January 5, 2008

What eBay can teach you about buying a dog

Snap of Elizabeth Baker's Rye at Zamora. I'd love a pup of his someday.

"Don't buy the item. Buy the seller."

Since I'm devoting space this week to thoughts on dog breeders, here's a quick rundown of my own most recent puppy-buying experience. First, my personal rules & regs for puppy buying:

1. Know the breeder
2. Know the breeder
3. Know the breeder

I bought my last border collie pups sight unseen, but I wasn't flying blind. They had an older sibling I loved, other relatives I'd watched and admired and a breeder I trusted. His dogs, the pups' parents, met all my criteria:

Sire and dam were both working ranch dogs, able and willing to work all day.
Both parents trialled successfully in USBCHA Open.
Both were able to work cattle.
Both were able to work out of sight of the handler.
Both had lots of natural balance.
Both had a grip and the brains/presence/guts to move stubborn stock.
Both were so keen you'd need a crowbar to get them off stock, if not for their natural biddability. [No electric collars, please. Scroll down in this link for Alasdair's remarks on "the collar."]

If you want a good border collie, look for an experienced border collie handler and stock owner with a reputation for honesty, fair dealing and good, sound, working dogs. Look for someone you'd value as a mentor. You'll have far better luck than if you buy from someone who can offer a sheet of blood-test results but no proof the dogs can actually do anything. [Good stockdog breeders generally do have hip and CEA information on their dogs.]

When you go to sheepdog trials, don't ask, "Does anyone here have puppies for sale?" Ask something more along the lines of, "Do you give lessons? And are you planning any litters? [Because I've seen your dogs run at three different trials now, and they always do well and seem very nice to be around, and you handle them so kindly and quietly.]"

As on eBay, so with puppies: Buy the seller.


Anonymous said...


On the flip side, I like to think I'm not 'selling a puppy', I'm adding a new 'family member'. I want to cultivate a long standing relationship with puppy buyers that keeps them in contact with me for life.

After all, a puppy buyer who stays in contact is more likely to be comfortable telling me if something goes wrong with their dog, or if life changes conspire to make them have to place him.

It's why I keep a mailing list, an owners network - http://absolutbullmarket.ning.com - and hold occasional reunions.

Luisa said...

Yep -- totally agree. Kind of difficult to improve a breeding program if you don't know how your pups have turned out.