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  • Writer's pictureErin Schwartzkopf

Researching...Where Do You Start?

The words "Do your research" don't really do much to help, do they? Let me elaborate and see if I can help.


I often see and hear breeders of all manner of breeds throw these words out to prospective buyers and it always makes me cringe. As breeders, we are supposed to be experts in our breed...if we aren't, why are we breeding? When you begin to research something, anything, what is the most logical source? The experts, right? Right.


So, as a puppy buyer, when you are met with this type of dismissive response, what are you to do? I mean...you thought you were doing your research by going to an expert...a breeder. You didn't know where to start, so you started there, and now you just don't know where to go. The thing is, many times you don't even know what questions to start with. The breeders that say this to you expect that you will have already learned all you can before you come to them wanting a puppy.

Where, exactly, do they expect you to go? Just Google it? I mean...if it's on Google, it must be the Gospel and 100% true, right??? *insert the biggest eyeroll and most sarcasm ever right there* Well...Google isn't a bad idea at all, but you have to know what to Google the Google for so that your Googling gets you solid Google Googles. Start with the breed club. Whatever breed it is. For Jack Russell Terriers, it is the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. If you are looking at another breed, try searching for "xxx breed club". A common response from folks is to look the the American Kennel Club...while this can be a good answer, it can also be a little problematic. You see, not all breeds are recognized by the AKC and not all want to be. And then there are others, like Border Collies, that have subsets....the show group and the working group. Also, understand that breeds were all around before AKC recognition so there was a breed club for them long before the registry. Keep that all in mind when you go to the Googles.


The breed clubs should have various different resources for you to explore. They will have the history of the breed and this is very important. Knowing what the breed was bred for allows you to understand why they have the traits they do and to realize that those traits are not something just easily trained away from. If your lifestyle is not conducive to the traits of a certain breed, you are best to move on to a different breed.


Breed clubs should also have a place where the different genetic and physical ailments found in that breed are addressed. This gives you a jumping off point to look into whether there are tests and screenings for these things and what those results mean. This matters to you as "just a pet person" because nobody buys a puppy wanting or thinking that they will have to put it down or have outrageous vet bills within the first few years. You want the healthiest, happiest pet you can have for as long as possible. Animals (especially livestock) seem to often be always trying to find ways to unalive themselves. It is a challenge. So making sure that Mother Nature doesn't unalive them with things that we can detect and breed away from just makes good sense.


Now, I cannot speak for the specifics of other breed clubs as I am not involved with them...so this part is specifically with regards to the JRTCA Jack Russell Terriers. We have a breed rescue call Russell Rescue, Inc. and another called Jacks Galore. The folks involved with these rescues know the breed extremely well and want all Jack Russells to go to homes that are prepared for them so they don't end up going through rescue for simply being a Jack Russell. While they certainly want to find homes for the terriers in their care, they also do not bash breeders. They understand that there are reasons for getting your dog from a breeder vs rescue and, either way, they want to make sure the dog you take home has a forever home. This will be true for most of the breed rescues. Not so much with the all breed rescues and shelters. It is hard enough to be an expert in one breed, let alone all of them. That doesn't mean you do not find your new best friend there, but this particular blog post is aimed at showing you were to go to "do your research".


The JRTCA also has State Representatives. These individuals are all over the country and are members in good standing. They have volunteered to be contact points and resources for new Jack Russell owners. This is literally what they sign up for. As of the time I am writing this, there are 30 states that have at least one JRTCA Stat Rep. They may or may not be breeders, but they have all been involved and owned a JRTCA Jack Russell for years. If you have a question that they do not know the answer to, they will either find out or they can direct you to the person or group that would best know. Phone numbers and emails are listed for them so you can communicate in a way that you are most comfortable with and is most convenient for you.


So now that you have some of the "who" in your toolbox...how about the "what". Sometimes you just don't know where to start. You don't know what you don't know. You don't know what to even ask. I have a couple of main topics for you and those should spur on some more discussion point for you. Firstly, the history. Learn about where the breed was developed and why. What job did it have. What purpose did it serve. Ask how the traits the breed has led to it being perfect for that job. From this, you can easily transition to life spans and exercise needs and how much human contact the breed tends to need/want. Life span and exercise lead you handily into learning what genetic diseases are in the breed and what health issues there are. Health issues and genetic diseases are different things. When you know what those are, you can now ask about tests and screenings for those things and how to deal any of those issues if they should arise.


A breeder should be an expert and ambassador for the breed and be able to answer these questions easily and willingly for you. Your logical first step would be to contact a breeder and ask these things and learn. However, in the event that you are met with "do your research" rather than answers, I hope I have been able to provide you with some tools to use. If you become a breeder, I hope that you keep this in mind. If you had a JRTCA Jack Russell breeder tell you "do your research" and you have questions, I am happy to be a resource for you instead. Making sure that the dog you end up with has a forever home is worth my time to email or talk to you on the phone or chat with you on the socials. The day I do not have time to educate is the day I should stop being a breeder.


If you are a breeder and you have read this entire thing, I hope you never say those words. If you are a breeder and you have said these words, I hope you realize those folks WERE trying to do their research and that you were their first stop and that you have the power to provide them with correct information...or to dismiss them and let them end up possibly getting a dog from a byb and propagate false information. Breeders...you have a ton of power and a ton of responsibility.

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