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Grow your tree of falsehood from a small grain of truth.
Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.
Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself,
So the weary travelers may find repose.

~Czeslaw Milosz

Interpreting Breeders' Website Claims
Don't miss the companion piece, "Questions to Ask Breeders"

In this day and age, just about anyone can have a website. With many services, you don't need any money, and you don't need any special programs. All you do is click a few buttons, type a few sentences, and they create the site for you. In spite of this, many people still seem to feel that a website lends some legitimacy to a breeder - if they have a website, they must be successful and responsible and ethical, right? Wrong.

Now, of course, there are tons of breeders with websites who are very successful and responsible and ethical. However, there are tons of breeders with websites who are not. It is important to learn to really read what is said on a website - and, often more importantly, to read beyond that to what is not said.

In writing this essay, per the fair use provisions in copyright law, I have copied some example statements from various Boxer breeder websites that I came across in a simple web search. Dog names have been changed. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation were left as is - errors in the example statements are those of the breeder. (Errors in the comments are mine, so please let me know if you find any!)

A quick note: irresponsible breeders also surf the web, and I hesitated for some time before publishing this article. My concern was that some of those irresponsible breeders would read it, and then change their websites to reflect what a "good" breeder's website would say - or at least to get rid of the obvious red flags - making it more difficult for potential puppy buyers to discern the truth. In the end, it was a risk I felt I should take, on the theory that people looking for puppies would visit my site more than people who produce them would.

I have since seen that my concern was not unfounded, and some breeders - some of them whose sites inspired this essay - have changed their websites so that the portions I've used as examples here are no longer found. However, some things cannot be explained away by catchphrases and smooth talking. Primarily, I am speaking of health testing here. Always ask to see hard-copy health test results, and if you're at all concerned ask to see the originals (because, sadly, health test results can and have been doctored.) Sometimes you can even contact the veterinarian who performed the test to verify the results. OFA test results can be accessed online at www.offa.org, as can CERF results at www.vmdb.org/verify.html. In this world of savvy salespersons, one must also become a savvy buyer, and always keep one step ahead of those who would seek to deceive.



Successfully tested for....

On the surface this sounds good. In reality, though, it does not say that the dogs have passed their health tests - only that the tests were performed successfully. (I.e., the dog did not fall off the table during the x-ray, or eat the leads on the Holter monitor.) Chances are they mean the dogs passed the tests, but you'd certainly want to see hard-copy originals of all test results.

Holter Normal (or)
Holter Clear, without actual numbers

These are debatable phrases - there is no number of VPCs that indicates a "normal" Boxer heart. It could be 50 or 25 or 150. A "clear" Holter is generally 0 VPCs - but that does not mean the next Holter will be as good. Saying a Holter is clear is fine - saying that clear Holter means the dog is clear of ARVC is misleading. (Holter results from Ohio State are noted as "Currently Clear of Disease", supporting the fact that clear today does not necessarily mean clear tomorrow.)

DNA Tested

There is no DNA test for Boxers at this time. What they probably mean is that a DNA profile has been done - which is not a bad thing, but is not in any way related to the health of the dog. Stud dogs who sire more than three litters in one year, or seven in their lifetime, are required by the AKC to have a DNA profile.

Number of dogs and puppies affected by hereditary/chronic health conditions to date (with a listing of conditions and number affected)

In our XX years of breeding in USA, none of our sires or dams, or puppies produced by them had heart, hip or eyes problems or cancer.

This is great to see! The only thing missing is information as to whether every single sire and dam and puppy were tested for heart, hip or eye problems, or any of the listed diseases for which tests are available. Again, anyone making this claim should be able to produce hard-copy evidence of all of these tests, on all of these dogs, as well as necropsy reports on all of the deceased dogs that indicate none of the diseases (including cancer) were present. It might also be a good idea to clarify if the breeder was breeding in any other country and did have health problems in those dogs.

Each of our Boxers is vet checked before He/She is considered to be included in a breeding program.

Vet checks are useless as pre-breeding screenings. The genetic diseases that affect Boxers cannot be ascertained by a simple vet check.

Our Boxers are checked for:
Boxer Cardiomyopathy (BCM)
Subaortic Stenosis (SAS)
Hip Dysplasia (HD)
Hypothyroidism
Cancer No test yet exists for it, but we know each dogs family history (Pedigree) which helps keep it out of our line.

Excellent - so they will be able to provide you with hard-copy Holter monitor results, auscultation and/or Doppler results from a board-certified veterinary cardiologist, an OFA or PennHip certification for hips, lab work from one of the six OFA-approved labs for the thyroid, and health records for every dog in the pedigree showing that they did not have cancer (including necropsy results for those that are deceased).

We will not knowingly include any dog in our breeding program that has any signs of these serious conditions or any other ailments thought to be heritable including:
Colitis, Von Willebronse, Demodectic Mange, Tendency to be allergic or sensitive. Breathing or Dental problems.

There is a test for von Willebrand's (correct spelling) disease, so they should be able to show you test results for those. The other items are tricky, as sometimes they can be genetic but often they are due to environment, diet, vaccination, chemicals, etc.

DNA Certification
Recently our Sires were submitted into the American Kennel Club DNA Certification Program. This according to AKC, is a way for breeders to strengthen there breeding programs.

Actually, according to the AKC, "The information is used to verify parentage of AKC dogs and for genetic identity purposes. This technology allows breeders, dog owners, and the AKC to ensure that the AKC Registry is the most accurate in the world." Nothing at all about strengthening breeding programs.

Reference:
http://www.akc.org/dna/certify.cfm

Each Genotype for each dog is unique, like a fingerprint. [DNA certification] is done in an effort to improve our genetics, and possibly detect any heritable conditions in our breeding Boxers.

Again according to the AKC, "Effective for litters whelped on or after July 1, 2000, every sire producing seven or more litters in a lifetime or producing more than three litters in a calendar year must be 'AKC DNA Certified.' These DNA profiles will be used for genetic identity and for parentage verification, and, thus, will be used to advance issues relating to the integrity of the registry." DNA certification has nothing to do with breeding or heritable conditions - it is in place solely for the integrity of the AKC registry.

If Only Healthy "Show dogs" are bred, how do such heart,cancer,hip,and nervous problems keep occurring?

There are several answers to this. One, of course, is that many of these diseases are polygenic - several genes contribute to the disease, and even breeding clear dogs may produce puppies with disease. Another is that some of these diseases are late-onset - a dog may not have any problems with ARVC (formerly called BCM) or cancer, even though yearly testing is done, until it is 8 years old or more - far past initial breeding age. The third answer, of course, is that a large portion of these diseases are perpetuated by irresponsible breeders who do not test their dogs in any meaningful way prior to breeding.

After spending $Thousands of dollars and hours to produce a "Champion" if he shows signs of heart trouble, or his Sire dies of Cancer, do they just Neuter him??? Have you ever seen this happen?

It happens all the time. These people are very obviously completely ignorant of the show Boxer population.

Your puppy is sold and priced as a pet only! Not as a breeding dog unless expressly determined. We have no control over what you do with your puppy once it leaves our site.

So it is not sold as a "breeding dog," but you're free to breed it once you take it home? Very responsible.

Originally Boxers were very stout, with alot of substance- check the history of the boxer.

The history of the Boxer tells us that the original standard called for a slightly shorter dog (~ 2 inches) but has always called for substance with elegance. The Boxer standards, from the first one in 1902 to the current one, can be found here:
http://www.harvelboxers.com/Standard.html

We NEVER breed for a white dog, they are not rare, every boxer has a 25% chance of producing a white or check puppy. It is not desired but when it happens they are wonderful...

This again illustrates this breeder's ignorance. A genetically plain Boxer cannot produce a white puppy, no matter what it is bred to. A genetically flashy Boxer has a 50% chance of passing on one white gene to its offspring - the number of white puppies produced will depend upon the genetic makeup of the other parent. You would expect 0% white puppies (bred to a genetically plain dog), 25% (bred to a genetically flashy dog), or 50% (bred to a white dog). A white Boxer has a 100% chance of passing on one white gene to its offspring. Again, the number of white puppies produced will depend upon the other parent. You would expect 0% white puppies (bred to a genetically plain dog), 50% (bred to a genetically flashy dog), or 100% (bred to a white dog). See this page for more information:
http://www.newcastleboxers.com/inheritance.shtml#marking

I have not had any of them born deaf, its due to genetics! If one pup in a litter is deaf, then all pups pass on gene... None of the pups born in a litter with a deaf pup should be Shown or bred...

A rudimentary understanding of genetics would tell them that this of course is not true. Each pup gets one gene from the father and one gene from the mother for any allelle, but they don't all get the same gene. A litter can have both brindle and fawn puppies, which means some puppies (the fawns) do not carry the brindle gene. Deafness in Boxers is connected to the extreme piebald gene, which is responsible for white markings. In a double-dose, sometimes deafness can occur. More information on deafness in dogs can be found here:
http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/deaf.htm

The puppies grow so quickly, should mature at Females 60 to 75lbs Males 75lbs to 100lbs+

This is way above standard for a Boxer. The North American standards do not include weight guidelines, but all the other ones do and they are very consistent, the average weight for a female should be 55-60 lbs. and for a male 65-70 lbs. Boxers should also be a slow-growing breed, not reaching their full size until 2-3 years or later.

We NEVER breed for a white, when it occurs they are unique and incredable.

Yet earlier they said whites are not rare - which is it??

Deposits of $200 are accepted usually after we plan litter. By sending deposit you agree to commit to a puppy. You will give us 9 months to offer you a puppy of your specifications, color/sex. Should you not get your puppy after that time Deposit will be returned.

Why on earth would someone put a deposit on a litter that has not even been bred? Why let them hold on to your money for 9 months so that you can maybe get a puppy? Far better to put the money in the bank and let it build up a little interest, so you'll have that much more when you find a puppy from a responsible breeder.

Most of our dogs are to large for the showring, there structure is not refined enough, and they have a short muzzel. Which is just the way I like them.

So they are not breeding Boxers, they are breeding dogs that used to be Boxers but are now too large and unrefined - just the way they like them. Of course, if you want a Boxer as it is meant to be, that's not what you're going to get here. (I have to add, I have looked at the photos of these dogs, and the muzzles are not short - in fact, they're far too long for a correct Boxer muzzle, and from the looks of the dogs there is probably another breed in the background somewhere.)

Look up boxer history! Most Boxers were White with a little color

Please, do look up Boxer history. If you did, you would see that white was allowed in the early standards but made a disqualification after World War I. You would also see that while some early dogs were mostly white, some other early dogs were mostly colored.

We do not guarantee show quality, but we do guarantee SOUND, HEALTHY, HAPPY, and SOCIALIZED puppies for loving homes. Bred for great temperaments, health and conformation, we believe that every pup we place will provide years of loyal companionship to their new families.

Wonderful! Of course, show pups provide years of loyal companionship to their new families, too! Once again, be sure to check into the health testing and conformation of the parents, and the socialization that the puppies have undergone.

Health Guarantee:
All of our puppies come with a 6 month health guarantee that covers all congenital defects. They also come with a certificate of health from a veterinarian.

This is pretty useless, as testing for most genetic problems cannot be done accurately until at least 12-24 months of age and the diseases often don't show up until much later than that.

We planned to keep Fred (11 weeks old) as a breeder, because he is perfectly marked with a full white collar and 4 white socks. We just realized that hehas a droopy left eyelid that he might pass on to his puppies, so we have decide to sell him to a pet home. He has been in the house and is potty trained and great with kids.

First of all, breeding decisions should not be based on markings alone. Structure, temperament, and health are far more important than markings, within the allowable 1/3 limit. Secondly, a "droopy eyelid" is very common in Boxer puppies who are going through growth phases. These people are obviously not very knowledgeable about the breed.

We are not a puppy mill.

That they even feel the need to make this statement indicates that they're probably pretty close to one!

AKC Puppies - Solid black & flashy black.

There is no such thing as a purebred black Boxer. It is a genetic impossibility - Boxers do not carry the gene for a black coat. Chances are, either these are what are called "reverse" brindles, where very little fawn shows through, or there is another breed in the mix that does carry the black coat gene. In addition, the AKC will not register a Boxer as "black" - so they are probably registered as brindles.

Caution to people wanting him for stud. He has consistently sired no less than 10 pups each litter.

Interesting, since it is the bitch who determines the number of puppies produced in a litter, not the dog. Another person who is quite ignorant about breeding.

Our dogs may not be titled in the show ring, but they have won all the awards in our lives. A happy healthy freind means more to us than a trophy or a title.

Showing a dog is not just about trophies or titles - it is about evaluating the dog's conformance to the breed standard, to ensure that the proper Boxer traits are passed on. It is also about spending time with your dog doing something you both enjoy. Sure, the trophies and titles are nice - but they are the icing on the cake.

Our next litter will be here in January. We will be having fawns and brindles in both flashy and plain,

How wonderful to have a crystal ball to predict colors and markings in a litter! The rest of us have to wait and see if the genetic expectations are realized.

All boxer puppies are $600.00 (full registration), $150.00 discount for limited registration.

A responsible breeder sells all of their pet pupppies on limited registration, and certainly doesn't offer a "discount" to do so! Also, from the AKC, "We do not countenance understandings or agreements that put a price on 'papers.'"
Reference (page 9, first full paragraph): http://www.akc.org/pdfs/rulebooks/RREGS2.pdf

National Champion - We compete in AKC events such as confirmation showing, and agility.

There is no AKC title called "National Champion" - this is misleading at best.

He is going on 8 years old and has been healthy and strong with absolutely no health issues of any kind

Wow, a Boxer that has never had kennel cough? No eye discharge that Boxers are so famous for? Not one bout of diarrhea or vomiting? Not so much as a sneeze? Where can I find this Super-Boxer??

All pups have been vet checked, healthy and are AKC registered. Dews and tails are done and first shots will be done. Our stud (Barney) has 11 of 14 dogs in his pedigree that are champions, your new puppy will be guaranteed to have four champions in the last three generations.

Four champions in three generations is not great - three generations is 14 dogs, which means a) the majority of the champions in Barney's pedigree are in his third generation (four generations back for the puppies), and that the dam of the puppies has no more than 1 champion in her two generation pedigree.

He has been hip, heart, and hearing tested.

Good, but ask which hip, heart, and hearing tests were done. Vet checks, or x-rays not sent in to OFA or PennHip, are not adequate.

Neither of our dogs have a history of cancer.

Sounds good on the surface, but what it is really saying is that neither of their dogs have had cancer. What they are trying to imply is that there is no cancer in any of the ancestors in their dogs' pedigrees (which is highly unlikely) - but that is not what they are saying.

We raised boxers for 15 years before deciding to breed them. We contimplated breeding for 5 years in which time we spent many many hours doing research. We have taken every precaution to produce healthy puppies with a good chance of being champion quality.

Great - then they should easily be able to provide you with OFA certification for hips, thyroid, and cardiac, holter monitor readings, and BAER test results since they said they test hearing. I'm not sure how good the chances are of them being "champion quality" are, since they don't show their dogs to determine their conformance to the standard. Certainly if a puppy buyer wanted to pursue a show career, they would not be a good source of information on that front as most responsible show breeders are.

People talk about betterment of the breed, what does that mean? Better than 50% of the boxers out there? That did not seem good enough to us, so we decided not to breed unless we thought we could produce pups in the top 20%.

A wonderful ideal. "Betterment of the breed" actually means that you work to improve your lines to meet the breed standard as closely as possible, and as your lines improve so does the overall quality of the breed. Of course, since they aren't showing their dogs in any venue, it's impossible to say how they've decided their pups are in the top 20%.

We own both parents and they are always here in our home for you to see. They are both just over 2 years old and in perfect health.

Lucky for them that the best dog for their bitch was right in their home! It happens sometimes, of course, but they should be able to tell you exactly why what they were looking for in a dog (and what they were trying to improve in their bitch), what other dogs they looked at, and then why they chose the dog they did.

Barney is the most calm, lovable, intelligent boxer I have ever known. He is always ready to work and hungry to learn new things. He weighs in at close to 85lbs, has the head and chest of a greek god.

85 lbs. is actually above the standard, so Barney is already below average (i.e., not as good as 50%) in that regard. And, of course the Greek gods were not Boxers, so a dog with a head and chest like a Greek god is probably not correct for the breed! ;-)

Betty is a very agile, intellegent, loving dog with an average boxer temperment.

If you are looking to produce puppies in the top 20% of the breed, why would you breed a dog with "average" temperament to a dog with "below average" conformation?

There is a very good chance that four of these pups will be show quality and the other two will make wonderful pets.

How do they know the pups will be show quality? They don't show. Have the pups been evaluated by other breeders who do show - successfully?



The above is, of course, just a small sampling of the many claims and statements you will find on various breeder websites. Admittedly, some of the responses are taken to the extreme, overlooking the probable meaning behind the words. There are those, however, who will intentionally use these vague kinds of statements, hoping you will accept the "probably meaning" when they actually don't mean anything of the kind. Hopefully this essay will give you some ideas of the things to watch out for, and the things to look into further. A good companion piece to this essay is our Questions to Ask Breeders.



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