Chapter 4
How To Know What Type Dog Is Best For You

What's Bad on a Pedigree?

It's not good to see a long line of the same kennel names on a pedigree. This may indicate a puppy mill or a kennel where inbreeding is common and can result in a greater chance of genetic problems for their puppies. A lack of kennel names on the pedigree may also indicate inbreeding, or may simply indicate a breeder that isn't familiar with standard naming conventions. However, a breeder that doesn't know the standard naming conventions, who has bred his dogs with another breeder that doesn't know the standard naming conventions, may be a warning sign that neither breeder has adequate breeding knowledge. Sometimes they are 'backyard breeders' who aren't familiar with the breeding practices necessary to produce genetically healthy puppies. The Breed Standard Describes the Ideal Dog. Some breeders or dog clubs quote the breed standard when asked for a description of their breed. But the breed standard describes the ideal for a dog breed; it does not describe the average dog, or any specific dog, within the breed. The breed standard describes all of the desirable traits in the breed, but because it describes the ideal dog, it does not accurately describe the majority of the breed. However, key phrases in the breed standard can turn into indicators for challenges for a house pet. For example, when a working dog described as "intelligent, enthusiastic, and eager to work" becomes a house pet, he's probably not getting the mental and physical stimulation that his breed requires. "Intelligent" can turn into manipulative; "enthusiastic" can become destructive; and "eager to work" may translate to "needs 3 hours of exercise a day because he's not working". Read Between the Lines When Researching a Dog. Breeders, pet stores, shelters, and owners tend to 'spin' dog descriptions somewhat to match their agenda. Breeders want their breed descriptions to sound friendly and outgoing. Pet stores want to sell as many dogs as possible, so they write descriptions designed to entice buyers. Shelters want to find homes for the dogs, so they want to interest potential dog owners. And even owners like to think their dogs are special, cute, intelligent, or myriad of other things, and will describe their dogs accordingly. All of this means that many of the dog descriptions you read may be biased in some way, depending on the writer's agenda. In many cases, you can spot this bias by looking for key phrases that attempt to disguise undesirable or challenging traits. For example, a breed description might say: "These dogs have a great sense of humor." This probably means that the dogs get into trouble, but are cute, so the owner chooses to interpret the situation as 'humorous' instead of 'disobedient'. Another breed description might read: "This dog is an independent thinker." That probably indicates that the dog doesn't obey commands, may be difficult to train, and may find creative new ways to cause problems for owners as a result of having an above average level of intelligence. When you read a breed description, look for key phrases that are really euphemisms for what are less desirable behaviors. Learn to read between the lines, and interpret what these key phrases might really mean, instead of what the writer wants you to believe. Also, keep in mind who is writing the breed description, and why. If the breed description is written by a breeder, the breeder probably wants people to think positive things about his dogs. You can generally assume that the breeder has an agenda, and the breed description might be slanted toward the breeder’s interest. Look for breed descriptions from independent sources that are less likely to be promoting an agenda, and more likely to be accurate.