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Why A "Purebred" Aussie?

There already are a plethora of articles online about the benefits of purebred dogs. I think that those benefits are well established. So, instead, what I want to do in this month's blog is discuss my personal musings on the nuances of purebred vs non pure-bred Aussie breeding and what it really means for a puppy buyer.

But, before any discussion about purebred Aussies, we need to establish -- what exactly IS a purebred dog?

In Canada, the definition of purebred boils down to this:

Purebred means any Dog or Cat that is registered or eligible for registration with an association incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act, R.S.C, 1985, c. 8 (4th Supp.), as amended.

What does this mean?? The simple answer is that unless the dog is registered or eligible to be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, it cannot be represented as purebred. Plain and simple.

Yep, that breeder you met on the farm who told you that "papers don't matter", her dogs are 'pure Aussies' even though the sire looks like he is part hound, is committing a Federal Offence if she sells you that puppy as a 'purebred Aussie'. Run, don't walk -- in the opposite direction!!!

And as an, combining the names of two different breeds to create a new 'breed' from that mix does not make it a breed...but that is a topic of a whole other blog!!

Typically, and I don't want to generalize too much here, but typically breeders like this are breeding for a few reasons:

  • $$$$ money $$$$

  • They want their children to see the 'miracle of birth'

  • They love their pet dog Delilah and they want to make another one just like her because she has pretty markings or one blue eye

  • It was an "oops" litter and "somehow" Rex got into Delilah's area while she was in season and, oh well, now we have puppies

  • $$$$ money $$$$

  • Their parents bred Cock-a-poos and it's just something the family does with their pet dogs

  • Their friend had a litter of puppies and they were so cute that they wanted to try it

  • $$$$ money $$$

Now, I'm not saying some breeders of purebreds (and even some show breeders!) don't also breed for these reasons but in the non-purebred breeding world of backyard breeders and puppy mills these reasons are the stand-outs. Do you REALLY want to find your next family companion of the next 12 to 15 years to come from a breeder whose motivation is one or all of these??

Unfortunately, not all purebreds are created equal.

With increased regulation of volume breeders (aka puppy mills), these breeders are required to register their litters and puppies to retain their kennel licenses. Hundreds of puppies are produced each year and all of them are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. Does this make them quality dogs worthy of joining your home as a member of your family? Maybe. Maybe not.

Purebred only really means that the dog is of a breed that is recognized and registered by one or more dog registries and that parentage is proven and traceable back many generations through a pedigree of registered a family tree for dogs. It doesn't mean you are getting a healthy puppy with a balanced and stable temperament that conforms well to it's breed standard.

Registries set standards for breeds structure, temperament and purpose and provide ethics and bylaws for breeders to follow (e.g., the Australian Shepherd Breed Standard) but dogs of most breeds are not required to undergo an assessment of whether they meet those standards in order to be registered. There are even breeders who show their dogs who are producing very poor examples of their breed so titles are not the only thing to look for when looking at a breeder. I know, it can be very confusing!!

So, what are you to do? Why look for a purebred Aussie and not just get one from the farm or a volume breeder then if being purebred and even having titles doesn't really mean quality...after all you just want a pet not a show dog. Isn't it a crapshoot anyway?

No, there are plenty of breeders who breed purpose-bred purebred Aussies that are healthy and structurally and temperamentally sound...AND are actually purebred with traceable lineage and predictable looks, temperament, behaviors and health. Breeders like myself - Gracerok Aussies! {{This is my blog, why not toot my own horn, lol!!}} Look for ethical breeders who are complying with their breed club's bylaws to promote and preserve their breeds and are breeding for the following reasons or have these values:

  • they want to preserve their chosen breed: this means they CARE about the breed as a whole and are dedicated to producing Aussies that are good representatives of their breed

  • they breed to the breed standard: this means they are striving to produce Aussies that look, act, and live like the breed founders wanted when they created the breed standard all those years ago and can still perform the function for which that breed was originally created

  • they choose the parents carefully based on complementary traits, health, soundness and breed type: they're not just putting any two dogs together to make puppies and hoping for the best. They want their puppies to be healthy and sound and make excellent companions for their new homes for the years to come

  • they health test the parents: This doesn't mean a trip to the vet for a 'healthy' comment on their vet records. This means they do the minimum of what is needed and known in science to ensure they produce healthy puppies free of known genetic diseases common in the breed

    • For example they do x-rays of the hips and elbows with published results rated clear of hip/elbow dysplasia by the governing body Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and DNA testing to check for carrier or affected status of conditions like Collie Eye Anomaly or other testable genetic conditions that commonly impact Aussies

    • This is something you must look for as it can save you years of expense and heartache that can come with a dog of mixed and unknown heath and temperament lineage that ends up with severe health or temperament issues

  • they provide health guarantees and will take the puppy back if it doesn't work out for whatever reason. They will stand by their puppies and take responsibility for what they produce for the life of that puppy.

  • they screen their puppy buyers to make sure their homes are suitable to take on a breed like an Aussie and to ensure the best fit for life

  • they want to improve the breed: look, I founded and, for 10 years, I organized/led an Aussie Meetup Group with 500+ members and we met monthly for fun outings on trails and dog beaches. During that time I witnessed many poor representatives of the breed, some that didn't even look like an Aussie but supposedly were "pure Aussie". Some had horrible structure, roached backs, overly long legs, snipey muzzles, too much or too little substance, straight front and rear angulation, short coats, scrawny or overly bulky, extremely hyper temperaments, and many with reactive temperaments that couldn't get along with other people or dogs!!

During that time I witnessed many poor representatives of the breed

It was this experience with my Meetup Group that propelled me to want to get involved in showing and breeding Australian Shepherds. I felt like I just couldn't stand by silently and watch while irresponsible breeders were quietly and quickly ruining this beautiful breed. So, for me it wasn't so much the sport of showing and winning ribbons and titles, it was to breed quality, sound of health, body, and mind Aussies of a breed type that appealed to me -- and to send these representatives of the breed out into the community as ambassadors of their breed.

When choosing your next family member, remember that not all purebred Aussie breeders are alike. They don't all produce the same type or style of Aussie and they don't all have the same values or commitment to the actual breed.

There is currently HUGE variation in the of the things that I actually love about the breed. Every Aussie breeder, ethical or not, breeds a different "style" or type of Aussie. Unlike breeds like Beagles or Golden Retrievers, Aussies are not identical regardless of breeder.

When doing your homework on your next furry family member, choose the breeder that produces the "style" of Aussie that you like and stick with that breeder. Aussies are not interchangeable, they can be very different depending on your breeder-- so make sure you will be getting what you want in your next family member. Make a list of the looks, temperament and energy level, coat type, amount of substance, and health clearances you want to have. Look at the breeder's web site photographs and descriptions of the relatives of the next litter. Yes, even read the pedigrees and look up those dogs to see if they are the type of Aussie you like.

Instead of getting on 10 different puppy lists and just grabbing the first puppy that becomes available, choose a responsible breeder of purebred Aussies who produces the style and type you love and you will increase your chances that you will end up with exactly what you want to live with for the next 12 to 15 years. A beautiful, predictable, healthy and sound Australian Shepherd. It's what we all want isn't it?

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