Importing a dog: how to find a breeder in Europe
Importing a dog from Europe – part 1. How to import a dog from Europe? How to find a breeder in Europe?
Importing a dog from Europe requires lots of preparation, but it’s doable. The first step is to find a reputable breeder. My initial search was online – searching, reading, emailing. Now, almost a year later after I’ve imported my first European Doberman, I would recommend finding local Shutzhund clubs as a first step in getting your imported puppy. Schutzhund is a German police training program for working dogs. American police dogs are also trained on this program. Most of the working dogs in the US are German Shepherds. And a lot of them are imported from Europe due to better natural working qualities (read about the difference between American vs European Doberman). Going to Schutzhund club and talking to people there will help narrow your search and save you a lot of time.
Living in Europe, I could never afford a well-bred dog. Luckily, living in America (and working a lot) gives me this opportunity. I wanted a dog with working drive, so I can train and compete in Schutzhund (IPO in Europe). Show qualities were secondary to me. I’ve learned that in Europe (unlike in the US), show Dobermans have to pass working tests in order to be qualified for breeding (more about working vs show dobermans). American show quality dogs don’t have working ability and are not required to pass any working tests (more about American vs European Doberman). It’s another point towards getting a European Doberman – he’ll be a beautiful, show-quality dog and a working dog.
What I was looking for in a breeder and mating combination:
- Communication. If the breeder is not willing to communicate or not interested in going through the hassle of an export – you are wasting your time.
- Diligence. You are looking to pay a lot of money to a stranger overseas. You are going to have a lot of questions. If the breeder is not diligent to answer all your questions, what are the chances he/she will be diligent enough to prepare proper paperwork or ship you a puppy that fits your requirements?
- Puppy mill. I definitely didn’t want to buy from a breeder that does it for money only. A kennel can have many litters per year, as long as they don’t breed the same bitch twice a year. So, looking at the litter lists I was checking how often does the breeder breeds the same bitch.
- Health. Dobermans are known for poor health and a long list of genetic health issues. When I lived in Europe the average life span of a Doberman was 7-9 years. Now, with available health and DNA tests, you would expect Dobermans will have extended longevity and overall improved health. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite. Not all breeders test their dogs prior to breeding, and most all breeders hide the truth about genetic issues in their bloodlines. I wanted to make sure that breeder I choose tests his/her breeding stock regularly, and is able to provide true (not forged) test results for genetic and other diseases.
(Added in 2018: DEMAND TO SEE HEALTH TEST RESULTS. DO NOT TRUST WHAT IS WRITTEN ON THE WEBSITE. HEALTH CERTIFICATES FOR HOLTER MONITOR AND DOPPLER (ECHO) MUST BE WITHIN A YEAR PRIOR TO BREEDING. THIS IS CRUCIAL – TOO MANY DOGS DIE YOUNG FROM GENETIC HEART FAILURE. IF PARENTS DON’T HAVE RECENT HEART TESTS – DO NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM SUCH LITTER. OTHER TESTS – vWD, EYES, HIPS/ELBOWS (HD) – CAN BE DONE ONCE IN LIFETIME. More about doberman genetic diseases).
- Working ability. European Dobermans have natural great working drive. But some breeders focus only on the looks of the dog (read more about Working vs show Dobermans). This usually leads to dogs with unstable temperament, reactive. Such dogs are dangerous and unpredictable and should not be bred (read more about different Breeding Philosophies and how it impacts your choice of a puppy). I wanted to make sure my puppy will have a good potential in Schutzhund (IPO in Europe). For that – parents of my puppy should also be IPO titled.
- Good looks. I’ve never had a show quality dog, so that’s just a nice bonus for me. It also means that the dogs will have proper constitution – strong body, massive jaws, big head, strong rear legs, etc.
- Trust. That’s probably the most important quality, but it is based on the previous 6. If a breeder will pass all of my 5 requirements, I would be able to trust him/her.
- Mature parents. The Doberman breed has very poor health genetically (and breeders won’t talk about this). While puppies and young dogs are almost always seem healthy, genetic issues appear in dogs later in life (around 3-4 yo and later). It is important to breed healthy dogs that are older (and properly health tested), aiming to increase longevity of the breed and to improve overall health.
- Healthy ancestors. This is a bit tricky, if you are not familiar with bloodlines. You must look at the pedigree of the potential litter. Look for less inbred combinations. Check heredity of all of the dogs in the pedigree – how long they lived, what they died from. And the same about their siblings or progeny. If you see dogs that died young and with suspicion of genetic diseases – stay away from such pedigree. Main genetic issues in the breed have dominant heredity – it means it will be passed on to offsprings. MAIN TOOLS TO SEARCH DOBERMANN PEDIGREES ARE: DOBERBASE.RU (mainly focuses on Eastern European Dobermans) and DOBERMANNGENEALOGY.DK (the most comprehensive database of dobermans worldwide). Both databases were created by efforts of true Doberman enthusiasts. Doberbase is an open source, while Dobermann Genealogy is a proprietary database and \ requires registration (free).
So, how did I begin my search? I was googling “Doberman breeders in Europe”. One website after another – it led to quite a list of breeders that picked my interest. I sent emails to all of them – in Russia, Poland, Ireland, Ukraine, Italy. I tried to find breeders in Germany or Belgium, but there was nothing available in English that could give me initial information to make a contact. Serbia was not on my list of interest for several reasons: breeders are known to forge documents, mass production of puppies for export, there are no health regulations for breeders, which means dogs are not health tested. Of course, this is very generalized opinion, but at that point I was a beginner and importing from Serbia felt like a high risk venture. (added 5 years later: my opinion about Serbian breeders had not changed. Majority of European Dobermans that I come across in the US are imported from Serbia. Many from the same mass producing kennels. And many dogs die young from genetic heart disease called DCM.)
When responses came in, I began my screening process. Some weren’t interested in emailing. They wanted me to call them, but they didn’t speak English to talk to me on the phone. Some were too arrogant. My questions seemed to irritate them: “who are you to question my breeding? My dogs are the best!”. Some of them didn’t have scheduled litters in the upcoming year. Some of them never heard about health tests, though seem to breed good-looking dogs. Some of them tried to raise the price after figuring out I’m from the US.
The Irish breeder had only a 9 months old puppy and no litters for the upcoming year. After some consideration, I decided that Ireland might not be a good choice for importing a puppy from. The country is small and they probably have a small genetic pool. That’s just my opinion at that point.
Italian breeder didn’t respond. Breeders from Russia and Ukraine were rude, but most importantly – most of them never heard of health tests. Though I’m sure most of them want to breed healthy dogs.
So the only breeder that was left was from Poland. Her responses were concise but explicit. Email after email she was providing information and health test documents that I’ve requested. I began looking into this kennel and to my surprise – I found out that it had produced lots of European champions. The breeder also had experience with export – her dogs were sold worldwide.
This particular breeder was complying with all of my requirements. I found online numerous dog show entry lists of dogs from this kennel. Many of them were champions in shows. I was also able to look these dogs up in the mentioned above databases to see their pedigrees and to study the bloodlines. I was very satisfied with the results.
The next step was to make a deposit. I was a bit skeptical to pay in advance, but the wealth of information available online about this kennel reassured me. I made a deposit and was waiting for the litter to be born.
Continue reading about importing a dog: part 2 – doberman puppy cost.