Getting a Beardie

What you should know about Bearded Collies

Please read these links first!!!

Tips from the $ensible Beardie Shopper, or: The Dollars and Sense of Finding Your Own Beardie

Ask to see the mother, and the father too if possible.  Beardies have variable temperaments, and the mother’s behavior is one of the better predictors of the puppies’ behavior.  If the mother isn’t available at the time you visit (e.g., away at a dog show), consider coming back to meet her on another visit.  You’ll have this dog 10-15 yrs, so you can wait a bit longer!

Beardies are not particularly prone to heritable diseases, but they do have some. 

  • Hip dysplasia: If this disease appears in your dog (generally when he is 2-3 yr), his hip bones are prone to pain and dislocation, and he not only won’t be the puppy of your dreams, he may have to be put down. Ask to see the certificate from the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) showing that both the parents’ x-rays are rated at least fair; better yet the x-rays should be good or excellent.  Note that vets say you can’t get reliable x-rays on dogs under 2 yrs old, so x-rays of dogs bred before that are not reliable.
  • Ask about the history of Addison’s disease among the line.  This is an auto-immune disease, the genetics of which is unclear.  Treatment is very expensive, and may not be very successful.  No responsible breeder would breed from a dog with this disease.  If you speak to a breeder who acts unfamiliar with the disease, you may want to shop elsewhere, since he probably hasn’t given much thought to whether his dogs might be carriers.
  • Ask about any other health tests the breeder may have done.  These could include thyroid tests, eye (“CERF”) tests, and elbow x-rays.  Most breeders will have done at least some of them.  If the breeder has done all of them – smile and look grateful!

Good breeders care a LOT about the puppies they breed.  The more they seem to care about whether you will give the puppy a good home, the more likely you are to be dealing with a responsible breeder.  You may be asked about:

  • a fenced-in yard
  • your past experience with dogs in general and beardies in particular
  • your lifestyle
  • whether you will spay or neuter the dog (reduces the chances of beardie-poos or chihuahuabeardies on our streets.  Many of these end up in shelters, where most dogs are put down.)

If you don’t get asked any questions like these, you might wonder how much this breeder cares about breeding good puppies and where they end up.

Cost: Puppies in the mid-Atlantic area tend to go for $1200 to $1800 (in 2006) for a really promising future-champ pup. At the low end, you can still find very high quality pups for the home market, since their “defect” may be mismarking, or legs a bit too short or size a bit too big, or ears or tail set wrong. These problems don’t affect the puppy’s health or value as a pet. This sounds expensive, but ask yourself how much you think you’ll spend on food and vet bills over the next 10-15 yr.

Ask what the breeder will do if the puppy proves defective in the first 48 hr?  Month?  Year?  Some sort of guarantee against sickness is common over the first few days, and some breeders offer guarantees against heritable defects over a longer period.  Furthermore, you probably won’t want to take a puppy you love back, but the breeder may offer a replacement puppy.  Also, a breeder might well want to get the puppy back rather than see it put down.

Ask for references from the breeder.  Past puppy purchasers, or the breeder’s vet are good candidates.  Breeders usually keep track of past purchasers so that they can see how their puppies turn out.  The breeder probably decides to repeat that breeding based on how the pups in the first litter turned out.  Some extremely conscientious breeders may want an annual photo of the puppies they sold!

Nothing is certain, but if you follow these steps, you increase your chances of getting a good healthy puppy – and saving yourself some money.

The questions in The Right Fit? will be helpful as you shop for your beardie. Other questions may depend on where you shop.  If you get a puppy from a seller who purchases puppies from someone else for resale, that person is a “broker” under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act and needs a Class B federal license. (You can find the federal law at 7 U.S.C. 2131- 2159, and the regulations in 9 C.F.R. Parts 1.1 and 2.1 in the reference section of your public library.) Regular retail pet stores are not required to have this type of federal license.

State laws concerning the sale of puppies vary. Some states may require licenses of their own, or may require the broker to have a business license. You’ll have to check with your own state government about this. Don’t forget that your elected state officials, not to mention your public library, can often help you navigate your state’s bureaucracy.

Hobby Breeders.  Individuals selling puppies they have bred themselves directly to a final purchaser don’t have to have these federal licenses either; these people are often active in showing their dogs at dog shows, in obedience, agility, herding, or whatever that breed does — things you can’t do if you keep dogs only while they are puppies. You can find out more about this type of breeder through the BCCA website, or by subscribing to the BeardieList Yahoo group. Members of the NCBCC who breed puppies are listed on this site.

Brokers.  Whether the broker operates from a barn, a basement, or a garage, it is the resale aspect that requires the need for a license, not the physical location. If you are unsure about whether the seller counts as a broker, two clues are to see whether the puppy’s mother is present, and whether the person listed on the AKC form as the breeder is different from the person or company to whom you write your check. The former is not sufficient, but combined with the latter, they do strongly suggest you are dealing with a broker.

A broker’s federally licensed facility is subject to periodic inspections. Federal inspectors see if the individual keeps proper records and maintains an adequately healthy site. These inspectors do not inquire whether the puppies are loved, cuddled, and generally well-socialized to humans before you get them, nor whether the original commercial breeder who supplies the broker socialized the puppies to lots of human contact before the broker bought them. You’re on your own in figuring that one out.

If you decide to deal with a broker, you can check for yourself to see all the brokers licensed in a given state by going to the list of licensed brokers on the USDA website. Scroll down to the state you are interested in, and you will get a list of all licensed brokers (class B license) and commercial breeders (class A licenses) in that state. If you are checking out a particular broker or commercial breeder you can also go to inspections for some rather confusing tables about inspection history, or check the USDA press releases to see if there have been convictions and/or fines large enough for USDA to feel they warranted a press release. Generally speaking, a broker doing his or her best to follow all relevant state and federal laws should inspire more confidence than one who flaunts these laws. (See also information about puppy mills.

Visiting the puppies’ home. If you get to a site that has beardies for sale, and realize only when you get there that the seller is probably a broker rather than a hobby breeder (e.g., from the two clues given above), it is perfectly reasonable to ask a broker if you can see his or her Class B license. Failure to have such a license when puppies are being re-sold may be something a prospective puppy purchaser will want to check into or even report (ace@usda.gov).

Alternatively, if it is a hobby breeder, you should expect to see ribbons, photographs of dogs with ribbons (often not only from conformation, but also from things like obedience, herding, or agility, where beardies can really excel for a good trainer), and other evidence that the seller takes seriously his or her responsibilities to breed good healthy beardies. A long-time breeder will have enough ribbons to make a few quilts and enough bowls and crystal crockery to set a big table, while a more recent arrival to beardies should still have some of those things.

In both cases, you’ll want a person who’ll spend time with you, and give honest answers to the questions you’ll find in The Right Fit.