. I have a dog I adopted in 1998 from the Horry County Humane Society and she is every bit as wonderful as my purebred poodles are. I just happen to be hooked on poodles.

If you watch Animal Cops shows on Animal Planet you'll see a lot of the workings of the Humane Societies in New York and other major cities. The vets and staff at these agencies judge how good a companion a dog will be by how it behaves - how it is socialized, not by genetics.

There are many people who believe that show dogs are bred too closely causing health defects that do not exist (or exist to a lesser extent) in non-show dogs and that non-show dogs have what is referred to - usually erroneously - as hybrid vigor. Hybrid vigor is a term so overused recently - in marketing of dogs - that it barely has any meaning. This same argument is used when selling dogs of mixed breeds such as the labradoodle and other designer mutts.  We do not support the breeding of one type of purebred dog to another. Regardless of what the proponents of such dogs say, there is no way to have any idea of what half of which dog you will get from these mixes. If you are even considering such a mix you should to a lot of homework on genetics. The result will be that you will find most of the marketing "facts" are completely false.  There are plenty of great homeless mutts at your local shelter. If you want a mixed breed dog this is the place to look.

Breeders & Behavior

The first 12 weeks of a puppy's life set the stage for the dog it will become. How good a pet this dog will be is largely determined during this time.

"Puppy Mills" refers to breeders who are in it for the money, who crank out puppies at the fastest possible rate with the least expense and who often sell them very young. These puppies are rarely socialized as well as they could be, if at all. They are often kept caged most of the time and have little human interaction. This is not a good way to start a puppy off. Some of these puppies may be aggressive but more will probably be timid. If you are not very familiar with dogs it may not sound bad for a dog to be timid but many dog trainers would rather work with an aggressive dog than a timid one.  They are afraid of everything and are very hard to make good pets of. They have gotten a less healthy start (both physically and psychologically) than they should.

Some of the puppies from puppy mills will probably be fine pets but this doesn't change the fact that they are not raised in good conditions and the breeding stock of such mills is kept in these bad conditions for the breeding life of the dog which will be shortened by overbreeding.

Don't think that because a puppy is AKC registered that it didn't come from a Puppy Mill. Any puppy mill owner with marketing savvy will still have their dogs registered to the AKC.

Even if you find the pet you want at a puppy mill keep in mind that by purchasing such a pet you are supporting the awful conditions that the breeding dogs (and the other puppies) live in. 

Pet Stores - Most books about dogs warn against buying a dog from a pet store. Most pet store puppies come from Puppy Mills. Additionally,  with a pet store dog is that it is impossible to find out much about the puppy or it's parents. The parents are not present to be viewed. The breeder is not there to talk to. Few questions can be answered by the pet store owner or clerk about this puppy. Most  reputable breeders and all show breeders refuse to sell puppies to a pet store.  Unless the pet store owner/worker can provide you with good information on the breeder of the puppy you are supporting puppy mills by buying a pet store dog. Most breeders would not consider selling their pups through a pet store where they would have no idea about the kind of home the pup is going to. Any breeder who would is not a breeder you want to deal with.

Show Breeders - Show dogs who may become champions are very few. Breeders of show dogs can see what puppies stand a better chance of winning shows and often sell the rest as pets. The fact that a dog isn't going to win a show doesn't make it a bad dog. Unless you are an expert in the breed conformation you will not even be able to see see many of the traits that would disqualify the dog. Are your poodles eyes more oval or round? I admit I can't always tell but eyes that are too round will keep a poodle from winning a show. Poodles must also be all one color. That white patch on a black puppy's chest that you think is adorable would keep him from even being allowed into an AKC show.

Puppies from show breeders are generally very expensive.

Most show breeders sell their pet dogs with a spay and neuter contract and with limited registration. This means you are agreeing not to breed the dog and if you do the AKC will not allow the puppies to be registered.

The puppies sold as pets by show breeders are considered to be "by-products" of a mating. That is, the dogs who were not good enough to be show dogs. Perhaps this is a moot point but I believe that attitude makes a huge difference in all areas of life and I don't want dogs who were considered "not good enough to keep" the whole time they were being raised.

My Puppies

I am part of a new breed of breeders, breeders who are intentionally breeding pet dogs with the goal of breeding the most healthy pups with the best possible temperament. We like our poodles to look like poodles but we do not put the major emphasis on conformation that show breeders do. We put more emphasis on training and in different areas. For example, possibly the most important thing to train for a show breeder is how the puppy should stand (called stacking) for a judge. We are much more concerned with practical training that will make your dog the best pet.  While some show breeders raise their puppies in their homes, not all do. We start our pups from day one living in the middle of family life which involves vacuum cleaners, phones ringing and the "normal chaos" typical of the families they'll be going home to. (None of our pups have ever been afraid of thunder or firecrackers.) They are snuggled, cuddled, trained, disciplined and loved a lot, every day all day.  I will be available to show you how to clean their ears...how to bathe or brush them and I will be answer any questions you have or try to help you with any problem...for years. If you ever have to re-home your dog I will take it back.

Revised: 07/02/06.
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