WHY PAY MORE
FOR A PET Australian Shepherd puppy? R6,000 vs R1,000
Original article courtesy of Bofelli Australian Shepherds and Stonepine Australian Shepherds (USA)
The R6,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- both the sire and dam of this Australian Shepherd puppy came from top quality breeding stock which was developed over years and years of selective and knowledgeable breeding. Both meet the requirements of the written AKC (American Kennel Club - www.akc.org), ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America - www.asca.org), and KUSA (Kennel Union of Southern Africa - www.kusa.co.za) standard for the breed in conformation (physical structure) as well as temperament and disposition. Each has a pedigree, which has been studied and thoroughly researched. These two dogs have been selected to breed to each other because they can both contribute to the excellence of the breed as well as complement one another.
The R1,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- the dam of this litter was purchased from a local pet store and originally came from a Australian Shepherd puppy mill. She was sick off-and-on during the first year of her life due to many different types of intestinal parasites and malnutrition. The sire, an over-sized male, lives down the street and was purchased from an ad in the newspaper. Neither owner has ever heard of the KUSA, the AKC, ASCA, or the written breed standards. Neither owner has seen a written pedigree. The female is skittish and snappy. Her owners hope that having a litter will calm her down.
The R6,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- before this breeding took place, both male and female had numerous tests done, including elbow and hip x-rays, and eye tests to determine that there were no known physical or genetic problems that might be passed on to the off-spring. The breeder is well aware of the genetic problems to which the breed is predisposed and uses no animal for breeding unless it is certified clear of defects by a qualified veterinarian. The health of this breeder's pups is guaranteed.
The R1,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- the breeder is totally unaware of the genetic problems within the breed. Trips to the veterinarian, except for dire emergencies or yearly shots, are considered too expensive. The breeder's hope is to make money off the sale of the puppies. If he keeps expenses down, he can buy that new couch he's been wanting. Puppies are sold with no guarantee, sometimes with no papers.
The R6,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- the breeder behaves professionally and responsibly because he has a good reputation to maintain. His goal is to produce beautiful and sound specimens, which anyone would be proud to own. Profit, if any, goes toward future breedings (always aimed toward the betterment of the breed) or for show entries, handler's fees, new equipment and important veterinary tests. Both the mother and pups are fed the highest quality diet. Many trips to the vet ensure that mother and pups are thriving under the very best care. The pups are raised in a busy part of the house where they are socialised, groomed and exposed to different kinds of stimuli. They are touched and spoken to, cuddled and even sung to. They are never sold before they are eight weeks old. Every buyer is interviewed at length and pups are placed only in homes where they will receive the finest treatment. The breeder spends time with each new owner, educating and answering questions. Follow-up calls are made to make sure the pups are adjusting well. Each new owner receives a bill of sale and health guarantee, vaccination record, minimum three-generation pedigree, guarantee of registration with the KUSA and thorough Australian Shepherd puppy care and nutrition information. If the Australian Shepherd puppy is not considered to be of such quality as it will better the breed the Australian Shepherd puppy is sold with a limited registration or non-breeding agreement. The new owners are encouraged to continue a relationship with the breeder, and to call and ask questions at any time during the dog's life.
The R1,000 Australian Shepherd puppy -- these puppies are born in a box in the garage and receive little care other than what the mother gives. To cut costs they are weaned on generic dog food and allowed to nurse on the mother as long as possible to keep food bills down. The bitch's health declines rapidly due to poor health and some pups are weak and runty. They are sold as quickly as possible because advertising and vaccines are expensive. They are sold often without having had their dewclaws removed, without shots, parasite checks, vet examinations, guarantees or information of any kind. They are sold to anyone who has the cash. If the new owner is lucky he may receive a KUSA registration application. Although the Australian Shepherd puppy is of very poor quality, it is sold with full breeding rights. The new owner usually disappears with the pup, never to be seen again. If the market is not good, the breeder takes the leftover pups to the local pet shop or shelter.
The comparison you have just read is hypothetical, but very typical of what we see all too often. Although not every breeder who charges higher prices is reputable and ethical, pet buyers should keep looking until they find one that is. When I am asked why my prices are so much higher than those in some newspaper ads, I mail a copy of this article. Those buyers who respect the quality and excellence are wonderful customers and become partners in this hobby that I love so much. Those that are seeking pets deserve nothing less than a nice quality, healthy and trusting animal, and a dedicated breeder they can count on.
The advent of the information age has made copious amounts
of knowledge available to people seeking to bring a new dog into their home.
There is not enough information alone, however, to give one the experience
of that specific breed. With an Australian Shepherd it is imperative to
actually experience the reality of living with this tremendously fun, energetic
and brilliant dog prior to committing to the breed.
An Australian Shepherd is not for everyone. This is not a unique statement exclusive to Australian Shepherds. Most folks in the dog world have heard this term at one time or another used for one breed or another. What does this statement truly mean when it comes to the Aussie? The Australian Shepherd is a working stock dog (guardian and performance dog), active and animated, versatile and adaptive, possessing superior intelligence, an intuitive decision maker, and a devoted companion. On the surface, these appear to be good traits when determining a breed of dog to own. Most of us consider ourselves intelligent and therefore worthy and capable of handling an intelligent dog. We think of ourselves as active and therefore want an active breed. "Easy to train and learns quickly" sounds good.
The reality of living with and owning a dog that is highly intelligent is that they learn good things as quickly as they learn bad things. Dogs are amoral. They don't distinguish between good and bad - we do. So what does this look like in an Australian Shepherd? Your highly intelligent dog can make up games to amuse himself. The Aussie is also capable of intuitive thinking without you. Rearranging your landscaping, removing and tearing the siding on your house into tiny pieces; arranging items in order to jump out over six foot fences (and back in!) more easily. The list goes on. The fact is, if the dog has already exhibited the behavior you are behind the training curve ball and are already into remedial training territory before formal training has even started. This can be daunting for a pet owner and mark the end of the love affair with the new Aussie family member.
The reality of living with a high-energy performance dog is that one or two walks a day do not dissipate the level of energy. This dog also requires mental stimulation, generally on a non-stop basis. This ranges from a job to do like supervising your housework and 'assisting' with the vacuum cleaning, perhaps watching the car while you are in the bank or helping you with your deposit in the bank. The endless list of activities that Aussie owners come up to entertain and amuse their charges is truly vast.
The reality of living with a dog that is a hugely loyal
companion is that an Aussie wants to be with YOU all the time. This is not
a breed that does well out in the backyard while the entire family is at
work, school, soccer, or on vacation. This is a breed that does well included
and integrated as another member of the family, included in daily chores,
running errands, and living in the house with their people. They will and
do get underfoot.
The strong guardian instincts inherent in this breed since their early days as a stock dog comes into play as the dog is integrated into the new family. Their willingness and ability to loyally protect the family can easily turn into dog or people aggression, herding neighbour children, chasing livestock and becoming a neighbourhood nuisance. This is an issue that is best handled with proper socialisation and formal obedience training. Just because you want a dog that learns quickly and is easily trainable does not mean you can skip or ignore training. Just the opposite is true.
“This breed is not for everyone” especially applies to the novice pet owner. The definition of a novice pet owner is a person who has not owned a dog as an adult. The family pet you had as a kid does not qualify. A suggestion for the novice pet owner family looking for an Australian Shepherd is not to get a pup the first time. Look for an Aussie that is a little older, fully trained and already socialised. These dogs come into a family ready to go and the pitfalls of growing out an Australian Shepherd Australian Shepherd puppy can be easily avoided this way.
Novice Aussie owners can find these dogs through rescue organizations, and from reputable breeders. Occasionally breeders who have kept a Australian Shepherd puppy out of a litter, and grown it out to determine if this pup will meet their personal requirements for the kennel performance or breeding standards, will decide that the Australian Shepherd puppy needs to go to a pet home. The reason has nothing to do with the dog's suitability as a family pet. These dogs can range from adolescent to a retiremed brood bitch. They are generally part of the breeder's family, have been house trained, socialised and are looking for a wonderful family to cherish them. I cannot recommend these dogs enough to pet owners, novice or experienced.
For some, once they get their first Aussie it is a love affair that will last a lifetime. For others, they should never have been sold an Aussie or should have heeded a breeder's advice to look for another breed. Sadly, the one that suffers the most is the dog itself.
The popularity of the Australian Shepherd as a companion
dog is growing rapidly among the general public. The good news is that many
new Aussie owners are taking the time and effort to educate themselves on
the breed before they buy. The not-so-good news is that many are not. They
fall prey to the pervasive modern cultural lure of immediate gratification
when purchasing a Australian Shepherd puppy. They typically spend more time researching the
purchase of a new sport utility vehicle that may have a lifespan in their
household of four to five years. But when it comes to buying a new Australian Shepherd puppy,
that will hopefully share their home for fourteen years, they may just as
easily grab one out of a cardboard box at the local supermarket. This is
not the way to buy a Australian Shepherd puppy! The odds of this animal becoming the ideal companion
and exhibiting the traits and temperament that we in the breed have come
to know and cherish are slim. So how does one acquire an Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd puppy and avoid some common pitfalls in the purchase of a dog?
The first tenant should be “take your time!” Enjoy the process of finding an ideal breeder to work with you and your family. Research the breed and breeders to make sure that an Aussie is truly the ideal dog for you. Seeing one in the back of your neighbour's car, or running on the beach are not great ways to determine that this breed is for you.
Never take your cheque book with you when looking at puppies! Let's face it. There is no such thing as an ugly Australian Shepherd puppy. They are adorable, loving fuzzballs at this age and hard for even the most wizened breeder to resist. Get to know your breeder. Get to know the sire and dam of the litter. Make several visits. If a breeder won't allow you on their property, don't buy a Australian Shepherd puppy from them. This can be an indication that the manner in which the puppies are raised is not up to standard.
Don't buy your Australian Shepherd puppy from a classified ad in a newspaper. Local Australian Shepherd puppy mills and backyard breeders use classified ads (and now the Internet) to sell puppies. Generally, qualified and respected breeders do not. There is the rare occasion when one might, but for the most part breeders of quality animals tend to shy away from this method of selling. Word of mouth, reputation and satisfied previous buyers are what sell good puppies.
Don't buy the cheapest Australian Shepherd puppy you can find. You will generally get what you pay for. Breeders rarely make money on a litter if they are doing the right things in producing the litter. The price that you pay for a well-bred Australian Shepherd puppy buys quality food; quality rearing of the pup including: socialisation and proper stimulation; hip and eye clearances for the sire and dam; testing for sexually-transmitted diseases in the sire and dam prior to mating; health clearances on the parents and the pups; quality vaccinations and shot schedules; and hopefully a genetic history of your new dog; as well as years of experience you can rely on in the future.
If a breeder doesn't call you back in three minutes don't jump on the Internet and order your new Australian Shepherd puppy that will be delivered via Airborne Express in the morning from “Australian Shepherd puppy Express,” a dog distributor (also known as a Australian Shepherd puppy mill). Let me add, that anyone that tells you they have the exact Australian Shepherd puppy you are looking for, in the exact colour specifications you have asked for, on the exact date you want it, is probably not the person you want to buy from! The odds against this happening are quite high. You will need to exercise some self-control and patience in the search for your new pup. In our modern lifestyle we have dictacted to business that we want it our way and we want it fast! While satisfying, successful and revolutionary in the food industry, I cannot stress enough how 'not great' this is when applied to acquiring a new dog.
Buying a new Australian Shepherd puppy is not like ordering at Burger King.
You may want it your way, but this may not get you the best dog for your
household. When dealing with a breeder, you must find one that you can trust.
Trust also that after spending an intimate eight weeks with the litter,
a quality breeder will be able to tell you the tiniest details and personality
quirks of each Australian Shepherd puppy in their litter. Rather than focusing on sex, hair
colour or eye colour, you will be much better served if, instead, you ask
the breeder for the best Australian Shepherd puppy for your family.
A breeder will more than likely ask you questions about your lifestyle, dogs you have owned previously, your living situation and the make-up of your household. Considering this information and getting to know you personally, a breeder can make a well-informed decision about what Australian Shepherd puppy will be best suited for you. If a breeder asks you no questions, be concerned. It is often a sign of someone trying to dump puppies.
Even with the best of breeders, mistakes can and do happen. However, after establishing a relationship with your breeder, you will be able to either return the Australian Shepherd puppy or make restitution on your contract. The operative word here is contract! This is rarely the case when a Australian Shepherd puppy is purchased out of the newspaper.
Breeders want to provide you with a dog that you can love and live with for many years. They cannot do that if you don't let them do their jobs. Don't call breeders and expect them to have a red merle male, large-sized, with just a speck of blue in the left eye available for you to take home at 5:00 pm on the afternoon of the start of your two-week annual vacation. Resist even the tempatation of making this absurd request at all costs!
I sometimes think that today's Australian Shepherd puppy buyers would be tickled if, the moment they decided they wanted an Australian Shepherd, they pile the family in the sport utility vehicle, dash down to the Open-24-hours-A-Day Aussie Supermarket. They grab a shopping cart, cruise the aisles and pick the perfect Australian Shepherd puppy off the shelf in Aisle 9B. Blue light specials would be even neater! However tantalizing a marketing idea it seems, it will not bring the perfect Australian Shepherd puppy into your home. There is much more involved in a commitment to a Australian Shepherd puppy and finding the perfect pup for you.
Enthusiastic buyers can unwittingly turn off outstanding breeders by limiting their parameters for a Australian Shepherd puppy. It is not unusual to receive a call from a Australian Shepherd puppy buyer asking for a small, blue merle female with two blue eyes. There is a rather ancient saying that is appropriate here, ”Be careful of what you ask for. You just may get it!” What about some thought to the new pup's temperament and disposition? What about energy level? What about the genetic background of the parents? You should be asking about Australian Shepherd puppy eye clearances, hip and eye clearances on the sire and dam, any genetic faults in the line.
If you are determined to have a specific sex and coloured animal, you may have to wait. You also may have to broaden your search to surrounding states or nationwide. To assume that one or more local breeders could produce your “order” is probably unreasonable, especially in our breed where no two animals are marked alike. Finding that specially coloured Aussie can happen and may happen, but generally not in the period of time when you want your Australian Shepherd puppy. Resist the temptation to take the first Australian Shepherd puppy that shows up and matches your colour scheme! Nothing can be more heartbreaking to a family than to bring a new Australian Shepherd puppy home that is unhealthy and may perhaps die or have to be euthanased. A careful and slow search for the perfect breeder for you can alleviate this.
If you or your family work excessive hours during the week, resist the temptation of getting an eight-week old Australian Shepherd puppy. Perhaps a young adult or retired show dog may be the perfect choice for you. Perhaps another breed may be even better. Be willing to look at this. Raising a Australian Shepherd puppy into adulthood takes time, energy and effort on your behalf. An Australian Shepherd Australian Shepherd puppy left in a backyard while its people are working 80 hours a week will keep itself busy. They are very creative and bright beasts. They may try their paws at gardening or landscape design. Trust me; an Aussie's idea of landscaping is not what most of us have in mind for our backyards!
After all is said and done remember this: Australian Shepherds reflect the family they live with…they mirror their environment. If you provide a quiet, relaxing homelife for your dog, you will have a relaxed and quiet dog. If you are always on the go and active, so will your dog be. If you are never there, your Aussie may not be either!
An Aussie is not for every family! This is perhaps the most important item to keep in mind when looking into the possibility of adding an Aussie to your family, kids or not. Don't take it personally. Understand that quality breeders of Australian Shepherds want to place their dogs in permanent, loving homes. It has nothing to do with you personally but rather your attitude and lifestyle as it pertains to dogs. You may or may not qualify. The Australian Shepherd is generally very active and intelligent and wants to be around his family all the time. This may sound appealing to you as you fancy yourself a very bright, energetic family. Keep in mind that this means that Australian Shepherds learn bad behaviours as quickly as they learn good behaviours and if you are not on top of things immediately you will have problems down the road.
What qualifies a family as an ideal home for an
1 . Although you are a busy family, you like having a dog with you at ALL times; going to the video store, the grocery store, picking up the kids at school and dropping them off for soccer practice. You even like planning vacations where the dog can go too!
2 . If you plan on buying a Australian Shepherd puppy, at least one adult family member should be a stay-at-home dog mom! Training and socialising a new Australian Shepherd puppy does not work well when both parents work full time. Remember these are not dogs that flourish when left alone in the backyard.
3 . You have attended obedience class with any previous dogs you have owned and actually liked the classes. Not only that, you have gone past basic Australian Shepherd puppy obedience class. This requires a commitment of one evening or day a week and short training periods during the week.
4 . You don't mind dog hair. You like spending time and have the time to groom your dog. Australian Shepherds have a long outer hair coat and a fluffy down-like undercoat. This is called a double coat. Although when the Aussie is spayed or neutered and groomed regularly they tend to shed less, they do still shed. Intact males generally shed all their undercoat once a year and bitches will shed with each heat cycle (generally twice a year). In the meantime both sexes shed daily! What is okay about this is that the coat is very easy to vacuum.
5 . You truly understand what it means to have a dog with tons of energy! The most common reasons that Australian Shepherds end up in a shelter or having to find new homes are: the dog is too energetic; the dog needs more room to run; I work all the time and the dog needs someone who can spend more time with him/her; the dog jumps up on people; the dog barks when left in the backyard alone; the dog chases things.
6 . You have adequate fencing. The Australian Shepherd does not do well left alone in a back yard. They want to be where the action is. This is not to say that you can't leave the dog in your yard when you run an errand on a hot day or have a function to attend where dogs are inappropriate. I am talking about leaving the dog alone all day, every day in your yard. They will get bored. To alleviate their boredom they will dig holes, rearrange your landscaping, bark incessantly and jump fences to find someone to be with. Dogs exhibiting these behaviours are generally not enjoyable pets.
7 . You have extra time and attention to give to a dog.
8 . You want to be owned by an Aussie!
9 . You are not pregnant nor have just had a baby. I receive many calls from parents who feel that this is an ideal time to introduce a new dog in the home. I personally don't think so and take in many calls from parents wishing to get rid of their dogs when the child is young or a toddler. Bringing a baby into your home is a major lifestyle change. Bringing a new dog or Australian Shepherd puppy home is, too. Your time and attention should be spent taking care of the new baby. In many instances a new Australian Shepherd puppy does not receive the proper socialisation and training during this period of time. A good time to introduce a new dog into your family is when the children are older, after the toddler stage.
10 . If you don't have the time to properly socialise and train a Australian Shepherd puppy, be open to the possibility of bringing an older, trained dog into your home. This can be accomplished through working with a qualified breeder.
If you think you meet the general qualifications for owning an Australian Shepherd, great! Contact one of breed clubs for qualified breeder referrals. In addition, ask for word of mouth referrals. Be sure to spend some time researching the breeder you decide to work with. They will become in integral part of your life when introducing your new dog or Australian Shepherd puppy into your home. Make sure the breeder will have time for you after the sale is over. Do not buy an Australian Shepherd out of the newspaper! It is a very rare instance when a reputable breeder resorts to a classified ad to sell an Australian Shepherd.
So you are ready to bring your new pup or dog home. What should you do ahead of time? Be sure to interview and sign up for a training class. You will start with a Australian Shepherd puppy kindergarten and then when the pup is at least six months old, it should be ready for its first beginning obedience class. Find an instructor who is familiar with Australian Shepherds (their training can be different than other breeds!) or at least familiar with the herding breeds. I suggest one full year of obedience classes for you dog and family!
Buy a crate! This will become your dog's home inside your home. A comfortable place he can go to rest, eat and sleep. It is also a place you can put your dog temporarily for convenience and makes for easy house training. I do not let 8 week old puppies loose in my home unattended. It makes house training that much more difficult once you have had an accident! I recommend a full size 400-size or large-size wire kennel or plastic crate. This will be the size the dog will use when full grown.
Buy and spend time reading the resources books and materials available about the Australian Shepherd. There are several excellent, all-around publications on the breed.
Interview and find a veterinarian familiar with Australian Shepherds.
Depending on the age of the dog you will be bringing home, buy water and food bowls (stainless steel is preferred), toys (nothing a dog can tear apart and choke on), fluffy, washable bedding, buckle collar and leather leash (nylon leashes can cut your hands).
Find a high quality dog food to feed the new dog. Also have some small dog treats on hand.
When the Australian Shepherd puppy or dog arrives home
Make an appointment for a 'wel'l dog visit to your vet.
Get on a vaccination schedule and be sure to get your new arrival on a de-worming
programme. Beware that none of the de-wormers contain Ivermectin,
which has been proven deadly to many Australian Shepherds.
House training: Remember, if you never have an accident, you will be more apt to have a quickly housetrained dog. Once you have even the first accident in the house, you are now re-training. So keep in mind that puppies drink and urinate a lot! The minute your Australian Shepherd puppy wakes up, take it outside. I pick my puppies up and carry them outside to potty. I use a command like, “Go pee!” When the Australian Shepherd puppy urinates I immediately reward them with a treat. Australian Shepherds tend to house train very easily. So being consistent and on top of things will help out here. Dogs tend to defecate right before or right after eating a meal. This is one reason I recommend feeding young dogs or new dogs in a home on a schedule. You can then almost predict when they will need to go outside. Learn to watch your dog carefully. They will generally try to tell you they need to go outside. Reprimanding the dog after you find an accident in the house is a waste of your time and energy. Unless you can catch them in the act, don't bother. If you do happen catch a dog, try to pick them up quickly, dash outside and place them on ground using your command for potty. Australian Shepherds respond well to tones of voice. A disapproving tone of voice is generally enough. They do not need or require hitting or slapping of any kind. If the dog takes a long drink of water right before bedtime, it will have to urinate during the night!
Sleeping: For new dogs I recommend using the crate and putting next to one family member's bed. Young puppies cannot hold water all night long, so you will have to find someone in the family willing to make at least one trip to potty the pup outside during the night. A new dog that is on a new routine will take a little time to get up to speed with the family routine and may need to go out during the night also. Be patient with the new addition. Australian Shepherds love to please and when you give them even the littlest of chances they will come through for you.
Eating: For young pups I feed three times a day. When the dog is four or five months old I reduce it to two meals a day. Many adult dogs are fed once a day. It basically depends on your lifestyle.
Down the road
There is not a dog owner around who has not encountered some sort of new behavioural issues or training problem with their dogs. Be willing to see the early signs of unacceptable behavior and seek help immediately. Most of the problems I encounter with the Australian Shepherd are indeed training issues. With a little attention and time the dog can be turned around! Left unanswered however, the behavior can become intolerable to the point of getting rid of the dog.
A major issue with Australian Shepherds in pet homes can be overfeeding. This is an active herding breed, and should never be allowed to get overweight. This can be hard to monitor, especially if the dog has been spayed or neutered. They tend to gain weight easily after this time. You should be able to feel the ribs and slight backbone and slight hipbone protrusions on your dog. If you have to push in to feel the ribs and the dog's sides feel mushy, it is time to put your dog on a diet. Restrict between-meal treats. Australian Shepherds work equally well for hugs and petting, and food is not often that necessary as a training reward.
Whatever time and attention you put into your new Australian Shepherd, you will be rewarded in spades. These dogs have a huge capacity for fun, loving, play and being downright adorable. You will soon fall in love with your new “wiggle-butt.”
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