Why Buy Your Next Puppy From A Show Breeder?

"I hear this more often than I'd like to admit: "I just want a pet, not a show dog." And it breaks my heart because it's just so wrong.

As a dog groomer who has been in the industry for over a decade, I've been around long enough to see families lose their cherished pet to age, illness, or accident. It also means I have been here long enough to see them seek their next new furry friend, too. They will often ask me if I know of any puppies for sale, or breeders I could connect them to, for their next beloved dog. But when I suggest they consider show breeders, they usually shut me down right away. "No, I just want a pet," they'll say.

I cringe when I hear that phrase, because it demonstrates how little most people know about show breeders.

The truth is that every show breeder has produced wonderful pets as well as show prospects! There is so much that goes into what makes a show prospect, and the difference between a show quality puppy and a pet puppy in the same litter can be a minuscule cosmetic difference that doesn't affect the health of either pup. For example, in my breed, the ears should not be set too high on the head. A puppy with ears just a tiny bit too tall is destined to be a pet, not a show dog, even if their parents are both show champions. And usually there is only one puppy, maybe two, in each litter who will ever grace the show ring. All of their other siblings? Are destined to be pets.

So why pay for a purebred pet from a show breeder? Because puppies that fall short of being show dogs are still more likely to be healthy, and more likely to have a sound, breed-appropriate temperament. This is because ethical preservation breeders utilize extensive health testing before ever breeding a dog. Just being a successful show dog isn't enough for most show breeders, the dog also has to prove they are free of heritable defects.

I will never forget the day we took our elderly German Shorthair to the vet for what turned out to be a benign cyst on his face. He was fifteen at the time but because he was exceptionally well bred and well built, you'd never have guessed his age.

He hadn't been walked that day due to the extremely early morning vet appointment, so he was practically vibrating with pent-up energy. He was also super excited to see Other Dogs, and so he was literally prancing and dancing in place, panting enthusiastically, and occasionally doing a cute spin-in-place.

In walks a couple with another German Shorthair, but she was stiff, slow-moving, clearly riddled with arthritis. She was limping so slowly, it was so painful to watch. I could tell she was very poorly bred...don't get me wrong, she had a sweet, kind face and beautiful soulful eyes, but those eyes were cloudy and her sweet face was taunt with pain. Her haphazardly bred body was shaped in a way that caused her to struggle in her old age just to get around.

The couple who owned her watched our German Shorthair prancing and dancing, spinning in place, and they chuckled. The gentleman eventually made a comment along the lines of "He's still a young puppy, not like our old girl!"

I laughed and replied "Nah, he's actually fifteen years old."

The couple gawked at our dog and the gentleman exclaimed, "Really? Our dog is ten."

Oh, my heart. That poor dog.

Ten years old and riddled with arthritis from her badly angled, unsound legs. Ten years old and eyes clouding over, soon to be blind, because none of her ancestors were screened for vision defects. Ten years old, and OLD. Our fifteen year old Shorthair was still pain-free, able to hunt and run and play all day. His good conformation meant he was limber and sound. His remaining eye (he lost vision in one eye from a porcupine accident) was clear and bright. Their indiscriminately bred dog was older at ten than our well bred dog was at fifteen.

I'm sure when they got that sweet old girl as a puppy, she was as cute and loving and delightful as our German Shorthair was as a puppy. The truth is that all puppies are cute, no matter where they came from. It's the many years later in life that the vibrant health of a well bred dog truly shines through. It's the pleasure of watching a dog age gracefully and beautifully, with as much dignity as possible.

Quality breeding isn't a be-all, end-all, absolute guarantee because not all defects are genetic. And not all genetic defects have a simple pass-or-fail test. However, puppies from health-tested parents have the deck stacked in their favor. Show breeders aim for soundness, which means a body that moves freely as well as legs that have good angles to them so the dog can move appropriately for their breed. If you are going to share your life with a pet, don't you want them to have the best possible chance to be healthy and sound?

I know firsthand how heartbreaking it is to watch a dog endure a life with health problems. While most of my dogs have been well bred dogs from ethical breeders, I did have one little train wreck of a rescue dog. I'd been grooming rescue dogs for free for a local rescue group, and I was looking to add a new pet to my family. I chose a little mostly-Chihuahua, part Dachshund mix...she was half a pound when I brought her home. This cute, rambunctious puppy was so loving and sweet. I named her Cricket.

She had deformed front legs...bilateral luxating patellas...and hip dysplasia. She had difficulty getting around her whole life, and while her forelegs made her limp, it was her bad knees and hips that caused her the most pain. She also had blood sugar problems, began losing her sight pretty early in life, had dental issues due to a misaligned jaw, bone density problems, and as it turned out, poorly developed organs. She died of heart and liver failure just before she turned nine years old.

I loved that dog so much. Losing her has been unbelievably hard.

There are people in this world who enjoy taking on dogs with major issues, but I am not one of them. If a dog I own develops an issue, I will live with it and deal with it, because to me a dog is a lifelong commitment, but I will never knowingly take on another rescue dog with major health issues. The organization I got my sickly little dog from was up-front that she had some issues, but they had no idea how many or how severe they were.

The difference between my tiny dog, bred irresponsibly and unethically and then dumped in a rescue the day after she was born, and our German Shorthair, bred by an ethical breeder from champion bloodlines, is night and day. With his good breeding, he lived until near the end of his sixteenth birthday, and he was sound and pain free until the last two weeks of his life. With her very poor breeding, my little mutt was struggling from birth, until her death. She lived less of a life than I hoped, and it still troubles me how hard she struggled to just get by.

There is absolutely no shame in wanting your dog to be the healthiest, happiest, most vibrant they can possibly be. The best way to get a dog with amazing good health is to buy pets bred by show breeders.

Good physical health isn't the only benefit to buying from show breeders, though!

Something I don't see enough discussion about is temperament. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT all about "how you raise them." Temperament is a very heritable, genetic trait! Breeders who breed ethically strive for the best, most stable breed-appropriate temperament possible. Far too many unethical breeders don't even take temperament into account when breeding, and this leads to some very unstable, sometimes dangerous dogs. I will never forget the woman who came into the salon I used to work at with a massive, obnoxious Labrador. He was constantly yanking her around, jumping up on people and trying to get at other dogs. The woman asked if we had any tips for dealing with his increasingly aggressive biting issues. He'd started by being nippy, then progressed as a yearling to full-on biting people for no reason.

When a co-worker recommended (in addition to training classes) they neuter him, the woman said "Oh, we don't want to do that, we plan to breed him."

"And how many people has he seriously bitten already?" was my reply. It hadn't even occurred to this woman that her increasingly vicious Labrador might pass on his terrible, aggressive temperament to his offspring! And that isn't uncommon in my experience; pet people who breed their pets rarely even realize the flaws in their own dogs. It makes those haphazard, unethically bred puppies very unpredictable; you could get a stable, loving temperament, or you could end up with a neurotic, vicious disaster.

Show dogs have to have a stable enough temperament to deal with extensive grooming, handling and examination by strangers, and coping with many people and dogs they don't know. Plus since ethical show breeders are breeding to the written breed standard, they are also breeding for proper temperament, which is a part of the standard.

Like I said, buying from an ethical show breeder isn't a complete guarantee, but it's a much safer route than buying from unethical breeders!

I'd also like to take a moment to mention that show dogs are pets, too. I don't know any show dogs who aren't also beloved pets! My next dog will be a show dog...and my pet. He will enjoy the same comforts and delights as all of my pets have! He will frolic at the dog beach and hike with me in the beautiful national parks I live near. He will wander with me through dog-friendly shops at the pier nearby, and snuggle with me on a picnic blanket for the musical fountain. There'll always be a spot on my lap or beside me on the sofa for binge-watching the newest Netflix original. All of this, in addition to strutting his stuff in the show ring on weekends.

If anything, a show dog's life is even more enriched than the average pet dog, because attending dog shows is something people do WITH their show dogs! Every show dog I've ever met (and I've met many) absolutely love it. They love traveling with their people, showing off, and of course all the pampering and grooming before the show, too. A show dog is a pet with extras!

I've also got a secret for you: some show quality dogs are sold as pets. I've known several breeders who had show-quality puppies who were just the perfect fit for a pet home, so they sold the puppy to be exclusively a pet.

So when I suggest a show breeder, and hear people say "I don't want a show dog, I just want a pet," I flinch on so many levels. Show breeders DO produce pets. Show dogs ARE pets. And ethical show breeders who health test their dogs before breeding produce the best possible pet dogs."


K. Kyle L. Lawrence (<-- click here for the original blog)

What Are Your Goals & Interests?

1. Research breed(s) : Read books, articles, etc., go visit dog shows, AKC club meetings and owners. Good places to look are AKC.org, GDAC.org and conformation shows to meet owners / breeders. Consider what temperament you are looking for in a dog, grooming and care requirements (also ensure that you will be able to properly maintain the required grooming, care, etc.), breed related health risks, exercise needs, size, etc. and how all this will fit into your lifestyle. Consider the commitment and if you are ready to invest the time and money to a new family member for the next 10 + years.

2. Outline what specific interests and requirements you desire : Are you looking for a pet companion or do you want show in conformation or do performance sports?

3. Do your research on breeders, find one whose morals, ethics and values align with yours : When you research a breeder, ensure that you do so via reading about them, contact puppy previous puppy owners (if you can), see reviews if available, testimonials, contact them, speak to them over the phone and in person (if possible). ***see note about proper etiquette at the bottom of the page before inquiring*** There are three main types of breeders you should know about and will encounter in your research :

  1. Puppy Mills – this is a commercial dog breeding facility, specifically meant to pump out as many dogs as possible with no regard to health of the parents or puppies. They breed dogs for profit alone. We associate this practice with filthy inhuman conditions which is what a lot of puppy mills are, but you also may not realize that many “clean” and “well-kept” kennel facilities that are actually puppy mills. When there are many dogs (most of the time multiple different breeds) and many litters at once. There is little to no commitment and limited knowledge from the “breeder” regarding the dogs they have produced. Depending on the prices charged, these dogs can be VERY cheap or very expensive (most of the time this depends on gender, “rare” colors and if you want breeding rights or not). The risks associated with these practices if the future heartbreak for you and your family (behavioral & health conditions along with early death or structure breakdown) and breaking your bank (vet bills, diagnostics, multiple surgeries, etc.). I do not support this practice and try to help people steer clear of these types of operations. Most of the time puppy mills will sell to pet stores and brokers.
  2. Backyard Breeders or BYB – this is not a literal term that they breed or raise dogs in the backyard, but rather that they breed their dogs with little to no knowledge about the dogs they are breeding, including pedigree, issues in the lines, etc. and have no direction for their breeding program aside from just breeding dogs. Most of the time the dogs being bred are “pets” bred together producing more “pets” for “fun” and money alone, they are practicing “backyard breeding”. Granted many of the backyard breeders are well intentioned, the risk for the future heart break and money spent are very likely because they are breeding blindly, without knowledge of the pedigrees, health, longevity, genetics, etc.
  3. Reputable/Preservation Breeders – these types of breeders are unbelievably dedicated and committed to the betterment of the breed, for each puppy they produce and to each puppy family. They use the breed’s written standard as a “blueprint” for what they want to produce. They are knowledgeable and willing to share all the information they have with you. They are involved in conformation (and possibly other working activities) because this is where they learn more and have their dog’s structure and temperament “judged” for possible future breeding. Their dogs are fully health tested with all the testing recommended by their breed parent club and are of appropriate age and condition to be bred. They carefully and meticulously interview prospective puppy families and a minimum of a two-year health / genetic guarantee is provided along with a contract of the expectations the breeder has of the puppy family (i.e.: spay / neuter requirements, limited registration for pet homes, etc.). These dogs may cost more (usually reputable breeders pricing is similar to a backyard breeders or even less because a reputable breeder doesn’t charge differently for the “rare” colors) because the breeder has invested so much into producing a quality dog with quality and longevity in the bloodlines, is very dedicated to their wellbeing in the first critical 8 + weeks and they follow up with their puppies for the life of the dog.

     Some questions to consider and ask breeders:

  • What is the overall goal of the breeder's program? Do they have a goal for their program?
  • Are they knowledgeable and thorough about their bloodlines? Have they done all the research necessary? Do they know the issues in the bloodlines?
  • What is their experience in raising/breeding dogs and in the breed?
  • Are they active in show/working venues?
  • Do they fully health test their dogs prior to breeding? Do they provide you with all documentation and links to show that they have completed these tests?
  • Are the dogs being bred at appropriate age and condition to be bred? Are the dogs being bred before two years of age? Do they have an excuse as to why the dogs was bred before two years of age?
  • What environment are the dogs and puppies raised in? What temperament testing and socialization is done? What types of socialization do they use for their puppy raising? Do they do early neurological stimulation on their puppies? **The first 8 weeks of a puppy’s life are critical for proper socialization and positive experiences acclimating to the BIG world. This include walking on new surfaces, playing with not only their litter mates but also their mother and other dogs in the household, outside time, attention & interactions from their breeder and trusted friends / family, new toys, etc. Getting this type of stimulation early on will produce well-adjusted puppies that are outgoing and happy, rather than a puppy who hasn’t received any of these experiences will likely be very scared, nervous, hesitant and will likely never grown out of it***
  • Do they breed carefully thought out selective litters or do they have puppies all the time? How many times do they breed their females? Are they breeding their dogs every heat cycle? At what age do they retire their breeding stock?
  • Read over and ask any questions you have about the contract.
  • Do they provide you with instruction and commitment to answer your questions and help you along once you get your puppy? Do they care to receive future updates?
  • Overall do you get a good, trustworthy impression? Are they professional?
  • If you are unsure, is the breeder happy to provide references for you to contact? Did they have an issue providing references?
  • Does the breeder thoroughly interview you or are they more focused on a "sale?"
  • When you talk about price, are they upfront with you? Do they get offended if you ask about pricing first? (I prefer potential puppy owners to ask about price as I would hate to have an entire puppy interview only to find out that my puppies are outside of their price range.)
  • Do they arrange for the ears to be cropped by an ethical and skilled veterinarian? Will they stay involved with aftercare and expertise for posting the ears? Vaccines/deworming? *** Ear cropping should be offered and arranged with the breeder to be done by a veterinarian thet they trust. If the breeder doesn’t offer this service, they are essentially saying they don’t care how it is done or what the end result looks like. For a crop to be successful, ears should be done between 7 and 9 weeks of age, any later then 12 weeks of age is risky as the ears will be less likely to stand and / or need to have a shorter crop done.***


Many reputable breeders are in no rush to place their puppies in the first home available, or the first family to show up with cash in hand. This means that they will be VERY selective and particular where they place their puppies. This also means that you cannot be demanding and are in no position to negotiate with them. Placement of a puppy comes down to timing of each litter, aligning with the best matched owner for each puppy.

  • Price - If price is the first concern and/or first question, I usually don't mind as I would prefer for someone to know what price range, they are looking for rather than waste a ton of my time with the entire application process to find out my puppies are put of their price range. And don't ever ask a breeder if they will come down or negotiate with you on price. This is the adoption of my precious baby to your family - not a sales transaction and I want to ensure that I am finding my puppies their forever homes. There are plenty of reputable rescues with great dane’s needing homes that will adopt a dog to you for a lesser price then a puppy (usually).
  • Professionalism - Please don't have your receptionist call me about a puppy. Yes, that has happened. Try to arrange a time when your available and not around distractions. Choose a time when you will be fully available to have a quality discussion. Crude language is not appreciated either. Treat it like a job interview almost, have some information and questions prepared.
  • Track Record – I will ask you about your current and previous pets. What your household consists of, your lifestyle, etc. If you have been irresponsible in the past with your pets (lack of prompt veterinary care, lack of proper training, breeding mixed breeds or “accidental” litters, etc.) then it is unlikely that I would be able to trust you with one of my babies. BUT people learn from their mistakes so the best thing to do is be 100% honest and upfront from the beginning. If you just aren’t a good fit with the breeder’s expectations, understand that they can deny you a puppy, this doesn’t mean that you are a bad pet owner this just simply means that the breeder has high expectations. Many of the questions I will ask on the phone are similar to the ones I require answered on my puppy application. I do require that a puppy application be submitted before we talk. 

Besides the obvious from the above questions here are some RED FLAGS on breeders:

Giant / Supersized / “Euro” vs “American” : There is a breed standard for a reason, it is a risk and unethical to breed for overdone or underdone dane’s. If you insist on an extremely small or large version, consider looking in rescues but be prepared for health and physical conditions or consider another breed that better suites your desired look.

Rare Colors / New Colors : Note there are 7 acceptable colors for Great Danes : black (black with white and solid black), blue, fawn, brindle, merle (merle and merle mantle variety), harlequin and mantle. No breeder's lines are "perfect" especially in dilute varieties, but some have better reputation. And dilute variety is NOT RARE and should never cost more.

“Health Certified” : If you see a statement like "health certified" and nothing else, it is a red flag. Verify that the specific tests were done, and not just an overall veterinary checkup. (See the EDUCATION tab for more information)

Breeding for pets only : A reputable breeder breeds for the betterment of the breed. They breed according to the standard and for health, longevity and temperament. They will also be proving their dogs deserve to have their genetics passed on. Showing and competing is costly and requires a lot of time from the breeder. In every litter there will be puppies that are not to standard enough for showing in conformation and they will be placed in a pet home with limited registration. Breeding only for pets shows they have no interest in improving the breed. If a breeder is only breeding for pets, this does not excuse them of needing to do health tests and titling.

Always has puppies available : Quantity over quality.

Multiple Breeds and / or too many dogs to handle / maintain : Breeding requires so much knowledge and commitment from a reputable breeder, it would be almost impossible for a breeder to be able to do all the proper research necessary to breed multiple different breeds responsibly. Some breeders prefer to specialize in a single breed, but it is very reasonable for a breeder to do very well in a couple of different breeds. Breeding several breeds is generally a huge red flag and could mean the breeder is acting as a puppy broker (reselling dogs for profit) or a puppy mill.

Guarantees : No dog can be guaranteed against everything, but reputable breeders will stand by their dogs and be there for any issues you may encounter while raising your dog. Many breeders will include a guarantee when they place their puppy in a home – this does not mean that the dog will never contract any of the issues the guarantee covers, if it is in the guarantee this means that it is always a possibility. What the guarantee means is peace of mind and commitment from the breeder that IF the dog does develop any of the listed issues, the breeder will compensate or assist as the contract states.

Absence of detail or interest in their dogs / breeding program / questions asked.

Lack of pre-screening of potential puppy owners. This shows that they truly don’t care about their puppies / dogs.

No pedigree knowledge : This is a simple test that can show you a lot about the breeder and where their heart truly is. Ask them about their bloodlines, are there any issues, ask about the pedigree, etc. They should be able to tell you many things about the dogs in the pedigree.

Website : This one is more of an opinion and can be taken with a grain of salt, but practically everything is done online now a days. A breeder should WANT to show off their dogs and share all the information they have acquired over the years. They should be aiming to educate and advocate for the breed. Remember some breeders are tech savvy therefore don’t have a website. But this could also reflect their program goals / desires or lack of. You will have to decide for yourself whether this is important to you or not.

4. In the end, select a breeder you feel good about and maintain contact : After careful consideration to the questions above and more, go with what you feel comfortable with. Fill out the necessary paperwork and pay your deposit when the puppy/litter that suits you is available. While you are waiting for your puppy, follow the steps in our PUPPY PROCESS to ensure you are prepared for your new family member. 

 5. Enjoy your puppy and follow up with your breeder : Don't forget to thank and update the breeder! Raising puppies is hard work involving many sleepless nights and lots of puppy poo-poo. The real reward is hearing and seeing how successful and loved the offspring are in their placements. Also keep in mind that puppy phase can be challenging for the new owner, but just enjoy and love your pup and with proper training they will mature into a reliable adult in proper time.

Puppy Picking

Puppy picking isn't as simple as "I want that one or this one" there is a lot that goes into placing the right puppy in the right home. When it comes time for puppies to be placed in the right home, it isn't a matter of color or gender. It is 100% dependent on the temperament of each puppy and how that personality will fit into a specific household. Placing puppies is no easy task and it is one that I take VERY seriously as I am looking to place my puppies in their forever homes not their right now homes. Which is why I thoroughly interview and ask quiestions of any potential puppy buyer, as well as have an indepth application process and a contract which lays out what I am expecting of you as an owner and what you can expect from me as your puppies breeder. 

Below are a couple of links one of which takes you to an outside website and another which takes you to a tab located on my website.

Puppy Buyer 101

Picking A Puppy : (HINT : it is more about picking a reputable breeder)


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