Most all of us can relate to the question asked most commonly at K-9 Demonstrations, and that is “Why do you buy the dogs in Europe instead of buying dogs here in the USA”? This question to people in the K-9 field is really an obvious one and probably doesn’t need any explanation. But to the lay person and even the “typical breeder” they don’t understand the differences in what is bred and what we need.
The USA Today did a recent story about Congress attempting to pass a law to force the government to buy dogs solely in the USA or breed them on their own. They quoted breeders who claim they breed the same thing as the people in Europe and they sell their dogs for $1000.00 to agencies not at the extreme prices of those from Europe. This again is a statement in and of itself. One group even made the comment “what are they gold plated?” referring to the $4000.00 price the government agencies have paid in the past for dogs. This is another typical statement by people who do not understand breeding and what is required of the working dogs we need. Let me explain some major differences in breeding in the USA and Europe as well as laws governing importing, demand and a few other things.
First let’s look at breed standards. In the USA there is no breed governing agency which controls the issue of registration papers for German Shepherds for example, and no group which demands soundness of the breeding adults. The major registering group or kennel club in the USA, registers about any breed imaginable, and openly admits they are not a breed society only a registry. They will issue papers on dogs from brother/ sister, father/daughter/mother/son and anything else you can think of. So they do not control the money side of breeding in fact they encourage it. In Europe the SV (German Shepherd Breed Club) requires a strict regimen of things before it will issue papers on a dog. They include things such as:
1) Working titles on bother parents ( i.e. BH title and Schutzhund 1,2,3,or IPO 1,2,3 etc)
2) Both parents are required to have an endurance title ( AD title)
3) Bother parents must have certified elbows, hips, and DNA on file
4) Both parents must have a show title
5) Both parents must have a breed survey ( Korum)
6) A breed warden must visit the litter, and they must be tattooed by the SV, with an assigned number issued by the SV
Without these things and sometimes more you will never get registration papers on a litter or a dog. Thus the economic side is limited unlike in the USA where breeding is done almost solely for money. Few people here will invest in solid imported breeding stock for their program because of costs or lack of actual breeding knowledge and they simply hold female after female out and use them for breeding, normally not even x-raying a dog or seldom a working title or even basic training. They are looked at solely as a means for making money. Yet they try calling themselves responsible breeders and people who claim to know what we need in a working dog.
The second issue is training. Again very few breeders in the USA will keep pups and train them to even green dog levels. They only want to sell puppies. Most of the time you find these people have never worked a dog, in police, Schutzhund, sport, or even basic obedience, and never trained a dog for anything. Yet they claim to know what they are doing breeding, but of course then you ask based on what knowledge are you basing your breeding decisions? Normally the answer you hear is “they are really good dogs and really smart, or I just wanted to breed them to pass on their genes because they are so smart”. Those are not a valid reason to breed. There have been many very smart and good dogs that shouldn’t be bred for health reasons, temperament issues, nerve issues, drive etc. But unfortunately they do get bred as we all know. To breed and produce dogs like we need in the work field/s in my opinion you have to either train dogs, work dogs, and/or invested the time to obtain help from an experienced breeder.
The next issue is guarantee on the dog’s health or work ability. Today agencies demand a guarantee on the dog so if it doesn’t perform develops health issues the seller will replace it. The person selling a dog for $1000.00 here in the USA or even most breeders in the USA, are not going to have a replacement probably if it is needed. More than likely they won’t even be in business if a problem would arise. Most breeders here are doing it as a part time hobby, and they are here today and gone tomorrow. Unless they have a larger facility, and investment in dogs, and years of experience, odds are they won’t be around or have the money to refund any money to you if that situation would arise.
Training levels on young dogs. The hard facts are in the USA we do not have even close to the number of people who work with dogs like in Europe. So this makes it even harder to find a green dog in the USA with basic green dog training levels in them. Most of the breeders have no help or knowledge on how to actually do this work or the desire. So what you’re left with is a dog with very different levels of basic foundation work many times, if they have any at all. So you have to play catch up, if the dog has the ability, and then what is your time and agencies time worth to spend the time to get the dog to where it needs to be to start a basic K-9 class.
Along with this, I have always felt it is almost impossible for the lay person who has never worked a police dog, for example to understand what we need a dog to do and why. If you haven’t “walked the walk” it is hard to teach the walk and know what you’re doing. Reading books are fine, but it is no substitute for actual real life experience. Mistakes made in training of young dogs can leave a lasting impression that you as a handle for trainer may deal with the whole dog’s career.
Since 9/11 the demand has skyrocketed for dogs. Along with that in the last 18 months to 2 years the US dollar has dropped in value against the Euro by extreme amounts. This drop alone has drove dogs up 60% in the last 18 months. Along with that shipping has gone up 40% in that same time period. Not to mention, fuel cost, food costs and so on.
To import dogs into the USA, as a commercial enterprise (anyone who sells dogs or livestock and makes money from it is considered a commercial enterprise) you must file a formal entry with US Customs when the plane wheels are up. So by the time it lands the entry has been applied for with Customs. Along with that you must have a customs bond (or post a $50,000.00 cash bond to cover amount of the bond) All of these things cost allot, especially when you throw in shipping, a shipping company, custom broker to handle the entry, and release fees. Many choose to go the illegal route and hide what they are doing, but any reputable breeder or importer won’t do these things, they should be operating by the book. Shipping today from Germany to Detroit as an example can run $700-775.00 per dog. From Germany to Canada it can run upwards of $1100-1200.00 US. These prices do not include any of the customs items I mentioned prior this is just the fee the airlines charge per dog.
These are just a few of the things to consider when looking at costs of “green dogs”. There are good breeders and trainers in the USA of course. Just beware of the issues I spoke about and make sure you know who you’re dealing with and what their experience is. Most knowledgeable trainer’s breeders will welcome you to come visit their facility, and meet the dogs. They are there if you have a question or problem. They train and breed dog’s everyday not part time. There more interested in producing a good dog with solid all-around working abilities than they are of having their name out there as producing an agencies dog/s or that agency buys from them. It should be about quality and integrity not egos and money. Check out their references. Lastly remember you normally get what you pay for and dog’s are no exception.
Executive Board Member NAPCH/ APCA in Charge of Accreditation
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