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The Shopper’s Dilemma

Bichons... Bichons... Nothing but Bichons...

Most of us purchase some types of items on a daily basis from a variety of outlets. Less frequently we make major purchases. We have become very comfortable “buying things” because we rarely experience a problem with the purchase. Usually we have a little or a lot of knowledge about these items. In addition, most of us as consumers are protected by a wide array of government regulations when making these types of purchases. Even so, I have learned through the years that it is a good idea to see what “Consumers Reports” or Uncle Fred has to say before I start searching for major purchases. Each of us has a few things he does before buying as protection from making a poor choice. These regulations, reports and personal knowledge concern quality standards which help us make informed decisions about purchases. My dictionary defines Standard as “An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value, a criterion”; and Quality as “An inherent or distinguishing characteristic, a property”. Most things we buy daily are covered by quality standards.

The first dilemma that faces a puppy shopper is deciding which breed he wants. Many approaches are used but finally he decides based on things he has learned about that breed before or during the research. Other dilemmas include; male or female, pet or show quality, adult or puppy, purchase or rescue and from where. Most are not very familiar with the breed they have selected and therefore do not understand the fine points about the breed. In addition, it is extremely difficult to evaluate a puppy at 8 weeks of age and be sure of what he will be like as an adult even for the breeder who has many years of experience. Most have learned that they should avoid “puppy mills” but have no clear definition what that really means. Some suggest putting your trust in a responsible breeder. This is good but I find there is a large variation in the definition of a responsible breeder. For the most part, well defined quality standards are not in place. Thus the puppy buyer is faced with another dilemma. He must take the steps necessary to insure quality on his own because there is little protection automatically built into the puppy buying process.

A pedigree is a quality control document of sorts for a pure breed dog. It list the names and titles earned for each of his ancestors in a family tree format. Three, four and five generation pedigrees are the most common with the family members identified in the three generation having more influence on the individual than those further back. The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club each maintain separate breeding records for dogs registered with them that meticulously trace the parentage. From this comes the term “Registered” or “Pure Bred” dog. These records are used to produce certified pedigrees which are valuable tools breeders use to help make decisions about a proposed breeding. These pedigrees are available from the AKC or CKC (as applicable) for a nominal fee to certify the parentage of any puppy registered with that club. The breeder should have the pedigrees for both sire and dam available for the buyers examination.

Each breed has a Breed Standard which is the “Bible” by which it is judged. The standard defines the qualities that identifies a dog as a member of a particular breed. This “Standard” identifies those things that makes a Bichon A Bichon or a Dalmatian A Dalmatian. These qualities are those things that led the buyer to decide on the breed of his choice. During competition in Conformation Events, the competitors are judged for conformation to the standard and their relative qualities ranked against that standard. Through this process points are earned toward a Championship by competing directly against others of its breed & sex. Points are earned by defeating others while being evaluated against the standard by Judges qualified to judge the breed. When the dog has earned the required number of points, his owner is issued a Championship Certificate by the AKC (or other national kennel club as applicable). Although there is room for human failure in this system, most will agree that a Championship earned in a competitive system certifies an acceptable level of quality.

This then becomes a method for the unqualified person to make a fairly good evaluation about the relative quality of a particular puppy. If the puppy’s certified pedigree (or his sire and dams pedigrees) list all champions for 3 generations, there is little doubt that he carries quality genes. This does not mean that he is automatically show quality, but it does mean that the breeder is trying to make good decisions in his breeding program. It means the breeder is keeping in focus the fact that conformance to the standard is what makes the breed WHAT it is. It also means he is keeping in contact with the evolution of the breed and recognizes that without the judging process it is easy to become “Kennel Blind” and move away from producing stock that is representative of the breed standard. The term “Show Quality” is used by breeders to identify puppies that in their judgment are potential show dogs. It must be remembered that this is a judgment call and is only as good as the knowledge and experience of the individual breeder. Many changes can and do occur during the maturing process, both good and bad. Pedigrees which list few or no Champions do little to support the quality of the offspring. The lack of a Champion or two in the pedigree does not mean the offspring is not of good quality nor does the presence of all Champions mean the offspring will have no flaws. What it does mean is a pedigree with a majority of Champion ancestors will insure an acceptable quality level for the novice buyer looking for a pet in most cases. Flaws both visible and hidden will still occur but the genetic quality of the individual puppy is supported by the genes he has inherited from his Champion ancestors. A few Champions 3 or 4 generations back have little influence on the current generation. This does not mean that a good pet cannot come from a non-Champion background but the chances are not nearly as good and you are moving into an area where it becomes extremely difficult to measure quality standards.

By using all the information provided on the web page (including links) and thoroughly evaluating the puppy and his dam (sire if available) per this information, the puppy buyer is in a much better position to make a wise selection. In addition, most National Breed Club representatives will answer your questions regarding the care or purchase of a puppy.

Submitted by:
Don Seymour
Donsi@ix.netcom.com

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Touch a Bichon and you have touched a bit of heaven...
Hold a Bichon and you have held the world...
Love a Bichon and you will love life forever...
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