When I began my program of importing, raising and breeding Livestock Guardian Dogs in 2009, you actually had to hunt hard to find good, reputable breeders of LGDs. Oh, they were out there, but not in droves and it took some serious looking. Fast forward to today, when now every hobby farmer on two acres or more with a pygmy goat and some chickens, has added a male dog, a female dog and presto: they consider themselves an instant LGD breeder. Facebook is overflowing with secretive LGD groups manned by egomaniacs and self-labeled experts, and the "for sale" pages have exploded.
Of course, as I've blogged about in the past, anyone can breed dogs. The real question remains: should they? The answer for most is no. Whether hiding behind bogus addresses so their local sheriff won't bust them for operating an unlicensed business and kennel; producing fake made up breeds and passing them off to gullible buyers; presenting mixed LGD breeds as purebreds and/or mixing non-LGD breeds with LGDs, the glut of dubious, unprincipled, evasive and dishonest LGD breeders out there is continually exploding. Hobby farmers have turned LGDs into backyard cash crops and in doing so have demeaned them as a whole as they try to make silk purses from sow's ears.
For those of you thinking about sticking your toes in the breeding pool, read this article from sheep! Magazine I wrote last year, first. I used to be shocked at some of the strong language spewed by rescue people towards dog breeders in general. You want to know something? I'm not shocked anymore….and I'm beginning to agree with them. We don't need more LGD breeders. We don't need any more "St. Pyrenees" crosses out there or Red Heelers crossed with an Akbash. No one should be supporting an "accidental" breeder who produces a closely inbred litter out of related parents, then brags they'll repeat it. We don't need anymore made up "Spanish Ranch Mastiffs", designer fighting breeds like the "Boz", or dubious 3/4 and 7/8 "percentage crosses" being passed off as purebreds that will eventually degrade pure lines. What we need are smarter, more responsible buyers and owners who stop looking at this as though it was a popularity contest or a social event, enabling puppy mills, dubious breeders and fly by night operators. Breeding dogs is not easy. It requires a passion, an inner core and a concept, and if you can't find one, then don't breed dogs. Period.
***ADDENDUM: The new crop of self-appointed LGD 'breeders' out there share a few things in common, and they are red flags any responsible buyer should scrutinize.
1. Low or zero expectations: of course for some people, it's easy to "like" a breeder who does not care what you do with their dog, lies about their parentage, has no vetting process, or has such low standards that the caliber of people they sell to is ghetto gutter low. Of course everyone "likes" them - they don't expect anything from anyone, and make excuses for bad customers instead of standing up for principles and integrity and calling out bad choices. To listen to them, they've never made a bad placement in their career (total bullshit) or pissed off a customer (ha, yeah right). I have some customers pissed off at me. And you know something? They pissed me off for a myriad of reasons, ranging from outright lying to not ever keeping in touch, to blatant cover-ups to outright copycatting my breeding program down to the last hair and bloodlines while giving me zero credit for their very beginning (kind of hard to cover up the fact that someone bought their very first six dogs from me, but believe it or not, there's a person out there doing it), or marketing crosses as purebreds. Thankfully there are intelligent people who see through the ruse. Problem is the idiots seem to be procreating in this country faster than the smart ones. Kind of scary.
2. The latest crop of newbie LGD breeder's websites give minimal if any information about where they got their dogs from, the parentage, the bloodlines, the WHY of anything, diddley squat. They make it appear as if they just dropped out of the sky one day, ala instant expert breeder. Yet the old hands can just chuckle at how they were no where to be seen or heard from just three years ago…. And again, low expectation customers just suck it all up because they are too lazy to ask the tough questions or do more looking around.
3. If a breeder has dead dogs up on their site making out like they are still alive and actively being bred, run in the opposite direction. Ditto for the breeders with blogs that haven't been updated in over three years. When a breeder has time to update about puppies for sale or breedings but ignores everything else (for months if not years), this is a deceptive breeder who does not have all their cards on the table. Steer clear. There are a few out there who have turned this into an art form.
4. Everyone has to start someplace but be honest about it - don't trust a breeder who comes out of nowhere trying to make out like they wrote the book on LGDs when all they have done is lifted the art of plagiarizing and copycatting to a new level. If someone can't make it on their own with their own ideas and proof that they know what they are doing, that tells you a lot. I am used to seeing my stuff copied and ripped off by those without the gumption to figure things out on their own or find their own way in this, mostly because for them it is nothing more than a popularity contest.
5. Which brings me to my last point: too many hobby farmers are breeding LGDs as a cash crop sideline alone with goats, pigs, you name it, to be liked and glorified. They have no real reason to be bringing litters into the world other than they are doing it to be popular and line their pocketbooks. As they do this the shelters and pounds and rescues fill up with unwanted LGDs. Do the math. The explosion in popularity of LGDs has come with a huge price tag. The dogs are being devalued by cut rate breeders putting out inferior stock or stock from dubious crosses and lines. In a few years trust me, many of these breeders are the ones who will bail on their customers. Lazy buyers only contribute to this phenomenon that is getting worse by the year - buyers with zero expectations. Go back and read point 1.