Before you choose an Aussie, you must decide what bloodline has a consistent reputation for the traits that you most desire. The decision is yours. The variety offered within the breed is due to the fact that each breeder sets different goals for his breeding program.
It is important to buy from a trustworthy breeder. The reputable seller will lend you much assistance in making a decision. Conscientious breeders devote considerable time to studying Australian Shepherds and dogs in general. They know all of the distinguishing features of their dogs’ bloodlines, included temperament and developmental patterns, both mental and physical. Conscientious breeders are aware of existing trends or problems with Aussies in general. They can inform the buyer which problems are acquired (congenital), and which are inherited (genetic). Breeders can give you particulars on their dogs’ ancestral backgrounds. Over the years, breeders have gained tremendous insight about the breed and can answer many questions concerning training, grooming, and handling by giving actual demonstrations. Reputable breeders have satisfied clients because they stand behind the quality of their animals.
Pet shops or backyard breeders are not as familiar with the dog’s ancestral background, nor do they understand the fine points of the breed. Registration papers are not always available due to a lapse in record keeping. They are not going to take the responsibility for or guarantee against genetic defects. They probably won’t be around to answer questions or lend expertise when needed. However, conscientious breeders guarantee against genetic defects provided that the owner produces a signed veterinarian statement. If for some reason the dog doesn’t work out in your situation, and if you have followed the recommendations of the breeder, the breeder is often in a position to either take back the individual, help place it, or offer an appropriate solution to the problem.
How to Find the Right Breeder
Contact the Australian Shepherd Club of America for a directory of breeders. Dog publications, veterinarians, and training clubs can also help point you in the right direction. Try to locate breeders who socialize their puppies in a home environment, and avoid any “breeder” who does not. Locate breeders who are involved in the breed. If a breeder trains and is involved in dog activities such as exhibiting, judging, stewarding, or attending seminars, this suggests that he has a well-rounded background.
Conscientious breeders feel responsible for bringing the puppies into the world and want to make sure that they will receive proper care. Breeders who care about their puppies view the sale of dogs like an adoption. The breeder must qualify the buyer. The breeder will be concerned whether the potential buyer has proper facilities, enough time, and enough money to care for the new puppy. The breeder will interview the buyer or have him fill out a questionnaire. Some of the questions may be:
- Do you have a preference for a male or female? Why?
- Do you want to get involved in the breed beyond having a companion or pet ownership?
- What areas of interest would you like to pursue with your Aussie (companion, stockdog, obedience, show, or other competitions, breeding, 4H, watchdog)?
- What future plans or goals do you have for the dog?
- Do you plan on training your Aussie?
- Have you or your family ever owned an Aussie before?
- Do you have children? (If yes, what are their ages?)
- Will they be training or handling this Aussie?
- Do you have other animals? (If so, tell about them.)
- What type of area do you live in (rural, suburban, urban)?
- What facilities do you have now for your future Aussie (fenced yard, kennel, other)?
- How large is your yard?
- Do you work?
- How many hours will your Aussie be alone each day?
- How active are you, and do you take daily walks?
- If you are getting a stock dog, have you ever trained or worked a dog on livestock before?
- What type of stock will you be working?
These details about your needs and expectations help the breeder to determine if a suitable Aussie is available. If one is not, you will more than likely be referred to an appropriate source. It is necessary for a breeder to determine if your personality is compatible with that of the Australian Shepherd. He will further need to establish if you have the proper facilities to care for an Aussie. Apartment houses are not exactly adequate for an active herding breed.
If the breeder is reluctant to allow you to walk through the kennels, respect his wish. Due to bacterial infections and viruses that may be carried on a visitor’s shoes and clothing, it may be a health risk to expose the dogs unnecessarily. However, most breeders are delighted to show you their facilities.
As a prospective buyer, you have the right to see at least the dam of the puppy, and if possible, the sire. This will tell you much about what you can or cannot expect. Most breeders will show you other relatives, including the grandparents and littermates.
Excerpted from All About Aussies – The Australian Shepherd from A to Z, written by Jeanne-Joy Hartnagle Taylor, a third generation owner, competitor and breeder from an historic Australian Shepherd family. She has been involved in many facets of the Australian Shepherd, from conformation, stock dog trials, agility, and flyball, as well as being an accredited ASCA Conformation and Stockdog judge. She has brought her many years of experience and love for the Australian Shepherd into this book. (Now available as a paperback for $24.95.)