Breeder versus Producer: Why does it matter and how to tell the difference

What is a Breeder?

Breeder makes planned and deliberate decisions to select for desired traits—anatomical structure, temperament, health, breed type, and functionality to do the job for which the breed was originally intended. Breeding is both an art and a science. Breeders are in a constant process of evaluating the attributes of individual dogs (exceptional features and faults). Breeders make decisions on which individuals to breed together with the goal of enhancing exceptional traits and minimizing or eliminating undesirable ones. The goal of Breeders is to improve upon the quality of individuals in each generation.

Breeders have a vision of what they are trying to achieve with each breeding. The have a clear sense of the virtues and faults of the bitch being bred. They have chosen a sire for a particular bitch for very specific reasons; and they can articulate the virtues they hope the sire can contribute. Breeders have a clear vision of their ideal Irish Setter—the dog that epitomizes the Irish Setter breed standard—and they can describe it. Each litter is bred in pursuit of puppies that are as close to the Breeder’s vision of the ideal Irish Setter as possible. Breeders  have a clear picture of an ideal representative of the breed, know the virtues and faults of the individuals being bred, have a plan for what they want to achieve in a breeding, and have a way to evaluate their own success.

What is a Producer?

In contrast, puppy Producers (sometimes called “puppy mills,Backyard breeders) are breeders only in the sense that they have timed mating’s that have resulted in litters. The goal of producers is produce puppies to sell. If a mating results in puppies that can be sold, a Producer has been successful. The health and quality of puppies produced is not a primary goal as long as consumers continue to buy the puppies. Based on our years of experience interacting with the public, puppy mills exist solely because there is a consumer market demanding puppies at the buyer’s convenience. Producers fill this consumer demand.

Things to look for and consider

I recommend people looking for puppies read this article on How Do You Find a Responsible breeder; it has a lot of good information. 

Buyers who want a puppy at their convenience, buy on impulse, shop by price, or who are unable to get a puppy from a conscientious breeder–because they do not offer the kind of home that will result in success with this breed–will likely get a puppy from a Producer. Producers are interested in the sale and not the future of the dog. Some people get dogs from Producers because it’s the first contact they make or they are uninformed consumers. Others get dogs from Producers because they can’t get a dog anywhere else, including rescue groups and animal shelters. “Puppy mill” Producers will continue to exist as long as there is a consumer market that will buy their dogs.

Unfortunately, shelters and rescue are the secondary puppy mill marketBreeders are required by their breed clubs to take dogs back and re-home them if it becomes necessary; and they often assist rescue if a dog they have bred ends up in rescue. Producers have no such responsibilities; the point of sale is the end of the relationship with the puppy and owner. Producers may not have invested time into socializing puppies, paid attention to temperament or health issues, and may have sold puppies to owners whose lifestyle is not compatible with the breed (which can result in behavioral and/or housebreaking issues). These characteristics increase the chances that the resulting dogs will end up in shelters.

Why want a good quality Irish Setter?

A good quality Irish Setter is healthy, has the friendly outgoing temperament that you associate with the breed, is intelligent, people-oriented, and trainable, has an interest in birds, is structurally sound enough to not be injury prone, and can’t be mistaken for any other breed than an Irish Setter. A good quality Irish Setter is a wonderful house pet, a good ambassador for the breed in the neighborhood, and participate in activities that are of interest to both dog and owner.A poor quality Irish Setter is missing some or many of the traits that are characteristic of the breed discussed above. If the temperament is atypical, if it has preventable health issues that dramatically impact the quality of life, if its structure is major limitation on what activities the dog can do, or if its appearance is such a departure from the standard that it’s unidentifiable as its breed, what has the buyer really gotten?Every breed is the result of careful selection of specific traits over many generations. The attributes that attract you to the Irish Setter—whether it is their natural instinct for birds, their personalities, or the way they look—is the product of hundreds of years of careful breeding. Careful breeding has made all of the features that you love predicable from generation to generation. Anyone can Produce mediocre red dogs. If what you want is an Irish Setter, work with a breeder whose puppies exhibit the traits of the breed.

What health tests are recommended for Irish Setters?

Overall, Irish Setters are a healthy breed. The Irish Setter Club of America recommends that breeding stock be screened for the following three conditions:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA),
  • Hip Dysplasia, and
  • thyroid (looking specifically for autoimmune antibodies).

Screening tests are useful tools when making breeding decisions. Use of these tools reflects the breeder’s commitment to the future health of the breed.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) maintains a database of health screening test results including, OFA hip dysplasia, OFA thyroid test results, and PRA test results. OFA is the online database for health test results for all breeds; there are additional tests for problems that are a concern to some breeds, but are not typical problems in Irish Setters.

All health test results on our breeding stock–as well as other relations, we often test multiples in a litter–are recorded on the OFA online database ( Type in the kennel name in the search box, and click Go to access health test records for individual dogs.

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) CHIC issues numbers for Irish Setters that have permanent identification, have done all health tests recommended by the Irish Setter Club of America (Hips, Thyroid, PRA), and have recorded them at the public health database ( CHIC means that tests were done and recorded, not necessarily that the dog passed all health tests.