A Breed's True Ambassadors

A Well-Bred Dog is a Kennel's Best Advertising

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During a recent trip to the vet clinic, a fellow with a gorgeous, impeccably groomed Collie strolled through the door, drawing “wows” from the waiting room as well as those behind the desk. As the proud owner awaited a basic annual exam, he was peppered with questions about the 2-year-old dog, who looked like he’d just stepped out of the Westminster Group ring. The most common query, “Where did you get him?”

This tickled me because I recognized the name of the breeder with whom I had chatted at shows over the years. This lovely specimen was entrusted to a pet home, the owner a most gregarious sort who had nothing but high praise for the breeder who “breeds the best Collies on the planet and is a top show person,” so he repeated several times.

As the fawning continued, he whipped out his iPhone to share the puppy photos he’d been meaning to upload to his Facebook page.
Talk about great PR, not just for that kennel, but for the show community. Everyone was so impressed not only with the dog, but with the owner’s resourcefulness and connection to the fancy, though none of his Collies had ever set foot in the show ring. All he wanted was a well-bred, healthy pet.

A shame, you may say, but it occurred to me that this is exactly the kind of exposure the fancy needs. Everyone in that waiting room will remember that dog, as will the vet, vet techs and staff at the front desk. This dog, the knowledgeable owner and his glowing reviews of a “great show breeder” are indelibly marked in their minds.

This is a large, busy clinic with a sterling reputation. People often seek their advice on where to purchase a well-bred puppy, and certain clients stick in their mind as a good resource. They’ve referred countless people to me over the years because my Newfies attracted the same kind of attention and were considered to be finely bred.

Then there was the local weatherman whose beloved Basset Hound (also from a top breeder) accompanied him on many field assignments to the delight of viewers. And a public relations colleague whose current Golden Retriever has convinced her it’s time to enter the show scene. She’s a walking endorsement for that breeder and the entire line. Good things can happen when fanciers and pet people connect.

On the flip side, a pet owner who has a negative experience will rant to anyone who will listen. Social media makes it easy to vent to thousands of people and that can have the opposite effect. You’ve heard and seen the stories: Pet owner pays top dollar for a puppy bred from a long line of champions and expects absolute perfection. The dog develops behavior or health issues and the owner blames the breeder, yet in many instances the breeder is the last to know there’s even a problem.

My weekly pet column draws occasional letters from irate owners who feel taken advantage of by “show people” who sold them an inferior puppy. I’m constantly explaining that health testing isn’t 100 percent foolproof and advise folks to question anything and everything before purchasing a puppy.

Unfortunately this often falls on deaf ears. I can cite several examples, but one really sticks out. A couple who paid top dollar for a pup from a reputable breeder-judge with highly visible show stock ended up with a dog that will suffer lifelong problems from a severely undershot jaw. That’s when the finger pointing began.

Because these folks felt “safe” acquiring a puppy from a top fancier with judging credentials to boot, they expected a totally problem-free dog they could brag about just like the fellow at the vet clinic. They asked few questions and never read the paperwork. Why bother? This was going to be the “perfect” dog. The vitriol continues to this day. These pet owners needed a little extra hand holding and were definitely the wrong home for a puppy with any potential issues.

So, a word to the wise: be selective which puppies you send to pet homes. Purebred pets far outnumber those on the show circuit. Most dog lovers do recognize a quality specimen when they see one in their travels. I wish they saw more. Attractive, well-bred puppies sold to responsible, caring families are true ambassadors of your breed and kennel. A little good buzz goes a long way. 
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