So you want an Alaskan Malamute… a few things you should consider when looking for your malamute.

Great! You’ve seen them on TV, in the movies, or have been to a dog show or two. Maybe you just met a pair in the park or a puppy in a pet store and said to yourself . . . “I want a Malamute!”
Now that you know what you like, you need to ask yourself the question: “Why?” And PLEASE, be honest!

Why do I want an Alaskan Malamute?

Do you just like a pretty dog? Do you want a big dog to impress the neighbors, scare the crooks, or looks like a wolf? The kids talk you into it? Is that puppy in the window simply the cutest ball of fluff? If you said yes, to any of these questions then do yourself a favor; go to the nearest toy store and buy yourself a stuff toy dog! The Alaskan Malamute is not the dog breed for you!

If you actually took the time to ask yourself “why” you are interested in Malamutes and/or “what” attracted you to this breed, then you are off to a good start. It can be difficult to say what first attracts a person to a Malamute, but if you are unwilling to ask yourself these questions, you are probably not willing to learn much about this breed of dog. And, you will have a lot to learn with this breed to have a happy relationship!

What do I know about Alaskan Malamutes?

There is a lot of history surrounding the Alaskan Malamute. To understand their history is a start at understanding the breed itself and how to live with a Malamute.

Malamutes were used by the native Alaskans to pull heavy loads in harsh arctic conditions and to hunt food. The arctic demands a “survival of the fittest” attitude, so Malamutes retain much of the pack order instinct. Intelligence and problem solving were needed to make independent decisions about hazards on the trail, even to the point of disobeying orders from their human companions. Food being scarce, it was of high importance to eat whenever the opportunity arose and to get the most energy out of that food. Malamutes often supplemented their diet with prey caught in the wild. Simply put, they have been physically and mentally molded by their environment for centuries.

….Okay, so what does that have to do with Alaskan Malamutes and you in these modern times? PLENTY! Malamutes have not changed their behavior to suit suburbia or anything else, only modified it somewhat . . .


The Alaskan Malamute is a very friendly dog with humans. Malamutes are not one-person or one-family dogs. There are very few people they will not like, which make them unsuitable to being good watch or guard dogs. Malamutes get along well with children, especially when raised with them, but caution is always advised due to their size. Although friendly and often sensitive to their owners’ moods, Malamutes are highly independent and strong willed.

The adult Malamute may have a quiet and reserved manner, or may be the perpetual child always willing to play. Malamutes do love to be the center of attention and will often demand it. They are alert to their surrounds and curious about the world around them. Malamutes have been described as cat-like in the way they groom themselves, body posture when relaxing, or in their attitude.

Pack Order

Although friendly to humans, Malamutes must establish a pack order within their family – human or canine. Remember, NO DOG should have a placement in the pack that is higher than the lowest human member! Some Malamutes are content with their place in the pack, while other more dominant Malamutes may challenge their humans for higher pack placement.

With humans this challenge may take the form of the Malamute consistently refusing commands, becoming physically rough or even growling. A grown Malamute cannot be physically forced to obey or respect you, son don’t bother using that method with a pup. Early training and a good understanding of the dog behavior can go a long way in keeping a Malamute “in line”. Malamutes will respond best to “positive reinforcement” training methods.

Alaskan Malamutes are a dog dominant breed. This means that although a Malamute may never challenge a human over pack order, they certainly will challenge another dog. Same sex challenges (male/male or female/female) can lead to serious fights if the dogs are equally dominant or if one is a younger animal seeking to establish itself.


The Alaskan Malamute is an intelligent breed. And a smart dog will become bored and destructive long before a not-so-smart dog will! Never underestimate how much furniture, carpet, books, even walls! That a Malamute can damage in a small amount of time. Malamutes will choose to “live for the moment” and worry (or not!) about the consequences later.

Malamutes can learn commands very quickly. But if they don’t see the point of following the command, they can just as quickly disobey them. Remember that this is part of their breeding and learn to be creative when teaching or practicing commands. They may very well refuse to follow a command that is well known to them, resulting in a reputation for stubbornness or “selective hearing”.

Malamutes can be clownish at times and many possess a sense of humor (dog humor of course!) sometimes resulting in the embarrassment of the owner. They can be quite creative at getting your attention or adding a little “twist” to things just to see your reaction. Malamutes can be manipulative when they want something.

Malamutes are great problem solvers and can be quite inventive if motivated. If there is something they want . . . they will find a way to go over, under, around or through any obstacle to get it. Don’t be surprised if items disappear from shelves, counters or the top of the refrigerator without any trace of a Malamute passing through.

Active and Working Dogs

The Alaskan Malamute is the equivalent of a long distance runner, and as such, needs plenty of exercise. Many are great “couch potatoes”, which is certainly a holdover from conserving energy in the arctic. However, when they are active they are very, very active.

A large, fenced yard is preferred for keeping a Malamute in the city. Even so, they should be walked or given some other form of exercise every day. Although they can readily adapt to apartment living, this means the owner must be very dedicated to providing the proper amount of exercise. Malamutes that are kept primarily outside the house or on larger property should be provided a sturdy run with a covered kennel or large doghouse.

Since they were bred to run, Malamutes also have a tendency to roam the neighborhood or countryside. Never let your Malamute “off-lease” as few are consistently trustworthy to commands (unless they wish to be) and are not particularly mindful to road traffic. In the countryside, they may learn to chase wildlife and livestock, or may be mistaken for wolves (or wolf-hybrids) and killed.

Alaskan Malamutes are still used to pulling people, sleds and heavy loads. Today, these activities are done as pleasure sledding and skijoring, as well as the sports of racing and weight pulling. In warmer climates, many accompany their owners on hikes and backpacking, at carting, bike rides and skating/rollerblading. For the safety of you and your dog, care must be taken to have your Malamute properly secured and under control when biking or skating. A very determined Malamute can be hard enough to stop without having wheels underneath you!

Malamutes have also been trained in search and rescue, agility and therapy work. They are quite adaptable to most activities that are presented to them, love to work, and are good with most people.

Hunting and The Prey Drive

Alaskan Malamutes possess a strong “prey drive” which is part of the hunting instinct. If it moves or squeals, a Malamute will chase it – sometimes with dangerous consequences.

Malamutes have been known to kill rabbits, squirrels and birds, as well as neighborhood cats. Malamutes only do well with cats when they have been raised with them and have also been taught to control their natural instincts. Some Malamutes can never be trusted around other small animals, even when raised with them.

Malamutes should be taught caution and control around children. Besides their love of humans, they are also attracted to children because of the quick movements and high-pitched voices (similar to those of small hurt animals – a natural prey). No small child should be left alone with a large dog of ANY breed. Malamutes tend to play rough and, due to their size and power, could injure a child without meaning to.

Denning and Digging

Many animals will create a den for themselves to have their young and as a safe escape from the outside weather.  Another reason to dig is to catch burrowing animals such as moles or gophers.

If you take pride in your garden and want a Malamute . . . one of those ideas has to go! Malamutes like to dig. They dig to get to the cooler dirt under the surface, to catch insects deep in the grass and sometimes they seem to dig for the shear pleasure of it. Their owners often compare Malamute “landscaping” to the lunar surface or a mine field. Malamutes can move large amounts of earth in a small amount of time. Some Malamutes can be taught to dig only in “their” area of the yard, but rarely can a Malamute be taught to never dig at all.

Because of the denning instinct most Malamutes crate train readily, especially when taught as a young pup. Many often prefer sleeping in their crate to other locations. Although one exception may be the location in the middle of your bed.

Food For Thought

To survive in arctic conditions, a little food must fuel the body for a long distance or time. The Malamute metabolism is highly efficient in converting food to fuel. Typically Malamutes need much less food to eat than most other breeds of similar weight or size. Unless heavily active, it is very easy to overfeed a Malamute to the point of being fat. Unless old or very inactive, Malamutes do best on an “active dog” formula of food.

Alaskan Malamutes are highly food motivated. This is a holdover from the scarcity of food in the arctic. This also means that most Malamutes cannot be trusted around food as they will steal it when the opportunity arises. The majority of Malamutes cannot be “free-fed” as they will not stop eating until they can’t fit any more food into their stomach which can lead to a serious medical condition called bloat. Malamutes are very good at begging for food and some have developed quite advanced techniques of “mooching” food from their owners.

One benefit of this fixation on food is that Malamutes do well with motivational training using food as the initial motivator. But, there is a fine line between using food as motivation and your Malamute teaching you to bribe him into obedience!

Coat and Hair

The Alaskan Malamute’s double coat of fur has evolved to insulate it from the surrounding environment. The outer guard coat is a coarse, medium length, slightly oily to the touch and is the first layer of defense to repel dirt, snow or ice. The shorter undercoat is a thick dense wool which blocks out the wind or cold. “Woollies” are Malamutes that have a long (often soft) coat. The texture and excessive length of a woolly’s coat does not provide good insulation from the weather, but it does not hinder them from being good pets.

Malamutes are adaptable to warm climates, but their coat will not be as thick as dogs raised in the cold. In warmer areas it is not advised to exercise your Malamute during the heat of the day and to provide extra water at all times. Malamutes in very hot temperatures, or that are not used to the heat, should be kept indoors during the day to avoid problems such as heat stroke. It is not recommended to shave a Malamute’s coat since it provides some insulation from heat as well as cold. Very long coats (such as a woolly’s) may be cut/trimmed to a more moderate length.

Twice a year the Malamute will shed its undercoat. A more common term is “blowing” coat. The amount of hair lost in a few weeks is staggering and can fill several garbage bags. In a full “blow” the undercoat may actually come out in many large clumps of hair. In warm climates, Malamutes may shed all year long with a heavier shedding period twice a year. If you like a very clean house or do not like dog hair, you should consider another breed.

Malamutes do not have the strong “doggie” odor which may be noticed in other breeds. A few may develop a sour smell if the coat is not fully dried after being wet. This is due to water being trapped within the undercoat and allowing a breeding ground for bacteria and the like. Malamutes are clean dogs and will groom themselves much as a cat would. Dirt and water that does not make it into the undercoat will usually come out under your brushing or their own grooming.

If Dogs Could Talk

One of the most endearing (and sometimes exasperating) characteristics of the Alaskan Malamute is the fact that they talk. Their “Mala-talk” is usually sounds such as “oowoo”, “roowuf”, etc. Be warned, if they talk . . . they will also “talk back” to you just as an arguing child would. Owners have often found themselves in full conversation with their Malamutes and both parties understanding what is being said.

Malamutes will also howl (or sing, depending on your point of view!). In a group of dogs this is a form of communication and pack unity. Singularly, it may be a call for someone to communicate with or to answer a passing siren. Malamutes will howl when they are happy as easily as other breeds howl when they are lonely.

Most Malamutes are not prone to barking. If raised around other dogs that do bark, they may pick up this habit. Even so, their bark is more a combination of a bark/yip and rarely to the amount of excessive barking.

What other information on Alaskan Malamutes do I need to know?

Now that you know a little more about the Alaskan Malamute, you will be better able to decide if a Malamute is a breed you can live with. There is still much more to learn about the Alaskan Malamute and it is in your best interest to learn all you can before bringing a Malamute into your home.

Remember, this is a large, physically powerful breed with a strong will and independent nature. This is not a breed that you can truly own in the normal sense of the word. It is a breed that you can form a lasting relationship with provided you are willing to adapt and compromise, be creative, learn as much as possible and work hard at the relationship.

What age dog fits my life-style?

malamute adolescentOnce you’ve made the decision to get a dog, you need to decide whether a puppy or adult would be the best choice. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Adult Dogs: With older adults, you need to obtain as much factual history on the animal as possible, to know what you’re getting. Find out how many homes the dog has had, at what age it was first purchased, and why it was relocated each time. Learn about the dog’s good points, bad points, and its medical history. Ask how the dog gets along with children, with other dogs, and so on.

Unfortunately, even if you ask all the right questions, you may not be told the truth, particularly if the current owner really wants to get rid of the dog. Beware of dogs that are “free to right home.” Expect to pay something, to show you’re serious about caring for the dog. Beware of dogs that have had multiple homes and owners that say only good things about the dog. (No dog is perfect!)
On the plus side, if you find a good, well-adjusted adjust you may not need to deal with house training, or the exuberance and demands of a puppy. Take your time and make multiple visits to the dog’s home before purchasing him. Expect to be interviewed by the prospective owners (if they really care about him), with questions about your family, life-style, accommodations, fenced yard, etc.

Older Puppies (5-12 Months): The primary caution here is buying a “show quality” puppy from a breeder that “kept him around a few months to see how he would turn out.” This is a common, accepted practice, particularly with breeds that require full dentition, or size restrictions. Beware of the puppy that has been kept in a kennel the entire time and not properly socialized, housebroken or obedience trained. Lack of proper socialization and training during this time may lead to severe behavior problems, particularly fearfulness. On the plus side, you have a good indication of the animal’s size and conformation, as well as his adult temperament tendencies. The dog may already be housebroken and obedience trained.

Younger Puppies (7-16 Weeks): Most animal behaviorists and trainers agree that 8-10 weeks of age is the best time to bring a puppy home, because of its ability to learn, adapt to new situations and bond with its new family. As the puppy ages past 7 weeks, it needs ongoing human and canine socialization to develop properly. If the puppy spends 24 hours a day from 7-12 weeks of age in a kennel or pet shop window without proper contact, it may have problems. Puppies that are removed from their littermates before 7 weeks of age also show behavior problems. They tend to miss out on lessons in canine behavior while playing with littermates, and they don’t receive canine discipline from their mother. Never obtain a puppy younger than 7 weeks of age as the possibility for behavior problems later in life is significantly higher.

CAUTION: Animal researchers have found that many puppies go through what is called a “fear imprint” period somewhere between 8 and 10 weeks of age. During this time, try to avoid exposing the puppy to negative, frightening situations, as research indicates they are more easily imprinted during this period.

Male or Female? Spay or Neuter?

Selecting a male vs, female puppy is strictly a personal decision, although the following points should be taken into consideration:

  1. When male hormones really kick in (between 6-12 months of age), he will begin lifting his leg to urinate and marking vertical surfaces (sometimes even furniture in the house). Neutering will help prevent this.
  2. Females usually come into heat twice a year, although some as often as four times a year. Each season lasts 3-4 weeks, during which time males in the neighborhood may be attracted to your house. She will need to wear “britches” for about 10 days. Same bitches experience mood swings during their heat.
  3. Males become impossible to live with when there is a bitch in heat nearby. All they can think about is breeding for 2-3 weeks! They will become more independent, more dog oriented and less willing to obey humans. Some even break through glass windows or claw through wooden doors to breed the bitch.
  4. Females can also become impossible to live with. When they are ready for breeding they too are more dog oriented and less willing to obey humans. They will become very persistent in trying to find a way out of their yard if a male is in the area.
  5. Spaying/neutering does not make dogs fat. Too much food makes them fat! However, it does reduce the incidence of cancer later in life.
  6. Spaying/neutering makes for a better pet, particularly for families with small children. It will make the dog more people-oriented and less likely to roam away with other dogs. Other than that, it won’t change their personality.

Some people have the mistaken notion that the dog will not be “satisfied” as an adult if it is not bred. Not true. Males, in particular, take on an entirely different attitude after their first breeding. Most become more dog oriented. As an experienced stud, they become very frustrated and almost impossible to control the next time a bitch is in heat. Females should not be bred just so the kids can see the miracle of birth or because you want just one pup out of her.

There are thousands of pure-bred and mixed breed puppies and dogs abandoned and killed every year because of overpopulation. Only proven, champion-quality animals should be bred. And their breeding should be carefully planned to reduce the chances for passing on hereditary problems, and increase the chances for improving the breed. Just because the animal has champion parents does not make it breeding quality! Look at what overbreeding has done to German Shepherds, Goldens, Dobermans and Cockers, to name a few. For further information about spaying/neutering, check with your vet, breeder and local spay/neuter clinic. Also check with your city or county about reduced fees to license altered pets.

Where can you find a malamute?

Without a doubt, the best possible place to buy a puppy is from the breeder who whelped the litter, gave them their shots, wormed them, socialized them, watched them develop unique personalities and kept detailed records. Just as there are many ways to buy a car, there are many ways to buy a puppy. But remember, you can’t “trade in” a puppy if it doesn’t work out!

Big Breeders, who maintain large kennels with dozens of dogs, can be good or bad places to buy puppies. Unless the large breeder has an equally large staff, it may not be possible to properly socialize and evaluate the puppies. (Proper socialization does not mean feeding them and cleaning their kennels!) They may have multiple litters at any given time. These breeders are either very involved in conformation showing and they are constantly breeding in an attempt to attain their next champion, or they are puppy mills breeding indiscriminately with the primary objective to make money. Large breeders may not screen their buyers properly, resulting in numerous mismatched dogs and owners.

Small Breeders typically only have one or two litters per year and most raise them in their home. You can find puppy mills here, too, except on a smaller scale, particularly if the breeder owns both the sire and dam and has made several repeat breedings of these dogs (this is undesirable). On the plus side, small breeders usually approach “dogs” as a hobby rather than a business, so they give their animals more individual care and attention.

Individuals will sometimes advertise a litter, which is the result of their first step to becoming a small breeder, or because they bred their bitch “so the kids could experience the miracle of birth” or “because they heard it was better to breed her before spaying her.”

Pet Stores are typically the least desirable place to buy a puppy, next to a puppy mill, because they often purchase their animals directly from puppy mills in the Mid-West. Occasionally they buy local animals from breeders that need to “get rid” of a lot of puppies. Many pet store puppies are separated from their mothers before 7 weeks of age, resulting in psychological and/or health problems. There are numerous horror stories about sick puppies that died shortly after purchase. Pet store puppies also spend 95-99% of their time in little cages, where they barely have room to turn around. They are not able to play, interact and develop normally. More behavior problems are seen in pet store puppies. To be fair, however, there are some situations where a family was lucky enough to end up with a nice puppy. This is the exception, rather than the norm. If you seriously consider a pet store puppy, ask the store for several references from other puppy buyers and make the appropriate follow-up calls. Veterinarians and trainers in the area may also have had experience with their puppies.

Shelters and Rescue Organizations primarily have older puppies and adults that have been abandoned or found. Occasionally they will have an entire litter of puppies brought in, although they are adopted very quickly. With careful screening and evaluation, you can often find very nice dogs in shelters and rescue organizations. However, you do run the risk of not knowing the animals complete history.

How do I find the right breeder?

Once you’ve determined the best breed for you, and assuming you’ve decided to buy a puppy rather than an adult, it’s time to start looking for a breeder. There are several ways to locate a breeder.

Some breeders may not advertise. They may be able to sell an entire litter (before it’s born!) by word of mouth, based on their outstanding reputation. So ask around. Ask veterinarians, groomers, and pet store clerks, obedience class instructors and people who own that breed. Find out when the next big dog show is scheduled for your area, what time your breed will be judged, and go watch. Ask exhibitors and audience members to recommend breeders. Buy a catalog to check kennel names and addresses. Collect business cards. Watch and listen. Find out if your breed has a club in your area. Attend their meetings and get to know the members. If you’re still lacking for breeders, contact the American Kennel Club (AKC) and ask for the address of your breed’s ‘national parent club. Write to them and ask for a half dozen breeders in your area (which may be within a 50 mile, or 500 mile, radius, depending upon the popularity of your breed in your area).

Call and visit as many breeders as you can. Leave the kids and emotional adults at home. Pretend you’re doing research (you are!) and objectively visit each of the breeders. Ask to see their entire operation. Ask to pet and play with some of their adults, including the litter’s sire and dam, if they are on the premises. (If the dam is not well adjusted, the puppies will probably not be either.) Look for clean facilities, and well- adjusted adult dogs. Do the adults have toys to play with, or do they just pace nervously in their runs? Are there large fenced paddocks for the adults to run, or just narrow kennels?

What type of facilities are the puppies kept in? insist on seeing the puppy run or pen. (Don’t allow the breeder to just bring a few puppies into the kennel office.) Puppy pens should be large enough for the puppies to have separate areas for sleeping, eating, playing and eliminating. There should be good footing, with obstacles for climbing and playing and lots of toys lying around. Puppies should not be confined exclusively to cement kennel runs for most of the day.

Ask to see the whelping room. It should be located in, or just off, the kennel office or in some room of the house. From birth, puppies need to have human contact (even before their eyes open). They need to experience the sights, sounds and smells of human activity and a normal household environment (pots and pans, radio, running water, conversation, etc.). Puppies need gentle handling and lots of attention at a very young age to develop properly. Puppies should not be whelped in a kennel or run.

Once you’ve had the full tour of the facilities, ask to see the litter that was advertised (or that you’re interested in). Watch the puppies interact together for a while. Play with them as a group and see who is most outgoing and desiring of your attention. Look for the shy or independent ones. Figure out who the puppy “pack leader” is. Ask the breeder which puppies are still available and within your budget (show vs. pet quality). Then bring those puppies out, one at a time, into the kennel office or other quiet place. This is where you will do your serious evaluation and temperament testing.

During your visit, ask the breeder about the puppies’ temperaments and his or her evaluation of them. How do these puppies compare with other litters (physically and mentally)? How do they compare with their parents and grandparents. Is this litter more or less outgoing, faster or slower to develop and explore, more or less aggressive, etc. (If the breeder is evasive here, or answers “average” to all your questions, beware. There’s a chance the breeder hasn’t spent enough time with the litter to know.) Ask the breeder about physical problems within the breed. (Don’t ask “leading” questions. See how much the breeder will tell you.) Ask about problems with this line of dogs. If the breeder says this line has “absolutely no problems” beware. Very few (if any) can truthfully say that. An honest breeder realizes it is in their best interest (and in the best interest of their breed) to be honest with you and help educate you.

Research your breed thoroughly (through books, veterinarians, breed clubs, and objective individuals) so you know what problems are particularly present in that breed. Beware of books that only sing the praises of a particular breed of dog. Books that avoid discussing the problems associated with a breed are often not objective. These books tend to be written by breeders interested in puppy sales. Look for books, and individuals, who present both sides of the story. Understand what makes the difference between pet, showable and show quality animals. Do not rely exclusively on the information of breeders (who are trying to make a sale). They may be unwilling to give you all the facts. Just because a breed is known for having a higher incidence of problems (such as hip dysplasia in German Shepherds), that doesn’t mean all dogs will have the problem. It does mean you’ll have to do a more careful job of screening prospective puppies through their bloodlines.

Before you leave the breeder’s, ask for a copy of their purchase agreement or contract to review at home. Ask about grace periods (usually 24-48 hours for you to take your puppy to your vet for an evaluation) and return policies. Ask about “guarantees” regarding structural or physical problems (such as hips). Get this in writing! Make sure the breeder has individual AKC registration forms for each of the puppies so that you will not have to wait for paperwork that may never be completed. Be aware that some breeders will not release AKC registration papers until you prove the dog has been spayed or neutered. Do not be taken in by the breeder who puts two prices on the same puppy. Some breeders will sell the puppy “without AKC papers” at a lower price, and charge much more if you want the papers. In fact, this puppy may not be AKC registered, at all. However, you may be able to purchase a very nice AKC puppy at a lower price if you agree to have it spayed/neutered at the appropriate age. Some breeders will wait to release the AKC papers until the animal has been altered, an acceptable practice provided you have proof the puppy is in fact registered.

If your buying a pet quality puppy, base your decision on temperament. A missing tooth or incorrect ear set will probably not impact the dog’s life, but a poor temperament can result in life-long problems. A pet quality puppy should be purchased young, realizing that there are no guarantees about good hips or elbows. On the other hand, if your primary goal in buying a puppy is for show, then you need to buy an older puppy to make sure he is structurally sound. Temperament, in this case, may have to be secondary.

Many breeders will refer to dogs as “guaranteed to finish” vs. “show quality” vs. “showable” vs. “pet quality.” These terms generally refer to the animal’s conformation (physical structure) and its ability to earn a breed championship.

Guaranteed to Finish: Often this is an older puppy or adult dog that already has championship points. The breeder is certain that with proper showing, professional handling, etc., the animal will earn an AKC Championship. A few breeders will actually provide a written guarantee.

Show Quality: This may be any age of dog or puppy. In the breeder’s best professional opinion, this animal will mature into a dog that will finish a championship. No guarantees, however. The breeder has already verified the animal to be free of disqualifying faults.

Showable: This is typically a dog or puppy that has one or more minor faults that would, objectively speaking, never be able to finish a championship. It’s a good quality animal, yet not of the caliber it takes to finish. This dog would probably win a few class placement ribbons, at best, but is best suited as a pet and companion.

Pet Quality: This is typically a dog that has enough minor faults, or disqualifying faults, that would prevent it from competing in the breed ring. If you’re not interested in breed competition, these faults may not matter. The dog may be too large or too small, have a kink in its tail, its coat may be too long, etc. These faults would not impact the animal’s health and life-span. On the other hand, “pet quality” dogs may have very serious faults such as hip dysplasia or eye problems or heart problems that might impact that dog’s quality of life. Have the breeder clearly identify each puppy’s good points as well as faults. If possible, have the breeder’s findings reviewed by your veterinarian.

What is the difference between a backyard breeder vs. a hobby breeder?

Backyard Breeder-

  1. Motive for breeding “fun,” “good for kids,” “to make money.” Doesn’t screen buyers and seldom refuses to sell, even if buyer is unsuitable
  2. Breeds family pet to any convenient pet of same breed just to have pure-bred pups. Has no concern for genetics, bloodlines or breed improvements.
  3. Though pet may be well-loved, it wasn’t x-rayed for hip dysplasia or checked for other heritable problems.
  4. Offers no health guarantees beyond proof of shots, if that. Unqualified to give help if problems develop.
  5. Seller has little knowledge of breed history or American Kennel Club (AKC) standard. May claim that this doesn’t matter for “just pets.”
  6. Pups raised in makeshift accommodations, indicating lack of long-term investment in breeding.
  7. Even when selling “just pets,” may produce AKC papers or “championship pedigree” as proof of quality. Yet seller doesn’t increase own knowledge through participation in national or local breed club. Doesn’t show own dogs to “prove” quality.
  8. May be unwilling to show buyer entire litter or to introduce dam of litter. Can’t or won’t compare/critique pups or pups’ ancestors.
  9. Prices at low end of local range, since must move pups quickly.
  10. No concern for the future of individual pups or breed as a whole. Doesn’t use AKC’s limited registration option or ask for spay/neuter contract to guard against breeding of substandard pets. If you can’t keep pup, tells you to take it to dog pound or sell it.

Hobby Breeder-

  1. Dedication to producing quality dogs is serious avocation. Has so much invested in dogs that struggles to break even, not make profit. Will sell pups only to approved buyers.
  2. Can explain how planned breeding to emphasize specific qualities through linebreeding, outcrossing or, more rarely, inbreeding.
  3. Has breeding stock x-rayed to check for hip dysplasia and tests for other genetic faults. Can produce certification to prove claims.
  4. Lifetime commitment to replace a dog with genetic faults or to help owner deal with problem.
  5. Loves breed and can talk at length about its background, uses and ideal type.
  6. Has a serious investment in dog equipment such as puppy pens, crates and grooming tables and knows how to use it.
  7. Belongs to a local or national dog club, indicating a love for sport of dogs. Exhibits own dogs as an objective test of how stock measures up.
  8. Shows litter and dam in a sanitary environment. Helps buyer evaluate and choose pup. Explains criteria for “show picks” versus “pet picks.
  9. Prices will be at high end of local range, not cut-fate. Price won’t reflect all that is invested in pups
  10. After purchase, will help with grooming or training problems. Will take back pup you can’t keep rather than see it disposed of inappropriately. Sells pets with spay/neuter agreement or limited AKC registration.

(author-Chris Helvorson)