In my “non-dog” life, I am paid to spend many hours a
day on my computer in the field of high tech. Many of these hours are
spent “on-line” using the Internet to transfer files, upload
and download software, create web pages and for research. The impact of
the Internet on my professional life has been profound. The impact of
the Internet in the sport of purebred dogs runs the gamut from frightening
A remarkable phenomena that occurs on the Internet is that your physical
identify can by easily changed (or disguised) to be whatever you want
it to be in Cyberspace. Take for example a puppy mill. Many years have
been spent trying to change the core values and belief systems of the
general public in an effort for them not to buy a puppy from a pet store.
Statistics indicate that over 95% of all puppies sold in pet stores come
from a puppy mill. And quite frankly if a person purchasing a puppy from
a pet store was made to visit the physical site where the puppy was born
and raised, the sale would in all likelihood not occur.
In Cyberspace however, a puppy mill takes on an entire new persona; not
unlike a chameleon. The background colors of the website are soft and
pink; musical lullabies chime softly in the background while you survey
the site; color pictures of huge homes dotting rolling green hillsides
covered with shade trees litter the home page. You are led to believe
that your puppy was born into an affluent, educated breeder’s home;
was raised with human contact daily and fed the best food money could
buy. Many pictures are available of wonderfully groomed, quality dogs
and bitches who are producing these puppies in luxurious accommodations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a puppy mill in cyber-disguise.
Forget trying to fight puppy mills at the pet store front anymore…they
now take major credit cards over the Net and can ship a puppy to your
doorstep. They are using state-of-the-art technology to legitimize themselves,
and it works!
Perhaps you aren’t someone who would fall for this slick Internet
presentation. So how can the Internet assist you in finding a quality
Australian Shepherd? One of the positive effects the Internet has had
on the pet or show-quality Aussie market is that buyers are better educated
before they buy their dog. Many Aussie breeders and owners provide a myriad
of sites that abound with educational material such as an Aussie FAQ (Frequently
Asked Questions); breed standards, clubs; articles; health and genetic
information, breeder lists and rescue organizations. Many potential buyers
take advantage of this information and when discussing a dog or puppy
with a breeder, they know what to ask to determine the quality of the
breeder and dog they are looking for.
Understand that many of the long-time, reputable breeders of Australian
Shepherds do not have sites on the Internet or email addresses. Whereas
it may be convenient, fast and fun to shop for your dog on the Internet,
you may not be reaching the breeder’s you should be talking to.
This is where the national breed club and their club magazine will come
Unfortunately, if you rely solely on a breeder search on the Internet,
you could be reaching a puppy mill or a long-time reputable breeder. There
is very little that distinguishes the two on the Internet. So how can
one be truly prepared to use the Internet to your full advantage?
One of the interesting trends I find in the Australian Shepherd sites
on the Internet is an explosion of sites from “newbies;” those
breeders who have been in the breed less than five years. This is not
to say they do not have quality breeding programs. Based on the experience
of older breeders, there is a significant trend for new breeders to jump
into a breed with much enthusiasm and be out of the breed a short time
later—the so called the “five-year wonders.”
Some of the questions one could ask a breeder found on the Internet would
include: “When did you acquire your first Australian Shepherd and
from whom? When did you breed your first litter? How many champions have
you bred? How many litters do you breed a year? How many titles have you
personally put on your dogs and what kinds of titles were these (i.e.,
conformation, herding, agility, obedience, tracking)? Are you a member
of any parent club for the Australian Shepherd? If so, what organization
and when did you join? Have you served on any local or national dog club
board of directors? What is your singular most important accomplishment
in the breed? Do you have a “mentor” breeder who is working
with you? If so, who is it? Do you attend any National Specialties? The
answers to these questions will give you a pretty good idea as to where
this breeder stands within the Australian Shepherd fancy. There are no
wrong answers to the above questions, just information.
There can be no doubt that we live in a global community today, thanks
to the Internet and the ability to communicate world-wide in an instant.
This poses another area of concern in terms of the sale of Australian
Shepherds. Electronic mail allows a potential buyer in Europe to discuss
a purchase in “real-time” and the deal to be consummated in
an afternoon. Along with the global technology come pitfalls both breeders
and buyers should be aware of. Breeders need to educate themselves even
further as to the country of destination’s medical quarantines;
mandatory paperwork and even that country’s kennel club rules for
dog breeding and showing.
For instance in the United States a missing tooth in an Australian Shepherd
is not a disqualifying fault. The dog can not only be shown and possibly
finish a championship, it can be used in a managed breeding program. In
other countries around the world the missing teeth are enough to render
an expensive show prospect to non-breeding status! Ignorance of international
dog law on either party’s part is not going to be a good excuse,
when issues such as this make a global deal go sour.
For those interested in importing an Aussie into a foreign land—avoid
purchasing or shipping a puppy whose bite has not come in; import a puppy
that is at least six months old (if the breeder will work with you on
this) or an older, established champion. There are just too many things
that can go wrong in raising out a show prospect—add to that the
distances, time and costs involved in replacing or returning puppies internationally,
and the potential for disaster increases dramatically.
The Internet can be an invaluable tool. It’s potential is just about
limitless. It can also be the worst nightmare a breed club will deal with
in the future. Use it wisely.