In March, dog lovers across Europe were shocked to learn that an Irish Setter had been poisoning after competing at Crufts in Britain. The dog, Jagger, had taken second prize at the prestigious dog show, but died some 24 hours afterward at his owners’ home in Belgium. An autopsy found that Jagger had been fed poisoned meat. A number of other dogs at the show also subsequently died, apparently in similar circumstances. The furor over Jagger’s death quickly hit the media and was covered by many news outlets worldwide.
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It’s hard to imagine a similar media response to such a story in Israel. Though a pedigree dog scene does exist here with a monthly show, the phenomenon is minuscule compared to the developed industry in Europe. The Israeli dog shows, which are usually devoted to a single breed or two, attract a few hundred spectators at most, with 100 to 200 dogs on show. People attending purely for the entertainment value are hard to find.
Even the biannual international shows, when overseas judges are flown in, offer 500 to 800 dogs at most. At the equivalent shows in Europe, about 20,000 dogs could be shown, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of spectators in attendance.
The smallness of the purebred dog scene in Israel is surprising because Israelis do love their dogs – be it in the city or country, small apartments or family homes with yards, large or small, scary or friendly, puppies or adults. According to Agriculture Ministry figures, some 345,000 dogs were registered with veterinary services around the country in 2013 (and Mika and Shoko were the most popular names, in case you were wondering).
When it comes to pedigreed dogs, though, the level of awareness here is relatively low. Most people prefer to choose a mutt from an animal rescue sanctuary and pay a nominal price, rather than invest thousands of shekels in a specific breed.
Although many owners define their dogs as belonging to a particular breed, professionals say only a dog with proper documentation can be considered purebred – and there are only a few thousand such dogs in Israel. Too many counterfeit pedigree dogs exist in the market, the professionals complain, attributing this primarily to a lack of awareness. Many owners adopt a dog they have been told is a certain breed without documentation, even though such a dog is not considered purebred; the professional term is “quasi-purebred.”
This situation is caused by a number of factors, including “shortcuts” employed by some breeders. For example, mating the bitches they own too frequently, so they give birth to as many pups as possible (according to Israel Kennel Club rules, a purebred bitch should give birth no more than once every two years). Private owners of bitches often allow them to breed more frequently than the regulations permit – for economic reasons or from lack of attention. There is also a thriving industry in smuggling purebred dogs from overseas.
Cheap is expensive
Following a lengthy struggle, pedigree dog breeders recently claimed two significant achievements. The first was a blanket prohibition on the importation of dogs from Thailand, issued by the Agriculture Ministry in January. The second was a series of court victories in which judges accepted the breeders’ definition of a pedigree dog and ordered various breeders who sold dogs without certification to return the money to the purchasers.
“In all the cases, the court accepted the argument that there is no such thing as purebred without certificates, that this is fraudulent,” says Mullie Davidovich, the owner of M.D. Lapis, an Ashkelon kennel specializing in small breeds. He says the many efforts to fight smuggling often meet with success.
Frequently, pirate breeders convince clients to buy a “quasi-purebred” dog, without certification, on the grounds that saving on the cost of the documentation will significantly lower the dog’s final price. However, in reality, the cost of a pedigree certificate for a pup up to 6-months-old is only 185 shekels. Sometimes breeders even invent breeds that don’t exist, like “Pomeranian Teddy bear.”
Still, the price gap between a truly purebred dog and a “quasi-purebred” dog without documentation can be considerable. An uncertified German Shepherd, for example, can be found for a mere 800 shekels, while the price of a pedigree equivalent is 4,000-5,000 shekels. And while an uncertified Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can be purchased for 2,000 shekels, a purebred pup costs about 6,000 shekels. This is peanuts compared to a Pomeranian, the most regal of dogs, for which you will have to fork out no less than 12,000 shekels – or, if its pedigree is studded with champions, up to 20,000 shekels.
According to the professionals, a quasi-purebred dog is liable to turn out to be an expensive buy in the long run. “People don’t understand why they need to pay thousands of shekels for a purebred dog when they can simply buy a dog without a certificate, but this has medical and behavioral implications,” says Guy Tichon, an animal behavioral expert. “Quasi-purebred dogs often suffer from genetic problems, allergies, respiratory problems, chronic infections and more, so the chances of encountering big medical expenses are much greater when you adopt an uncertified dog,” he warns.
Tichon says expenditure on veterinary services for a quasi-purebred dog can amount to 30,000 shekels during the dog’s lifetime. “I know of a case in which the outlay on the dog during the first year of its life amounted to about 10,000 shekels,” he says. Then there are the behavioral problems. “Many more quasi-purebreds than pedigree dogs come [to us] for behavioral therapy,” explains Tichon. “When you buy a purebred dog, you know what you are getting; you can see its genealogy and the state of its health. There aren’t many surprises.”
Many people have specific needs and want a pedigree dog with specific characteristics. For example, one that will be good with children; one that will not shed; or one that will guard the yard. When a certificated dog is nurtured in good conditions, it is more or less possible to predict its future personality. However, a dog raised in bad conditions or mixed with another breed can be very different from what its breed is supposed to be, both in terms of personality and external characteristics. A small breed can grow to three times its expected size, for instance.
300 shekels for a trim
If you decide that a dog with a certified pedigree is right for you, be aware of the expenditures this entails. After the initial fee, add ongoing expenses such as inoculations, food and grooming. The range of expenditure depends largely on the owners and their reason for owning the dog. Keeping a pedigree dog is not more expensive, in principle, than keeping a mutt, but maintaining a show dog can easily amount to tens of thousands of shekels annually. A Pomeranian dog kept in show-worthy condition must visit the groomer once a week, at a cost of about 300 shekels a time.
If you are undeterred by this, Tichon recommends investing in checking out the dog’s suitability, even before making your purchase. “It is best to link up with a professional trainer at the decision stage, through toilet training and obedience training at home,” he says, explaining that he will look for dogs at kennels to suit the client’s requirements. The total cost of suitability checking and professional accompaniment can amount to about 2,000 shekels. “In the long term this is nothing, because if you discover that the dog isn’t right for you, then you have to return it and adopt another one – which means another outlay,” argues Tichon. “People don’t take into account that the investment in a pedigree dog has already been made by the breeder.”
Nowadays, it is almost impossible to adopt a dog without paying something: even animal rescue organizations charge money for a stray – in part to prevent casual adoption, after which a dog may be neglected or abandoned. “Breeders don’t make money,” says Tichon. “They do it as a hobby.”
4 rules for adopting a purebred dog
1. Check the pedigree. The more the dog’s ancestor holds titles, the higher the price. Ask the breeder for an authentic certificate from the Israel Kennel Club. Make sure the dog’s parents are not blood relations up to four generations back, to avoid genetic problems.
2. Make sure the pup has been properly cared for by the breeder, given all its shots, been nurtured in a safe and supportive environment, and is at least 7-weeks-old. The breeder should give you basic instructions about raising it at home. If you have never had a dog, it’s like bringing home a new baby, only without the diapers.
3. Look for external flaws. A slightly skewed tail or a prominent spot can affect the asking price. However, remember that such flaws do not bother the dogs themselves – only owners who want to show or breed them for profit.
4. Watch out for frauds. Check with the Israel Kennel Club whether the pup is listed in its registry and if its pedigree is authentic.