Thursday, April 11, 2013


In four days, on Sunday, April 14, my wife Molly and I will be picking up the newest addition to our pack, an eight week old male boxer puppy. He is nearly all white, except for one brown ear and an adorable arched eyebrow over his left eye, giving him a constant "Fascinating..." expression. This has prompted some people to want to name him "Spock," but I have known forever that if I ever got an all-white dog, I was naming him after Superman's dog, and so I would like to welcome everyone to meet...

Krypto the Super Dog!

For the next several weeks I will be blogging the process of selecting, preparing for and raising a puppy. I will show you my mistakes as well as our successes. I actually have several clients right now who have gotten (or are about to get) puppies at this same time, too, so hopefully this will let them see that, despite the mistakes and problems that everyone faces, it can be done. Solidarity!


A brief bit of background. Late 2011 and 2012 saw the death of our two boxers, BeBop and Trooper Thorn, about 9 months from each other. It was a tough year. Luckily, we had a third dog, Derby the World's Happiest Dog, which helped us through the sad times.

Happiest Dog Ever

Derby is now a young adult at 2 1/2 years old and (almost) perfectly behaved, so it seemed time to bring a boxer back into the mix. After some consideration and soul-searching, for the first time ever we decided to go to a breeder rather than rescue. We're huge supporters of rescue groups, but we knew that A) we wanted a puppy, B) we wanted a purebred boxer and C) we wanted to minimize the health risks that come with boxers as much as possible. (Derby was a rescue - but she came with hip dysplasia in both hips, and elbow dysplasia in both elbows, as well as a kneecap that was loose.  It's a clear case of shoddy manufacturing, I say!)

And that meant find a high-quality reputable breeder.

(A note on puppies. A puppy isn't right for everyone, or even most people. Puppies take a lot of work, more than most people realize. What is a much more practical and rewarding option for most people is to go to a rescue group and adopt an adult - 2 1/2 years or older - dog that is already trained and has the temperment you want. Far too many excellent dogs are given up through no fault of their own. And I tell you honestly, a rescued dog knows you rescued it - you'll never have a more loyal friend.)

Finding a reputable breeder is not easy. I have pretty much zero experience with finding or dealing with breeders. Molly and I soon found out that there is no easy way online to distinguish between a reputable breeder and a "backyard breeder".

What's the difference? A reputable breeder's primary motivation is to improve the breed. They have a champion dog (or a few), and they carefully search for other owners with compatible other champions, looking to create litters that have the best qualities of both parents. They keep careful notes of the health of all ancestors, and are very selective about who can buy the puppies. Typically, they have only litter of puppies available at a time as each litter takes a fair amount of research to get started and work to keep in optimum health and development.

A backyard breeder, on the other hand, is breeding dogs in order to make money selling the puppies. Consequently, they will often own quite a few dogs and will have more than one litter going at a time. They have no real incentive to keep track of all the ancestors, and less incentive to ensure the welfare of the puppies in their new homes. A backyard breeder may care a great deal about their dogs and produce fine animals, but many do not, and it's a crap shoot for the buyer.

If minimizing the risk of hip dysplasia, cancer and heart problems is a high priority for you, as it was for us after losing our two dogs, a high quality reputable breeder is a must. There are no guarantees, but it was worth it to us to play the odds.

As I said, though, it is very difficult to tell one from the other just from looking at a website, and there's no reliable way to search for one, since every backyard breeder will present themselves as totally reputable. Our first attempt found us a woman that seemed excellent online, had several glowing reviews and was very pleasant on the phone. But once we arrived, we could tell that she wasn't for us. She owned both the mother and father - which meant that she wasn't searching around for the ideal genetic match for either. The puppies were being whelped in a barn in less than ideal conditions. And both mother and father seemed to have timidity problems. All in all, a disappointing but educational experience.

Luckily, I was able to turn to my friend and mentor Janine Pierce of J9's K9s Dog Training, who was able to do some reseach and gave me a list of several recommended boxer breeders. And lucky day, the last one on the list had a litter of puppies on the way! Tomorrow, "Selecting the Puppy"


  1. Just also wanted to add for our reasons with going with a puppy/ breeder. With Hudson being a dog trainer, he wants to help raise a dog that with ultimately be a partner to him in his work. This take a tremendous amount of time and energy. We want to make sure that this dog would be with us for as long as possible to get the best "return" on our investment, not financially, emotionally and time wise. While there are MILIONS of wonderful puppies out there than need rescuing, we wanted a boxer and too many need pups that are described as "boxer" are actually mixes, or something all together. Heck , DERBY was described as "boxer mix" when we first got her and you can see ow she turned out ;-).

    1. As someone who adopted a dog after Hudson saw him at Pet Orphans of Van Nuys and told me he found my next dog, I can certainly verify that getting a two year old rescue dog is also a good way to go. I wanted a large nutty goober, and that's what I got ;-) Of course he immediately needed corrective eye surgery, but who needs a retirement account?