This is one of the largest decisions a handler faces when selecting an IPO dog: where to find one. Domestic breeder? European breeder? Import from overseas? It may leave you wondering: "Can't I just type what I'm looking for into Google and find what I need?"
Before even discussing breeders, brokers and middlemen, or rescues, the handler must first decide if they are going to search domestically for a dog, or go overseas for an import. Each has benefits and drawbacks, and depending on your chosen breed, one option may stand out to you more than the other.
Wendy Schmitt's BHOT, USA-bred Doberman "Eiko" with helper Sean Murphy. Eiko represented the United States at the IDC World Championship in Italy in 2013. Photo courstey of Wendy Schmitt.
Depending on your chosen breed, you may find dogs of excellent quality being produced domestically. For example, in the United States, 5 of the top 10 dogs at the 2016 USCA GSD IPO3 National Championship were bred in the USA, and the top two dogs were both USA-bred. Additionally, USA-bred dogs have consistently represented the United States at the WUSV World Championship, the FCI World Championships, the FMBB World Championships, and more.
One of the largest benefits of buying a dog domestically is the amount of first-hand knowledge you can glean prior to purchasing the dog or puppy. Purchasing domestically provides you with opportunity to:
See the dog in person
Visit the breeder
See the dam and possibly the sire
Observe siblings, half-siblings, and other relatives working in other clubs
Talk with handlers, helpers, and trainers who have seen these dogs and worked with them
Obtain first-hand knowledge of what the genetics and health behind the dog are like
Additionally, the costs should be more affordable for both purchasing and shipping the dog. Travel arrangements are easier to make, with less restrictions. You also have more freedom over the method of travel, since you can opt to drive home with your new dog instead of fly. You also have more support if your breeder is in the same locale or even same country as you, and you usually have the option of returning the dog to the breeder if things aren't working out. You, in turn, are providing support for domestic breeders of good quality dogs. Working dog breeders are thrilled to have their puppies in working homes, which are few and far between in the United States.
Drawbacks of purchasing a dog domestically vary based on breed. If you have a less-common breed, then you may not have many breeders from which to choose. You may not find what you like or the bloodlines you want. For example, if you want a Rottweiler that comes from parents that both have their Korungs, then you may have to go overseas in order to fulfill that requirement. Other drawbacks include:
Encountering “breeder prejudice” at clubs
Greater potential for a volatile or soured relationship with the breeder, should something not work out with the dog
Potential over-involvement of the breeder, particularly if they are also in your IPO club
Buying a dog domestically for Schutzhund is now easier than it ever was before, particularly for breeds like the German Shepherd Dog. But the buyer must still educate themselves on what to look for in a breeder or seller.
Family of German Shepherds, one imported, and the rest USA-bred. Photo: Louise Jollyman.
BUYING AN IMPORT
Imported dogs—whether they be adults or puppies—can provide access to highly desirable bloodlines that are not readily available here in the U.S. Additionally, it may be easier to find an adult overseas for your breed than to find an available adult domestically. Other potential benefits include:
Dogs used for breeding often subject to stricter standards in their countries of origin
Access to dogs from top-performing kennels and bloodlines in Europe
Opportunities to “see” how this dog, its sire, dam, and relatives are performing in Europe or elsewhere
Greater number of puppies in working homes in Europe compared to U.S., offering more opportunity to "see" what the breeder produces
However, there are some big drawbacks. With imported dogs, you are relying on videos, second-hand stories, trial results, and the general reputation of the dog, breeder, or broker/seller rather than firsthand knowledge. Unless you travel to see the dog in person, you must rely on this second-hand information when making your decision. Additional drawbacks include:
More expensive for both purchase price and shipping
More stringent travel requirements and greater difficulty with travel arrangements
Less opportunity to see the dog, sire, dam, siblings in person
Less opportunity for support
Must have a trusted contact or seller who understands what you want
Greater potential for being "scammed" or sent a sub-par dog
Contrary to what some people believe, just because a dog is imported does not magically make the dog of better quality and superior to any dogs found domestically. There have been many sub-par dogs unloaded on unsuspecting buyers from breeders and brokers overseas. Additionally, these deals are usually final. If you don’t like the dog, you may be stuck with it, and it’s up to you to re-home or re-sell it. Thus, having a knowledgeable and reliable connection is essential to importing a dog. If you pick wisely, this person will be instrumental in locating the right dog for you, but if you pick poorly, you will be conned into paying huge amounts of money for a less-than-stellar dog.
Like so many other decisions, this one depends on you, your preferences, your goals, and your lifestyle. There are some very good dogs that have been imported, and some very good dogs that have been produced domestically. Do the research, and do not just listen to the opinions and myths floating around out there about "the best place" to get a Schutzhund dog.
Join me again next blog, which will cover one of my favorite topics: how to find a good breeder.
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