Importing a dog from Europe – part 1. How to find a Dobermann breeder in Europe? (updated 2019).
Originally posted in 2014. Edited in 2019.
Importing a Doberman puppy from Europe to the US is not much different than buying one from out of state. The only difference is the quarantine regulations in the US. Importing a dog from certain countries might require for the dog to be older than 3 months and have rabies shot. (Learn about The difference between American vs European Doberman). Other than that – looking for a bred for health Doberman puppy takes a lot of time, patience, and knowledge.
How to identify the right Doberman breeder.
1. The breeder must care about properly matching puppies to buyers. Most of breeders that post “puppy for sale” ads sell any puppy to anyone willing to pay. If you have children, are novice to the breed, or want a dog to compete with – these are all different temperaments of a dog that you should be looking for. If the breeder doesn’t care to whom he/she sells a puppy – chances are that the puppy would be a poor match to your needs and abilities as a dog owner. Start a conversation with the breeder and see if they will ask you questions like: did you own a Doberman before, what is your experience with dogs, what are you planning to do with this dog, where are you planning to keep the dog, what are you planning to feed the dog, what types of activities do you like, etc.? If the breeder is eager to learn who you are – you are at a good start.
2. The breeder must care for the future of the breed – health and longevity. Dobermann is one of the unhealthiest breeds out there. Genetic heart condition called DCM, and cancer caused by severe inbreeding – are leading causes of death in Dobermans at a young age. I describe this in detail in the article Doberman genetic diseases. Breeders who are motivated to produce healthier and long-living Dobermans will only breed:
– mature dogs. At least 4 yo and older. Many DCM and cancer affected dogs die between 4 and 6 years of age. Breeding older dogs eliminate affected stock from breeding programs. This directly affects longevity in the breed. Would you rather have your dog die from genetic condition at 4 years old or at 10 years old? For this reason – I personally think Dobermans shouldn’t be bred until they are 6 yo for females, and over 7 yo for males.
– health tested dogs. The only way we can know that the dog is developing DCM is by annual heart examination. If the breeder can share annual heart tests with you – it’s a good sign. The tests must include 24 hours Holter. And the latest test should be done within no more than a year prior to breeding. DCM is a fast developing disease. A healthy dog at 3 yo can be a dead dog from DCM at 4 yo (and – if already bred – pass genetic mutations to offsprings). Only Holter monitor can identify signs of DCM at an early stage. Heart test is critical to have, but there are also hips/elbows, and vWD (blood clotting disorder) – at a minimum – that the breeder should provide test results for. The last two tests are done once in a lifetime (see the list of genetic issues in the article Doberman genetic diseases). If the breeders are diligent – they will also do other tests from that list.
– less related dogs. Dobermans are extremely inbred dogs. Inbreeding affects immune system, which leads to cancer and other immune-related diseases. Inbreeding also reduces longevity with each generation. Breeders that care about their creations will avoid inbreeding on the same dog in the first 4 generations of the pedigree. If there is an inbreeding – the inbred dog should be long-lived and free from genetic diseases. It’s nearly impossible to avoid related dogs after 4th generation in Dobermans – the level of inbreeding in the breed is very high. Hence, let’s at least keep first 4 generations unrelated. You can check pedigree of your prospective puppy for close relations. Visit public Doberman databases (see bullet #4 below for links to the databases).
3. The breeder must be honest. That’s a tricky one. How do you test that? In most “puppy for sale” ads people show photos of good-looking puppies with colorful ribbons around their necks. A breeder will tell you which color ribbon is your puppy. In reality – it became a standard among puppy peddlers (and even long-time reputable breeders) to post photos of one puppy, but to ship you completely different one. In most cases – they won’t provide clear videos of all puppies playing together and won’t agree to show you the puppies via live video call (who can’t use Skype these days?!). Request to see a video, if possible, via live video call. And all available puppies together, not just one. If the breeder refuses or have an excuse not to do this – withdraw your inquiry and go elsewhere. Facebook is exploding from heartbreaking stories of deformed puppies being shipped to naïve buyers. This is just one of them.
4. The breeder must be honest. Can’t stress this enough. The breeder should honestly declare to the buyer the heredity in the pedigree of the puppy you are about to buy. Ask your breeder for pedigree names of the parents for your prospective puppy. It should be a full name like “Best Boy von LongIsland”, not a pet name like “Jake”. And then ask is there any DCM cases in the close relation to your puppy (aunts and uncles, and grandparents). Is there any DCM cases in the first 4 generations of your puppy’s pedigree? It’s nearly impossible to avoid DCM and cancer in the first 4 generations of a Doberman’s pedigree, but at least you will know if your breeder is openly sharing the information, or hoping to fool you. Ideally, you don’t want any DCM cases AT LEAST in parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents of your perspective puppy. And you want at least grandparents to be long-lived (at least 9+ years).
The information can be easily checked in public databases:
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).
5. The breeder must be a small producing kennel. This will be difficult to find for a newcomer to the dog community. Most of the breeders that you will find on social media will be mass producing kennels. They post a lot, which makes them searchable by Google. A lot of people “follow” them on social media, which gives you false reassurance that they are “good breeders”. These mass-producing kennels are the reason why Doberman breed is in such a horrible state of health. There is a new wave of breeders, who understood the problem in the breed and decided to take action in their hands. Most of them are former owners that lost dogs to irresponsible breeding practices from famous large kennels. That’s the breeders you want to buy from. They breed 1-2 litters a year, scrupulously selecting mating pairs. These breeders more likely to pass all 4 criteria described above. These are the breeders we promote at DobermanBlog and connect our readers to.
Majority of long-time breeders are not motivated to change anything because the online demand for puppies are very high.
The existing buying process is based on the impulse: you see a photo of a cute puppy and you are ready to buy. At the moment of sale puppies look healthy (in most cases), buyers are happy and recommend the breeder to others. The consequences of the impulsive buying from mass-producing kennels usually catch up with dog owners in a few years. When your four-legged family member becomes seriously ill and dies. It is a paradox, but many dog owners think it was just unlucky. They go back to the same breeder for another puppy. And when this cycle repeats itself in a few years – only then we – owners – begin to ask questions and search for answers.
Avoid entering this vicious cycle of struggle and suffering. Take your time and choose your companion wisely.
Continue reading about importing a dog: part 2 – doberman puppy cost.