Reputable vs Ethical Breeder –

Which One Should You Choose?


A Publication of

By: Barbara Spilchuk, Ph.D.

With Assistance from: Karen Brooks



On Being a Reputable Breeder


As with so many words in the English language, Reputable has acquired a secondary meaning. If you look up ‘Reputable’ in the dictionary, its definition is all positive, it is an adjective, pronounced rep·u·ta·ble \ˈre-pyə-tə-bəl\ The definition of reputable for English Language Learners is: respected and trusted by most people: having a good reputation.


But in everyday use it can represent the opposite. To be reputable can simply mean that you are well known, that you have had the most exposure, for good or bad. Having your reputation precede you is not always a good thing. Henry the VIII had a reputation for disposing of his wives, not for the good things he did. Jack the Ripper was not a person that people would want to meet; nobody really knew who he was, but his reputation was well known.


So when someone tells you that a Breeder is REPUTABLE, should you accept that as per the definition in a dictionary? Maybe not.



On Being an Ethical Breeder


What are Ethics?



Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. As a branch of philosophy, ethics investigates the questions: "What is the best way for people to live?" and "What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances? In practice, ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality, by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime." 


Ethics. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 @


Breeding Ethics go past implementing the good breeding practices you should be applying. Breeding Ethics also have to do with how you deal with the people you come in contact with as a breeder -  those who are buying your puppies and other breeders.


On Being an Ethical Breeder with Buyers


There is a whole area of breeding, aside from the actual act, that includes breeders dealing with buyers by choosing to act in a manner that is right and good, before, during and after money has transferred hands. Sometimes a breeder can be a 'good' theoretical breeder of dogs but a 'poor' ethical breeder with buyers. Both ethical components of breeding are necessary for a breeder to qualify as a “Good” breeder


In other words, as noted in the definition above, a breeder needs to be not only ethical in their practice of breeding dogs but also in their consideration of the best way to care for their people (their customers and their families). Whether the actions of the breeder demonstrate ‘right or wrong conduct’ in serving their customers’ needs, determines the ethics of the breeder. In other words, the ethical act of thinking, caring and acting in the best way for people to live automatically lends itself to an ethical breeding of dogs who are bred for healthy, long lives.


Jann Bach (2008) speaks to the Ethics of Breeding AND to the Ethics of Buying and clarifies how each of the two partners is responsible for the preservation of a breed within the Breeding World:


Why Be Ethical? Is it the Breeder or the Buyer's Responsibility?

An ethical buyer plays an integral part in weeding out unethical breeders. By insisting to only work with and purchase from ethical breeders, buyers help to eliminate puppy millers and other unscrupulous breeders. Ethical buyers support ethical breeders and they help all dogs to be happier and healthier by eliminating the market for poorly bred dogs.”


The reality is that no ethical breeders’ group can force a breeder to be ethical. No one can dictate to another how he or she must breed or keep their dogs. But if buyers refuse to buy from unethical breeders, they will go out of business and a great many dogs and peoples' lives will be better for it.


Bach, Jann L. (2008). Why Be Ethical? Is it the Breeder or the Buyer's Responsibility? Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


How do we know when a Breeder has not acted ethically towards a Buyer?  Often it is in the response to a Buyer when things go wrong and the Buyer begins to ask hard questions:


Breeder Ethics

" '...nope, not in my lines ... '; '... never heard of that before ... '; "'..It is a result of something that you did...'; '...It must be environmental, my lines are clean ... '; '... how dare you imply that this disease is in my breeding program ... '; ' ...your dog probably drank from a stream when you were not looking ...'. These are some of the excuses that you can and do hear from the proverbial 'reputable' breeders when they are confronted by an owner of a canine that they bred and sold and the dog begins to display some strange behavior (it has a problem)."


Dvorak, R. Breeder Ethics. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


This article goes on to explore how some Breeders justify, outside of ethical analysis, the problems exposed within their breeding programs:


"The breeder is confronted by the owner who describes the 'strange behavior' and, of course, the breeder points the finger at the owner - it is not my problem, it is yours. The dog owner is caught in a dilemma since there is no way that they can prove that the problem is in the breeder’s lines. They have the evidence, but they have no proof. More power to those owners that try and do prove that the problem does indeed exist in the breeder’s lines. However, when the breeder knows full well that there is a problem in their lines and chooses to ignore it; when the ego and the dollar are given more weight than the welfare of the breed, when all they care about are the 'numbers' at the end of the year, then the breeder has ignored the professionalism that is implied with their status of being a 'reputable' breeder. These breeders cannot and will not say anything regarding any anomaly in their breeding program. By claiming that they know about any problem in their lines, they admit to the problem. The breeder lives with an implied code of silence. They have a standard of behavior that most people would describe as being unethical. So now do we want to deal with a reputable breeder or an ethical one?" (Ibid)

On Being an Ethical Breeder with Other Breeders


Let's take this one step further. If you are a 'Good' theoretical Breeder of dogs, that is, your COI's stay below 15 and you produce healthy puppies, but your dealings with your breeder colleagues are 'bad', that is, you threaten, attack, bully, undermine, ridicule and bad-mouth them, this is not "the best way to live". As such, you are not an Ethical Breeder.


On Being an Ethical Breeder Within Your Practice


There are so many ways that a Breeder can breech Ethics within their practice. Below are several ways that other Breeders have identified as problematic behaviours by those Breeders who may be ‘Reputable’ but who certainly are not ‘Ethical’:


1. Open Registries

In Responsibilities of the Dog Breeder, the author indicates in bullet #9 that Breed Clubs have a responsibility to track genetic disease carriers within their breeds:


9. They should strongly support those breeders and owners with the honesty, courage and foresight to openly register dogs affected with genetic disease, because there is no hope for control without knowledge. They should clearly state that the ethical course is to openly discuss dogs with defects or those that produce defects when selling a show dog, breeding prospect or stud service. All the peer pressure at their command should be used to support open registration, if their goal as a breed club is to bring their dogs as close to perfection as possible, as stated in the club’s constitution.


Responsibilities of the Dog Breeder. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @

Most Breed Clubs do not do this.  There are, however, Breeders world-wide who are keeping their own databases in an attempt to track genetic diseases that run through the various pedigrees in Havanese kennels. This is a daunting task as you can imagine.


And while OFA does track disease for those dogs that have been tested, most dogs are not saved in the open data base. The person who is paying for the test must specify, in writing, whether he or she wants a positive test result posted open. Currently, the posts in the open databases in OFA are frighteningly empty. This is a serious problem for other breeders who want to know which lines carry which problems.


For example, MistyTrails Will’n2B Saranad’d is the ONLY Havanese in the open Orthopedic Foundation for Animals database for Havanese testing positive for Legge Cathes Perthes Disease, and she is only there because her owner signed the documentation that required the posting to be open:


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Legge Cathes Perthes Open database results for Havanese: Results for MistyTrails Will’n2B Saranad’d. Retrieved January 10/2017 @


As noted in this link, all close relatives of this Havanese dog have been posted within the results. Mandatory open data base postings in OFA would ensure that any dog tested and found positive for a genetic disease, AND all close relatives of the dog, would be fully disclosed to potential puppy buyers AND Breeders. The closed OFA genetic disease databases do not assist with full disclosure.


One of the purposes of Buyhavanese is to post the stories and their pedigrees sent in by owners of dogs who have been diagnosed with an accepted genetic disease of the Havanese as noted by The Havanese Club of America:  


The Havanese Club of America Inc. Havanese Health Issues. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @  

2. Testing and Full Disclosure


The following article, written by a Breeder for other breeders, outlines clearly that a lack of full disclosure on health testing results, and this includes purposeful omission of information, is a highly unethical practice that constitutes fraud:


Health Testing, Disclosure and You.

You know what’s really sketchy?  A breeder who hides the bad things. Guess what kids, people who care are going to do the research. If there is a lack of a test on one of your dogs but suspiciously everything else has it with sunshine and rainbows flying out its ass? That’s a bad sign. “Why wasn’t “x” done when everyone else was?” To people in the know, I’m sorry but the implication of that is you’re hiding something. Who hides things? Scummy, suspect people….


Anything short of full disclosure on health testing results is spitting on your breed standard, insulting fellow breeders and defrauding your buyers. Full Stop. No Excuses.


Health Testing, Disclosure and You. Retrieved on Januaty 10/2017 @ 


3. Genetic Diseases and Pedigrees


There are also those Breeders who purposefully hide genetic diseases that are being expressed by dogs in their kennels by removing dogs from their websites, purging dogs from their pedigree posts and destroying already posted pedigree charts on open databases like Havanese Gallery. These Breeders believe that protecting their ‘reputation’ is more important than protecting the Havanese Breed. These are clearly unethical Breeders as discussed in this publication.


In the following article, the author indicates that this problem is not area specific but is an international one:


Hiding Genetic Disease

False pedigrees, absent genetic testing, can invalidate the conclusions drawn from pedigree analysis. We recognize that there is some “noise” in the various registries and, in some cases, a significant level of noise. False information on pedigrees makes analysis difficult and in some cases impossible. The SCC (French Kennel Club) has done random paternity and maternity checks on about 200 pups from recent litters from various breeds. The parents of 17 percent of the pups as indicated by the pedigree were incorrect. We suspect that this French example is not only a French example, but a worldwide example.


Hiding Genetic Disease. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 @


The author goes on to explain why some Breeders hide genetic diseases that are being expressed within their kennels from the public:


This following quote from C.A. Sharp, author of “The Biggest Problem,” in the Summer 2000 edition of Double Helix Network News, says it all succinctly:

“You all know them. The ones that put winning above all other goals. ‘It doesn’t matter as long as the dog wins,’ is their mantra. Their dogs must win, as must their dogs’ offspring, and woe betide anyone who stands in their way as they pursue greater breed and personal glory . . . If a genetic problem isn’t apparent they will ignore it. If it can be (surgically) fixed they will. If it can’t, they will employ some variant on ‘shoot, shovel and shut-up,’ or recoup their losses by shipping the dog a long ways away, preferably across an ocean or two. If someone else knows about the problem, the Incorrigibles will use any means at their disposal to shut that person up, ranging from veiled threats and rumor-mongering to blatant bully tactics and threatened legal action.” 


Ethical Breeders are not concerned with numbers and ribbons and prestige. They are more concerned with searching for answers, accepting that things can go wrong and moving in a different direction to ensure that their next generation of puppies are healthier so that owners are not negatively, emotionally affected AND the diversity and health of the Havanese Breed is protected for future generations.

Unethical Breeders have posted incorrect information regarding the parentage of the puppies born in their kennels on Havanese Gallery. This may be done to confuse the COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) results for anyone searching for this information, or to hide the true pedigree of a puppy who comes from a line where a genetic disease has been expressed.


The true parentage of the puppies from these Breeders, when registered with the CKC, should also be suspect because if a breeder will lie on one database, why not on another? This means that the CKC Studbooks may also have incorrect information in them - i.e.: who the true registered dam and sire of a puppy is and how that impacts the puppy's pedigree chart.


You can ensure that your puppy comes from the parents that the Breeder says he or she comes from by doing a Dog Parentage DNA Test. This test protects you and your puppy because you can be assured of who the dam and sire are and the pedigree lines within your puppy's lineage.


Canadians are far behind the Dutch in this regard. A DNA test protects you, your puppy and also the ethical Breeders in Canada by ensuring that those who are not ethical are unmasked by cautious puppy buyers!

In Holland, puppies must be DNA tested to ascertain their parentage before being registered. This is not the case in Canada but it is an excellent practice. Below is a link to one organization that does Dog Parentage Testing:


Dog Parentage Test. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


4. Accepting That You Have a Problem in Your Breeding Lines


Limiting inherited conditions

The occurrence of hereditary disorders can certainly be reduced by means of good breeding strategies. In order for this to take place, we must learn how the disorder is actually inherited (the manner of inheritance), learn how to recognize the disease as early as possible, and how to identify carriers of the condition that, other than when it comes to autosomal dominant traits, aren’t clinically affected.


With regard to a lot of the disorders which are thought to be inherited, the precise pattern of inheritance hasn’t been identified. Dog breeds with a greater likelihood of having a disorder, compared to other breeds of dog, are generally said to have a breed predisposition. Ideally, afflicted dogs and also their near relatives must not be utilized in breeding programs.


Genetic Disorders. Retrieved in January 10/2017 @


When a disease appears on multiple occasions in a kennel, this should be a heads up to a Breeder that there is a strong genetic base to the disease.  Even if the exact method of transference has not yet been found, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that four or more puppies expressing the same disease in a kennel with common dogs in their pedigrees may mean something other than serendipity.


Hiding Genetic Disease

The authors recently became aware of a situation with respect to hip dysplasia, a crippling disease that cannot be diagnosed without radiography. It seems a breeder with dogs having an incidence of hip dysplasia much greater than the breed average is saying that the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is incorrectly diagnosing hip dysplasia. In addition, the breeder states that the dogs are passing PennHIP®, another rating system. PennHIP, however, does not grade using “pass” or “fail.”


Hiding Genetic Disease. Retrieved on January 10/ 2017 @


There are, however, Breeders who prefer to turn a blind eye to ongoing genetic problems within their kennel. This is called ‘kennel blindness’ by some and criminal behaviour by others. (Please see The Bottom Line for Reputable but Unethical Breeders below.)


When a Breeder insists, contrary to OFA and/or The Havanese Club of America’s list of genetic diseases that a disease like Legge Cathes Perthes, for example, is caused by puppies falling or bumping into tables, there is no hope that a Breeder like that will breed more carefully when using the near relatives of expressed puppies in their breeding program.


All that can be done is an ongoing tracking of the disease in the kennel until such time as enough data has been gathered to present a case to the CKC and/or the Courts so that a Breeder like this can be sanctioned legally.


Those of us who are truly dedicated to the health of our canine companions will not make any headway until we first recognize and confront the human behavior expressed when faced with canine genetic disease. We conclude that the genetic problems in purebred dogs are not intrinsically a canine problem, but rather a human problem supported by politics, old wives’ tales, ignorance and even outright rejection of scientific opinion. (Ibid)


5. Providing Fair Contracts that Also Protect the Puppy and the Buyer


Not every Breeder is a great or even good Breeder and those who are neither leave you in a position of Buyer Beware. This website provides some important contract red flags, providing information to help you decide whether a breeder is responsible or not simply by looking at the proposed contract. Take a good look. If the breeder you think has the puppy you want but the contract leaves you without solid guarantees, you need to walk away. This is a very hard thing to do so ask for the contract in writing BEFORE you go to see any puppies and understand what is written there. 


Reading Your Puppy Guarantee. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 @   


6. Litters Bred from A Kennel


Does the Breeder you are looking at have multiple litters of puppies on hand? Just because a Breeder has multiple bitches either on site or squirreled away as co-owned in another home, does not mean that all of these bitches should be bred. How does indiscriminate breeding help to improve and enhance the Havanese Breed?


Below are two red flags regarding the number of litters being bred by a Breeder AND what the Breeder does for a living that you should seriously consider when choosing where you should buy your puppy.


Evaluating a Pet Dog breeder.

  • Good breeders think ahead and make reservations in advance for the puppies they will produce. You may have to wait for a puppy, but that's not a bad thing. Beware of someone who first creates puppies and then worries about how to disperse them.

  • What does the breeder do for a living? Dog breeding should be an avocation. Avoid anyone who makes their living through breeding dogs! The corners they cut financially may be at your expense.


Connick, K. (2001) Evaluating a Pet Dog Dreeder. Retrieved on January 10,/2017 @


Finding that Breeder who is ‘Reputable’ and ‘Ethical’ is not an easy task. It is not as simple as the Top Winner, which is quite often about the amount of money being spent on the show career of the dog. Or the Top Producing Kennel, who may be breeding because they can, not because the chosen dogs are going to improve the bloodline. These kennels breed to improve the 'bottom line'. A kennel that breeds every female they have and produces a continuous supply of puppies is not breeding for the betterment of the Breed; it is breeding for the betterment of their bank account.


Do not be afraid of the small breeding kennels, the ones that show on a limited basis, under well respected Judges, the ones who only breed dogs who have been cleared of all known genetic disorders, the ones who only breed on a limited basis because they want a puppy from the litter.


Most importantly, support the kennels that truly care about each and every puppy they produce, from planning to death. They may not have the huge reputation, but they are 'REPUTABLE' in the truest sense of the word.

The Bottom Line for Reputable but Unethical Breeders


While there is always an element of Buyer Beware in the purchase of anything, including animals, the following website indicates that Breeders who misrepresent either the pedigrees or the health of their breeding stock may face criminal charges in the US.  Regardless of where you live, however, fraud is fraud.

Wisch, R. (updated 2010). Brief Summary of Pet Sales. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @

One has to wonder if this includes the messing with pedigrees in an open data base so that lines are misrepresented. Another wonder is how the courts would understand the lack of disclosure about why a key stud has been pulled from a breeding program, leaving hundreds of puppy owners in the dark about a potential hereditary problem. Finally, what if a tracking within a kennel demonstrates an ongoing genetic issue occurring over time?


The key issue this whole situation presents for any puppy buyer is that when a Matter is brought before the Courts, legal precedence is sought and where there are no laws protecting consumers in a specific country, lawyers will search out precedents in a country where there are laws to help make a definitive decision. Something to think about…


How Ethical Buyers Can Help


Ethical Buyers need to step up to the plate.


Those who are buying a new puppy need to do their due diligence and they need to walk away from Breeders who do not live up to the standard of an Ethical Breeder. By not choosing the ‘Reputable’ Breeder, but instead, choosing the ‘Ethical’ Breeder’, you are voting with your feet…and your pocketbook.


Why it Matters That You BE an Ethical Buyer.

Ethical Buyers support Ethical Breeders and they help all dogs to be happier and healthier by eliminating the market for poorly bred dogs. So long as there is a market for cheaply bred, inexpensive, mass produced dogs, there will be unethical people willing to breed and buy them. While ethical breeders do not contribute to this market, they cannot stop it. Only ethical buyers can. The reality is that no ethical breeders’ group can force a breeder to be ethical. No one can dictate to another how he or she must breed or keep their dogs. But if buyers refuse to buy from unethical breeders, they will go out of business and a great many dogs and peoples' lives will be better for it.

Bach, Jann L. (2008). Why Be Ethical? Is it the Breeder or the Buyer's Responsibility? Retrieved on January 10/2017 @

Those puppy owners who have purchased a dog that expresses a disease and who have already tried to work things out with their Breeder to no positive result, need to come forward and share their stories and their dog's pedigree so that tracking can be done.  This will help the new puppy buyers out there looking for a healthy dog from an Ethical Breeder. Please contact Buyhavanese to share your story.




Bach, Jann L. (2008). Why Be Ethical? Is it the Breeder or the Buyer's Responsibility? Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


Connick, K. (2001) Evaluating a Pet Dog Breeder. Retrieved on January 10,/2017 @



Dog Parentage Test. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


Dvorak, R. Breeder Ethics. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


Ethics. Retrieved on January 10, 2016 @


(The) Havanese Club of America Inc. Havanese Health Issues. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @ 

Health Testing, Disclosure and You. Retrieved on Januaty 10/2017 @


Hiding Genetic Disease. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 @

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. OFA Legge Cathes Perthes Open database results for Havanese: Results for MistyTrails Will’n2B Saranad’d. Retrieved January 10/2017 @


Reading Your Puppy Guarantee. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 @  


Responsibilities of the Dog Breeder. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @


Wisch, R. (updated 2010). Brief Summary of Pet Sales. Retrieved on January 10/2017 @

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