My phone rings several times a week with someone pleading, "Can you help me find a Scottie?" Sometimes the caller is in tears because he's just lost an old Scottie that was part of the heart, and I want so much to pull a Scottie out of my magic bag. Since shopping for a Scottie in the right places is not like going to the mall, callers usually find Mother Owen's cupboard bare of Scotties, but I and many other breeders enjoy starting callers on a successful search.
If no Scottie stories pour forth from the receiver, my first question is: "Have you owned Scotties before?" There are many reasons these innocents might not like a Scottie, and I tell them that! Some of those reasons are the very reasons you and I wouldn't own any other breed. No pushbutton Poodles or Golden Retrievers for us! We like challenges and spice.
Scotties are an acquired taste. They are not the dog for many families. Why should we offer a glass of Glenfiddich to someone who prefers Koolaid? Un-Scottied callers need help. I tell them how to obtain important information to help them decide if the Scottish Terrier is the right breed for them.
Here's how a typical search might begin when you, a true Scottiephile, call a serious breeder. Take my own routine as an example.
First, I will ask if you have the Scottish Terrier Club of America's Information Packet. Anyone trying to locate a Scottie, even persons who already know the breed, should have this material. (To obtain the Scottie information packet, send $2 to Bill Martin, STCA Public Information Chairman, 1041 E. Main St., Flushing, MI 48433).
Usually I will know several breeders with Scotties available for sale and will suggest you contact them. The secret to finding a Scottie is: CALL, and keep calling. If one breeder doesn't have a dog that meets your needs, ask her to suggest other breeders. She will, and it's in your best interests to talk with many breeders. You'll learn something from each one. Eventually you'll decide, "I've got to have a Scottie from this person. I like how he talks about Scotties."
Next, I tell you how to reach the two or three regional Scottie clubs nearest your home. Club secretaries are knowledgable about which members have puppies, adults or rescues available. You'll end up with more prospects, and each of them can give you still more referrals. Once your are "in the loop" and sell yourself as the ideal Scottie owner, a successful search is guaranteed, assuming you are patient. You will not get "in the loop" when you call a classified ad offering Scotties for sale. That's a deadend.
There are 20 regional Scottie clubs affiliated with the American Kennel Club. Though the clubs may be miles from you, their members come from a still larger area. Breeders who belong to a regional club, an all-breed dog club, and/or the Scottish Terrier Club of America must sigh codes of ethics. Buying from a club member is insurance that the breeder is interested in more than your dollars. Don't rule out buying a long distance Scottie, when you find the right breeder.
"But I just want a pet," callers often reply when I point them to a breeder who shows dogs-- as if it doesn't matter where they buy a Scottie. Buying from a show breeder is like buying from someone who has a Ph.D. in Scotties instead of from someone who eft high school before finishing the Scottie course. Every show breeder sells puppies and older dogs to premium pet homes. You may even find a wonderful retired champion available for a very reasonable price. Remember, GSM readers are the experienced Scottie owners veteran breeders prefer.
Keep an open mind when looking for a Scottie. If you absolutely must have an eight-week-old black female, you make your search very difficult. You've already eliminated any black males, or brindles and wheatens of either sex that may be ready for homes. Specify a color, sex and age, and you sabotage your search. Anyway, color should be the last thing that matters.
Patience pays! When you find a breeder you like who doesn't have a Scottie available, ask if he keeps a waiting list. Many excellent breeders breed no more than one litter a year, and usually keep one or more puppies themselves "to grow out." Choosing a Scottie from such a breeder is to buy from an artisan.
Avoid pet shop Scotties. (I know you know that). An instant Scottie is not your answer-- when that instant Scottie comes with an unknown health background, and bred by someone who doesn't care enough about his puppies to choose who buys them. Soft hearts should stay out of pet stores. If we care about our breed, we should not perpetuate commercial breeding of Scotties. Every Scottie bought from a pet shop encourages that retailer to find another to sell. If you buy from a reseller (the pet shop), you will receive no help and advice from the breeder; you will know nothing about the health background of your puppy; you will miss the joy of becoming part of a larger Scottie family and sharing the antics of your Scottie with its breeder throughout its life; and you will pay far more money than the puppy is worth.
Life Lesson #1 which we've all learned is: "You usually get what you pay for." That's not the case with pet shop puppies. They are over-priced. However, a reasonable breeder who completes genetic testing and health screening on his breeding stock deserves to receive more compensation for his Scotties than a backyard breeder. A breeder who tests his breeding stock in the show ring is able to offer quality pets that are close to the AKC's Scottish Terrier Standard in conformation and temperament. He rightly will charge more than the person who breeds two Scotties just because they have AKC registration numbers.
What will you pay for a Scottie pet? Probably $500 to $800 if you buy from someone who tries to produce quality Scotties. Yes, you can find a Scottie in the newspaper for $250 or $300. Will the money you save be worth it? Does it matter where you buy a Scottie? You decide.
My last suggestions are the most simple: If a breeder seems too eager to sell you a Scottie, don't buy! If a breeder doesn't ask you many questions about your family and home, don't buy! Buyer beware!
The right Scottie is out there for you. If you're like me when I look for antique Scottie collectibles, the search is half the fun. Look at your search for a real Scottie in the same way.
Reprinted from Great Scots Magazine, Vol 4 No 2, Mar/Apr 1999.
Check-List Test Questions for Rating Breeders
(1) Are you a member of a Scottie club? Quality breeders join Scottie clubs to learn more about the breed and to establish friendships with owners working for the welfare of Scotties.
(2) Do you sell other breeds besides Scotties? Ideal breeders breed only Scotties. Breeders of multiple breeds are often commercial producers who are less knowledgable about Scotties.
(3) What problems can I expect from Scotties? If the breeder doesn't point out undesirable characteristics you know you're talking to someone eager (or desperate) to sell dogs to the first comer.
(4) Do you offer a trial period? Many responsible breeders do and also offer to take the Scottie back at any time in its life. Responsible breeders want the buyer to have the 'right' Scottie, and will stand by that Scottie for a lifetime.
(5) Do you require spay or neuter? Many responsible breeders require that their puppies be spayed and/or neutered. These breeders want to prevent descendants of their puppies from misuse by puppymills or backyard breeders. They also realize that spaying and neutering reduces the risk of various cancers.
(6) Do you own both parents? Veteran breeders sometimes own both parents, but more typically do not. Rather, they choose a male with qualities to complement their female, even if that male lives 1,000 miles away.
(7) Do your Scotties have skin problems? If the breeder answers "no," ask what they know about the parents, grandparents and siblings of their breeding stock. Most casual breeders know nothing about the health of their dogs' relatives. Skin problems are hereditary and will be a 10-15 year pain and expense for you and your Scottie!
(8) Have the sire and dam been DNA-tested "clear" of the VWD gene? If the answer is "yes" for either parent you guarantee your Scottie will not have vonWillebrand's Disease, a devastating bleeding disorder. Most commercial breeders are unaware of the VWD DNA test, or do not want to spend the money.
(9) What can you tell me about Scottie Cramp, CMO and VWD? If a breeder cannot tell you lots about these diseases they will know nothing about other Scottie health problems. You are playing Russian roulette if you buy from this type of breeder.
(10) May I see your sales agreement? Responsible breeders use sales agreements in which they outline their own responsibilities to the buyer, and what they require of the buyer (such things as mandatory spay/neuter and the right of "first refusal" if the buyer later does not want the dog). A simple bill of sale is not a sales agreement.