Why do people recommend choosing a breeder who shows their dogs to folks who are just looking for a pet and have no interest in showing? Why should breeding to breed standard be important to a pet home? Does it seem excessive, or “snobby”?
It’s not, and here’s why.
Dog shows are a means of evaluating dogs against the breed standard, to evaluate soundness, movement/gait, type, and temperament.
Soundness: The state of physical and mental health when all organs and faculties are functioning properly, each in its rightful relation to each other.
Type: Breed type encompasses appearance, character, condition, bone structure, temperament, and movement; "breed type is all these things." Breed type also includes a character specific to each breed, a combination of behavior, temperament and carriage that demonstrate an essence of the breed.
Gait: The gait of a dog is its quality of movement. You want to see ease of movement, unimpaired by illness or poor structure.
Temperament: The general attitude a dog has towards other animals and people. From the Labrador Breed Standard "True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the “otter” tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized."
So. That’s a very basic intro to what goes on at a show... why does this matter? You want a pet, a companion, not a show dog, right? Well, you chose a Labrador for a reason. You’ve done your research, and have read that they’re great with kids and other animals, they’re gentle, not aggressive, they make excellent companions and love spending time with their people. That their good and kind nature predisposes many Labradors to be excellent therapy dogs. Good, responsible breeders seek to preserve those definitive and positive characteristics.
What about type and structure? How the dog is put together, able to move freely and comfortably? Would you rather buy from someone who has proven publicly, over time, that the dog they’re breeding can move well, free of limp, or a structural problem? Or just trust someone who has no interest in proving their dogs? It’s your puppy’s quality of life and comfort (as well as your wallet) that’s at stake.
Not every dog in a well-bred litter is going to be show quality- there will ALWAYS be pet-quality puppies. Well-bred, but maybe with a slight imperfection, and those are the puppies placed in pet homes. You don’t have to want a show-quality puppy to get a well-bred puppy!
This is not about being snobby, being elitist, thinking that one dog is “better” than another, it’s about ensuring you get a puppy that acts and looks like the breed you fell in love with. It’s about ensuring that all puppies have the best start in life, and will grow into a loving family member. It’s about loving our breed enough to want to see everything that’s good about them preserved for future generations to enjoy. If you want a healthy dog, with a properly sweet temperament, choose your breeder wisely!