The irony of the champion bred vs. backyard bred

I hesitate to write this post, lest anyone think I’m championing lackadaisical backyard breeders or puppy mills. Not at ALL. This is just a weird, little personal observation…

When it comes to purebred dogs, sometimes the haphazardly bred turn out healthier than the ones from ribbon-winning breeders.

Our dogs are a case in point.

Ready to rumble
Pyrrha, February 2013.

Pyrrha came from a terrible place ā€” this neglectful man who had a dozen shepherds in tiny cages outdoors ā€” but she is the picture of health. She’s never had a serious health concern (knock on wood), her skin and coat are shiny and robust, and she has a better, stronger build (no exaggerated back lines or hocks). Plus, her teeth look much better than Eden’s, despite the fact that they are on the same diet and that Pyrrha is a full two years her senior.

Dogs in May
Eden, May 2014.

Eden, on the other hand, was a very expensive puppy from West German lines. (Her papers are completely in German.) Her parents are both titled schutzhund champions. And health wise, she’s been a huge pain. Thankfully, there’s nothing seriously wrong with her (yet), but she is the reason we spend a small fortune at the vet on a regular basis. Her skin is bad and she’s constantly itchy. Her teeth are already showing signs of wear and tear. Her back hocks are sadly sloped.

I mentioned this little observation to one of the vet techs, when we were back in with Eden, and she laughed and said she had the same experience. She rescues Boston terriers, and her terriers from puppy mills and backyard breeders have been quite healthy. But her most recent acquisition, an expensive puppy from a supposedly good breeder, has been a complete genetic disaster.

So. Conclusion? If you want a purebred, do your research and find a really excellent, thoughtful breeder. But also acknowledge that purebreds are just a gamble. Don’t give money to the horrible human beings who churn out puppies in miserable conditions, but also don’t think that a well-bred purebred is going to be perfectly healthy. The odds are somewhat against them.

Wednesday afternoon

We love our ladies, regardless of their issues. But my big conclusion is: Get a mixed-breed dog. This would definitely be my next move, as much as I love our purebred ladies.

What do you think? Am I totally insane? Anyone else have a similar experience with purebreds from disparate backgrounds?

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11 thoughts on “The irony of the champion bred vs. backyard bred

  1. Hmm. Interesting differences in your girls, for sure. I do fully expect Riko’s teeth to be worn differently or perhaps more quickly than Elli’s… Simply because of his toy drive. He noms on most anything: tears apart tennis balls and focuses his molars on stuffed toys to open them up and tear out the stuffing. He uses a deep, full-mouth when tugging. Elli isn’t like that (at all) and her teeth will probably go on to last quite some time. If I understand correctly, Eden is more comparable to Riko, yes? Haha. šŸ™‚

    Another thing I’ve noticed between my two is Elli’s stifle: much less turned than Riko’s. He actually has more rear power and propulsion than she does. She paces (a lazy two beat gait) almost 90% of the time while Riko has a nice, powerful trot. I’m not totally convinced that hybrid vigor is true or the most ideal. Riko seems very well structured for being a purebred.

  2. You hit on some really important points. Most notably, there are no health guarantees for dogs, no matter where they come from. Another point is that not all breeders are created equal and, as you say, research is key.

  3. I actually really enjoyed this, and honestly, it really is a lot of luck. While there are certain breeds I dream of owning (corgis, Rhodesians, and curs to name a few), I have a feeling I will continue to fall for the mutts.

  4. I found this an interesting read, too! It’s certainly heartening for me to hear that Pyrrha’s health is so good, since I have a rescue German Shepherd of totally unknown breeding. She was found as a stray, and all we know is that she seems like a teenager, has good teeth (aside from some damage to her canines from being kenneled too much), a fabulous but soft temperament, no obvious allergies, and (to my eye) a nice structure without exaggerated hocks or sloping.

    Health expenses are distressing, of course, and mysterious health issues are the worst. Still, I can say from experience think that many behavioral issues (especially separation anxiety!) can be as or more expensive, and incredibly difficult to live with–and the dog who gave me that experience was a very healthy, very weird little mutt. šŸ™‚

    Basically, all dogs are furry little money pits. I’m a believer in spending a long time looking for an individual who meets your needs; that seems more important to me, at this point, than arguing over whether hybrid vigor is a thing (which I am not convinced it is).

  5. Very interesting case you have in your house and I think it’s more common than some think. It’s so hard to know who to support these days and i think it also has to do with the breed you are actually comparing to each other too. I am not a huge fan of AKC on a whole and don’t value an AKC papered dog much more than an unpapered but working and proven healthy of the same breed. The AKC has ruined many many breeds over the years and caused the huge gap in “working” and “show” lines which just makes me sad to the core. Labs, shepherds, border collies, rot ties, mastiffs and bassets are just a few who have been really negatively affected over the years.

    That being said I have the opposite in my house. I have a purebred Vizsla with lots of show, hunt, and agility titles in her lines and extensive thorough health testing. She has overall been very healthy especially in the last 5 years. We spent our time at the vet the first year or 2 for some itches and seasonal allergies but with the help of our breeder and the vet education we got we were able to manage them. Thankfully for whatever reason she outgrew them. She just turned 7 and people are always shocked when I tell them that as she simply looks amazing as she has yet to begin to gray and her teeth are also amazing.
    Our lab comes from a backyard breeder who temperament and hunt as priorities. Outside of the great grandpa having hips penn hipped back in the day no other health tests have been done or titles for that matter. But his great grandpa also has gone strong for 10 years despite his very busy and demanding life he had in the field and farm so proof is in the pudding too. His temperament is nice and I like his lean build. He overall appearance wise looks older than my Vizsla despite the 3 years younger. His teeth are much worse than hers (could be due to all the puking) and his bile/random puking has sent us to the vet and now requires 3 meals a day. He had a reaction to frontline plus and now has white hair down his back and is already going gray on his face and tweed on his body. Coat has never been fantastic either like Luna. Guess we have still been quite lucky with him but I feel his system is not as healthy as Luna’s despite their similar upbringing.

    Just makes you think and worry more lol. Such a crap shoot these days sometimes with dogs. Sorry to be so long lol

  6. Your girls are so beautiful! Zoey’s health is not great but it could be worse. At age 11 she is developing DM, plus she has arthritis & needs meds for allergies. She also has a very sensitive stomach. She is from excellent German lines. She is built more like Eden.

    I can’t speak for dogs bred for sport or pets but dogs bred for show scare me to death. They are so inbred & their traits are developed based on bizarre taste for looks rather than health. It makes me so sad.

    You’re right…mutts are the clear winner in the health department:)

  7. That’s a fascinating difference. We have 2 dogs who were rescued from a hoarding (they were in utero when rescued) and 2 dogs who come from an accidental litter. The later 2 are the healthiest of our pack. With diet, we’ve been able to improve the health of our first 2 dogs, but it’s a juggling act when I’m preparing their food. I never thought about comparing where they come from before reading this post.

  8. The idea that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebred dogs is actually not what it may seem.

    Because there is such a prevalence of mixed breed dogs, there are more to choose from, so it may SEEM like they are healthier but in fact you are just picking from a larger pool of dogs. I have had many dogs of both kinds and mixed breed dogs have just as many health problems as purebred – just different problems. Not only that, if a healthy mixed breed dog reproduces, it is likely that the dog is carrying a genetic trait that will be passed on to the young, some of which will express that gene and be unhealthy.

    My first dog Shasta was a true mutt. She died at 7 years from a mouth tumour. One of my purebred dogs died at 9 from inherited lymphoma. My two oldest dogs – both purebred – will be 14 years in march – healthy as can be. I know dozens of people with purebred dogs who outlive their mutts and vice versa.

    From my experience the health of the breeds is equal.

  9. Purebred dogs and closed breeding lines make me insane. I just want to shout out, ” the emperor has no clothes” but most people don’t care or think surely he must have. I had someone proudly tell me that their rare breed had only 50 dogs in the US. How can that be a good thing? I didn’t know the person well, and she was clearly proud and thrilled with her new pup so of course I wasn’t a big enough jerk to tell her that sounded terrible to me, but seriously? Have we learned nothing from European royalty?

    I’ve never had a dog that’s registered with the AKC and I’ll be happy to go my whole life without changing that.

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