How to Read an Ad

newspaper and on-line ads for puppies or dogs for sale

Often the contents of an advertisement for puppies or dogs for sale will give you some pretty good indications as to whether the advertiser is a responsible party offering a nice dog or whether the advertiser is a puppy mill type of breeder or a not very caring owner dumping an unwanted dog.You still need to phone the advertiser to get a more accurate reading of the situation, but the ad will give you some idea of what kind of person your will be dealing with. I will illustrate this article with ads taken from a large metropolitan newspaper and ads taken from a pet-selling web site. I will also discuss the recent phenomenon of "designer dogs" and warn you against this scam.

How to Read an Ad

newspaper and on-line ads for puppies or dogs for sale

Often the contents of an advertisement for puppies or dogs for sale will give you some pretty good indications as to whether the advertiser is a responsible party offering a nice dog or whether the advertiser is a puppy mill type of breeder looking for uninformed buyers or a not very caring owner dumping an unwanted dog.You still need to phone the advertiser to get a more accurate reading of the situation, but the ad will give you some idea of what kind of person your will be dealing with. I plan to write a companion article on making phone calls to advertisers.


I will illustrate this article with ads taken from a large metropolitan newspaper (the Sacramento Bee) and ads taken from a pet-selling web site ( I will however disguise names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and web URLs : names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

It is important to recognize that some very responsible people DO advertise on line and in the newspapers.

While a responsible breeder with an established reputation does not NEED to advertise in these venues in order to sell her puppies (most of whom have been sold prior to conception), because a good breeder's best ads are word of mouth and the dogs they have put out, I know quite a few who will do so in order to make themselves visible to puppy seekers as a source of reliable information and to vaccinate them against getting a puppy from a less reliable source.

Likewise breed clubs will run ads , usually emphasizing their role as source of information. Rescue groups and rescue individuals may run ads for individual dogs or for their services generally. Ads from breed clubs and rescue groups are likely to be short , eg "Bouvier seekers : our club offers breed information and breeder referals. (xxx) xxx-xxxx" or "Bouvier Rescue provides breed information to everyone. We have a few good dogs for responsible homes. (xxx) xxx-xxxx".

Finally some well-meaning individuals seeking to place a dog they are no longer able to care for or no longer willing to live with will run ads ; such individuals may be unaware that a breed-specific rescue group , an all breed rescue group, or a mixed breed rescue group could help in this placement and may also be unaware that they should first spay or neuter the dog and bring it current on vaccinations and then should charge an adoption fee that covers those basic costs. Don't expect a lot of information from these people as they usually don't know much. And be aware that often they think the dog is a much worse problem than he really is, again because they don't know very much about dogs or about training.

I am not going to deal specifically with ads in dog magazines, but the same concepts apply. Likewise the concepts apply to the advertiser's own web site, except that the information on the web site should be quite extensive, way beyond that in any other form of information delivery. (Indeed some breeder web sites will lovingly give a degree of detail that is more than you'd want to hear about your own grandchildre.)

Always remember that we CANNOT safely assume that everything an ad says it actually TRUE. You always have to check out these claims (eg OFA numbers and other health certificates can be verified on the OFA web site or other health web site). But the ads do reveal what qualities the ad writer thinks you ought to be seeking, the things the writer wants you to believe are true, and the qualities that the writer himself considers important in a dog. (It's kind of like being able to judge people's personal qualities by the kind of fictional story they tell or write about the life they would like to have led : one person dreams of finding a cure for cancer and another dreams of inventing a weapon-of-mass-destruction --- which one would you rather have for a date , a neighbor, or an in-law ?)

What we are looking for generally

Web ads are usually a bit more wordy than newspaper ads, especially if the site does not charge for running ads or charges very little. Often these ads will direct the reader to the advertiser's web site for much more detailed information. ( The absence of a web site does not mean that this is an inferior breeder, but only means that they have not acquired the needed web skills and haven't hired any one to do it for them. Dog expertise has nothing to do with computer expertise.) Dog magazine classified ads may have a bit more information than a newspaper ad, and dog magazine quarter page ads might give a lot more information. Ads in the breed club's membership magazine are likely to give a lot of information, but they will also assume you already know a fair bit about the breed.

Good ads should give you a good clue to what the breeder's priorities are, and even a newspaper ad will give you this information if they are looking for more knowledgeable buyers. If a breeder cannot afford the cost of a reasonably informative newspaper ad, he has probably also skimped on the costs of providing decent care for mother and litter.

A good breeder's priorities will be temperament / trainability / behavior and health as the two top priorities , then either conformation show potential or working / performance qualities as the other priority. These three priorities could be in any order, though if you are looking for a companion dog, you should consider temperament and socialization to be number one and health to be number two, with everything else lagging behind, probably far behind, in importance unless you are looking for a dog with particular performance or working potential and in that case the appropriate working qualities would be your third priority, close behind the two I place first and second..

The ad should indicate the manner in which the puppies were reared. If you are looking for a dog to be your companion and housedog, you will want to know that the puppies were "raised in the house" and are "well socialized". Socialized means exposed to many many many nice people and many different kinds of nice people (different sexes, different ages including children, different races, different ways of walking and talking, including disabilities, and different modes of clothing including hats and backpacks) so the pup will be able to be a member of human family and fit into human society. The pup should also be well socialized to dogs, so he will be comfortable with other dogs in your home and those he meets in public. (If you wanted a livestock guardian dog from one of the guardian breeds (eg Kuvaz, Komodor, Great Pyranees), you would want only a puppy raised with the type of livestock you need the dog to protect. You might not care as much about socialization to humans or home rearing.) If nothing is said in the ad about how the dog is reared, it may be that they are reared in a barren kennel run and are very undersocialized, which can give you serious behavior problems that can be difficult (sometimes impossible) to remedy, such as being very fearful or being fear-biters.

A good breeder's ads will also list health certificates related to heritable problems that this breeder is trying to avoid producing. If nothing is mentioned, you should suspect that no tests have been done or that the results were unfavorable but the breeder bred the dog anyway. The ad should indicate that the parents have been tested and found normal in regards to the inheritable health problems of greatest concern in that particular breed. Which problems vary with the breed, and a good breeder will discuss these issues freely and with knowledge. (For Bouvier, the two most serious concerns are OFA-cardiac testing for subaortic stenosis (SAS) and eye / CERF testing plus testing for glaucoma predisposing risks . Added concerns are OFA-hip or Penn-hip testing for hip dysplasia, OFA-elbow testing for elbow dysplasia, and thyroid testing for auto-immune throiditis. You will see dogs who have cleared all 5 referred to as "5 star" or "5 star health".) A news ad might be very brief in this regard, but should at least say something like "parents health tested". A web or magazine ad should list the tests done, and on your telephone conversation you should ask for the certification numbers and registered names of the parents so you can verify the names and numbers on the health registry's web site before you ever visit to meet the puppies.

Sometime in the next ten years, the process of health testing the parents and puppies will shift gene by gene to direct DNA testing. Research to establish DNA tests for SAS and glaucoma have been underway for years, thanks to some very dedicated breeders, and we can hope for commercially available tests within the next few years. Hip and elbow problems involve multiple genes , so DNA testing will probably not give a complete solution.

The phrase "vet checked" generally means only that a vet has seen the puppies at least once and there was nothing obviously wrong -- and bear in mind that the vet's exam may be very cursory or may be more extensive and the vet may or may not be very knowledgeable about the health problems of this breed. So "vet checked" does not mean much more than that the puppies were not obviously sick at that particular moment in time, though they could still be incubating serious life-threatening disease. The genetic problems we are most concerned about are ones that would not be detectable in a puppy without very special testing; they are problems that are hard to detect in most adults without special testing.

The ad may say that you will have oppertunity to meet the puppies' mother, though this may be considered by good breeders to be so obvious and universal that it would not be worth mentioning. Of course you always MUST meet the momma-bitch : she provides half of the puppies' genes and provides most of their crucial early education about how to be a dog and how to relate to a packleader. The only legitimate excuse for not being allowed to meet mamma would be if she had the horrible misfortune to die whelping or from whelping complications, which is pretty rare if the breeder is diligent in health care, but it can happen. A responsible breeder will tell you at length what steps she has taken to attempt to make up for the lack of the social influence of the mother-bitch. Any breeder who thinks that food (milk) is all that the bitch supplies is a person totally unfit to breed dogs. (Note : in some breeds due to standardization of deformities of proportion, it is very difficult or impossible for bitches to give birth naturally, ie C-sections are required. In these breeds, death of the momma-bitch usually does reflect badly on the breeder's health care or the vet's competence.)

Now where the ad says "both parents on premises" or in some other way conveys that you will get to meet both parents, this can be either goodnews or suspicious news. Yes, you really do want to meet the sire of the litter or talk to a trusted person who knows him well, as he supplies half the genes. If the daddy-dog actually interacts with the puppies (usually after they are several weeks old) he can also be a valuable social learning influence. (So can any other adult male dog, however genetically unrelated, who enjoys playing the daddy role.) So from that aspect, daddy on premises may be a benefit.

On the other paw, since most serious breeders want to breed to the male that they think is the very best available match for this particular bitch, that usually means breeding to a male whom they do not own and so who is not on their premises. The carefully selected sire may live hundreds or thousands of miles away. (Thanks to the wonder of frozen semen, the sire may even have been dead for some years, so if he is on the premises it is buried lovingly in his favorite spot or as ashes in an urn in a place of honor and probably waiting to be mixed with the breeder's ashes after she dies.) Yet another variation is where the breeder owns a wonderful male and has leased or purchased a bitch who is considered to be a wonderful match for him. In that case, you would find both parents on the premises when you come to meet puppies, though a leased bitch will be going back home sooner or later.

Puppy mill breeders will of course almost ALWAYS use a male they own , who thus will be "on the premises", because they don't see any reason to pay money or give a saleable puppy as a stud fee. If they do breed to someone else's male, it will be one owned by another puppy mill or by some local pet owner who doesn't know any better. No responsible breeder would ever knowingly mate their good and carefully tended male to a puppy mill bitch. Good breeders who own a breeding quality male are very fussy to use him only on bitches they really consider excellent breeding quality bitches and a good match for their male.

Thanks to our current level of DNA technology for positive sire identification, you may even encounter a litter that has more than one sire : a puppy can have only one sire, but it is possible to have different sires for different puppies. Some very serious breeders do this in order to get the crosses they want for their program while reducing the number of puppies that the bitch has to produce and the number for which trustworthy homes must be found. But these breeders' puppies are almost always reserved before they are born.

So may advice is if the ad or the phone call mentions that both parents are on the premises, you want to inquire further to find out why this is so. Always be aware that "both parents on premises" is often a sign of a less serious breeder or an outright puppy mill.

"Ch" (without some other letter right in front of it) refers to conformation show "championship", and a serious show breeder will usually be breeding a Ch bitch to a Ch male, thus the ad will say "Ch parents" or will give their names. I don't know that the Ch title really means much in terms of the dog's ability to be a household companion dog, except that really shy or really aggressive dogs very rarely obtain this title. But Ch parents usually do mean the breeder has a serious goal and has some studious knowledge of the breed.
The phrase "Ch lines" simply means that somewhere , possibly several generations back in the pedigree, there is one Ch ancestor ; thus it really means nothing (since almost every dog goes back to some Ch if you go back far enough) , or rather tells you that neither of the parents were Ch because if either were, the breeder would not fail to tell you so.
The same is true of "European lines" : all Bouvier go back to European lines as the breed originated in Flanders, ie Belgium and the Netherlands. The statement that one or both parents are "European imports" , or Dutch imports, or whatever imports, is meaninful only if you are convinced that the European breeders are doing a better job than those in the US or Canada. There are excellent breeders and horrible breeders both in North America and in Europe (and elsewhere too of course), so you'd need to know the particular breeder or kennel name and know what their breeding priorites are. There may well be more breeders in Europe who emphasize working lines, especially Schutzhund lines, but that may or may not be what you actually want and need.

Now those breeding for working or performance dogs will list whatever working / performance titles are held by the parents. The relevant titles will vary with the breed. Performance titles usually go after the dog's name, except that there are a few performance championships that go ahead of the name such as HCh (Herding Champion), OTCh (Obedience Trial Champion) and a few others. The ad may cite other evidence of working qualities, eg that the dog is a working hunter or working ranch dog or a search and rescue dog, or whatever. Whether or not working drives and abilities would be an asset to you or a liability depends on your own personality and lifestyle and on whether or not you can provide the dog with frequent outlets for those working drives. Trainers have a saying that "you can't put a Green Beret in a desk job" to mean that putting a dog with a high desire to do some particular type of work into a home where there is no appropriate work generally leads to great unhappyness for dog and owner. Border Collies and Kelpies are notoriously horribly unsuited to idleness because of their intense desire to herd anything that moves or might be made to move ; they become neurotic or crazy in homes that need a "welfare dog" rather than a "working dog". Bouvier can vary quite a lot in their need to have a real job in order to remain happy and well behaved. Be sure to ask the breeder about the working drives of this particular line and litter.

Most ads will indicate that the dogs are registered with AKC (American Kennel Club) or with some other registry , such as UKC (United Kennel Club, which is the primary club for a lot of the non-AKC breeds), CKC (which should mean Canadian Kennel Club, but just might mean Continental Kennel Club ; the former is a respected registry and the latter is just a paper mill), or possibly one of the European clubs (you need to know your breed history and geography to figure out which ones might be relevant) or a breed specific registry (eg ASCA = Australian Shepherd Club of America). There are also a lot of registries which are pretty much fly-by-night paper mills such as American Pet Registry and Continental Kennel Club. There is even a "registry" for cross-bred dogs , American Canine Hybrid Club, probably making money churning out "papers" for every gawdawful mix ever mis-concieved.

The mere fact that a dog is "registered" usually means very little. It really means nothing unless the registry has some stringent rules about health testing or performance testing and does serious verification of parentage (ie DNA testing would be current state of the art). "AKC" means essentially nothing as regards soundness or quality, as AKC does very little in regards to these issues. However the absence of AKC or CKC (Canadian) registration in a breed that is not normally registered with some other registry such as UKC or ASCA usually would be a warning that something is wrong, possibly even that this breeder has been suspended or expelled from AKC for registry fraud or other major crime.


Let's look at some web site ads

As I said before, a web ad should give you all the basic information that the breeder thinks would be important to the buyers she or he is trying to attract, the buyers to whom this breeder would be willing to sell a puppy or adult dog. What is left out of a web ad is probably more suspicion raising than what is left out of a newspaper ad.


Ad # 1 :
CA XXX Bouvier des Flandres "Where Excellence is Standard".  Home of multiple Best In Show Ch. XXXXXX.  Breeding & showing top Bouviers for 20 years.  We select for temperament, health & conformation.  All breeding stock have OFA, hips, elbows, cardiac, thyroid and CERF.  Show & companion pups available occasionally.  We are always happy to talk about the breed and help you choose the right puppy.  California XXXX (xxx) xxx-xxxx / Email:

Discussion : "We select for temperament, health & conformation." : that is the ideal order of priorities for any breeder in any breed, though of course that may not actually reflect this breeder's order. The emphasis on health is substantiated by "All breeding stock have OFA, hips, elbows, cardiac, thyroid and CERF". Some people refer to dogs that meet all those criteria as "5 star" , a term you would be more likely to meet in a breed magazine.
"Show & companion pups available occasionally" : note the word "occasionally" indicating that this breeder probably does not breed very often and has most of their puppies reserved in advance, signs of a breeder who enjoys a good reputation.
"We are always happy to talk about the breed and help you choose the right puppy." Being happy to talk to people, whether or not the people actually are seeking to buy right away, is a mark of someone who cares about the breed, cares enough to see education as an important role.
(Now in a sense I am cheating, because I actually know this breeder fairly well. This couple has been in the breed forever (one of them actually longer than the 20 years mentioned, because she'd been in the breed some years when I first met her over 20 years ago and she was well respected then), are intensely concerned with the welfare of the breed and of their puppies, and are very good educators. Their puppies are almost always spoken for far in advance and they don't have any need to advertise, beyond a litter announcement in club newsletters. They are running this ad in order to fill their role as information providers and to intercept people who might respond to other ads on the site from less worthy breeders.)

Ad # 2 :
Top Breeder on the East Coast!! PA ZZZ Bouvier des Flandres Puppies Available Now!  Imported directly from Belgium.  True French / Belgium Bloodlines.  We have two beautiful litters in all colors out of the well-known International Champion ZZZZZ's daughters.  Champion Titled Parents on the Premises.  Adults Available on Occasion.  Full Written Guarantee.  Stud Service Available in All Colors.  We Ship Worldwide.  Pennsylvania ZZZZ  (xxx) xxx-xxxx / Email:

Discussion : "Puppies Available Now!" implies that they always have puppies available, that they breed more often than they have pre-committed buyers available. This impression is furthered by " We have two beautiful litters". Now it does happen occasionaly that a responsible breeder will have two litters born at the same time, but it is more likely to happen with a high voluum breeder and having two litters in a breed that has large litters make the work of socializing and educating puppies much harder.
"Champion Titled Parents on the Premises" does tell you that both parents have conformation Ch, which says they look good but says nothing about behavioral qualities or health. That "both parents" are on the premises may or may not be a warning clue or it may be an oppertunity. The best breeders carefully select the male they think is the best choice for that individual bitch to produce the best puppies, regardless of whether or not they own the male and thus the daddy dog may live hundreds or thousands of miles away (and thanks to frozen semen, the daddy dog may have been dead a few years). But sometimes your own male really is the best choice and you certainly know more about his good and bad points (especially behavior and performance qualities) than you would know about someone else's male. The presence of the male on site means that you get the oppertunity to meet him yourself and evaluate his temperament and other qualities. (If he is a working bred dog, the owner may offer to have him demonstrate his performance.) Of course you should always have oppertunity to meet the mamma-bitch (unless she has had the horrible misfortune to die whelping), and if you do not adore her temperament and personality, then you really should not waste a second looking at the puppies.
What should raise a lot of suspicion is that the ONLY quality of the dogs mentioned is "in all colors", implying that color is the most important thing. Note that there is zero mention of anything having to do with temperament or health. "We Ship Worldwide" is also very suggestive of a high voluum breeder.
(Now again I am cheating, because I know this breeder's reputation as being a very high voluum breeder and a very badly reputed one. This ad is quite in accord with the reputation of breeding only for ego and for profit. Oh, by the way, she is certainly not the only breeder in the US who was born in the Bouvier breed's homeland, which would be Flanders = Netherlands plus Belgium, nor would being born in the homeland give some automatic authoritative knowledge of the breed. . )

Ad # 3 :
CA YYYY Bouvier des Flandres Puppies Available Now!  AKC, 8 weeks - 6 months.  Males / females.  All colors, blacks & fawns.  Parents are OFA.  $400-$800.  Shipping available.  Stud service.  For more information call / e-mail.  Photos coming soon!  California YYYY (xxx) xxx-xxxx / Email:

Discussion : "Available Now!" and "8 weeks - 6 months" tells you right away that this breeder produces a LOT more dogs than he has been able to sell. There are at least two litters involved, judging from the ages.
"All colors, blacks & fawns.  Parents are OFA" tells you that he considers color important, and that OFA (does not say whether hips or elbows or both) is the only health issue he knows about. What do you think he will say if you ask about clearance for SAS or glaucoma ?
"$400-$800." While there is nothing wrong with including price in the ad, these prices are substantially lower than those commanded by highly reputed breeders in the same geographic area. Maybe you are getting a bargain or maybe you will wind up spending many many times the "savings" at your vets dealing with the health issues that the parents were not checked for or spend over a hundred times that much as losing defendant in a lawsuit after an unsocialized puppy has grown up to be a fear-biter and bitten someone. .
(Well I cheated again. I know exactly who this one is and he is a very badly reputed backyard puppy mill, breeding solely for profit. Quite a few of his produce have later landed into the club's rescue program, which shows very poor judgement in screening and educating buyers. He openly states that his dogs are not housedogs and not socialized because he "doesn't have time for that".)

Ad # 4:
MS VVVV Bouviers, Bouvier des Flandres AKC CH. parents, 5 star health checks (hips, elbows, cardiac, thyroid & eyes).  Home reared & socialized--temperament tested.  Older pups occasionally.  Health guarantees, vet checked & shipping available.  Visit website at:  Mississippi VVVV (xxx) xxx-xxxx / Email:

Discussion : "5 star health checks (hips, elbows, cardiac, thyroid & eyes)" shows a breeder who is serious about health screenings. "Home reared & socialized--temperament tested." That the pups are raised inside the family home and are well socialized is the single most important thing a persons seeking a companion dog should insist upon.
"Older pups occasionally." could be pups that remained unsold, but given the rest of the ad is more apt to be pups breeder was keeping to show or breed that did not quite fulfil early promise but will be fine companions or could be dogs sold as pups that have been returned (responsible breeders have contracts requiring that if buyer is ever unable to keep the dog , the dog must come back to the breeder; this protects the dog from being dumped at shelter to sold / given to a poor quality home.)
"Health guarantees, vet checked & shipping available. " This backs up the health concerns indicated by 5 star testing of parents.
(I don't actually know who these people are , but I will bet on them to be responsible breeders. Of course before I would actually consider buying a dog from them, I would find out a lot more about them from people who do know them personally and know their dogs well.)

Ad #5 : : IN WWWW Bouviers, Bouvier des Flandres Breeding quality Bouviers with strong, healthy bodies, sound, sensible minds, stunning beauty & correct type.  OFA, CERF, 5 star health certified, champion parents.  Health guarantee.  Home raised.  Properly socialized.  Visit  Indiana WWWW (xxx) xxx-xxxx / Email:

Discussion : "Breeding quality Bouviers with strong, healthy bodies, sound, sensible minds". very similar to ad #4, emphasizing health and home-rearing and socialization as well as good mental qualities.
(I do not know these breeders, but one whom I do know and respect does know them and tells me they are excellent and highly responsible breeders.)

Let's look at some newspaper ads :

Newspaper ads tend to be more stingy with words and tend to use abreviations, because they are paid for by the work or by the line. So you won't expect as much information in a newspaper ad as in a Web ad or an ad in the breed club magazine.
Since there was only one Bouvier ad on this particular day (usually there are none), I will also include ads from another paper and ads from other breeds.
By the way, it is not a reflection on the advertiser if the breed name is mis-spelled or other strange typos occur in newspaper ads. The ad is usually placed over the phone to someone who knows zero about dogs and thus won't spell it right unless the ad placer does a careful Able Baker Charlie to ensure correct spelling. You just wouldn't believe some of the misspellings of Bouvier des Flanders I have seen in newspaper ads.

These ads are from the Sacramento Bee 4/21/06 unless otherwise stated.


Bouvier ad #6 (Sacramento Bee) :
Bouvier, AKC, female, 1 year old, black, $350 w shots. phone #

Discussion : This ad gives you really minimal information. Notice that there is no indication of whether or not she is spayed , no indication of training, no indication of much of anything. You'd usually see more information about a used car. But it's still possible that a phone call would reveal some desirable or undesirable qualities.
Well our club Rescue Chair did phone for more information. She is not spayed and the seller assumed that that made her more valuable because she could be bred. He is not keeping her because she is too closely related to his stud male. (Well at least he knows that much, or knows most buyers know that much . But the idea of actually paying money to breed to someone else's good stud male does not seem to have occurred to him.) No, she is not home-reared, but has lived her life exclusively outdoors. She is not socialized because he "doesn't have time for that." She is all right with people she knows but sometimes snaps if a stranger moves towards her too suddenly. No, she has not had any kind of training. Towards the end of the conversation he asked if the caller might know of any Bouvier bitch for sale, adding that for some reason none of the breeders he has talked to is willing to sell one to him.
  The phone numbers in this ad match those in Web ad #3 above. The reason no breeder will sell a bitch to him is that they know his reputation.
And I have since learned that some of his progeny have wound up as breeding stock at the facilities of Bouv ad # 7 . Birds of a feather and all that.

Bouvier ad # 7 (on-line search of Dallas/Fort Worth Star-Telegram , May 06)
Bouvier puppies $ 600.00, Pet Type : Dog , Age : 5 weeks , Pet Breed : Bouvier des Flandres Color : black/fawn brindle , Neutered : No , Pet Sex : Unspecific
Description : Bouvier puppies 4 males 5 females born 3-24-06 will be current on shots and wormings. Vet checked at 7 weeks. They are black and fawn brindle. I will deliver to the Dallas area. Will be in the Dallas are 5-19-06 

Discussion : Notice complete absence of any information about the parents' titles or health certifications. There is not even any indication of registration. So already you might wonder. "I will deliver to the Dallas area. Will be in the Dallas are 5-19-06" should be a gigantic warning red flag ! These puppies are bred elsewhere and you are NOT intended to visit the breeding facility, nor will you have chance to meet either of the parents. This is a red flag warning that these puppies are large scale puppy mill puppies, with the parent dogs most likely living lives of unspeakable dreadfulness..
(Again, I am cheating a bit. I know a lot about this breeder : she is very well known and well despised. She is indeed a large scale puppy mill with multiple breeds, and she sells mostly through auctions, pet stores, internet, and news ads like this one. There is no way the buyer will ever get to see the breeding facility or meet the parent dogs and see the appalling conditions of both. Her puppy mill is located in Missouri, by the way, so you see she is willing to travel far afield in search of foolish buyers. Her puppies have shown up in pet stores as far away as Connecticut. )

I wish I could find the newspaper ad from late 1981 which led to my very first Bouvier, the adorable Keya (Chiaroscuro) . I have it somewhere, but can't find it. It probably was a pretty simple ad, and by the clues I am discussing with you, this ad could have been either a pretty good breeder or a very bad one.
A phone call soon made it obvious which . The breeder (who soon became a personal friend) was a wonderful and responsible person who had apprenticed in Bouvs to a very well reputed show breeder ; but this was her first litter (and as it turns out her only one) and so she did not really have her own reputation yet nor a waiting list for puppies. The pups were home reared and very well socialized. Keya was a delight : affectionate, highly intelligent and highly willing to please (two traits that do not always go hand in hand), calm and adaptable. She was everything I'd been told a Bouv should be, and she wedded me to the breed forever. After Keya's tragic death from a rare anesthesia reaction (to Halothane, the best anesthetic then available, but seldom used today), her breeder gave me Chelsea, who became my soulmate. The rest, as they say is history.
So don't assume that every newspaper ad is from an ignorant or irresponsible breeder. Among the trash-heap you can find some real diamonds. Do some intelligent phoning and visiting.


Let's look at some other breed newspaper ads

Since there weren't enough Bouvier newspaper ads, let's look at a few for more plentiful breeds. I'm choosing Labs and Aussies (Australian Shepherd) because , like Bouvs, these are breeds that still have working lines (hunting / field trial for Labs ; herding for Aussies) as well as conformation show lines, and they also have plenty of backyard breeders and puppy mills. Also because the ads this particular day included some that I'd regard as indicating genuinely serious responsible breeders.

Labrador ad #1 :
LAB, black female, 18 mo. sire yellow Master Hunter, featured on cover of BU,. Dam's sire is AKC Field Champion. Pup does dbl retrieves, started on blinds and hand signals. $1200. phone #

Discussion : This ad gives a lot of detail, though you might need a retriever trial person to explain the meanings to you.
"sire yellow Master Hunter, featured on cover of BU" : Master Hunter is an AKC title for dogs that have passed an advanced level of hunting test; I have no idea what "BU" is but it is almost certainly a hunting magazine of some kind (I'd have to ask a reference librarian). "Dam's sire is AKC Field Champion" : another strong indicator of ability to serve as a hunting retriever.
"Pup does dbl retrieves, started on blinds and hand signals" : "pup" indicates that seller does not consider her fully mature, and he is right. "dbl retrieves" means "double retrieves" , ie going back for the second of two shot birds. "blinds and hand signals" means training to be directed to a bird she has not seen fall by means of the handler's hand signals.
This ad describes a dog who has a sound foundation of training to be a functioning hunting dog or to enter field trials or both.
We still don't know if she is used to being a housedog or not. And we don't know what health screens have been done on her or her parents. But if you are looking for a dog to hunt birds with, this ad would really be one to phone ASAP and ask these questions.
Because this dog is bred from field trial stock, the dog is likely to be high energy and not a good choice if you want a mellow , laid-back, couch-potato type of dog to help you watch TV and go for short strolls on weekends. And I would bet that the advertiser would tell you that in very clear terms.
This advertiser sounds very knowledgable about hunting and field trial training. Whether or not you buy this dog, you might find the person a really good source of knowledge and advice for the future.

Lab ad #2 :
LAB, black male,18 mo, professionally trained in obedience and hunting. Outstanding paper work. All shots and microchipped. great w other dogs & kids. $800. phone #

Discussion : like the Lab ad #1, this is an ad that features the dog's ability to do the work that the breed was bred for. His hunting training may not be as advanced as Lab ad #1, but he is represented as having some of the qualities one needs in a house-dog and companion, namely"great w other dogs & kids" and "trained in obedience". Does not say if he has been living as a housedog.
I'm not sure what the "paper work" means, though I assume it refers to the dog's registration and pedigree. Remember to ask about the dog;s energy level, as he may well be from high energy hunting lines.
Advertiser is probably quire knowledgable.

Lab ad # 3 :
Lab , black, 6 mo, to good home, spayed, current shots, w/toys & accessories. phone #

Discussion : This has the hallmarks of someone wanting to place a dog they no longer want. It's not clear if this is a "free to good home" situation or if they have the sense to ask for an adoption fee reflecting that she is spayed and current on her shots. If they are not asking a fee, you should offer a fair one anyway.
Nothing is really said about her behavior, training, or anything else. Worth a phone call to ask for details. May be a nice enough , though possibly untrained and energetic, dog who would be fine for someone who knows how to do basic training and is a good packleader.
You can probably expect that the owner is not very knowledgable about dogs.

Lab ad # 4:
Lab pup , blk, pick of the litter, great hunter, OFA guarranteed . family raised. $500. phone #

Discussion : Ad does not give age, sex , or alter status, all of which a buyer would be apt to care about. "pick of the litter" implies best pup in litter in someone's judgement, but their purpose (probably hunting) and judgement may or may not be anything like your purpose (housedog ? housedog and hunter ?) so their judgement may or may not be relevant. OFA guarranteed implies that they are promising you sound hips; be sure to ask what they will do as remedy if dog does not X-ray OFA sound at age 2 years. "Family raised" is what you want to hear if you want a companion dog or companion and hunter.
This advertiser probably does have basic knowledge of the breed. Worth a phone call.

Lab ad # 5 :
Lab puppies AKC. beautiful yellow, champion, hunting lines. good natured . avail 5/5/06. $700. phone #

Discussion : "champion, hunting lines" is pretty vague and you need to ask for details. "good natured" is what you want of course, but this is their opinion, and not everyone wants the same type of personality . This ad appeared 4/21/06, so the quoted availability date of 6/6/06 means that the advertiser has the good sense to plan ahead and that you probably can make several visits to get to know the puppies. Of course a highly regarded breeder would have had the pups reserved before they were born and possibly before they were conceived. Do ask what age the pups will be on the availability date, and if the answer is less than 7 weeks old, that is too young and any responsible breeder would know that, so skip this litter. This ad is worth phoning on, but do be prepared for anythig from a poor breeder to a good one.

Aussie ad # 1 :
Australian Shepherd. Outstanding litter of old fashioned Australian Shepherd puppies. ASCA registered. Lots of color, minimal white. Smart, calm, working parents. Very easy to train. Bred and raised by a professional trainer. Raised in our home with kids and cats. Hips , eyes, and temperament guarranteed. Reserve your pick today ! $ 500-600. Call phone #

Discussion : "old fashioned" is a relevant description for this breed, because there has been quite a divergence in body type, coat, and temperament between the older ranch type lines and the more recent show lines. The old type tend to be more athletic and have moderate coat and have marked herding ability ; the show type tend to be larger and heavier and less athletic, with heavy coat, and may or may not have much herding ability.
"ASCA registered." ASCA is the original Aussie registry and is independent of AKC. ASCA has put some emphasis on herding and obedience , rather than being overwhelmingly a beauty show promotor. AKC did in effect a "hostile takeover" of Aussie registration some years ago, against the wishes of most Aussie people and very much against the wishes of those who emphasised working ability and trainability.
"Lots of color, minimal white" is not just an esthetic statement. Aussies with "high white" and Aussies that are from merle x merle breedings are more likely to some health problems , including deafness, so you should prefer a dog that does not have a lot of white.
"Smart, calm, working parents" should be what you want, though you do need to ask how well the breeder thinks these pups would do in a home that did not include herding work as a regular part of the lifestyle if indeed that describes your home -- and be prepared to hear the breeder refuse to sell to a home that does not offer herding outlets !
"Very easy to train" may refer to training in basic obedience and household behavior or may refer to herding work ; the former is certainly what you need, and the latter may or may not be of any value to you. "Bred and raised by a professional trainer" should be a real plus, as this should mean that some pre-pre-kindergarten teaching has been done. Ask about this. But it may also mean that "easy to train" really means "easy to train if you know what you are doing" because this breeder does know what she/he is doing. Most dogs are a lot easier to train if you know what you are doing. Ask the breeder which type of training methods she/he advises for dogs from this line.
"Raised in our home with kids and cats." By now you should know that I consider home rearing essential for a pup destined to be a companion. Exposure to children who are dog-savvy is also essential, so the breeder's own kids and their buddies can make a big contribution. (Good breeders without resident kids will invite every nice kid they know to visit for supervised play with the puppies.) Socialization to cats is a big plus if your home might include a cat ; if so , be sure to ask the breeder to pick you a pup who was naturally easy going with the cats, not one who started out with strong desire to chase.
"Hips , eyes, and temperament guarranteed." does not tell you what testing the parents have had or what they produced in previous litters. Be sure to ask for OFA or Penn-hip numbers and for the dates of the most recent CERF exam and when you visit be sure to see the certificates. Ask what the guarrantee means : ie what does the breeder propose to do for you if the pup does turn out to have a problem ?
This is obviously a very serious and knowledgeable breeder. Whether or not you get a pup from this litter, this is someone who may be willing to teach you a lot over the coming years.

Aussie ad # 2 :
Australian Shepherd puppies, Miniature. born 2/19/06. 2 liver red tri males $500 each. Mini Aussie breeding pair $2500. Call for info at phone #.

"Miniature" should warn you that this is a breeder who is focused on a somewhat phony new breed type , one that is not in the best interest of the dogs' health. Minature Aussies are pretty much of a money-making scheme. "Mini Aussie breeding pair $2500" is a pretty clear message that this breeder thinks that the purpose of a dog is to produce a profitable product, puppies. Notice also that there is zero information about behavior issues, socialization / rearing, or health concerns. I would not waste a phone call on this one unless you are calling to ask pointed questions and let the breeder know your poor opinion of his puppy mill answers.

Aussie ad # 3 :
Australian Shepherd pups. AKC/ASCA, OFA, CERF. outstanding pedigree. $500+. phone # , web URL

Discussion : This ad is brief but has some indications of a good breeder. Pups are double registered with AKC and ASCA, so there may be more of a priority on appearance than if they were ASCA only. "OFA, CERF" shows concern for the major health issues for the breed. The inclusion of the web URL means that there is probably a lot more information available there ; check it out before phoning.

Aussie ad # 4 :
Australian Shepherd pups . ASCA. Blues & blacks. M&F. $350-550. city. phone#

Discussion : not a lot of information here. Could be a decent breeder, though probably not seeking knowledgable buyers, but could be a casual backyard breeding or worse.

Aussie ad # 5 :
Australian Shep pups. champ lines, all 4 colors, some blue eyed, socialized, smart parents. hips/eyes cert, shots, health guar. $400/up. city. phone #

Discussion : "champ lines" means only that somewhere in the pedigree, possibly very far back, one or more dogs has a conformation championship. (ASCA also has a WTCH = Working Trial (herding) Champion, but trust me, if it were that it would be mentioned very specifically.) "all 4 colors, some blue eyed" tells you that they think appearance matters or think it matters to you. "socialized" is of course what you must have in a companion dog. but do ask for details of rearning and socialization, as some do a much better job of it than others. "hips/eyes cert, shots, health guar" are all important, but as always ask what the guarrantee means and ask for certificate numbers so you can check them out on the web.

"Designer dog" and cross-bred ads

I think I should also WARN you about all the ads you will see for various cross-bred dogs. Some are the result of accidents, and some are the result of deliberate breedings intended to exploit your gullibility for a fat profit. Always ask if the litter was an accident or deliberate. If they say "accident", ask if the momma-bitch has been spayed to prevent it ever happening again. If they have not spayed the momma, tell them that you don't believe in rewarding irresponsibility. If they say "deliberate" , you can be sure that you are about to hear a con man's pitch for the glories of "designer dogs". My own response would be something like "What time yesterday afternoon do you think I was born ?"

Many of these are the result of accidental matings, and if they are home reared and you like the behavior tendencies of both parental breeds , and if you absolutely intend to spay or neuter your pet (as you should be planning to anyway, whether your pet is purebred or cross-bred), then you may find this to be a delightful dog. Be aware that accidental pregnancies don't always receive good quality of pre-natal and post-natal care and that the owner may care only about disposing of the puppies as easily and quickly as possible, as usually indicated by "free to good home" and by absence of the owner asking you any kind of questions about your family and lifestyle, or the owner may take responsibility for the mistake and make an earnest effort to assure the pups's welfare and may charge some kind of moderate price to weed out the "easy come, easy go" attitude people. Be aware that it is a near certainty that neither parent has had any kind of health check. Accidental litters may receive almost no socialization and backyard rearing if the momma has been a backyard dog or may have received super socialization and homerearing if the mamma is an adored pet.

The deliberate crosses being marketed as if they were "new breeds" or "designer dogs" or with names like "something-a-something" (eg "labradoodle", "cock-a-poo", etc) and with substantial prices and possibly with statements to the effect that "you can rely on not having health or behavior problems because these are not AKC dogs" are simply a very lucrative SCAM ! These are "PT Barnum breeders" who rely on a steady supply of gullible buyers. If they give you the line about no health problems , ask them about whether both parents have OFA or Penn-hip certification for hips, whether they have a recent CERF clearance for eyes, and so on. Ask about home rearing and socialization and be sure to visit the breeding site. I doubt that you will see careful socialization.

Warning : Genetics lesson ahead !
I should also make clear that there would be a legitimate purpose in making first generation crosses between carefully chosen lines of carefully chosen breeds, to create a type intended for some particular purpose. (For example, some of the guide dog schools have found that a Lab X Golden cross has given them a good result.) Usually these are crosses between breeds with similar function. The first generation cross , called F1 by geneticists, can be quite predictable in quality and may or may not be functionally superior to either or both parent breed, in the same sense that a mule can perform some functions better than either a horse or a donkey. Only those crosses that do yield a markedly superior F1 are worth making. . Now while the F1 will be fairly predictable and similar to one another, any backcross (breeding F1 to either parent) and any F2 (breeding F1 to F1) will be extremely unpredictable and dissimilar to each other. So the F1 individuals should always be spayed / neutered and never considered for further breeding. (The exception would be where you are trying to transfer a very benficial gene from one breed into the other by repeated backcrossings. That's a job for professional geneticists.) If you don't understand why the F2 and backcrosses are unpredictable and variable, you don't remember working through all those 3 gene and 4 gene crosses back in Genetics 101, or maybe you didn't take Genetics 101 in college.
Crossbreeding to reduce health problems is a legitimate strategy only where the problems is due to recessive delecterious genes that are problematically common in one parent breed are rather rare in the other. It won't help you a bit if the same recessive is common in both breeds or rare in both breeds. It won't help at all for problems like hip dysplasia which are due to many genes and where the problem is common to all breeds in that functional category (eg hip dysplasia is a problem in all the large sized breeds).
So you DO have to do the same quality of health testing for the parents of F1 crosses as ou would for purebred breeding. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn't understand much genetics or is just plain lying to you.

A useful question to ask on the phone is "gee, can I make a lot of money breeding these dogs ?" The designer dog con artist will assure you that you can get rich quick . Don't walk away, RUN for your life !


cross ad # 1 :
Bagel Toy designer puppies. Toy Beagle / Bassett, gorgeous tri color, M/F.$475-575. phone #

Well Beagle and Bassett are both scent hounds, meaning that when they are on the trail of prey scent, they are oblivious to the rest of the world and especially oblivious to any commands or suggestions from you. Maybe these would be a better scent hunting dog than any purebred you could find, but I doubt it very much. The word "Toy" in a breed that doesn't legitimately come in that size should be a warning. The price and the word "designer" are an absolute warning that this is a PT Barnum breeder.

cross ad #2 :
Great Family Pet. Australian Shepherd & Alaskan Malamute puppies. shots, worming, vet checked, microchipped. Spay/neuter contract. Ready 4/24/06. $400 OBO. phone #

I'm assuming that they do mean Aussie X Mal cross-bred pups, rather than having two separate purebred litters. This sounds like it could be an accident that happened to someone who actually knows something about breeding. Maybe a good quality bitch got bred by an agile neighbor dog. The fact that they are requiring the puppies to be spayed / neutered speaks very well for a responsible attitude. I think the price is maybe a bit high for cross-breds (though the real "designer" con artists would be asking two to 4 times as much, believe it or not), though it would be right if the pups had already been spayed/neutered prior to being transferred to the new home. If you really like the playfulness that characterizes both parent breeds and if you are able to deal with the tendency of Mals to run fast and far and not be very obedient off leash, a tendency one could hope would perhaps be countered by the Aussie tendency in the opposite direction, then maybe you'd like this cross. It's not a very sensible cross to make on purpose, as contrasted to breeding Aussie to another herding breed or breeding Mal to another sledding breed.

cross ad #3 :
Labradoodle Shepadoodle NOT Labradoodle. 12 weeks. parents AKC. vacc. $850. phone #

The only way I can make sense of this is that there are at least three breeds involved : Lab, Poodle, and Shepherd (presumably German Shepherd Dog). Can't tell whether a Lab X Poodle F1 was bred to a GSD or a GSD X Poodle F1 bred to a Lab, or a Lab X Poodle bred to a GSD X Poodle or ??? In any case, it is clear that at least one of the parents cannot have been AKC registered -- not that that matters as the crosses will never be AKC registerable and AKC papers by themselves don't mean much anyway. The price, $850, tells you unmistakably that the seller thinks you are fool enough to pay a high price for the same kind of mutt that you can get for about $100 to 120 at your local shelter, with spay/neuter and shots included and possibly a bit of basic training by shelter volunteers included. The 12 week age is also the end of the most oppertune time for primary socialization, though pups still socialze fairly well up through 16 weeks but may not get as good results as if socialized prior to 12 weeks. Don't phone on this one unless you are doing so to harass the con artist.

cross ad # 4 : Lab / Retriever mix puppies. 1st shot, worming, black, adorable. $180. phone #</p>

This is a cross between two gundog breeds and the behavior should be predictably that of a ball-happy retrievier , possibly pretty high energy for the first few years or longer. This sounds like an accidental litter to me. The price is enough to weed out the freebie seekers but it is a real bargain for any decent puppy. These could make nice companion dogs for family with active lifestyle, provided of course that the pups are home-reared and well socialized.

cross ad # 5 :
Labradoodle pups. black, 4 months old, little to no shedding. $400, phone number.

This is a cross, probably deliberate, of two gundog / retriever breeds (yes, the Poodle was originally a waterfowl gundog and a few people still hunt with them). I've met a few of these, and they look a lot like natural earred natural tailed Bouvier , but have a more exhuberant personality. Now the critical issue will be how well socialized and home-reared these pups are, because 4 months is the end of the primary socialization period. A pup who is unsocialized and shy at that age may very well remain shy or at least will need a lot of remedial work. By the way, the coat is similar to Bouvier, which technically is considered "non-shedding" but I can tell you that you still find a lot of hair on the floor and you won't need to do DNA testing to know it came from the dog.

cross ad # 6 :
Dach-Tzus, designer pups. 2 girls, 3 boys. shots , dewclaws. precious. phone #

The word "designer" should be all the warning you need. The Dachhund was originally an earthdog that dug out badgers, but I think it's been many generation since any were asked to be anything except pleasant companions and bed-warmer dogs. So this is a cross between two small companion breeds. They might be nice enough dogs, but don't be conned into thinking this is something rare and superior. I wouldn't even know what to predict for behavior or appearance as adults, nor what health problems might be lurking. Since Doxies are very different in structure from orthopedially normal dog breeds, I'd be concerned about orthopedic problems, possibly some really serious ones due to mismatched parts that don't fit together well.

cross ad # 7 :
Lab/Pit Bull mix. female, family dog. $25 to good home with yard. phone #

This is a single dog, probably adult, whose owners are unable or unwilling to keep her, but are making some effort to find her a better home than she would be likely to get if surrendered to a shelter. (The death rate for dogs at open admissions shelters is almost always at least 50%, and Pits and Pit crosses and Pit-looking dogs have an especially poor chance for survival.) Important to find out whether the "with yard" means that she has always been a backyard dog or whether it means the owners hope she will not simply be chained to a tree or whether she has been a house-dog with the backyard as potty place and play-yard. Since they do not say "spayed" , she probably is not spayed, so you will need to do that immediately. $25 is unfortunately far too little to keep her from being snatched up by a pit-fighting dog person to be used as sparring partner or "bait dog", but unfortunately a price high enough to do that would probably also discourage legitimate pet seekers.
One more thing to think about : you know that many people you meet in public are afraid of any dog that looks like a Pit Bull, so this can be a real disadvantage. Also you may have to worry about local laws that are breed discriminatory towards Pits and Pit crosses and you will have find a Homeowners' insurance that does not have a breed discriminatory clause or prohibition.

Are you read for a pop quiz ?

Here is the "pop quiz" for this course. (All these ads come from a real web site <>, but I have disquised the names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc to protect the guilty and the innocent.) Get a piece of paper and write down your reactions to each ad and then give it a score as to likelihood of getting a good dog from the source : eg, ranging from "almost certainly really bad" , "probably bad", "can't tell, need more info", "probably good", "almost certainly really good". Don't cheat. Then compare your responses to mine, below.

Bouvier des Flandres Puppies and Dogs Photo Ads
(each ad has a nice photo)

quiz ad # 1
(photo shows girl hugging a puppy, both looking at camera with happy faces; very nice photo, sure to get an emotional response)
AAAA BOUVIERS - Honoring their Heritage! Where Bouviers are free to be Bouviers. Puppies currently available. Visit our website at for more info, or call aaa-aaa-aaaa. Email Me. Indiana

quiz ad #2
(photo shows head and forequrters of pale fawn Bouvier , open eyes and tongue panting; nice quality photo.)
BBBB Farm - Bouvier des Flandres AKC Registered. Kitchen-raised pups, well socialized, written guarantee, vet checked, up-to-date on shots and wormings. Health tested parents on site. Contact Linda at bbb-bbb-bbbb or Email Me. Club Affiliations and Registries: AKC Ohio

quiz ad #3
(photo shows two puppies eating out of dish, outdoors with barn in background ; another puppy sitting on bale of hay in background; good photographically.)
CCCC Bouvier Pups for sale. Born on November 8th. Waiting to go to their new home. Really well with children and a really good guarding dog. Shots and worming are up to date. Champion/European bloodlines. Health guaranteed and parents are on site. Contact C at ccc-ccc-cccc or Email Me. Club Affiliations and Registries: CKC Alberta - Canada

quiz ad #4
(no photo) DDDD Bouviers was established in 1973, throughout the years our family has bred and raised this wonderful breed. We have multiple National Specialty and Best in Show winners. We strive to breed healthy genes and good temperaments. Puppies and Adults available. For further information please contact us, We look forward to talking with you. Phone: ddd-ddd-dddd, Email Me. Colorado

quiz ad # 5
(photo shows a puppy standing over a toy, outdoors on a gravel type of background; photo slightly out of focus.)
EEEE Bouvier des Flandres puppies, males, 5 black and one brindle, current on all shots, wormings and heartworm treatment. Ears and dewclaws done and micro-chipped. Fat healthy pups out of working, ranch/farm dogs. Great guard and herding dogs. Socialized with children and other animals. Check out my website special price offer @ . We do ship! Call 660-747-7427. Email Me. Club Affiliations and Registries: AKC Missouri

quiz ad #6
(photo professional quality studio portrait of head of a Bouvier , with dog's name at bottom) FFFF Bred to win, born to love. Responsibly bred for temperament, health, conformation. Our Bouviers excel as loving, devoted companions or in the show ring. Puppies available to approved homes. Established breeder of AKC Specialty, Multiple Group, Top Ten Winning Bouviers. Our Bouviers excel in obedience, conformation, herding & agility. Home raised with TLC. Child socialized, microchipped, shots, wormed, crate training started. We do extensive health testing, including, OFA Hip, Elbow, Cardiac, Thyroid, Patella; CERF & Gonio. Phone: fff-fff-ffff or Email Me. Website: Club Affiliations and Registries: AKC, American Bouvier des Flandres Club Illinois

Bouvier des Flandres Puppies and Dogs Text Ads

quiz ad # 7
(no photo) GGGG 3 males 5 females black and brindles, this is my second generation and everyone has been pleased with my puppies. They will be current on shots and worming. E-mail for pic I do ship. Phone: ggg-ggg-gggg or Email Me. Club Affiliations and Registries: APRI, AKC Missouri

Have you written your answers ? Don't cheat !

Go back and write your answers before you continue on to see my answers. This is supposed to be a learning experience for you. Remember that damn near every puppy ever born is a cute puppy, irresistably cute, but you want and need a puppy that has the potential to grow up and become a civilized companion dog to share your home and your life. You have to do a lot of work to make that happen , but you have to start out with a decently bred pup whose breeder started the process of socialization and education for you.
I'm inserting a picture of a newborn Bouvier just to fill enough space so you cannot see the answers without scrolling down. Yeah, that's right : to keep you from cheating .
puppy logo showing newborn puppy


OK, here are the answers :

quiz ad # 1 :
I'd rate this at best a "don't know, need more information" and more likely a "probably bad". The ad has essentially zero information. All you really have is a photo designed to trigger an emotional response. State is Indiana, which is in the midwest puppy mill belt.

quiz ad # 2 :
I'd rate this a "probably good" or even "very likely to be good". "Kitchen-raised pups, well socialized" should have caught your attention as being exactly what I have told you should be your very first priority. "written guarantee, vet checked, up-to-date on shots and wormings. Health tested parents on site" tells you that your second priority , health, is likely to be fulfilled, and it also tells you you will meet both parents. (See my comments earlier in this article about breeders using their own male as the sire.)

quiz ad # 3 :
I'd rate this as possibly good, but possibly bad : "don't know enough, need to aask a lot of questions". "Really well with children" sounds good. "a really good guarding dog" bothers me as it appeals to the wrong reasons for getting a dog and is likely to appeal to people who want an unfriendly dog, possibly a chained-in-the-yard guard dog, which is a bad accident waiting to happen. The photo showing pups outdoors with barn in background suggests that the pups may be being raised outdoors in pen or barn ; but it could merely be that the light for photos is better outdoors. "Champion/European bloodlines" means exactly nothing, as it could be said of almost every Bouvier living. "Health guaranteed and parents are on site" is somewhat more promising. Again, remember that using one's own male as sire can be good or bad.

quiz ad # 4 :
I'd rate this as "probably good" or at least "hopeful". "We strive to breed healthy genes and good temperaments" is a good statement of goals. "We look forward to talking with you" is also promising.

quiz ad # 5 :
I'd rate this as a mixture of some possibly good aspects and some red flag warnings of possible puppy mill. "current on all shots, wormings and heartworm treatment" : while you should be able to take the shots and wormings for granted , you always want to be certain that parents and puppies are on heartworm prevention, especially in the South where an unprotected dog is certain to become infested. Heartworm infested bitches will have enough trouble pumping enough blood to remain alive, and certainly will be impaired in ability to deliver blood to placenta and puppies. "Fat healthy pups out of working, ranch/farm dogs" : I'd like to hear a lot of details about what work the parent dogs are doing. "Great guard and herding dogs" : herding behavior could be an asset for you or a problem ; guarding behavior can be a euphemism for very unsocial aggressive dogs or it can be a legitimate description of the breed's potential to protect property and person appropriately. I tend to worry about any emphasis on guarding in ads because it can attract the wrong kind of buyer, ie one looking for an inappropriately aggressive or nasty dog. Ask the breeder what is meant by "guarding". "Socialized with children and other animals" : the gramatical aspects of this otherwise very desirable claim could reflect poorly on the writer's gramar skills or could be an attempt at humor. It would be good to ask what other animals, especially if you might be wanting a pup who is likely to be peaceful with cats. " Check out my website special price offer @ . We do ship!" sounds like a red flag warning that this is a puppy mill. And they are located in one of the primary puppy mill states. Reputable breeders do not have "special price offers" and they would rather you came to pick up your puppy and spare it the risks and traumas of shipping. I don't say that willingness to ship is always wrong however, as really responsible breeders will be very fussy about shipping safety and will discuss this issue with you at some length.

quiz ad # 6 :
I'd rate this as almost certainly an excellent source. It's a prototype of what you would want to hear, thus either a really good breeder or a really good liar. "Responsibly bred for temperament, health, conformation. Our Bouviers excel as loving, devoted companions or in the show ring" describes the priorites you want, though the show ring may or may not be relevant to you. "Puppies available to approved homes" : be prepared to answer more questions than you'd have to answer to adopt a child, because this breeder is really concerned about getting good homes for her puppies. "Our Bouviers excel in obedience, conformation, herding & agility" indicates highly trainable dogs and probably fairly athletic and sound-structured ones. Quite possibly the breeder can advise you on how to get started in herding or agility. "Home raised with TLC. Child socialized, microchipped, shots, wormed, crate training started." This is exactly what you should be looking for, home raised and child socialized, with some crate training as a nice bonus that will make the first weeks in your home much easier. Ask the breeder to explain why a crate can be a blessing to you and the pup. "We do extensive health testing, including, OFA Hip, Elbow, Cardiac, Thyroid, Patella; CERF & Gonio" is again exactly what you would hope for. "Gonio" means that certain structures in the eye that are believed relevant to risks of glaucoma have been examined ; CERF is clearance for some other eye diseases.
(Now I have to confess that I do know who this breeder is : she is an extremely conscientious breeder and a Bouv Rescue person, and she is an excellent and articulate educator of anyone seeking information on the breed.)

quiz ad # 6 :
I'd rate this as likely to be bad, quite likely a puppy mill. Notice that there is very little real information. "this is my second generation and everyone has been pleased with my puppies" : ask for names and phone numbers of her previous puppy buyers , especially any in your area, so you can check out the truth of this claim and try to meet any puppies living in your area. Other than this and mention of shots and worming (which you should be able to take for granted as being standard care) and lack of mention of heartworm prevention, although this is Deep South and thus very high heartworm risk territory, there is no real information given. APRI is American Pet Registry Inc, which is purely a printing press. Use of this registry is a red flag that this is a puppy mill, and of course it is in one of the prime puppy mill states. You might inquire if all the puppies are registered in both AKC and APRI or if some are just APRI. Don't be surprised if you are asked to pay extra for AKC papers, which is in complete violation of AKC rules and is also an absolute stigmata of a really bad puppy mill.
(Well, again I actually know who this one is. She is a large-scale puppy mill who sells almost all her puppies by internet, by newspaper ads in distant cities, and by pet stores in distant cities. She also sells in auctions that are geared to the puppy mill trade. Her reputation is the very worst.)


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 5/04/06 revised 5/24/06
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