This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they're looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don't want a show BREEDER – don't want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don't want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they're getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for $150.

I want you to change your mind. I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog. And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that's the rip-off. And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she's getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they're buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.

Here's why:

If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you're not going to talk about how much you like their color. You're going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat, temperament, and so on. You'll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you've heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.

The things you will be looking for aren't the things that describe just "dog"; they'll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.

That's where people have made the right initial decision – they've taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be. 

Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible. 

You need to realize that when you do this, you're going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the "Audi" plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a '98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little. 

It is no bargain.

Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of "dog" are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn't mean you won't get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.

If you don't NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you're saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong. 

If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you're walking away with more than a label. 

Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you're considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off. 

Knowing the difference between a Show Dog and a Showable Dog

Editor's Page: "Showable" Versus "Show Quality"

Why are so many people trying to find loopholes in their standards to show dogs that have no business being in the ring?

By Allan Reznik | Posted: September 17, 2014 1 p.m. PST

Allan Reznik Editor
Photo courtesy lie Lynn Mueller.

Surely the first lesson we learned when we got into dogs was that good sportsmanship is the glue that holds the fancy together. It embodies such principles as fair play, polite behavior and respect for our fellow competitors and the judges. Implicit in demonstrating sportsmanship is observance of the rules.  And breed standards form part of our rules. So why are so many people trying to find loopholes in their standards to show dogs that have no business being in the ring?

As rules are meant to do, our standards tell us the make and shape of the breed representatives we should aspire to produce and present in the show ring. No club wants to put on a merely adequate show, no self-respecting judge would be satisfied doing a passable job of evaluating the day’s entries and no breeder or owner should want to exhibit a dog lacking fundamental type for its breed. Yet I hear more and more exhibitors defending a mediocre dog by insisting its faults are merely "undesirable” in the standard.  "It’s not a DQ!” they will argue.  Do we really need to make faults disqualifications before some people take them seriously and place a dog of average quality—though probably "finishable” these days—in a pet home?

There used to be a huge difference between "showable” and "show quality.” No one expected any bitch to whelp a litter brimming with show prospects. We were thrilled to have one or two promising puppies to run on.

It is no coincidence that our glut of midweek shows, with their smaller entries and easy majors, have also lowered expectations and cheapened many a win. I see incorrect outlines, generic movement, mismarks and other significant faults displayed in dogs that would not have been shown 20 years ago. Today they defeat their littermates that have even less to offer the breed. For some people, picking up that easy major is probably worth taking a Wednesday off work and entering half the kennel.  So long as poor dogs with lots of holes don’t have a disqualifying fault, and everything is finishable, a lot of mediocre breeders put championship titles on their mediocre dogs.

But to what end? Why would anyone want these dogs to reproduce and perpetuate their mediocrity for future generations? Because there are buyers even less knowledgeable than some breeders?

Years ago, strong entries forced us all to step up our game and show only our best. If that incentive no longer exists, it may fall to our judges to demonstrate by their placements that they refuse to settle for finishable, second best, barely passable dogs. If we must live with small entries at smaller shows, let’s make them the highest-quality smaller shows we can, with worthy dogs being selected by well-informed, confident judges for meaningful wins.


From the September 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.