Years ago, I lost my beautiful and beloved black tri "Hagen" to a rare tumor in her heart. Although devastated by the loss of my friend, I eventually decided that I'd like to get a pup to help fill the void. I wasn't looking at the time for a show or breeding dog, just a friend and companion. While at the feed store purchasing grain for my Arabian Horses, I noticed on the bulletin board was an ad for some Australian Shepherd puppies. Pictured on the ad were some of the cutest balls of fluff I'd seen in a long time. Several hours and one phone call later, my husband and I were up to our ears in paws and puppy noses. I must have been so captivated by the darling babies that I missed or didn't notice some red flags that should have triggered my "Run the other way" response.


The "breeder" was a very nice lady, and certainly not a person who would knowingly take advantage of someone. She mentioned that she had a registered female Aussie, and her boyfriend happened to have a registered male - so they bred them on the next heat cycle. Now, I've been in the horse industry for a long time, and this should not have gotten past my radar, but it did. There was no research that went into this breeding. There was no interaction (by the breeder) with previous pups that the stud dog had sired, and there was no goal in mind other than to produce puppies. To make matters worse (albeit more embarrassing to me for not using my experience to catch this), the sire and dam were nowhere around. Now I can understand not having the sire on site - in fact, I'd prefer it. It means that the breeder likely researches and out crosses to breed to the best, not just their best. However, there is no reason I can think of for the dam not to be accessible for inspection and interaction with someone who is interested in purchasing her offspring. Sometimes interacting with the dam can give you insight as to how the puppies may turn out. This proves that even a knowledgeable person can get caught up in the cuteness and make a bad decision. SOLD!


It took about a year and a half as well as a lot of money and blood invested in "Scatter" for me to realize that you cannot love, nurture, or train out bad breeding. Scatter was a loose cannon. You never knew when or who she would decide to bite, but it was pretty much a given that she thought of children on the same level as cattle. Any child around her was fair game, and sometimes adults were considered prey. All of this despite a good gentle upbringing with love and discipline. Many times, temperaments are passed down through genetics whether they be good or bad. Scatter was a registered Australian Shepherd who never should have been born. Even though we feel strongly that once a pup is purchased, it is to remain in the family for life, we just couldn't justify having a mentally unstable dog and the liability that went along with it. On plenty of occasions, Scatter had drawn blood on humans and we decided we just could not keep her. We sent Scatter to a 15,000 acre cattle ranch in Oklahoma with full disclosure of what she had done. The gentleman wanted a highly aggressive dog, and at first really liked her. She ended up biting 9 people and attacked his wife. When she killed two of his neighbor's show goats, he had her put down. A very sad ending to a story that never should have been written.


I vowed never again to have a "Bad Aussie". The whole Scatter experience made me realize that I needed to try to educate people on how to research a breeder. With so many good breeders out there, the process of asking questions and analyzing their responses helps to weed out the profit breeders from those who care about bettering the breed with their breeding program. Here are some questions to ask and take note of:


1. What are the breeder's goals with their dogs?

2. How did they decide to breed this particular bitch to this particular dog?

3. Do they keep any of their pups? Ever? Why or why not?

4. How often do they breed?

5. Do they provide any contact information of past clients?

6. What kind of support do they offer after the sale?

7. Do they offer a health guarantee in writing?

8. Are you allowed to interact with their adult dogs?

9. How long have they been involved in this breed?


Here are some things to ask yourself about the breeder:


1. Do they seem interested in what happens to their pups, or are they just pushing for a sale?

2. Are they hurrying you or pressuring you to decide on a pup?

3. Do they provide any information about the care of the pup when you get it home?