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 (than in American dogs). 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:
- 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 (like many other purebred dogs) are known for genetic health issues. When I lived in Europe the average life span of a Doberman was 6-8 years. Now, with available health and DNA tests, Doberman breeders able to extend life expectancy and overall improve health quality of the breed. But not all breeders do that. I wanted to make sure that breeder I choose tests his/her dogs for genetic and other diseases before breeding.
(Added in 2018: DEMAND TO SEE HEALTH CERTIFICATES. 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. 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 I wanted to make sure my puppy will have a good potential in Schutzhund (IPO in Europe). I wanted parents of my dog to be IPO certified.
- Quality. I’ve never had a show quality dog, so that’s just a nice bonus for me. It also means that the dogs of this breeder will have proper constitution – strong body, massive jaws, big head, great temperament, 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. I should have been also looking for a litter from already bred parents. My puppy’s parents didn’t have any other off-springs prior to this litter.
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 dobermans for export (in a way – a whole country is a puppy mill), there are no health regulations for breeders, which means dogs are not health tested. Of course, this is very generalized, 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 dogs. Some of them tried to raise the price after figuring out I’m from the US.
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.
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 all of them try to breed healthy dogs.
So the only breeder that was left was from Poland. Her responses were concise but full. 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. And quality of her dogs even exceeded my expectations. 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 on the breeder’s website to see their pedigrees and photos of all stages of life. 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.