As everyone knows, this has been a very unusual year. I have received an average of 3 inquiries a day about basenji puppies. Since I have a family, dogs, and a full-time job, I can't respond to all the inquiries in person. So here is what I would like to say.
This year, all inquiries are suspect. Why do you want a basenji now?? What will happen to my puppy when you are required to return to work and your kids go back to school? Will it be returned to me, or worse, relegated to the backyard and a bowl of food once a day? Why didn't you want a dog last year, or the year before? Why now?
There are basically 3 categories of breeders. I don't mean to be derogatory, but I will describe the average in each category.
Puppy Mill--These places breed as many litters as the market will support. The goal is to make money selling puppies. The adults may receive good care, but lack any individual attention, since they are not pets, or they may receive just enough care to keep them producing puppies and profit. These places frequently produce many different breeds and "designer" crossbreds. The puppies may be "guaranteed healthy" for a week or 30 days, but are not guaranteed against genetic defects, because the breeding stock is not health tested. The puppies are not socialized or temperament tested.
Backyard Breeder--These people are frequently well-intentioned. They have only a few dogs that are their beloved pets. Since everyone they see on the street admires their dog, they decide to breed it. Or, they want their children to experience the "miracle of birth". Or they need some extra money for Christmas. They have a litter and find homes for the puppies, but do not have the ability to take a puppy or adult back if the new owner cannot keep it. They do not have the knowledge to evaluate the puppies and match them with the new owners, or to advise the new owners. They may or may not have health-tested the parents. They have not studied the pedigrees of the parents to know of any problems lurking in the background.
Ethical Breeders or Fanciers--Yeah, that's an old-fashioned term. We don't use it anymore, but I wanted to explain the these are NOT just breeders. They care deeply about the breed. They show, and do performance events with their dogs to prove their dogs are worth breeding and because they love doing things with their dogs. When these people breed a litter, they search the country, and sometimes the world, for the right mate for their dog. That ideal mate is frequently NOT in their own backyard. They pour over pedigrees, questioning health testing and temperaments of past generations. (Or they may have known those dogs personally for generations, if they have been around for a while!) They know the faults and weaknesses in their dog, and work to find a mate that will complement their dog. When the puppies are born, they are socialized, handled, examined, and evaluated. The breeder will be keeping the best, and will match the remaining puppies with their ideal homes, or they will keep all the puppies until the ideal home is found. The buyer does not get to chose the puppy, since they do not know the puppy, just what it looks like. The breeder knows what the puppy will be like as an adult.
The breeder will want to hear from you frequently as the puppy grows up and will advise you on health concerns, training, etc. They will offer lifetime "technical support". If you cannot keep the puppy, for any reason at any time in its lifetime, the ethical breeder will take the puppy back and find a new home for it. This is frequently REQUIRED in a contract. We call it a boomerang clause.
An ethical breeder, or fancier, has a reputation to protect. Our puppy buyers become an extended family and usually become return customers when they are ready for another dog. Our peers will censor us if they feel we have done something unethical. Most belong to national and local breed clubs and performance clubs.
So those are the categories of breeders. This year especially, BUYER BEWARE! There is a lot of fraud out there. Fake websites that take your money and don't have puppies. They have stolen pictures and text from ethical breeder's websites.
Now--since all the breeders I know are inundated with calls and inquiries, this is how you get through to them.
Expect an instant puppy. I can't just call the warehouse and order more because I have more customers.
Tell the breeder you intend to purchase right away! And how much are the puppies! This is insulting. We don't care if you purchase from us or not! We want the best for our puppies. And you are NOT it! Our puppies are priceless to us.
Tell a breeder you want a basenji because they are hypoallergenic, or mute, or smart and easily trained. We will know you have not really done your research.
Tell us you "just want a pet". They are all our beloved pets first. We want them to be your beloved pet. There is very little that differentiates a "show puppy" pick of the litter, and a "pet". You probably won't be able to see it. It is in the length and proportion of the leg bones, the angles of the joints, and other things that have nothing to do with how wonderful a pet the puppy will become. Our "just pets" are still highly valued by us and are quality, healthy, beautiful dogs with excellent temperaments. Many of my "pet" puppies have gone on to become champions when their owners got interested in showing.
Educate yourself before talking to a breeder. If you do not know the information listed below, we will know you have not done any research and we probably won't waste our time this year. We don't have time to educate everyone that contacts us.
Basenjis come into season once a year in the fall. So all puppies are born between November and January. Out-of-season litters are rare. By the time the puppies are born, breeders that have good reputations rarely have puppies available.
Basenjis are NOT hypoallergenic. They have hair, dander and saliva. All the things people are allergic to. Allergies are individual. You may or may not be affected by any particular breed of dog or even individual dog.
Basenjis are NOT silent. They scream, howl, whine, growl and yodel. Loudly! They just don't bark a lot.
Get to know a breeder and their dogs. When you have a relationship, we are happy to share a puppy with you. This is a 16+ year investment.
Check out www.basenji.org for more information on basenjis.
Check any health testing claims on www.ofa.org. This is a registration for all health tests. Having been tested does not mean the dog "passed". It means the dog was tested for the disease or defect. Learn to interpret the results.
Tell a breeder about yourself and why you want a basenji. This year, we may not get back to you, but most years, we probably would.
HOW TO TELL AN ETHICAL BREEDER FROM A PUPPY MILL, FRAUD OR BACKYARD BREEDER
If they are instantly happy to sell you a puppy, they are not an ethical breeder. We generally try to talk you out of it. We don't want to have our puppy traumatized by a family that doesn't understand basenjis, and then traumatized by being returned to us.
If the website shows pictures of puppies of all ages and with different backgrounds, the pictures were probably stolen.
If you can select a puppy from a "catalog" of pictures, pay for it and have it shipped to you, it is definitely NOT an ethical breeder.
Still not sure about the breeder? Question them about the puppy's grandparents and great grandparents. How old were they when they died? What did they die from? What was their temperament like? Question them about their breeding program. What are their goals?
If all their puppies are "show quality", perfect and there are no problems or weaknesses in the bloodlines, they are NOT an ethical breeder. An ethical breeder will be open and honest and gladly discuss any concerns in the bloodlines and admit that some of the puppies are pets and others will be big time winners! Some breeders do show all their puppies, but will still only keep the best to breed. And they will tell you this. Backyard breeders and puppy mills won't even be aware of concerns in the bloodlines, because they are not interested and don't know. But the problems are there.