Thursday, August 20, 2009


Are you of the belief that the price of a show dog is what the market will bear? Is there a limit to what you will pay to get a “star?” Are you willing to take out a second mortgage on your house? Just how important is it to you to have this kind of dog? Is it for the prestige of ownership? Just how far will you go to get this kind of dog?

The words “Show Dog” means different things to different people. Does a breeder have a responsibility to the buyer if his “show dog” doesn’t turn out to be such? Just what does it mean to be a show dog?

A breeder can attach any name to what kind of quality his puppies and dogs are. You might hear him say that this is the pick of my litter, this one has show potential, this one is show quality, and this one over here can finish. Can he back that up with a guarantee that his dog is what he says it is? No one can guarantee that the show dog that you buy will turn out to be the star that you were looking for. A top breeder of champions who has years of experience and expertise in her lines is a better indicator of the quality of his pups than a non-experienced breeder. But still because genetics are what they are, no one can guarantee you that that potential star will be so……not at a very young age anyway.

Let’s look at the terminology that some breeders might use to explain their dogs quality. Pick of the litter: this just means that one puppy stands out from all the rest. Does it make him a show dog? Not necessarily. It just means he has the best quality of the litter. The next one might be the show potential puppy. This means that the puppy at this stage doesn’t show any undesirable faults. The show quality puppy is the one the breeder doesn’t see any faults and has good structure, movement and temperament according to the German Shepherd Dog standard. He can be shown…..doesn’t mean he can be finished. Then let’s take a look at the puppy that can finish. In my opinion, no puppy should be rated like this at such an early stage. The older puppy or younger adult might be better suited with this label. The only dog who a breeder should say can finish is one who has completed his growth stages and has no disqualifying faults and one who goes beyond the ordinary. He should be something special.

If you really are looking to buy a show dog, then the smartest thing you can do is to buy an older puppy or a young adult. Hopefully at this age, they have gone through all their “stages” of growth. All their teeth are in by now and you can see their bite. A good breeder will have had preliminary hip x-rays done on them. Their ears are standing. The breeder can now say with “almost” certainty whether or not this dog has the quality of what it takes to be a competitive show dog.

Who should you look to buy your show dog from? REPUTATION is the number one thing you should consider before closing the deal with a breeder. Don’t just look to see their winning records. Investigate their reputation. Ask other show dog people what kind of breeder this person is? Do they stand behind their dogs? Are they good people to deal with?

If you don’t know too much about what makes a good show dog then you will be depending on the breeder’s knowledge. Educate yourself by going to shows, joining breed clubs and asking lots of questions. Don’t go to a breeder without some kind of education about this breed and what constitutes a good show dog. Also realize that a breeder might not sell you his best dog because of your lack of experience.

Should you only buy a “show dog” from a top breeder? No, not necessarily. The smaller but knowledgeable breeder can produce just as good quality as the “bigger guys.” Don’t overlook them! What you are looking for is quality and that can be found if you take the time to do it.

And what about those prices on these show dogs? How much are you willing to pay for your future star? A breeder can attach any price to any dog in whatever amount he thinks the dog is worth. You on the other hand should have a ceiling price in mind……one that is the top price you are willing to pay. Now many breeders if they are selling you a top show bitch may only sell her on a co-ownership. That means she will still remain in the breeders name and yours and she may want a puppy back, or puppies and sometimes alternate litters from her. Know what you’re getting yourself into BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. Now’s the time to ask questions. Now is the time to read the small print. Make sure you know exactly what the breeder has laid out in the contract and make sure this is what you agree upon. NEVER BUY A DOG SHOW QUALITY OR NOT WITHOUT A CONTRACT – NO MATTER WHO THE BREEDER IS!!! YOU BUY A DOG WITH A CONTRACT – PERIOD!

So how much is this dog going to cost? Besides the initial layout of the purchase price, you are also looking at the handling expenses of showing the dog. The majority of breeders will want the animal professionally shown (see yesterday’s blog on this subject). A top show dog should have the best of care – food, grooming, and conditioning. You’ve just purchased the cream of the crop, so nothing but the best will do. Depending on the breeder a show puppy and in some cases a young adult can range in price from: $2,000 right on up the scale. I’ve heard of adults being sold for $35,000 and more. But mostly this is for a stud dog. I’ve never heard of a bitch being sold for this kind of money. Also imported dogs can run you thousands more.

So there you have it. Is it worth it to spend this kind of money on a show dog? That answer depends upon you. You don’t have to spend a fortune to own a good show dog. But realize the show dog will and should be more expensive than the pet puppy. You are not only buying the dog, but you’re buying the pedigree of generations of great dogs behind him. You are buying the expertise of the breeder. Hopefully the breeder will be your mentor and guide you to a successful career with your new show dog.

My rating on breeders of top show quality dogs: knowledge: (4), success rate: (4), being good mentors: (3), fair pricing and value: (3)


  1. I am in total agreement with your comment that NO one can guarantee a dogs outcome at 8 weeks old. I have heard of breeders selling "show" quality pups at that age! I believe that it is the breeders resonsibility to educate the buyer and the BUYERS responsibility to educate themselves as to what they are walking into. A contract is a MUST. The purchase of a companion animal OR show animal should never be an is hopefully 14 years of a life...and when he/she is done in the show ring and everyone is through "chanting their name"...they are ultimately your friend, protector companion.

  2. Some very well known breeders have written to me privately about this subject. Some can't believe that some people who have never produced a champion will advertise their puppies as top show quality? How are they doing that?

    Then others talk about how some breeders will sell you a bitch and expect almost whole litters back from her for life! You get to keep one puppy from each of her litters after you spent thousands for purchasing her and then showing her. Are you willing to do that?