Backyard Breeders vs Ethical, Responsible Breeders

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

During this lockdown period we have been flooded with requests for puppies. It has also come to our attention that backyard breeders and scammers have seen this "gap in the market" and jumped at the opportunity to make a quick buck or two. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster - so in an effort to educate, here follows a few guidelines:

1. Is your breeder and his/her dogs registered?

All ethical breeders will register their dogs with KUSA. Do not just take the breeder's word for it, phone KUSA (+27 21 423 9027) and find out for yourself. Also, the breeder should be able to provide you with a pedigree of the dam and sire of your puppy : If there is any missing information or "unknown" in the lineage, stay away.

2. Is the dam and sire of your potential puppy health tested?

Both dam and sire should be health tested. The current health tests for Australian Shepherds available in South Africa are CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly), MDR (Multiple Drug Resistance), CMR (Canine Multifocal Retinopathy), DM (Degenerative Myelopathy), HC (Heritable Cataracts), PRA-PRCD (Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Progressive Rod Cone Dystrophy). Some backyard breeders loosely use the term "DNA tested". Please note that it is a requirement that dogs be DNA profiled - this unfortunately has nothing to do with the health tests and is merely a "bar-code" of the dog. Both dam and sire should also have their hips and elbows graded for dysplasia

3. Is your puppy sold with breeding restrictions and a puppy contract?

Getting a puppy should not be as easy as getting a new pair of shoes and most responsible breeders will put you through a screening process before considering you as a potential owner. If your puppy is not being sold to you with breeding restrictions and a puppy contract, the breeder is basically telling you that he/she doesn't truly care what happens to the pup in the future. Responsible breeders will avail themselves for giving advice when needed and will always take a dog back if you cannot care for him/her anymore

4. Where did you hear about your breeder/puppy?

Responsible breeders NEVER advertise on Gumtree/ Junkmail or at a Pet Shop etc. They usually have waiting lists for a puppy.

5. How are pups being raised?

Puppies (and all dogs for that matter) should be raised as part of the family, inside the house and should be well accustomed to "everyday life". In saying that, puppies do go through fear stages, but they usually bounce back quickly if a solid foundation has been laid. An excellent resource on raising puppies for both breeder and owner is Puppy Culture ( The mother of your potential pup should also be kept in excellent condition and be fed a high quality diet, be up to date with inoculations and free of parasites.

6. What is the temperament like of the parents of your potential puppy?

Make an effort to drive/fly to your potential breeder and meet his/ her dogs - specifically look at their temperaments. If you cannot get to your breeder, ask for videos of their dogs. The temperament of dogs are tested to a degree at shows: The dog is expected to stand still while a complete stranger approaches him/her , checking their mouths and going over their bodies - neither an aggressive or overly shy dog will tolerate this.

I hope the above roughly outlines why it is important to buy a puppy from a responsible breeder rather than a backyard breeder. Yes, it might be more costly at first , but nothing compared to the potential costs of health or temperament problems that may arise in the future of a backyard bred pup. Also note that "pure bred" does not always mean well bred - the responsible breeder acts as custodian of their chosen breed and should aim to breed for one purpose only: to better the breed. They should also be passionate about their breed: always willing to learn , but just as willing to teach. The ethical breeder gives more to the breed than taking from it (meaning he/she invests time, money and energy into bettering the breed whether it be at showing/agility etc or importing dogs to better his/her lines and does not only have litter after litter, living off their dogs)