Gary’s Bio

E-mail to Gary Wilkes

Clicker Training in the Greater Phoenix Area By Gary Wilkes

Clicker Training Articles


Dog Care and Behavior Articles

Pedigree Does not Mean Warantee

If someone tells you that his dog has "papers", nod your head and smile. When he tells you that his dog is a rare,  silver tipped Carthaginian Mastiff and that he is one of only three in the United States, nod your head and say something like "Oh, how  fortunate for you." If he claims that his dog is directly descended from Fluffy, personal war dog of Hannibal the Great, you should continue to listen politely. If  he tells you that this rare and valuable dog was given to him for a fraction of its real value, you don't have to be polite anymore. You may feel free to belly laugh -  as long as you are wearing protective gear.

 One of the great myths about purebred animals is that they have intrinsic cash value. In a country where 90% of the  dogs and cats born each year do not survive  to see their first birthday, there is a glut on the market. The truth is that rather than being valuable commodities, the vast majority are monetarily worthless.

 The realities of supply and demand are usually unknown or ignored. For example, several million people surrender purebred pets to animal shelters each year. When  the shelter worker cautions them that there is no guarantee that  the animal will be adopted, the owner often says, "Oh, I'm sure he'll get adopted. He has papers."  When asked to  leave a donation, this type of pet owner is likely to be offended and say, "What? But I'm giving you a very valuable  animal! Can't you see that he's  a purebred?" The irony of giving an animal away while insisting that it is valuable is rarely perceived by the owner.

 One of the reasons for the belief that all purebreds are valuable is that a very small  percentage of purebred animals are worth fantastic sums of money. If a dog wins the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, subsequent  stud fees or  puppy sales can be worth many thousands of dollars. The sight of tuxedos, formal gowns and celebrities at a nationally televised dog show causes many people to assume that it represents the norm, rather than the exception.

 Another source of misinformation is the recent trend of using top dog show winners in television commercials endorsing pet food. The advertisements foster the  notion that breeders of champion dogs live in rustic country  estates and just watch all the money roll in from selling their animals. For the general public, the image brings the mistaken conclusion that breeding creates dogs and dogs create wealth. No one dreams that the rustic estate was  probably rented for the commercial and that the breeder will probably make more from the commercial than from selling dogs. Few people realize that competing in the "dog game" is very expensive. A top competitor could easily  need a six figure budget in order to compete enough to stay on top. Only a small fraction of dog show people ultimately make big money  from their dogs. Most breeders barely cover expenses or may actually take a loss.

 In this highly competitive sport, breeders may become more interested in winning  than breeding good dogs. In order to improve a bloodline, a breeder might pay a small fortune for a particular dog. While it is assumed that the  breeder is focused  on animals that will be healthier or smarter than the competition, they may buy a dog purely because it is apricot colored, or has a broader head, or a thicker coat.

 When an offspring of this "breed to win" type of champion is sold, the new owner assumes that the pup is the by-product of greatness and is therefore very valuable. The truth may be that the pup's only championship attribute  is apricot colored hair. The chance that any other breeder would want to use an unproven pet animal for breeding is small. Unless the new owner is willing to compete with the animal at dog shows, and lucky enough to win, the high  purchase price is a waste of money.

 Assuming that an animal is valuable because it has pedigree papers, a fancy name and looks like a "show dog", is a  naive belief. Most animals are financial liabilities  rather than assets. Their true value most often lies in the miraculous companionship and bond that is possible between different species - and they are far better than your check book  at keeping your feet warm.


Copyright 1994-2013 Gary Wilkes. All rights reserved.
No portion of this website may be used without permission of the owner.