My BYB story:
When we bought our house in Fall 2008, we were going to be married the following summer, and then get our dog. My dad died in a motorcycle accident that Halloween. The wedding fell apart (the wedding itself, not the relationship) due to paperwork issues. We came home from Cape Hatteras, where we still had to pay for the reception, and I started looking for the Doberman. I wanted a puppy NOW, no excuses, after everything else that had been going on.
I emailed several breeders. I asked about what health testing was done (which I knew enough to ask. I just didn't know what answers to look for. I asked about temperament. I asked about crops.
The first breeder said "all of her dogs have the same temperament." Yeah, no. That breeder said that they test for thyroid, Vwd, and "std", but most other things don't run in Euro lines. Cropping is up to the owners, but she can
get them done.
The second breeder didn't have puppies but had an 11 month old black/rust female.
The third breeder had no puppies available, but said we were welcome to come visit and see "the girls". They did OFA, thyroid, Vwd. Refund on spay. Ears taken care of. Females bred to champions. Looking back, this probably would have been the better choice, even though we would have had to wait, and the dogs themselves are not titled.
And number four, the one we went with, Bear Creek, had available puppies. Talked about how the puppies would be Vwd carriers because of the dam. Talked about how the puppies' hips would be guaranteed with feeding of "approved quality" foods (and retain receipts for all food purchases). Ears taken care of. Microchipped.
I know i was not as informed a buyer as I could have been. I wanted a puppy, and now. We still had to wait for Elka to be old enough, but we went and saw the litter. There was also a border collie litter on the ground at the time, though I didn't see any border collies while we were there. The kennels adjacent to the house had Dobermans in them, and a single female Great Dane. We met Elka's dam, who gave the puppies a cursory glance and then leaned against me to be pet, entirely calm. We met Elka's sire, who "smiled" on command, and waved. There was a Schutzhund A-frame in the parking area. We got to pick Elka out of three available females. The first one I picked up tensed as soon as contact was made, so no. The third was yapping and whining her fool little head off, whether being touched or not, so no. Elka was engaged and responsive, and so the breeder microchipped her right there for us and the fiance put down the deposit. We talked about crops. She talked about how great her vet was for cropping. We went home.
After Elka was cropped, we brought her home, on a full registration (we always had plans to spay her). We had pain meds for her, and and an antibiotic? (I don't remember what it was. Everything was labeled and we had instructions at the time). A week after we brought her home, I emailed the breeder with posting questions, which she answered. When the stitches were removed we noticed that Elka's ears were unevenly cropped, and so I emailed about that. The breeder did say that the vet would fix her ears free of charge. I said that wouldn't be necessary (I wasn't putting her through that again), and we haven't heard from her since.
Looking at her web site now, she has four breeds: German Shepherds, Border Collies, Dobermans, and Great Danes. None of the dogs are titled. Many of the studs are imported. Puppies are now sold on limited registrations, or more money for full. The cardio gene test has been done, or so it says on the web site, though none of those dogs' names have come up on the list of dogs tested when I searched
Pictures of the sire on the site make me sad. The fact that the dam is still being bred makes me sad (I have no idea how many litters she's had at this point). I wish we'd waited, and picked a breeder who did more complete health testing, and whose dogs competed in a venue. Elka's ears don't match (a minimal problem), she's oversized (potential joints problems), and her "lines".....well, in Europe, there are championships and working titles, but once things come stateside, there doesn't seem to be much of a plan for which dogs get bred, just that they do.
Am I happy with Elka? Yes. Her energy is just fine, temperament wise she's mostly steady, occasionally skittery about things, and I made the mistake of not socializing her with other dogs when she came hom. But I worry about her future health, and about all of those other dogs her breeder has produced.