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Backyard breeder (known in the dog fancy as a BYB) is a term that means different things to different people. Sometimes it refers to someone who breeds several dogs, maybe several breeds, to make some money. She doesn't do any health screening, and she isn't active in any sort of competition or serious activity with her dogs, nor is she affiliated with breed clubs or other organizations.
The dog fancy refers to people who are devoted to competing with dogs and to breeding healthy, high-quality animals.
Sometimes BYB refers to the pet owner who has a sweet pet and breeds only one litter, maybe to make a little money or “to let the children experience the miracle of birth.” But again, it's likely to be a litter bred with no health clearances on the parents or the puppies, with little knowledge of the breed standard or how to choose a proper sire for a litter. In fact, the litter may be an “accident” and the result of a decision made by the dogs themselves. A BYB may mean well, but may not know much about how to raise physically and mentally healthy puppies. In general, then, a BYB is a casual (one might say careless) puppy producer.
A backyard breeder (BYB) is a person who produces puppies, accidentally or on purpose, without health clearances for the parents or pups, and with minimal if any knowledge of the breed standard, genetics, or effective methods of raising puppies.
Chances are that the BYB's bitch is a sweet enough pet, but one with more or less serious faults in terms of the breed standard. She may carry hereditary diseases that she can pass along to the pups. Same for the stud dog, who is probably chosen because he's convenient and willing, not because he's a quality dog. In fact, responsible stud dog owners won't breed their dogs to bitches who lack health clearances and reasonable conformation and temperament. Sometimes a BYB produces a perfectly acceptable litter of pets. More often, though, the puppies develop into dogs with problems ranging from life-threatening or crippling to chronically annoying to dangerous.
Backyard breeders tend to advertise in newspapers. Occasionally, responsible breeders do as well, but be alert to terms in ads that tip you off that the advertiser isn't a serious, knowledgeable breeder. Let's look at some examples.
- “Full-blooded Brittany Spaniel puppies. Papers available. OFA certified. Champion bloodlines.”
- Registered Peek-a-Poos, five weeks old, weaned and ready to go. Both parents on premises.”
- “Rare silver Labs.”
- “Tea-cup Poodles.”
- “Puppies! Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Dalmations, St. Bernards.”
- “Golden Retriever puppies. Parents certified for hips, elbows, heart, eyes, vWB. Father OTCH, dam CD, WC, grandparents titled. Spay/neuter contract. Qualified buyers only.”
Okay, let's look at #1. Knowledgeable dog people don't say “full-blooded.” The proper term is “purebred,” and in fact serious breeders don't usually even mention that in the ads. Why? Because if it is a Cocker Spaniel, it must be a purebred—otherwise, it isn't a Cocker Spaniel (or insert your favorite breed). But wait—it says Brittany Spaniels, not Cocker Spaniels. Wait again—the name of the breed is simply “Brittany”—the Spaniel part was dropped years ago, and serious fanciers of the breed know that. One of my favorite dopey ads was for “Registered Black Labs, yellow and black.” There's no such breed as Black Lab. There are Labrador Retrievers, though—Labs—that come in yellow, black, and chocolate. Be sure that you know the proper names of any breeds you're considering, and beware of advertisers who don't.
Words like “tea-cup” are red lights that the pups may not be responsibly bred. Those terms are not used by responsible breeders, who breed to the standard for the breed, not for traits that are considered to be faults. Serious health problems often accompany extremes of size as well as unusual colors.
Keep in mind, too, that some people will say full-blooded to mean puppies whose parents are crosses of the same two breeds. It takes generations of careful breeding to create a breed. Puppies whose parents are both Peek-a-Poos (a cross between a Pekinese and a Poodle) are still mixed-breed puppies. Unless they are dedicated to a long-term, careful program of cross breeding to create a new breed for a specific purpose (which is how most modern breeds started), responsible breeders do not breed mixed-breed puppies.
What about that word “papers” in an ad? Again, responsible breeders don't mention that their puppies have papers because it goes without saying. If you buy a purebred puppy, you have a right to a copy of the pedigree (the litter's family tree) and to the registration application for the pup (see What's a Pedigree?). You should not pay extra for a pedigree or for registration papers!