I was all set to start this post with a horrible "purebred kuvasz puppies for sale, WILL SHIP ANYWHERE!!!!!" ad and then go on a rant about backyard breeders and puppy mills, but I couldn't find one, which reminded me why we chose a kuvasz in the first place. But there are plenty of ads for other popular breeds and mixes, like labradoodles, goldendoodles, puggles, etc.
The New York Times did a piece on designer dog 'breeds' last year, which mainly highlighted the designer mixes v. purebreeds controversy, which is really the subject of another post or three. Although the same issues come up with extra poignancy with the designer 'breeds', this post is about the importance of good, careful, and ethical breeding.
Just because a puppy is "purebred," "registered" or has "papers"means very little, and the pup may not end up much like the breed it's supposed to be. They could have serious temperament issues, congenital physical problems, or just be irrational. Back when I didn't know any better, I got my 'purebred-with-papers' American Eskimo from a backyard breeder who had posted an ad in the paper. Boo cost me all of $90 and the breeder sent me home with his "papers" (including a record of all his shots to date) and a couple of cans of puppy food.
Don't get me wrong, Boo was a great dog and we had 16 great years together. But he definitely had his issues, including recurring worms and fleas as a pup. His shiny little black nose faded to brown within a few years, he had a bit of pink in his lips, he was not very well-proportioned, and his coat was pretty thin with a slight wave. His mom had a wavy coat with no undercoat at all, which is not the breed standard. More problematic, Boo also had some physical and psychological issues - he would vomit ALL the time, especially when stressed out or excited. And he was ALWAYS stressed out or excited, because was afraid of squeak toys, plastic bags, water bubblers, and lots of other things. His eyesight was terrible even as a young dog, his hearing started to decline when he was a middle-aged dog, and his teeth were prone to terrible tartar buildup even as a young dog, despite our attempts to brush and give him good chews.
The process of getting Biggie took us through two breeders, the national breed club, lots of questions and research, dog shows where I saw lots of kuvasz and met more breeders, and almost a year of waiting for the "right" pup and breeder to come into our lives. We considered adopting a young rescue kuvasz, but having researched the breed carefully enough to understand that even a well-tempered kuvasz in New York City would be a challenge for first time kuvasz owners, we opted to wait. We knew we had found the right breeder because the breeding parents' temperament and health were paramount to her, and she would not have bred dogs that were likely to have health or temperament problems.
The first things Biggie's breeder sent us - before the puppy or parent pictures - were the puppies' pedigree and their parents' health clearances. Eyes and joints all screened and ok; no inbreeding or recurring parents/grandparents/great grandparents, great-greats, etc. on either side. In addition to both parents being shown to championship (picture above of Biggie's pop winning a Best in Specialty Show, which was part of getting him to Westminster), both parents had competed in obedience, which showed us that a) Biggie's parents were trainable and had decent temperaments; b) the breeder was active in developing the best characteristics of the breed; and c) the breeder was very involved in the lives of the dogs.
Turns out we were right in all respects, and this seems pretty common in the kuvasz community. Because it is small, all the breeders know each other so there is little room for backyard or unscrupulous breeders, though it still happens on occasion. At 8 weeks, Biggie came paper-trained and litter-box trained, and crate-trained. He already knew to sit politely for his dinner in the crate. He was also clicker trained, which made teaching new commands a breeze. In addition, Biggie came with a clicker, some clicker basics, a great pamphlet about being a strong leader with positive reinforcement, a "cheat sheet" of tips (what Biggie ate and when, and behavior, training and temperament suggestions), and a 2-week supply of Biggie's then-current food (holistic and human grade).
Oh, and Biggie's breeder stayed a co-owner and committed to taking him back at any time, no questions asked, if he didn't work out, and answered all of our questions about training, temperament, the raw diet, you name it.
While of course taking on a pup or a rescue is a leap of faith, finding a well-bred pup can significantly reduce the chances of fatal temperament defects or chronic health problems. Biggie's only issue, if one can even call it that, is that he is very guardy and protective. But that's true to breed type and he is a classic kuv, and we were well aware this would be an issue in NYC. To date we have yet to find any health or psych issues (irrational fear, aggression, etc.) in our sweet doofus. As for his looks - while they are not that important since I think this breed is beautiful in general - if I had a dollar for every time anyone stopped in their tracks to admire him, or said "Beautiful dog!" or asked to visit with him, I could probably quit my day job and blog full time.