Akita Rescue Society of America

 

Finding a Breeder

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Finding a Reputable Dealer...
As a non-profit organization we adhere to a policy of not recommending breeders because we have no way of guaranteeing their ethics. We can give you suggestions to aid your search for an Akita puppy based on our years of experience working with Akitas, but it is up to you to follow-through: We encourage you to investigate breeders, ask questions and proceed with caution.

WORDS THAT MEAN VERY LITTLE:

"AKC:" The words AKC mean American Kennel Club, the registering organization for purebred dogs in this country. The AKC does NOT guarantee the health or temperament of a puppy and does not guarantee a breeder to be conscientious or ethical. The AKC simply registers the litter and will register your puppy, all for a fee. This registration is merely a quasi-guarantee of breed purity but even the AKC will admit the registration is only as good as the breeder who registers dogs. There are no AKC representatives checking each litter to be certain they are purebreds. That is up to you to ascertain. Therefore, do not let these words give you a false sense of security or in any way influence your purchase of a puppy. The American Kennel Club is interested only in putting on dog shows for purebred dogs, and those dogs must be AKC registered.

"CH:" The initials mean, "Champion." Frankly, that has come to mean very little and again, it is NOT a guarantee of overall quality. To become a Champion, a dog must be entered in dog shows and eventually, it must receive 15 points, including two majors (a major is a show with a large entry). A hundred years ago, the intent of dog shows was to exhibit the best specimen of each breed. With the high cost of purebred dogs and their popularity, those ideals have almost disappeared. Many AKC judges are "politically" aligned with professional handlers or well known breeders, therefore, they DO NOT award a win to the dog but to the owner or handler. That is not to say all shows are conducted in this manner but you would have no way of knowing if the "Champion," received his title based solely on the dog's merit or the owners connections. "Just about any dog can become a Champion given enough time and money," is a statement used by experienced dog fanciers. For that reason, keep in mind, the word "Champion" is not an indicator of quality. Most importantly, a show title DOES NOT guarantee the health of the "Champion" nor any puppies produced from breeding. One simple word, "Champion," can add hundreds of dollars on to the price of a puppy--a meaningless word with a heavy price tag. There is a great deal more involved in this controversial topic but time does not allow further discussion here.

WORDS THAT ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT:

"OFA" stands for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, a research group that evaluates x-rays of hips, elbows and beginning on July 1, 1994, evaluations include patellar luxation. The breeder's veterinarian performs the x-rays then sends them off to the OFA with an application for certification. At the OFA, the x-rays are evaluated by three (3) radiologists before a diagnosis is assigned to the dog. If the dog does NOT have hip or elbow dysplasia, numbers and certificates for hips and elbows are issued and sent to the owner. A certificate is issued on the patellar (kneecap) if the knees are normal. When the x-rays indicate a degree of dysplasia or luxation of the patellar, the OFA will NOT issue a number or a certificate. Because these conditions are accepted as having a polygenic base of inheritance with other factors, it is recommended that both parents and both sets of grandparents have OFA numbers. Dysplasia is a painful, crippling disorder especially difficult for large breeds. Patellar luxation is also genetic but since the certification has only been available for a short time, the grandparents will not have been certified but the parents should be checked. If you have questions about the authenticity of these certifications, contact the OFA at (314) 442-0418.

 Or visit their webpage: http://www.offa.org/

"CERF" are the initials of the Canine Eye Registry Foundation maintained for the benefit of breeders and owners of purebred dogs to assure some degree of clearance on genetic eye diseases. Nearly all breeds have some eye problems; many of these disorders end in blindness. Akitas are predisposed to a number of eye diseases with a genetic link, especially PRA, and both parents should have a CERF certificate. These certifications are good for one calendar year, because eye problems can develop later in a dog's life. Annual certifications are required. No, it's not perfect but presently, it is the only eye clearance available and since it must be completed by a Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist, you know the parents have been thoroughly checked. CERF can be reached at (317) 494-8179.

Or visit their webpage: http://www.vmdb.org/cerf.html

THYROID PANEL: Akitas are prone to lymphocytic hypothyroiditis, which is controlled with twice daily thyroid hormone supplements. The mode of inheritance has not yet been isolated for this condition but the number of affected dogs increases annually. Research with human populations and some studies with canines indicate a maternal link to the disease. It is presently accepted that puppies mat receive a predisposition to hypothyroiditis through antibodies produced by the mother and delivered during fetal development and again, in the mother's milk. This can occur only if the mother has not been checked for the disease which may be sub-clinical (in an early stage), without visually evident symptoms. A complete thyroid panel based on laboratory outlines established by Dr. Jean Dodds should be conducted on the bitch prior to breeding and before the onset of estrus (her heat cycle). The test should be repeated annually since the disease can occur at any stage of a dog's life. An Akita should be in the UPPER RANGES OF NORMAL unless the dog is entering mid-life (7 years and over), when normal thyroid levels diminish slightly.

Visit their webpage: http://www.offa.org/thyinfo.html

PUNCH BIOPSIES: Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) occurs with increasing frequency in the Akita.  It is an inherited disease in other breeds and most likely will be proven genetic in the Akita. In this condition, the immune system destroys the sebaceous glands causing loss of coat, clogged hair follicles, and a strong musty odor. Fever and loss of appetite may be present. There is no cure. Your only assurance against getting a puppy that may develop SA is to purchase from a breeder who does punch biopsies  on the parents. A punch biopsy is the only definitive diagnostic test for the disease.

For more information on SA and other diseases that occur in the Akita, please visit the very informative website of the
Akita Club of America's Genetics & Health Committee.

http://www.akitaclub.org/health_and_genetics.html

"CONTRACT:" A contract is only as good as the parties who signed. It is, however, an indication of some sense of responsibility on behalf of the breeder. By reading the "guarantees" granted to you the puppy buyer, it will give you an idea how informed and experienced the breeder may be. If you are required to breed the dog and give "puppies back," RUN do not walk to the door and leave.   No reputable breeder would ever insist a total stranger breed a dog, especially based solely on the   conformation and unknown health problems of an 8-week old puppy! It indicates that money is the  motivation in breeding dogs. As the "Lemon Laws" increase state-by-state, contracts will gain significant legal standing but currently; a contract is only a piece of paper.

MORE...BUYER BEWARES!

You see a litter of adorable puppies but the breeder has not done any genetic screenings as outlined above. What should you do? Of course, the decision is yours but remember breeding dogs is a business because the end result is a SALE. There are breeders who will try to convince you it is an "adoption," or "acquiring a new family member," these are appeals to your emotions, a subliminal way to weaken your business sense. You are in fact, paying a good deal of money for something the law views as a "product." In the business arena, if you have the money to make a purchase but demand good quality, warranties and some assurances, there is always someone qualified to meet your standard. By demanding these screenings, by refusing to settle for less, breeders will have no choice but to raise their standards to your level. 

There are some breeders who claim to have these health checks completed on their dogs but when asked to give a potential puppy buyer copies for their own files (which is your right), they are unable to produce the paperwork. You want to see these health certifications yourself, do not simply accept the word of someone who is going to be making a good deal of money from the sale of each puppy. Do not accept excuses such as "I've been in the breed so long, I can visually assess a dog's structure," or "I have no need to test since I have never produced any diseases." These statements have no foundation in reality!  

You should be well acquainted with the AKC breed Standard so you can compare the parents to the Standard for structure and conformation. Conduct your own temperament tests on the puppies to determine which one would be most suitable for your lifestyle. The puppy should NOT be allowed to leave its litter until it is at least 8 weeks old. A breeder who willingly sends off younger puppies, is anxious to be free of the work and is probably unaware of the critical stages in the mental development of puppies. Avoid this type of breeder. 

As you can see from the above tests and recommendations, purchasing an Akita from a pet store is an invitation to disaster. ALL Akita puppies sold in pet stores are bred in puppy mills in the mid-west. Rarely are they from a local breeder. When they are from a local kennel, the breeder's decision to sell puppies without proper screening and education of a potential family, is a demonstration of their ignorance and indifference to the fate of their puppies. These puppy mills or breeders do not CERF or conduct thyroid panels, but most importantly, the puppies do not receive sufficient human contact from birth through the 8th week, the most vulnerable stages for Akita puppies. When you purchase from a pet store, you cannot see the parents and ultimately, puppies are genetic duplicates of their parents-- what you see is what you'll get, with the exception of color.

The "FACTS ABOUT AKITAS," sheet is for your protection. Read it thoroughly and then measure its content against the information you receive from a breeder. The FACTS sheet is based on 19 years of rescuing this breed and seeing first-hand why things can go wrong. Usually, it is the result of misinformation, a form of overzealous salesmanship! Take your time and do not allow the sweetness of a puppy to sway you, because within a few months the puppy will be large enough to do as it pleases and problem behavior is never "cute." If you're shopping for a puppy, leave your emotions at home. The emotional trauma of trying to save a genetically sick Akita is devastating to you and your family. Be pragmatic about this important decision, which is a 10-year commitment to the dog and will impact on your entire family.  For more information on the breed, temperament testing, socialization, training, health and on raising a dog like the Akita, the following titles are suggested reading:

"Akita-Treasure of Japan, Volume II," published by Magnum Publishing, available at www.akitabook.com

"An Owner's Guide to a Happy, Healthy Pet -- Akita" published by Howell Book House, available at all book stores or order direct from Howell.

"Mother Knows Best" published by Howell Book House, written by Carol Lea Benjamin

1994 Barbara Bouyet